Exodus 33

God’s special presence with us in the wilderness by His Spirit and grace to direct,
defend and comfort, is the surest pledge of His acceptance of us.
The bitter fruit of sin in the believer is the lost sense of His presence,
which will cause any true believer to lament.

1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:

2 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:

3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.

4 ¶ And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.

5 For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.

6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.

7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.

8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.

9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.

10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.

11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

12 ¶ And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.

13 Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

15 And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

17 And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Exodus 33:1-11 – The Angel Leader and the Human Intercessor

Moses knew that His people were forgiven, but it hurt him to hear that an angel was henceforth to lead them. See Exodus 32:34. The burden of two and a half millions of people was too heavy for him to carry, even with angel-help. He must somehow secure the withdrawal of that sentence, “I will not go up in the midst of thee.” He spoke of it to the people, who awoke to realize what their sin had forfeited, and put off their jewels. But their leader gave himself to prayer. Since Sinai was too far to climb, he seems to have pitched his own tent outside the camp as a temporary meeting-place with God; and when he entered it the people said: “Look! he is going to pray for us;” and he spake with God face to face, as we may, of what was in his heart. See John 16:26, 27. —Through the Bible Day by Day

Exodus 33:12-23 – God’s Presence Promised and His Glory Shown

   When Moses found himself alone with God he made two outstanding requests:
   (1) For God’s presence. “If thou dost not go with me, I cannot go; angels are not enough. They are fair, and sweet, and strong, but I want thee. Wilt thou leave me—a lonely man—to thread these desert wastes with this people? Thou hast put the burden on me, and thou canst not leave me to carry it alone!” It is good when a man gets to close grips with God, and it was to him according to his faith. See Exodus 33:14. 
   (2) For a vision of God’s glory. Again the answer came as he asked—“I will put thee in a cleft of the rock.” The sides of the mountains are rent and scarred; but who can tell the anguish of Him who was “marred” for us? Yet, in the cleft wound of His side there is room for us to hide. “Rock of Ages, cleft for me!” On Calvary, a niche was hollowed out in which a world of sinners may find shelter. —Through the Bible Day by Day

Exodus 33:22 – In a Clift of the Rock.

   That rock was Christ. In the Divine thought the position of Moses, first on the rock, and afterwards in its cleft, was a moving emblem of the position in which alone we can dare to look out on the sublime progress of God’s glory.
   God is always passing by.—In the great movements of history which evolve His plans, and are leading to Christ’s advent; in the passage of the ages, which are His swift chariots; in storm and catastrophe, which break up old forces and forms of evil; in the goodness of His daily mercy; in the revelation of His character—we are always living in the very midst of God’s presence and power.
   In our condition of weakness and sinfulness we need a position of stability and shelter from which to look on God.—No man can see that face of awful holiness and love and live. Sir John Herschel says that when sweeping the heavens with his telescope the brilliant Sirius suddenly burst on his view, he nearly fainted. Who then could behold God! But in Jesus, we are stable, established in Him, accepted in the Beloved; and in Him we are covered. The full blaze of the Divine glory is tempered to our gaze; it comes to us through the medium of the pierced hand. We stand on the rock; we are hidden under the covering hand.
   Our Rock was cleft.—How scarred are the great Alps! Their sides have been split by the action of tempest, avalanche, earthquake, frost, and glacier. Hence their clefts. But who shall enumerate all that has been borne by our dear Lord for us! What storms have pelted on Him, that we might have a safe hiding. On Calvary, a niche was hollowed to which a world of sinners may take shelter! —Our Daily Homily