Exodus 33:1-11 Salvation is not the goal

Exodus 33:1-11 Salvation is not the goal

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” 4 When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.’” 6 So the sons of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. 9 Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

BACKGROUND

Moses’s intervention has brought the people some time to restore their covenant with God. Their recent rebellion occasioned the display of God’s righteous anger. Indeed, He will deal harshly with anyone who having entered into a covenant but rebelled against Him. For that reason, God refused to accompany the people to the Promised Land. Moses embarked on the mission to shepherd the people towards repentance and eventual reconciliation with God. It is through communion with God that we come to know ourselves and be transformed into His likeness. In today’s devotion, we are reminded that Salvation is not the goal.

OBSERVATION

I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

After the covenant was broken, God spoke to Moses that the people should proceed to the Promised Land as planned (see Exodus 32:13). And He would send an angel to defeat their enemies so that they might settle in a land flowing with milk and honey. However, this time, God will not accompany them. And they would have to dispense with the guidance that came from the cloud, the revelation of His word, and His supernatural provisions. However, the most significant loss will be their covenantal relationship with God as His children. Israel will enter the Promised Land and enjoy the abundance for now. After they settled into the Promised Land, the Israelite will be no different from the Amorite, the Hittite, and the Perizzite etc.

God has decided to distance Himself and annul the covenant with Israel so that they may be freed to do whatever they want. Why is that so? Because the covenant that brings God’s presence and protection also binds them to live according to God’s law. And any man having tasted of God’s covenantal grace, if he continues to disobey the law, will incur His wrath. Hebrews 10:26-29 speaks of the consequence of sinning continually or “willingly”. If a man enters into covenant with God through Moses’s law and continues to sin, he will be punished by death. That being so, how much severer will the punishment be if a man enters into covenant by the blood of God’s Son and continues to sin.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? – Hebrews 10:26-29

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp.

It is at the tent meeting that God met Moses and the people. The tent of meeting is not the tabernacle (for the tabernacle was not yet constructed at the time of the rebellion). The tent of meeting is God’s temporal dwelling place. Here, God descends in a cloud pillar and leaves as soon as the meeting with Moses ends. Unlike the tabernacle which is located within the camp, the tent of meeting is a temporal structure pitched outside the camp. The tabernacle is tied to Israel’s covenant with God (see Exodus 25:8). For this reason, the presence of God dwells perpetually and does not come and go as in the case of the tent of meeting. That said, the tent of meeting reveals the mercies of God. Even though Israel rejected Him, He continued to reach out to them through the tent of meeting.

Whenever Moses entered the tent to meet with God, the pillar of cloud would descend on the tent of meeting. Moses’s face to face meetings with God sought to address the issues of a rebellious people. For Moses needed divine wisdom to discern the people’s hearts and how to shepherd them. Even though 3000 were earlier struck down, Moses continued to work to weed out the remaining rebels. Here, Joshua was seen working tirelessly alongside Moses as his protege.

TRUTH

Salvation is not the goal

The core motivation of the Israelites is to obtain salvation for themselves; to be relieved of hunger, poverty, to prosper and be entertained. Apart from that, they have little regard for their covenantal relationship with God. This is explicitly played out in their murmuring when faced with the lack of food and water. If only they would ask God to provide for their needs in the attitude of reverence and gratitude. God would have provided ever so willingly and liberally. People who seek salvation as their primary goal often whine and complain about not having enough. They are always discontented with what they possess and often forget what others have done for them. God allowed the Israelites to experience lack to reveal the true posture of their hearts. For they could not recall how God by His mercy and power delivered them. Regrettably, their deliverance from slavery could not change their hearts to love God and others. Moses’s absence occasioned their rebellion and unfettered display of disregard for their covenantal relationship with God.

If salvation is the goal, it will not endure

If we seek salvation as our primary goal, such that everything we do must result in our net gain, we will eventually lose everything we work for. Jesus said concerning such a person,

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:37-39

Anyone who places his family and himself above Jesus, and above the divine mission will lose their salvation and place in God’s kingdom. But if we seek God first by entering into a covenantal relationship with Him, both we and our children will be saved, and will prosper in all our endeavours. Indeed, salvation and prosperity are but by-products of our covenantal relationship with God. How do we begin to enter into a covenantal relationship with God? By communing with Him while transforming ourselves continually. It is by knowing Jesus and transforming ourselves towards His likeness that we are saved.

Through communion with God, we come to know ourselves and be transformed into His likeness

To commune with God, I lay down my ego while earnestly seeking to know who He is and what is on His heart and mind. In the process, He reveals to me His infinite love and who I truly am. The psalmist wrote,

O LORD, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, LORD.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!…
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. 
– Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24

In the process of communing with God, the psalmist came to know God and himself. Moses communed with God at the tent of meeting and led the people to do the same. Because Moses desired to know God, he implored God to reveal Himself (see Exodus 33:18). Indeed, if communion with God is the goal, we will experience salvation, which is the fruit of it. As Moses communed with God, his salvation became evident when his face shone with divine glory (see Exodus 34:29).

APPLICATION

What should we do when we commune with God?

  • Spend one minute to think about God and those who have loved you and shown you kindness.
  • Ask God to reveal to you what is on His heart and mind.
  • Ask God to reveal to you who you are.
  • Ask God to reveal to you one aspect of His glory.
  • Ask God to reveal to you His future plans for you.

Dear Lord, I thank you for being with me wherever I go. I thank you for loving and accepting me as I am. Reveal to me who I am and transform me in your likeness. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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