Have you ever argued with your boss at work, demanding better pay or possibly better working conditions? If you are a parent, how many times has your child come to you, complaining about their chores, or maybe what they are having for dinner, or most definitely, asking why they cannot spend more time playing with friends? Or how many complaints do you imagine our President hears in a day? Well, this is what is happening here in Exodus 33:12-23. Moses had a difficult job assignment that he was given by the Lord. His duty was to lead a rebellious, self-centered, stubborn people through a desert to the promised land. To get this job accomplished, Moses needed a close relationship with the Lord. Now, when we come to chapter 33, Moses has just received the 10 Commandments and the Law from the Lord. He was gone for 40 days and nights while he received the Law’ and while he was away, the people made a golden calf, began to worship it as a god, and committed terrible sins of immorality. When Moses came down from the mountain, he saw what they were doing and threw down the stone tablets containing the Law and broke them. The Lord became angry with the people and He refused to go with them into Canaan, Exodus 33:1-3. Moses responded by reminding the Lord that the Israelites are God’s people and that if the Lord didn’t go with them, then Moses isn’t going either. So Moses and the Lord discuss the matter and God decides to go with them and to bring them into the land of promise.
“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.’ 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.” 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, do not carry us up from here. 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.” 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.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 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. But,” He said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the LORD continued, “See, 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.””
When these things happened, it put Moses in a place of discouragement and doubt. He needed something from the Lord if he was to continue to lead these people, and so he asked the Lord to show him His glory. Moses has nerve, there is no doubt about it. He’s not afraid to use the Lord’s own words against Him. In effect, he is telling the Lord, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.” Pretty persuasive argument, don’t you think?!
As a parent, a boss, the President, or church leader, sometimes decisions need to be made that may not always go over well with those entrusted in our care. Of course, none of us have ever been given an assignment quite like the one Moses received, but we have been called to follow the Lord and to represent Him in this world. At times, this task becomes difficult and discouraging, and we need something from the Lord. Something we cannot do on our own, something that will recharge our spiritual batteries and that will rekindle the old flames of excitement and passion for the Lord. And once again, the Lord understood Moses’ plea, and sends him a sign of His Glory – “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.” Exodus 33-17
Moses asked for a sign from the Lord, and thus receives God’s Glory. Often times we wish we could be so fortunate, to be given a sign that we do indeed find favor with the Lord, that our presence matters. A clear sign that we are on the right path, following His commandments. As Moses learned, it does not hurt to ask. And though we may not receive such a stupendous showing of God’s favor and mercy, I do feel that if we just listen, look around with an open heart and mind, the signs of the Lord’s Glory, will most definitely present themselves.