33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
(Exodus 33:1-3, 12-16 NIV)
Moses and God were incredibly frustrated with the Israelites. God was holding up His commitment to let the Israelites go to the promised land, but said He was not going to go with them (v. 3).
Moses was not willing to lead the Israelites from their present location unless God went with them (v. 15). Moses knew that to go without God’s Presence would end badly for all concerned.
Moses had a deep relationship with God, and they conversed often. Exodus 33:11 says that “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” While the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites, they were meant to call the people into relationship with God, and not to be a checklist to be followed in place of a relationship.
Verse 16 captures the heart of Moses’ impassioned plea to the Lord. He knew that God’s Presence with himself, and with each person of Israel was what separated each of them from everyone else on the earth. The difference was their relationship with God and His presence with them, and not their culture, nor their customs, their race, religious practices, nor anything else.
And so it is with us who are Christ-followers today… God’s Presence living in us is what makes the difference in our lives. Christ living in and through us is also what attracts others to the Lord. When we live out our relationship with Him, and more importantly, as we allow Him to live out His purpose in us, others see that and say, “You have something I don’t have – what is it?”
Paul captures this idea well:
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
(Colossians 1:27 NIV)
May you experience God’s Presence, your hope of glory today, as you go about your day.