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Jul 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 15, 2018 – Exodus 33:7-34:3

“Will You Be Angry with Us Forever?”

It was Moses’ practice to take the Tent of Meeting and set it up some distance from the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the LORD would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp.
Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents. They would all watch Moses until he disappeared inside. As he went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the LORD spoke with Moses. When the people saw the cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents. Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua the son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
 Exodus 33:7-11

Intro: I love this episode that we begin today

And because I love it, I’m afraid of it
– from the burning bush on, God has been revealing himself
• if that was like sunrise, the light has been getting brighter
• now it is so bright as blind
◦ my fear has to do with my inadequacy to present a revelation this awesome
◦ I want you to experience the fullness of what transpires in this passage
– there are some big ideas here, but those are not all we are meant to see
• people tell stories in order to share their experience
• so, probably, it is best if we try to feel our way through these verses

7-11 Signs are posted that mark beginning and end of the episode

We begin with the “tent of meeting” in verse 7 come back to it at the end of chapter 34
– in this way, the theme of the tent creates an envelope around this section
• in doing so, the meaning and role of the tent informs the entire passage
– here, the is like a footnote–in fact, it is almost a distraction
• in the last scene, God was still deciding what he would do with Israel
• so the shift to Moses’ visits to the tent of meeting fills time
◦ time during which God makes his decision and the people wait silently
◦ the storyteller uses Moses’ visits to the tent to set up his conversation with God

We have read about this tent, but here we see it in operation
– the designation, “tent of meeting” identifies it as a place of encounter
• this is not the full-blown sanctuary God described to Moses previously
◦ in fact, we are not certain now whether that one will ever be built
• this is a makeshift shrine that serves as a point of contact with God
– the phrase outside the camp recurs many times in Leviticus and Numbers
• it usually refers to the exclusion of something taboo
◦ something unclean or unholy and considered contagious
◦ placing it out of reach was opposite to something in the sanctuary that was too holy to touch
• but here the tent of meeting is outside the camp because of its holiness
◦ it is the people who are unclean
◦ outside the camp was symbolic of God’s announcement that he would not go with them

We observe what happens whenever Moses headed out to God’s tent
– the people would move to entrance of their tents and watch him
• the cloud–God’s presence–would hover over the entrance of the tent of meeting
• the actions of the people corresponded to Moses’ actions (only, in reference they would bow)
◦ their movements and gestures were a participation in Moses’ interaction with God
◦ God chose doorways for encounter – thresholds in space and time (Ex. 29:38-42)
– while there, God would speak to Moses
• two phrases emphasize the intimacy of their conversations:
face to face and as one speaks to a friend
◦ afterward, Moses would return to the camp – perhaps w/a message
• this last word is unexpected

. . . but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting 

◦ it is like when Joshua suddenly showed up with Moses on Mt Sinai (Ex. 32:15-17)
◦ I like to think that he was there out of a desire to linger in the Presence
(the spiritual aspiration of God’s devout worshipers; Ps. 27:4-5; 63:1-2; 73:25; 84:1-2)

12-16 Moses continues to press God for an answer

There are a few themes worth noticing in this dialogue (that the New Living Translation misses)
– first, it is very visual – Moses begins his first speech with “See!”
• and it ends there too, “And remember” is And see
• then, “look favorably” is literally found favor in my eyes (and this is repeated in v. 13)
◦ sight will crescendo twice – once with Moses and once with God
– a second theme is “favor” or grace – here it means to be awarded special status
– a third theme emerges in the repetition of the word “know” (six times)
• Moses wants to know God and reassurance that he is known by God

For the time being, Moses felt stranded
– he wanted a more definite answer from God
• he asks for the identity of the angel God promised to send ahead of them
◦ at least, that’s what he says he wants
◦ there’s an indication that what he really wants is second chance with God
• the phrase know you by name is significant in Exodus, where God has revealed his name
◦ this conversation is only possible because the two parties know each other by name
– v. 13 is Moses’ “formal request”: show me grace and show me your way
• “way” in the Old Testament refers to an internal quality of a person, like a predisposition
◦ a person’s “ways” determines what is important, motivates and directs actions

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are higher than your ways. . .” (Isa. 55:8-9)
He made His ways known to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel (Ps. 103:7)

• to know God’s ways, would be one way to get to know God
◦ to know him well enough as to make right decisions
◦ that is, decisions consistent with his ways

God’s answer is only four words in the Hebrew text (the NLT adds on a lot of words)

My presence will go [with you] and give you peace

– this is a sermon in itself – I have nothing to add to it
• please, take some time with it and discover what it means to you
– Moses’ response is immediate
• if I were writing the story, it would read, “Moses blurted out . . .”

If your presence doesn’t go with us, don’t make us leave this place

• God’s presence is what defined Israel
◦ what secured them as a nation

17-23 Pleased with what God has granted, Moses goes for the brass ring

God reiterates his grace and intimacy with Moses
– I mentioned that the theme of sight reaches a crescendo
• here the crescendo is Moses’ request:

Show me your glory!

• he is not asking for a flash of radiance like Israel had already seen
◦ he’s asking for a fuller revelation of God himself
◦ he wanted to see God
– God tells Moses what he will do and what he won’t do
• I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience God’s goodness moving by me
• God would also reveal himself in a proclamation
◦ God would proclaim his name (Moses would experience God’s beingI am who I am)
◦ God would proclaim his mercy and compassion – these are God’s “ways”
(they are not mere ideas)

God would shelter Moses from a full exposure of his presence
– by holding his hand out; his palm toward Moses

(perhaps like the way some of us parents still instinctively stretch our hand out to the empty passenger seat of our car whenever we brake suddenly)

– and here is God’s crescendo statement having to do with sight:

But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live

34:1-3 God ends their conversation with instructions

God tells Moses what he has to do to prepare for their next encounter
– the new stone tablets signal God’s decision
• his covenant with Israel has been restored and will be resumed
• once again, all is well

Conclusion: I’ve been reading in Proverbs and Galatians this week

There was a point when the two readings converged in Paul’s statement:

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant (Gal. 6:7)

– the wisdom of the Proverbs says, “Always look down the road”
• the potential consequences in the future will point to the right course today
• in fact, wisdom makes doing the right thing seem easy
◦ but if wisdom really is that easy, why do we need a book of Proverbs?
◦ why do we find it so hard at times?
– I think the way of wisdom is difficult due to the difference between immediate and long-term rewards
◦ sometimes the urgency of the present erases the future
◦ as if this moment can be separated from the string of moments that connect past, present and future

Paul also said, Don’t become weary of doing the right thing (Gal. 6:9)
– we can get weary because there is seldom an immediate reward for a good deed
• that’s why seed-planting is a good illustration
◦ we plant the seed, water it and then–nothing
◦ at least, not at first

I’m sure you’re familiar with Chaucer’s famous quote,

“Time and tide wait for no man”

– do you think the ocean cares about you? It doesn’t
• neither does time,
◦ and, according to Arthur Vogel, it is this aspect of time that oppresses us

A. Vogel, “Oh, how I want this moment of fun to last! I waited for it so long—but a glance at the hands of the clock tells me that time is rushing on in spite of my wishes. Another day I am upset, anticipating an operation I do not want to have. If time would only speed up so that all would be over, I think to myself; but the hands on the clock continue their same course at their same speed.”

• we are always in this in-between time
◦ between birth and death, planting and harvesting, setting out and arriving
– but this is exactly where God meets us – in this threshold of time
• the space in between one thing and another

A. Vogel, “The liberation offered us in Christianity is the gift of the future in the present through the presence of the glorified Christ with us now. He is our future come to us; thus all who recognize Jesus as the Christ have the future in the present.”

God’s presence doesn’t depend on my awareness of his presence
however, my awareness of his presence changes everything
The present has meaning because God is in it
and this is what I discover when standing or bowing in the threshold
I hope you feel comfortable enough (or bold enough) to pray,
“Show me Your glory”
Pray for it, and then look for it
where your forgot it is and always has been,
which is everywhere for those with eyes to see
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
(Psalm 19:1)

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