Exodus33:9-20; 35:21, 29
INTRODUCTION Visible manifestations of the invisible God seem necessary to enable men to be assured of His presence in the early stages of faith. We who have the completed testimony of His written Word do not need the aid of miraculous signs and wonders such as He furnished to His ancient people before all that Word was written.
At the time of our lesson Israel had so sinned against God (read preceding context) that He withdrew the temporal favors of His presence, and in fact even threatened to destroy the nation. But Moses interceded for his people and obtained renewed promises of divine presence and blessings.
Outlining the lesson, we note: 1. Approach, Exodus 33:9-11. a. Faithful worship, 9. b. Fearful worship, 10. c. Friendly worship, 11. 2. Appeal, Exodus 33:12-16. a. Prayer for blessing, 12-13. b. Promise of blessing, 14. c. Proof of blessing, 15-16. 3. Assurance, Exodus 33:17-20. a. Demonstration declared, 17. b. Demonstration desired, 18. c. Demonstration determined, 19. d. Demonstration divine, 20. 4. Assistance, Exodus 35:21, 29. a. Offering of the Lord, 21. b. Offering to the Lord, 29.
NOTES ON THE TEXT:
APPROACH, Exodus 33:9-11. In a spiritual sense, of course, approaching God has nothing to do with movement in a physical space. God is everywhere, and being near to Him is a matter of spiritual attitude and recognition, not of physical location. But "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning" [Romans 15:4], and so under the figures of more or less carnal institutions and ordinances of worship we are given spiritual ins1ruction.
Faithful Worship, 9. Symbolizing the withdrawal of God's favoring presence from the midst of His people, Moses had removed the tabernacle from the camp and pitched it outside. It could still be seen from the camp, and the cloudy pillar descending to the door symbolized the presence of God there. Moses was still devoted to faithful worship, though the people had forsaken God.
Fearful Worship, 10. With this visible manifestation of God's presence with Moses, the people also rose and worshiped the God they had disobeyed and dishonored. But theirs was a worship of fearful recognition of the God they had angered.
Friendly Worship, 11. Meanwhile God talked to Moses, "as a man speaketh unto his friend." The expression "face to face" must not be taken too literally, in view of verse 20. As usual, it seems that God gave Moses a message for the people, so that "he turned again into the camp." But Joshua, divinely chosen to be Moses' successor, remained in the tabernacle for further communion with God.
APPEAL, Exodus 33:12-16. How could Moses maintain his leadership of the nation without the help and blessing of God? Both Moses and the people must be assured that God would continue to favor them if they were to have any hope of completing their journey.
Prayer for Blessing, 12-13. Compare verses 13 and 17. Prayer based upon the Word of God can hardly go unanswered. Grace already found shows us the need of grace still to be found. Assurance that God knows us makes us desire to know Him better. And experience of God's blessings in our own lives leads us to pray for His blessings for others. "Consider that this nation is thy people."
Promise of Blessing, 14. Quite simply, God promised Moses what he asked for, and more. thee, and I will give thee rest." "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
Proof of Blessing, 15-16. Freely paraphrasing the words of Moses and applying them to ourselves, we may say something like this: "Lord, don't lead us on unless thou wilt go with us. The only way the world can know that we have found grace in they sight is by the manifestations of thy presence with us. And this presence will result in our separation from all the other people on earth."
ASSURANCE, Exodus 33:17-20. No matter how many blessings God gives us, we are always asking for more. Renewed and confirmed assurance comes with multiplied blessings. Sometimes, like Moses, we ask for more than we are prepared for, or more than we could endure. But God is wiser than human parents, and always knows how to give good gifts to His children.
Demonstration Declared, 17. God declared here that He would answer Moses' prayer and demonstrate His grace and His knowledge of Moses as an individual chosen by name for divine favor.
Demonstration Desired, 18. There are limits to how much of the dime glory mortal man can endure to behold. Not knowing those limits, Moses desired to see a greater demonstration of that glory.
Demonstration Determined, 19. Just as God had given Moses the desire for a greater demonstration of His glory, so He had determined to give it. Though we may not understand much of the verbal description of what Moses was privileged to hear and see, if we believe the Scripture we must believe that an essential part of that glory is the truth that God here stated: "I ... will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy."
Demonstration Divine, 20. Yet even Moses could not be permitted to see the fullness of divine glory; in that fullness, said God, "there shall no man see me, and live." See following verses for symbolic elaboration of this 1ruth; see also I Timothy 6:16.
ASSISTANCE, Exodus 35:21, 29. Why God should be pleased to use material means and human instruments to glorify Himself need not concern us; it is enough to know that He is so pleased to do. So to the ancient Israelites and to us He has given the privilege to assist in glorifying Him in various ways, including the bringing of willing offerings to His work.
Offering of the Lord, 21. It was the Lord's offering before it was brought because He had provided it; it was the Lord's offering after it was brought because it was willingly given to His work.
Offering to the Lord, 29. Putting it another way, the offering was brought willingly to the Lord for the work which He had commanded.
CONCLUSION [Psalm 46:7] "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." What more could we want? ==============[From Ashland Avenue Baptist newspaper, July 8, 1977, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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