Pentecost 19A, Sunday October 19, 2014
Series: is the Lord with us or not? Week 7 (final)
Exodus 33:12-23 The Lord shows his glory to Moses12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Sometimes, you can be quite unsure about God – whether he is with you or not – especially after you might have really let him down.
If Moses and the people of God needed to know that the Lord was still with them it was now. They had really “dropped the ball” in that fall into rejecting the Lord and his promises. They replaced his Word through Moses with another god – that terrible golden calf we heard about last week. They asked, “Is the Lord with us or not?” They answered, “We don’t know” and “No, he isn’t”.
They were like you or me when we do something really hurtful to someone who is committed to us – your Mum or partner, or child or even your boss at work.
For a while, you just don’t know what they are going to do after you have let them down: hold a grudge, pay you back, keep silent for ages, get rid of you…..or, forgive and move on and find it within themselves to keep you on.
For the last part of this account of how God formed a people for himself – the people of Israel; a people to be the means through which he give his blessing of life and name and presence to the world, there is a long process of restoration by God after their great fall.
Moses is up on the mountain chatting to God again. He does that! He is up there talking with the Lord while the people are pretty much in the dark as to what the Lord is going to do with them.
Moses talks directly and boldly to God in prayer. He asks for simple things that make the difference for him when it comes to living life in God’s love and hope.
Moses asks the Lord to continue to teach him his way and his Word so that he continues to enjoy a close relationship with the Lord.
He asks the Lord to remember – to remember him and remember that he started all this! These people, this church, this story, all these issues, all this wrong doing, whinging, need for food, water, – the stuff of human life… they are in the end the Lord’s responsibility.
The Lord replies in simple words. “Yes Moses. I will stay with you. I will stay with them after their huge fall from my grace. I will hang in there with you and we will all move on together”.
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Phew! What a relief! Moses says, ‘God, if you are not with us and you don’t stay with us even after how we have ignored you, replaced you, doubted you, rejected your promises of life, we will be nothing’.
“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Moses know that the only thing that distinguished the church from any club, business or community is God’s real presence in word and holy gifts that makes us holy and acceptable ad clean.
God completes the forgiveness and return to a relationship of trust and love that brings the future back into being hopeful and life-giving.
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Friend, I don’t know how you have been ignoring the presence and good promises of life from God lately.
I don’t know how you have been making and chasing idols that you sacrifice your time, energy and heart to gain well-being, thereby replacing the Lord’s promises of freedom, life, forgiveness and love lately.
I don’t know how or if you have actually rejected the presence and promise of the Lord in his Word and in his people lately either.
I don’t even know if you have ever heard it said that God is and God is good and God speaks and so is knowable and close – willing to not judge or condemn but to love and serve.
But what I can tell you for sure this morning is that ignorance, replacement or rejection of the God of the bible is not the end of the story – not yet.
Just like the Lord was able to find it within his heart to forgiven his “stiff-necked”, proud, ignorant, weak, idle making people right here in this ancient time and place, he had shown us that can do it again in our time and place.
He has lavished upon us his enormous capacity to forgive and love and stick with troubled people in the fullest way possible by not staying up on the mountains of heaven – but has come down to the dust and the dirt beneath the surface of or lives in the person, the words and the actions of Jesus of Nazareth – God in human form – God with us and for us.
To really convince Moses and the people (when they would eventually get wind of this) of his capacity and intention to love broken people, the Lord does something quite incredible.
Moses is bold. He actually asks for a supernatural moment – an experience of sight, sound and heart that would help him rest in God’s forgiveness forever.
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And amazingly God says, “OK Moses”!
But even in this freely given moment to savour and rest in, God is so aware of our human limitations. He limits what Moses can see of his beauty, light, power, holiness, his “glory”.
Just like us when we give our name to someone, God gives himself as he gives his name YHWH (I AM) to his people as he had done before all this rejection. God keeps giving his people access to his heart, his ear, his life.
God then sets up a gap in the rock face where Moses will be safe to experience God’s awesome presence as God shades Moses, then takes away his hand for s second to give Moses just a tiny glimpse of his holy life and light before re-shielding Moses lest Moses just expire there and then like the guy in the original Indiana Jones Movie – ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, who seeks the holy things of God in the tabernacle for his own power and gets fried!
After the worst fall, the relationship is restored and even made closer by God. That’s how the Lord rolls. He will go on to keep doing this. He is still doing this. He has done this with you and for you when you were immersed in the glory of his grace and promises of new life in baptism and continual forgiveness and healing in the body and blood we share.
Be at ease today, friend. You can be quite sure about God. Even after you might have really let him down. He is for you.
Read through the text – maybe beginning at verse 1 or chapter 33 to get the context of this extraordinary event noting Moses’ prayer and God’s responses.
Notice how Moses asks God for some important thing – for the Lord’s continued teaching so that Moses can know God personally and stay in right relationships with the Lord; and that the Lord “remember” or “Consider too” that this nation of Israel are your people and that it was you, Lord, who started all this!”. So, prayer here is calling on the Lord to teach us and remember what he has promised and done in the past, with the view that he continue to do this for his people.
Notice how Moses knows that the Lord’s presence and promises are THE things that make us church! if God is not present with us in his Word which are his promises to us, then we are “just like every other nation”.
I suggested that it is quite human to be unsure about God’s intentions or presence, and that this is especially so when you have sinned. It is easy to be unsure of God will accept you back or keep a grudge or cast you out. Do you think you know people who think they have sinned too badly for God to ever forgive them? Has there been a time in your life when you found it hard to trust that God would forgive you for something you did or a great weakness you had? Share your stories on this.
Notice how responsive the Lord is to Moses here. he says he will remember and he will go with Moses and the people – even after their great fall into replacing the Lord with a deaf, mute and lifeless golden calf (previous chapter – 32)!
What words would you use to describe this story of God’s grace to a person who either does not know the Lord who who thinks they are too bad to be forgiven by God for their sin? Share your thoughts….
Can you hear these words of grace for yourself. We are Israel and we constantly replace the Lord by not trusting him for our wellbeing and hope. And yet, he does not hold a grudge or make us pay for our mistakes endlessly. This text is pure gospel – good news.
I put it this way….
“After the worst fall, the relationship is restored and even made closer by God. That’s how the Lord rolls. He will go on to keep doing this. He is still doing this. He has done this with you and for you when you were immersed in the glory of his grace and promises of new life in baptism and continual forgiveness and healing in the body and blood we share”.
Moses was bold enough to ask for a sign or experience of God’s glory and God said, Yes. he has said yes to us too. In Jesus, the one who is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of God’s being (Colossians), God has revealed the extent of his love and forgiveness of all human sin, including yours!
Jesus continually hides his glorious presence among us in gifts of his choosing – water and word, word of absolution and the bread and wine of his holy meal for which forgiveness and new life are the goal.
What can you learn about prayer here? Share your thoughts.
What do you learn about Jesus and his presence and promises for you? Share your thoughts.
What is the Lord calling you to do as a result of the Holy Spirit working through this Word? Share your responses.
Come Holy Spirit, our souls inspire and lighten our hearts with your heavenly fire.
Give peace at home and kindle the flame of love in us. Amen.