7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; 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. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent.
As we read from Exodus 33 this week, we see how Moses began establishing the rituals of worship according to what God had told him earlier. The place of worship was outside the camp, but available for “everyone who sought the Lord.” There was a sense of awe and reverence when their leader entered, believing that God would meet them there.
- Do you have a place you like to go to encounter God?
- What does seeking God look like to you?
- What does the expectancy that God is present when we gather in worship stir in you?
Gracious God, even as your children were wandering and even feeling lost, you established a way for them to be reminded of your presence with them and to encounter you. We take for granted our opportunities to go “outside the camp” to a place of worship, and we ask that you would instill in us new awe and awareness of your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
9 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. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.
In worship and awe of God, the people would acknowledge the sacred moment of Moses in the tent with their bodies, rising and bowing down, intently waiting as Moses spoke to God face-to-face. We see also in this passage that these face-to-face encounters were not reserved for only leaders, but for anyone who took time in the presence of God.
- How do you engage your body in worship of God?
- How do you lead in your areas of influence out of your encounters with God?
- What do you want to hear from God in a face-to-face encounter?
Gracious God, it is beautiful to realize that we are invited to encounter you face-to-face unashamed, as a friend. Give us hearts filled with gratitude and awe that spills over into our daily lives. Remind us that we can go “outside the camp” and meet with you even in the middle of our responsibilities because you are always with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said 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.’ 13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”
Moses is interceding for God’s people, not because they are perfect, but because they belong to God. Moses sits before Him, acknowledging that God’s presence and favor is crucial for him and for the people of Israel because their identity as a nation is God’s presence. It is God, not their works or possessions or property, that set them apart as belonging to God.
- How does it feel to be known by name to God?
- Where in your life are you asking God, “show me your ways”?
- Are there other distinctions besides God’s presence that seem to get tied up in our identity as a community?
Gracious God, if you do not go with us, we do not want to go. Help us to live and work within earshot of you, listening for your guiding voice and seeking to be known by the way that we reflect your presence. Help us not to shroud your presence with convictions, fears, or things that do not set us apart as your beloved children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
This conversation between Moses and God is filled with vulnerability as Moses hungers for God’s presence for his people, and then in these verses hunger for a deeper glimpse of God. Perhaps he has realized that living into God’s call is harder than he imagined, but is reminded that it is worth it when he enters into these intimate and powerful encounters with his Lord.
- What emotions stir in your when you imagine saying to the Lord, “show me your glory”?
- How do God’s words – “I will be gracious to those to whom I will be gracious and ...show mercy on whom I will show mercy” - dovetail with Moses desire to see God’s glory?
- What wonderings do you have as you ponder God’s glory, Moses’ desire to see it, and God’s declaration of sovereignty to be gracious and merciful as He so desires?
Gracious God, “The Lord,” who holds all glory and deserves all honor, we are gratefully awed that you reveal yourself to us as we ask. Thank you for your words that remind us that in your sovereignty you hold grace and mercy and are glorified in your pouring out of it on those you desire. Help us not to decide for you who those people are, but live as recipients of your grace and mercy, blessed to be a blessing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21 And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 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; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
God invited Moses to encounter him in a way that would bless him but not destroy him. Regardless of Moses’ expectations, God knew what he could endure and did not give him more. God protected him and covered him until it was safe to behold Him. Moses trusted God to answer his request in His way.
- How is God revealing himself to you these days?
- Are you asking more from him or less from him than you have before?
- How might God be protecting you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with his hand?
Gracious God, when the world is so bewildering and loud, we want your presence in our lives to be louder and more empowering. And yet, you remind us that your power and sovereignty is beyond our capacity to behold in all its glory. We cannot see your face, but help us to sense your hand protecting us and help us to be content with the glimpses of you that we see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.