Exodus 33 Commentary: Moses sees the Glory of the LORD!
The tension is still very high. The gap between the LORD and His people becomes even wider. Right up to this moment the LORD’S person has been in the camp and on the travels as evidenced by the presence of a Pillar of fire by night and a Pillar of cloud by day. But not anymore. The LORD would send His angel for the reminder of the journey. Things are getting worse.
The first verse is bad enough. It reflects the thought of the people that it is Moses who brought them out of Egypt. The reaction of the LORD to this thought is to withdraw from the project. This is instructive! It speaks to our own church projects that we think are ours and not the LORD’s. Trouble begins when we reduce the LORD’s work to the leader’s work – whatever title that leader might have.
Idolatry begins in the head before it manifests physically. The golden calf and the orgy of drinking and sex were the physical manifestation of inner idolatry. The people began by doubting God’s presence among them. Their leader Moses had also disappeared. You easily guess the importance of one to connect and experience the LORD by themselves instead of relying on the man of God!
And the many elders that saw and dined with the LORD right here at the foot of Sinai? Well, that too is another story. Like Aaron they didn’t have any excuse. These people saw it all! If we sin, it is probably because of other reasons other than insufficiency of proof of the LORD’s love and care over our lives. When I look back at my own moments of sin, I can tell it was nothing but stupidity in the extreme. I regret it. I repent.
The holy script introduces us to another sanctuary-like structure called the ‘tent of meeting’. The LORD would meet Moses here. The tent of meeting predates the tabernacle. Here the LORD would meet Moses face to face. It is an intimate relationship comparable with the relationship that the LORD had with the patriarchs.
Yet for all this Moses would shock us by asking for God’s glory! These lines are unparalleled in terms of heaviness. It’s like the reader is stepping into the unchartered waters of the beyond. It’s like you are reading things you shouldn’t read! And the mind tells you not to imagine further. Regardless, Moses is allowed glimpses of humanly comprehensible physical appearance of the LORD’S presence – even then, it’s just in part. There are things which are hidden.
There is a message in this brief and partial appearance. The LORD wouldn’t be known any further than this. It again points to a time when the Christ would come and show us a better picture of the LORD. Yes, it is there! The glory of the LORD in the man Jesus Christ. You can experience it today!
As for the long trip, Moses refuses to accept the angel’s company. It’s a demotion. How will the rest of the world know that Israel is special? Indeed it’s only the presence of God that makes the saint special. A Christian’s walk is nothing without the LORD by your side.
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