Exodus Chapter Thirty Three

The Transforming Presence

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In our study of Exodus chapter thirty three, we see that God's grace allows His presence to enter into our lives and that presence transforms us and our situations.

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Exodus 33:1-3

ADONAI said to Moshe, "Leave, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt; and move on from here toward the land of which I swore to Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I will send an angel ahead of you; and I will drive out the Kena'ani, Emori, Hitti, P'rizi, Hivi and Y'vusi. You will go to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I myself will not go with you, because you are such a stiffnecked people that I might destroy you on the way."

At the end of the last chapter, we saw that God instructed Moshe to take the people and go to the land of Canaan and that is repeated here as well as the reason that God did not destroy them for their idolatry. That reason is the covenant that God had made with Avraham. We remember that, throughout the Bible when we see the patriarchs mentioned, we will be talking about faith and the promises revealed in the Avrhamic Covenant. We also see that the messenger, which speaks of Yeshua Messiah, is going ahead of them to drive out the people of the land. Once again, we see that six groups of people are listed and the number six reminds us that the efforts of man are insufficient but God's grace provides the way. We are also told that the reason that God would not continue to travel with them was their lack of humility and we see the spiritual principle that humility is foundational to God working in our lives. Without this humility, we see that God would devour the people.

Exodus 33:4-6

When the people heard this bad news, they went into mourning; and no one wore his ornaments. ADONAI said to Moshe, "Tell the people of Isra'el, 'You are a stiffnecked people! If I were to go up with you for even one moment, I would exterminate you! Now, keep your ornaments off; then I will decide what to do to you.'" So from Mount Horev onward, the people of Isra'el stripped themselves of their ornaments.

In the Hebrew text, the phrase that is translated here as "bad news" actually is "evil word" and evil speaks of anything that is against the will of God. So, the people realized that they had rebelled against the will of God and they went into mourning. The ornaments were like a badge or something similar that identified the people as being God's people and they removed them. This reminds us that rebellion brings about the spiritual condition of death and that it is impossible to repent with humility. Then, God describes the spiritual condition of the people as stiffnecked which speaks of pride which is the exact opposite of humility. God says that He could not travel with them even for a moment because they would be consumed due to their inability to repent which was caused by their lack of humility. The people were instructed to leave the ornaments and, from that point, they travelled without them.

Exodus 33:7-11

Moshe would take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far away from the camp. He called it the tent of meeting. Everyone who wanted to consult ADONAI would go out to the tent of meeting, outside the camp. Whenever Moshe went out to the tent, all the people would get up and stand, each man at his tent door, and look at Moshe until he had gone into the tent. Whenever Moshe entered the tent, the column of cloud would descend and station itself at the entrance to the tent; and ADONAI would speak with Moshe. When all the people saw the column of cloud stationed at the entrance to the tent, they would get up and prostrate themselves, each man at his tent door. ADONAI would speak to Moshe face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Then he would return to the camp; but the young man who was his assistant, Y'hoshua the son of Nun, never left the inside of the tent.

Now, we see that the tent of meeting was placed outside the camp of Israel. Moshe would go out to the tent and, as he did, all of the people would stand at the entrance to their tents as a sign of honor and respect. When Moshe entered the tent, the cloud which represented the presence of God would descend and stay outside at the entrance to the tent where God would speak to Moshe. While Moshe was in the tent, the people of Israel would bow down in worship at the entrances to their tents. Finally, we see that Moshe would leave and go back to reveal the word to the people but Y'hoshua would never leave the tent.

Exodus 33:12 & 13

Moshe said to ADONAI, "Look, you say to me, 'Make these people move on!' But you haven't let me know whom you will be sending with me. Nevertheless you have said, 'I know you by name,' and also, 'You have found favor in my sight.' Now, please, if it is really the case that I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways; so that I will understand you and continue finding favor in your sight. Moreover, keep on seeing this nation as your people."

Now, we see something unusual which is it says that "Moshe said to ADONAI" and usually it is the other way around. In this passage, we see that Moshe did not know about a messiah or the fact that this messenger that was going before them was Yeshu Messiah. Moshe thought that, when they arrived in the land of Canaan, the covenant was fulfilled and the kingdom would begin. He is confused because God has told him that, because of His grace, He knows Moshe by name and yet there is this confusion about what is going to happen. In the Hebrew text, it does not say "if" but it actually says "since" and Moshe says that, since he has been given grace, he wants to know who this messenger is and he wants God to recognize the people as being His people.

Exodus 33:14-17

He answered, "Set your mind at rest - my presence will go with you, after all." Moshe replied, "If your presence doesn't go with us, don't make us go on from here. For how else is it to be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, other than by your going with us? That is what distinguishes us, me and your people, from all the other peoples on earth." ADONAI said to Moshe, "I will also do what you have asked me to do, because you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."

Here, we see that the grace of God brings His presence into our lives and His presence transforms us as well as our situations. We also see that the presence of God sets His people apart from the rest of the people of the earth.

Exodus 33:18-20

But Moshe said, "I beg you to show me your glory!" He replied, "I will cause all my goodness to pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce the name of ADONAI. Moreover, I show favor to whomever I will, and I display mercy to whomever I will. But my face," he continued, "you cannot see, because a human being cannot look at me and remain alive.

Moshe had one last request and that was to see the glory of God and we see that the glory is related to God's goodness and goodness is associated with God's will. We see that God agreed to grant the request of Moshe and he is going to see the grace and mercy of God but he cannot see the full face of God or he would die. This is due to the fact that they had received a physical redemption from Egypt but they had yet to receive the spiritual redemption that comes from the work of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua Messiah.

Exodus 33:21-23

Here," he said, "is a place near me; stand on the rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you inside a crevice in the rock and cover you with my hand, until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand, and you will see my back, but my face is not to be seen."

This passage is mistranslated in most translations. In the Hebrew text, it actually says that there is a place "with me" where you will be stood upon the rock and this speaks of God dwelling with us through the redemptive work of the Rock which is Yeshua Messiah; the messenger that God said was going before the people. Then, God says that Moshe would be put into the rock and covered by the palm of God's hand until God passes by and this also refers to the work of Yeshua Messiah. Finally, God says that the palm of His hand will be removed and Moshe will see His back. This refers to the fact that, through Yeshua Messiah, we see the nature of God and one day we will see God face to face.

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