- Sermon Notes
Driven by God’s Presence
We now move to chapter 33 of Exodus. One of the keys to understanding chapter 33 is that it follows chapter 32. The people of Israel thought Moses had been gone too long on the mountain, they didn’t know what had become of him. They insisted Aaron make a god to go before them. They hadn’t heard anything from Jehovah for forty days and decided they needed another god; any god would do, apparently.
So Aaron told them to tear off the gold rings which were in their ears and from the gold he fashioned a golden calf. Then they, and we don’t know for certain who they are, said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Interesting use of the plural in the phrase “these are your gods.” There’s just one calf there. Then, making this story even more intriguing, Aaron built an altar before it – obviously for the purpose of worship – and made a proclamation, saying, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to Jehovah.”
Now the phrase ‘these are your gods’ comes into focus.They weren’t trying to cast off Jehovah, they were adding the golden calf. You can take the people out of Egypt, but it’s hard to get Egypt out of the people.The Egyptian god, Apis, was a sacred bull worshiped in the Memphis region. He was the son of Hathor, mother of the sun god Ra, the symbolic mother of the pharaohs.He was the god of fertility and represented the strength and vitality of the Pharaoh.
They wanted Jehovah, but they also wanted the calf, made of gold, the god of fertility and virility and power. There is a great lesson in this story. You can’t have both. But many try, and you can be sure, God will not be pleased with it.
They held a great feast and began to dance before it in a lewd way. When Moses and Joshua came down from the mountain, Joshua said, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” Moses replied, “That is not the sound of war - of triumph or defeat - the sound of singing is what I hear.”
Moses then became angry and threw down the tablets of the Law which God had given him, ground the golden calf into powder and made the people drink it. Then, he called out, “Whoever is for Jehovah, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to Moses. He told them to strap on swords and purge the camp.
Then we come to chapter 33. God told Moses to move the people from that place and go toward the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There are great lessons and applications out of this story.
I. God is Faithful to His Promises
- God promised this land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He is faithful to His promises.He told Moses to, “go up to a land flowing with milk and honey.”
- He also said, however, that He would send an angel before them to drive out their enemies, but He would not go up in their midst because they were an obstinate and rebellious people, lest He destroy them along the way.
A. His mercies are new every morning
- Every person here has failed at one time or another and therefore we understand that if God gave us what we deserved, we would be in great trouble.By God’s mercy, He does not give us what we deserve.
- This was certainly the low point of Israel’s relationship to God thus far. They were in fact a rebellious people. Therefore, God said that He would send an angel before them to destroy their enemies, but that He himself would not go up in their midst, lest God destroy them on the way.
- I’m convinced God was saying this for no other reason than mercy. He is holy in every way and knew that if they were going to continue being stiff-necked and obstinate that He couldn’t be in their midst or they would be destroyed.
Illus – The neck represents the attitude. We had many kids and there is a vast difference of reactions when you place your hand on the neck of a child with a willing heart. They welcome your hand and are comforted by it, but if their heart is not right, they resist it.And if they did, I would often ask, “Please tell me, am I for you or am I against you?”
- The amazing thing is that God remained steadfast to His promises and told them to go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; a place of richness and blessing.
- This is a powerful statement about God’s faithfulness and mercy.
2 Timothy 2:13, If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Romans 3:3, What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
- Many years later in the history of Israel they will once again come to the point of wanting the gods of this world.It will lead to their destruction.And yet, even while the Babylonian soldiers were pouring into Jerusalem, Jeremiah the prophet wrote…
Lamentations 3:21-23, This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
B. We have an advocate with the Father
- Moses then interceded for the nation of Israel.The relationship between Moses and God is like none other we’ve read in the Bible thus far.
- In verse 11 you see the depth of that relationship.God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend.
App –This becomes a powerful example to us in how God would want us to speak to Him as well.
John 15:15, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
- When Moses heard that God would not be in their midst, He appealed to God and interceded in their behalf. “Consider,” Moses said, “that this nation is your people.”
- As a result of Moses interceding, God said that His presence would go with them and that He would give them rest.
- Moses was an advocate for Israel.
- In chapter 32 Moses even interceded by saying, “Please forgive their sin, but if not, then please blot me out from your book which you have written!”
- Moses is a picture of Christ Jesus in this story.If it were not for what Jesus has done for us before the Father, we would be in desperate trouble.
Romans 8:33-34, Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
1 John 2:1, My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.
C. His presence gives power to purpose
- In verse 15, after God said that His presence would go with them, Moses opened his heart to the Lord, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us from here.”
- It’s as though Moses was saying, “it’s not Your purpose in my life that drives me, I’m driven by your presence; that’s more important than anything else in my life.”
- God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey.Moses was essentially saying, I don’t want the land without you.I don’t want milk or honey or any other blessing unless you’re in the midst of it.
- It’s the presence of the Lord that Moses cherished more than the land, or the blessings that came with it. The same should be said of us, may we also cherish the presence of the Lord.
Psalm 139:5-6, You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Psalm 73:25-26, 28, Whom have I in heaven but You?And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.…As for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge.
II. Desire More of God in Your Life
- When Moses was interceding to God in behalf of Israel, he also asked for something more, something personal. He made a request for which God was pleased.
- Moses was seeking a deeper spiritual life. He had seen God destroy Egypt, he had seen God part the Red Sea and bring forth water from a rock. He had seen God provide manna for all the people. He had received the Law and commandments and spoken to God as a man speaks to a friend, but still he asked for more.
A.“Let me know your ways”
- Moses asked to know the ways of the Lord for a reason, “That I might know You, so that I may find favor in your sight.”
- Moses wanted to know what God is like. He wanted to know His ways so He would know God more. He knew that favor and blessing would come from knowing God’s ways and knowing God’s heart and living by God’s ways.
Illus – There are many articles written about successful people and the way they live. “Ten Habits of Warren Buffet.” “Seven Ways to Organize Your Life Like Satya Nadella.” Why? They want to know how these people think and how they live so they can be like them. How much more should we desire the ways of God?
- Let me know your ways, Lord, that I may know You.” I want to know your heart and I want to live by the ways that are Your ways.”
Exodus 23:4, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.”
Exodus 22:26-27, “If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets… For I am gracious.”
- God is gracious; that is His way.And we love that, especially when we’re the ones receiving it…
Illus - Like the time I was stopped for speeding…
- But to know God’s ways means you want to have His ways become your ways…
- God’s ways are distinctly different than our ways. “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord…
Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
- Some people come to receive salvation and that is enough for them, but there are still others who seek a deeper spiritual life.
- Moses is an example of a man who wants more, and we should desire more by asking to know the ways of the Lord; and have His ways become our ways.
A.“Show me your glory”
- In verse 18, after God promised Moses to fulfill what he desired, Moses dared to ask for even more. “Please, show me your glory.”
- Moses had already seen more of God’s glory than any human that had ever lived; even more than Abraham, Isaac or Jacob. Moses had been in the presence of the Lord to the point that when he returned from the mountain, there was an actual light of God’s glory that the people of Israel could see on his face.
- But that was not the fullness of God’s glory. Moses knew there was more, and he had experienced enough of God’s glory to want more, and the boldness to ask for it.
- This should remind us of what Jesus said to the disciples…
John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
- Philipp responded, “Show us the Father and it is enough for us.”
John 14:9, Jesus said to him, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
- In verse 20, God said that no one could see the face of God and live. And yet, scripture tells us, when we stand before the Lord in heaven, we will see Him face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12, For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
- God made Himself known to Moses in the fiery bush on this same mountain.It was the beginning of a relationship that continued to grow through the trials and conflicts in Egypt and leading the people of Israel back to this same mountain.
- Verse 11 – That relationship continued to grow to the point where it says, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face-to-face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”
- We need our own “tent of meeting” experiences with God.No, God will not meet us in a pillar of cloud, nor will we speak to Him face-to-face, but we can have “meetings with God.”
- It starts with a “come to Jesus meeting.”But if that’s the only meeting you have with the Lord, you won’t grow very much in your relationship to Him.
- Know why many don’t have spiritual meetings with God? They still have a golden calf. You can’t have both.
- We need personal, intimate, devotional, spiritual, meetings with God.Those who are mature in their relationship to the Lord know that the presence of God is more important than any program or purpose.“Let me know your ways, that I might know You… And Lord, please, show me Your glory.”
Exodus 33:1-19 NASB