A sermon on Exodus 33:12-33 for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, July 2/3/5, 2020.
How content are you? If someone would come up at this very moment to ask this question of you, how would you answer? Contentment might be something that many in the world miss right now in their life. Sure they have a job which brings in money to pay the bills. They have health, maybe that is something many people struggle with at this time. However, they lack contentment in other areas of their life. They lack the contentment of living “normal” lives. Daily routines are turned upside down with restrictions or ordinances. Newscasts speak only the worst about the virus or the human condition. So again, how content are you?
The nation of Israel became discontent. While Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the people grew impatient. For forty days they waited for any sign of what happened to Moses. They did not know if or when Moses would return. They approached Aaron to build them a god to worship. Aaron fashioned a golden calf, which became an idol for this nation. Moses descended with the two stone tablets only to smash them against a rock when he saw the nation out of control.
Israel had to make itself right before God. They committed a gross sin against the First Commandment by worshiping an idol. God sent a plague among the people as a consequence for their sin. Moses led the people in repentance for this sin. Now, they had to prepare to leave Mt. Sinai to continue their journey to the Promised Land.
Before they left, Moses pleaded with the Lord, “Look, you yourself have been telling me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me” (Exodus 33:12). Previously God said an angel would lead the people from this point. Moses would not be content with this. An angel, as good as they would be in leading the nation, would not suffice. Moses wanted something move.
“If your Presence is not going to go with me, do not send us up from here. After all, how would people know that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Isn’t it in this way: that you go with us, so that we are distinguished, I and your people” (Exodus 33:15-16)? Moses would not be content unless the Lord would go with them. The Lord himself needed lead this nation on their journey to take possession of the land God promised them. Moses boldly prayed before God for this one thing.
God had already led them to this point. God separated the waters of the Red Sea for the Israelites only to swallow up the Egyptian army pursuing them. God spoke with Moses face to face in the tent of meeting. Moses would only be content if God would continue with them. Moses demanded this from God before the nation would go. This was God’s chosen people, so God should lead them not only for the sake of the Israelites but as a witness to all the other nations.
“I will also do this thing that you have said, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17). The Lord would go with the people. He would lead the way for them. Moses could be content for his prayer had been answered. However, Moses almost seemed greedy after this. He blurted out, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).
Did Moses press his luck? Should he have been content enough that the Lord would go ahead of the nation on the journey? Now, he asked to see God’s glory. He saw a glimpse of it on Mt. Sinai. Moses witnessed the great power of God evidenced by the Ten Plagues in the land of Egypt. Moses wanted to see the full glory of the Lord. One more bold request to make Moses content at this time.
The Lord would show Moses some of his glory, “I will make all my goodness pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD in your presence. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19). Moses would hear the wonderful name of the covenant God. The LORD would reveal himself to Moses as the God of promise and grace.
The Lord of all grace would be the one going with the nation of Israel. The Lord who would one day come into this world to eradicate the curse of sin would lead the nation. The Lord of all eternity would go with Moses and Israel. Moses could certainly be content for the Lord of grace would go with the nation of Israel.
However, Moses would not be able to see the full glory of God. No one this side of heaven could ever behold this glorious sight. We are sinners. God is perfect. Our sins can never stand in God’s presence. Moses would not be able to see that full glory, at least not yet. Moses would have to be content to see just a little bit revealed through the LORD’s name. He would see the full glory of God when he would reach heaven. Moses would be content with that.
As we live here on this earth, we become too familiar with the hardships and heartaches that beat us down. Not only do they beat us down, but they even make us wonder if God really is with us. The world around us throws immorality in our face as something that should be accepted. Gender issues confuse people. Marriage no longer means one man and one woman for a lifetime. People are quick to point blame at others rather than talk through their differences.
Even close to home our hearts quake with bewilderment if God really is with us. If God really is with us, I would be happy all the time. If God’s glory is really by our side, I would not carry around the guilt of sin. If God really cared for me, I would not be suffering from depression, anxiety, or other disorders.
God’s Word comes to us today to speak comfort to our pain and affliction. God promises that he will always go with us in life. This does not mean that our life will be easy. However, we can live a content life for God leads us.
God also sends out his glory in front of us. His glory reminds us that we live in a sinful world. We struggle with unbelievers pushing their agendas upon us. We also live with the sinfulness of our own heart condemning us before God. However, the Lord pronounces forgiveness upon us. He has shown mercy upon us. He has covered over all our wrongs so that we might be pure before him.
Let’s go back to the question then. How content are we? Does our heart rest easy or in uneasiness? We might look all around us only to despair all hope. However, we see the Lord goes with us. His glory surrounds us. We are not alone, but we have our Lord and Savior leading the way. We will be content! Amen.