Choosing God’s Presence

I’m at a small conference of workers. The theological reflection the other day was Exodus 33. In this chapter, God begins by telling Moses: 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oathto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” 

As a result of this, the people and Moses are both distressed. Moses goes in to the Tent of Meeting and the following exchange is recorded: 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 favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 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?” 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.” 

The question we meditated on from this chapter was quite striking. If God gave us the choice between every thing we want–even good things like revivals, closure, movements–and His presence… will we choose His presence? 

It’s obviously a bit of a reflex question. In the long run we cannot have the things of God apart form God himself. Still, it’s a thoughtful reminder: everything begins in the pursuit of God’s presence. I don’t want to get legalistic about how that is done. I think we each of us have a unique way for getting into the presence of God. So I’m not going to be prescriptive about how to do it, other than to say we should be mindful to do it.

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