After the Israelites decided to worship the Golden calf, they were severely punished for it at the end of chapter 32. In the next chapter, God commands Abraham and the Israelites to leave mount Sinai and continue on their journey to the promised land. This already struck me as odd, considered the great sin they committed and yet God is still giving them the land He swore to them. Why? In verse 1 of chapter 33 God says to Moses, “Depart and go up from here you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying ‘To your descendants I will give it.'”
It’s because God made a promise to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. He knew before the foundations of the world that He would give it to them, and He also knew that they would sin and fall short of His glory, yet through all that He kept His covenant. This just brings out another beautiful character of God in my mind, to think of how quickly the world changes, yet God never does. He remains steadfast and holy. He remains faithful to His people and promises to fulfill what He had spoken.
Yet that doesn’t mean that the Israelites still would not face the consequences of their actions. The Lord spoke to His people in the next verses saying that He would not go with them in their journey, but rather send His angel in His stead. God told them that they were a stiff-nicked people, which in my mind makes me think of someone who is unwilling to bend their neck, unwilling to change, most importantly, unwilling to disregard their own vain glory and pride and be humbled, whether by another or by God. Because of this the Lord refused to go with them.
I could look at this text as just another story and think to myself, “wow, those Israelites sure didn’t get it”, but the ironic thing is, I’m just the same. Many times I find myself unwilling in my heart even if my actions say something different, but this doesn’t fool God. He knows my heart better than I know myself and asked that I walk faithfully with what He puts in front of me. But many times my stiff neck gets in the way of what God desires for me. I can even find myself missing out on the blessings He is giving me because I refuse to see them as such, rather in my flesh I see them as a burden and pity myself.
But at the end of verse 7 we find that Moses set up a tabernacle of meeting outside of the camp, which he would go to in order to speak with the Lord. And in verse 11 it says, “so the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Now we know that no one can see the face of God and live, but what we do know is that the Bible is full of symbolism, and in this case this beautiful image speaks of unhindered communion with The Creator and His creation. I just love the conversation that they have in the next couple of verses where Moses asks God to show him His way, that he may know Him and find grace in His sight, so he might consider the nation of Israel His people.
No matter how incredible this conversation may seem, it’s the same for us and sons and daughters of a Christ, who have been brought near by the blood of Jesus. It’s a matter of getting alone with the Lord, as Moses did with the tabernacle of meeting outside the camp, and asking for Him to show us His way, rather than our own. Asking for forgiveness of the stiff-necked self that so easily rules in my flesh, so that He can rule in its stead. And next in verse 14 we find God’s response to Moses: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” It is only in the presence of God that I can find peace and rest in my heart. It is only when I am in His will and His path in my life that I can rest at ease knowing that He is with me and I am not alone. I am safe. Not because of a lack of danger, but because of the presence of God that is with me. How beautiful is that? So Lord I pray that you help me to get alone with just you, away from all the distractions so that I may seek your face alone. Father, help me to bend my neck and not resist the corrections you wish to give me that I know will only provide to be for my benefit. Most importantly, show me Your way and help me to know more of You and Your Character. Lord, help me to operate in the peace that you have already given to me.