Exodus 33

Exodus 33

The Command to Leave Sinai

33 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.

The Tent of Meeting

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses’ Intercession

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”


Exodus 33 Commentary

by Brad Boyles


Can you imagine being Moses? On one hand, he is a spiritual leader for these obstinate people. He lives among them. He leads them. He loves them. On the other hand, the Lord is leading Moses. God lives among Him. He leads Moses. He loves Moses.  On so many levels, Moses is stuck between the Rock (God) and a hard place (the people’s hearts). So, what does he do?

It’s an interesting question to reflect on. What do you do when you receive bad news? How do you respond when you no longer feel the hand of the Lord? I can remember years back being in a situation like this. I knew I needed to move on from my current role in ministry, but I really had nothing lined up that I was passionate about. I believed God was asking me to resign my current position, but it was so difficult to walk away from.

That summer, I accepted a new job that I was not good at or necessarily passionate about. It was an opportunity I am grateful for, but it really was just there to support me and my family. I began to wander away in my faith. I whined. I felt sorry for myself. I didn’t want to be here. Why did I do this???

In the middle of this experience, I remember calling up Hank and vehemently arguing with him that the Lord’s presence had vanished. I felt like I was walking in the dark with no direction whatsoever. This period of my life forced me to seek God even more. I wrestled with Him daily. I went through phases of questioning Him, apologizing to Him, pleading with Him, arguing with Him, and seeking Him. Some days were better than others, however, the point is, I began to thirst for His presence like never before. Like a man wandering in the desert with no water, I earnestly and persistently chased Him for a single drop.

Coming off the heels of the Lord telling the people that His presence would not go with them on their journey to Canaan, (but it would instead be an angel) Moses chases after the Lord. He aggressively questions God for reassurance. Moses knows that the people cannot succeed in their quest without the face of God among them. God answers.

Then He replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14 HCSB

God assures Moses that His Presence (literally ‘His Face’) will be with the people. But that’s not enough for Moses. He desperately wants to KNOW God. Moses is not satisfied. He has tasted the Lord and now desires more. He wants to see God’s face! Amazingly, God agrees to this request, though there are parameters set into place because no one can see the Lord’s face and live.

But let’s circle back to the main idea. When you feel God has removed Himself, how do you respond? Do you believe He is there, waiting for your obedience? Do you persevere? Do you seek more of God’s presence and beg for Him to show Himself? This chapter illustrates the beautiful reality that God’s desire is to dwell with His children.

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Is it not by You going with us that we are distinct among everyone on this earth? My mind goes to our country and we that calls our selves followers of Christ. What would things look like if We would pursue God with determination and be so hungry for Him and His ways? This today has challenged me. Thank you Hank and Brad so much!