EXODUS 33: 1-6
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.
How do you go forward in your faith journey? Maybe you have encountered great loss, are relocating, have graduated recently, or are going through a major change. Maybe you have gone through a desert experience - or a time of extreme doubt. We can find divine truth and encouragement from Israel’s journey in Exodus.
In the opening words of our text, God commanded Israel to depart and “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey” (verse 33). Then, at the very end of Exodus, they continued their journey by God’s presence (Exodus 40:38).
We have seen a lot of amazing things on Exodus. The story opened with Israel oppressively enslaved to the Egyptians. Then God met with Moses at the burning bush and called him to lead the people out of Egypt. God sent the plagues on Egypt, judging them, but He passed over those who had the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. He did it all so everyone would see that He was the One True God and He did it so that Israel could worship Him. Then God parted the Red Sea, delivered believing Israel, and destroyed the Egyptians. God fed them with bread from heaven and water from the rock. He gave them His law. Israel saw God’s glory on the mountain, where God gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle. While Moses was there, however, the Israelites were at the bottom of the mountain worshipping a golden calf. God responded with judgement and mercy.
As we learn from the story in Exodus, we need to ask ourselves some important questions as we move forward in our faith journey.
Dependent or Independent?
At first glance, verses 1-3a seem to be good news. Despite their failure, God was going to take the people to the promised land. But then we read the problem. God said He was not going with them (verse 3b). God declared that He would consume them along the way if He went with them. A distance existed between this stiff-necked people and God. God would give them gifts, and the promised land, but He would not go with them.
In verses 4-6, Israel responded appropriately. They mourned and didn’t put on jewelry. By removing these ornaments, they demonstrated repentance.They wanted to be right with God. They wanted and longed for the presence of God. They realized that their greatest need was to have God. They didn’t just want His gifts and blessings. They didn’t just want the promised land without God.
This should challenge us today. Is the gospel just praying a prayer, having your sins forgiven, and going to heaven (promised land) when you die? There are many great benefits in the gospel - but the greatest gift you receive when you believe in Jesus is God Himself! You enter into a relationship with God. Knowing God is better than anything else. Having communion with God through Jesus Christ is the sweetest part of the gospel! We have immediate access to God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). You are the tent!
Moses made it clear that God’s presence with them is what made them distinct. They declared total dependence upon God and chose not to be independent. Will we be desperate for God’s presence - depending on Him? Or will we depend on ourselves?
Amazed or Cold?
If we had never heard the story of Exodus, or knew the journey and the ending, we would experience much more suspense. Would God dwell among a sinful people in the tabernacle? The final chapters (36-40) bring the book to a climactic finish.
We are given the details of the making of the tabernacle - even a record of who helped in the building of it and the amount of supplies used. Moses obeyed God’s instruction. He erected the tabernacle and completed the work.
Let’s read the final five verses of Exodus (Exodus 40:34-38). The Lord filled the tabernacle and would remain there until it was time for the people to move. When the cloud and the glory were stationary, they met together in the tabernacle. When the cloud of glory left, the people left. God provided them with direction. They could not mistake when the Lord wanted them to stay or go.
The glory and presence of God was among them - but never was He experienced head on. Today we see His glory through a mirror dimly, but we shall see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). This gives us great hope! The tabernacle and all of its glory point to the glory of God in Christ. John picked up on this point powerfully when he wrote John 1:14.
What is the tabernacle about? It is about the gospel. Will we continue to stand amazed at Christ - our tabernacle - or will we become indifferent and cold to the good news? Let us continually marvel at grace. Let us continually adore Christ.
The Story of Exodus is Our Story - Move Forward in this Faith Journey!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?