Exodus 32 and 33
Do you remember the account of the golden calf? The ugliness of the human heart! To take gold and fashion it into an idol is one thing; but then to bow down and praise it as the one who had delivered them out of Egypt, isn’t that an entirely different level? And do you remember, Moses comes down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments in his hand, and smashes the two stone tablets in righteous anger? And what about the calf? He burns in the fire and grinds it to powder, scattering it on the water and making them to drink it? Drink your sin!
Should the LORD do the same with 21st century idols? What should He do with your neighbors’ idols, your kids’ idols, your co-workers’ idols? You know the thoughts: if only they… if that generation… those parents… those kids…
What should He do with your idols? What would your sin taste like if He had you drink it? When the LORD says to Moses at the end of chapter 32, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book,” what should He say about you?
Then chapter 33. “Go to the land I promised you. I’ll send an angel before you, but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you along the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” The consequence of sin.
And yet He provides this glimmer of hope along the way; wherever they went, up went the tent of meeting, and the LORD would speak with Moses, as a man speaks to his friend. (But if this sounds like a most remarkable thing to you, take note, for this too He does for you. He speaks. You listen. You speak. He listens–not a far-off God as so many would assume, but a God you can approach because you are clothed in the blood of Jesus, friend.)
All this seems so good to Moses that he pleads with the Lord to show him His ways, and the LORD answers, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” My presence, really? What can that even mean?
But Moses gets it, so he continues, “If Your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” You see, Moses realizes the sort of people he’s been given to lead, and what sort of chance do they stand apart from the Lord’s presence? (What might he say if we were the people he had to lead?)
Moses gets it better than we do, it’s not about the people the Lord chooses, it’s about the choice the Lord makes. The distinction is not made by them, it’s made by Him. So Moses continues: “Is it not in Your going with us that we are distinct, I and Your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And the LORD does it! He answers Moses’ plea! You have found favor in My sight, and I know your name. And He knows your name too! Can you see why these chapters are filled with comfort? He knows you by name… “Fill me every waking hour, O Lord, with such comfort. You know me by name!”
But if only Moses would have stopped there. Isn’t the the LORD’s promise enough? Moses gets it, so what more could he ask for? But he doesn’t stop, it’s not enough, so he asks: “Now show me your glory.”
Show me your glory? How might the LORD answer this? No. I will make all my goodness pass before you and proclaim before you my name the LORD. And how the LORD knows exactly what you need, too, and when you need it. So that you would see His goodness. That you would have proclaimed to you this name: Yahweh. The LORD. The God who makes promises and keeps promises. The God of your salvation. This will be proclaimed. To Moses. To the people. To you.
Show me your glory? No. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and because of Him and His mercy you confess who you are and all you’ve done, weekly, daily. Because of Him and His mercy you ask for everything you need in life and the ability to use them with gratitude and joy. Because of Him and His mercy you ask that He would bless the whole Christian Church on earth.
Show me your glory? No. And I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. And I can’t help but think of today—His compassion on you. He hasn’t left you alone; He hasn’t handed you over to your sin; how compassionate He is.
Be careful what you ask for, right!? But Moses says, “Now show me your face,” and the LORD says, “No way, but back, literally, my backside, that is it for you, and it is enough!”
The prophet Isaiah understands this, proclaiming: “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.”
And St. Paul understands this, putting the finger on the lip: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” There’s so much we don’t understand of God and His ways, but what He does He does for us, and for our good.
So to all you who struggle; all you who hurt; all you with so much that you don’t understand and are honest to confess, “Apart from you we don’t stand a chance.” But you know where He is to be found, where you catch a glimpse of His glory, and all in a way you can handle. This LORD who knows you by name, who goes with you.
He’s found, for you, in a word from a frail preacher: “I forgive you…I’m into this mercy thing, for you, and I will have compassion on those who I have compassion.”
He’s found, for you, in something better than gallons upon gallons of wine, in bread and wine that is His very body and blood, He who graced the wedding at Cana and is here; the God who loved the Church and gave Himself up for her cleansing her with a washing of the Word.
He’s found, for you, in a word. A word that is for you. A word of promise. A word of forgiveness. A word of hope. A word that goes with you. A word that teaches you again the foolishness of any other god but Him, the God dead and resurrected for you.
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