The presence of the Lord is better than life itself (cf. Ps. 63:3), so we must stay near to him through...
I. Repentance (vv. 1-6)
What do you do when God hides his face? What the Israelites did—repent furiously. Repentance is always a good idea, no matter the situation because our hearts are constantly wandering. But sometimes repentance requires radical steps tangibly representing new choices. This is what the Israelites did by stripping off their gold jewelry. Not only was it the gold from their ears by which they made the calf (cm. Gen. 35:2-4), jewelry represented joy in the Ancient Near East even as people here wear jewelry to a celebration. Spontaneously they stripped away these symbols of celebration to show the Lord they were deeply heartbroken.
II. Prayer (vv. 7-13)
Whereas the Israelites withdrew and mourned, Moses took action and pitched a tent in God’s presence. Apparently this wasn’t the first time, Moses had to camp out before the Lord on behalf of the stiff-necked Israelites. Moses says he “used to” indicating he had to do it often (7). This is model intercession. It’s the way we must pray for each other. Don’t wait until people are worthy of being prayed for before you ask God to be merciful. Be thankful to Jesus, he doesn’t make that the same condition of his prayers for you and me! Just as repentance is always appropriate, praying for mercy is always appropriate to. Be honest with the Lord, “These children ... my parents ... my students ... my pastor ... my elected officials ... my fellow citizens don’t deserve it, Lord, but please draw near to them.”
III. Mercy (vv. 14-23)
Now Moses again proves he is the anticipation of Jesus by his full identification with his people, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (15). Moses so completely unites himself to his people that he will not accept the gift of God’s presence for himself if it doesn’t include his people—“If you withdraw from my people, you withdraw from me.” This is a love the world does not know. It is to say, “These people in this family, this church, this city are mine, and no matter how ‘unworthy’ they become, I will love them and plead God’s grace for them.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What did you learn from this passage?
- What does this passage show you about what it means to be united to Jesus?
- How does God’s grace revealed in this passage motivate you to respond?