During the weeklong festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), the regular Parsha (Torah portion) for Shabbat is suspended, and a special Parsha pertaining to the holiday is read in synagogues around the world. The scripture is Exodus 33:12–34:26. This is appropriate because one of the striking themes in this section is the sheltering presence of God.
In Exodus 33 there’s a re-establishment of fellowship which leads to a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 34. Breaking God’s covenant resulted in the Israelites’ experiencing disruption of fellowship with God. It did not terminate their relationship with God, but it did hinder their fellowship with Him. And of course this is true in our lives as well. When we sin as Messiah followers we do not cease to be God’s redeemed people, but certainly our fellowship with the Lord suffers big time!
Now God’s withholding of fellowship from Israel created problems for Moses as Israel’s mediator. This was Moses’ thought process. If God was not going to enter into a covenant relationship with Israel as He had already described (13:21-22), how could Moses lead the nation (cf. 3:11, 13)? And it is this very issue that prompts Moses to make the first of three requests which appear in verses 13, 16, and 18 of Exodus 33.
Verse 13 reads, “Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. Now consider that this nation is Your people.”
Here Moses is seeking reassurance that God Himself would lead Israel in the wilderness. How does the Lord respond? In verse 14 God assured him that He would continue to go with His people; which meant that God would continue to provide the rest that His Shekinah Glory presence inspired.
Moses’ second request is found in verse 16. It says, “How will it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight unless You go with us? I and Your people will be distinguished by this from all the other people on the face of the earth.”
Now Moses is asking that God would confirm him as God’s chosen mediator among the Israelites. Plus, he’s also pleading that God would confirm the nation as His chosen/covenant people. In verse 17 the Lord said,”… I will do this very thing you have asked, for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name.”
The third request from Moses is in verse 18. “Please, let me see Your glory.” Here we have an earnest desire for a greater perception of God’s essential being than what Moses had previously experienced. In the context of Israel’s restoration of covenant fellowship this would enable Moses to serve God more effectively. But in response to this request, God explained that no one can view Him directly and live. It’s kind of like looking directly at the brightness of the sun. It destroys our ability to see.
So because of inherent finite human limitations, the Lord accommodated Moses. He granted Moses a greater revelation of Himself, even though it was a limited revelation. And this revelation helped Moses fulfill his duty as a mediator by giving him a greater appreciation for the person of Yahweh (cf. 2 Cor. 12:4); which is something that people in positions of spiritual leadership desperately need (cf. Phil. 3:8-10).
Right here, right now, is there a principle here we can apply to the rhythm of our lives? There is. And it’s this: Because of the mediating ministry of the Lord Yeshua, we can and should approach God anytime and anywhere to share our deepest concerns.
Moses prayed on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord decided not to destroy Israel completely. Nevertheless, the Lord told Moses He would withdraw His presence and not go with the children of Israel as they continued their journey to the promised land (Ex. 33:3). However, Moses continued to plead with God on behalf of Israel, and once again God listened to His servant (Ex. 33:12-17).
Far too often, as believers, we don’t fully appreciate how truly accessible God is. Because of Messiah’s perfect sacrifice, we can come into God’s presence anytime and openly and honestly pour out all our stuff just like Moses did. We don’t need a special place. We don’t have to wear special clothes. We don’t have to purify ourselves with certain rituals. We don’t even have to use to certain words. In fact, according to Romans 8:26, God understands even when we don’t use any words at all! So, “…since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens— Jesus the Son of God . . . let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help (Heb. 4: 14,16).
Today as we remember the sheltering presence of the Shekinah Glory in the wilderness, let us also remember that the divine response to our prayers in the wilderness of our life journey requires no accommodation whatsoever on God’s part.