And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
–Exodus 33:14 ESV
The Israelites had screwed up. Not by accident either. While Moses was up on the mountain meeting with God and receiving the law, the people were down below giving way to their fears and committing treason against God. In a great rebellious frenzy, they let go of all truth and created a god they both understood and could control. Is it any wonder God was angry with them and pulled away? Is it any wonder the punishment was severe?
Isn’t this our fear? When time goes by and we don’t “sense His presence,” don’t we despair, get worried, wonder what we did wrong, give up and turn to that which might bring us a bit of solace? Some measure of balance? Despite many personal, tangible God-actions, don’t we doubt down deep that He is near, then turn to the idol we both understand and can control?
After the Israelite’s betrayals, Moses said to God, “Will you still go with us? Because if you don’t go with us, how will we know that we are special to you and that you know our name?”
Moses asked the question we ask after we’ve failed and are unsure of forgiveness: “Are you still with me? Even though I did terribly wrong, am I still Yours, are You still mine?”
With the Israelites, there had been no one but the offenders to pay the price of their rebellion, thus restoring them to God. But for us, Jesus paid the price. He took the punishment for every time we say, “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt you. I don’t think you’re still with me.” He took the punishment for every time we logic or try to fool our fear into trusting what we know rather than what He said. He took the punishment for every time we doubt, take offense, act miserly, act in self-interest, indulge wrong passions. For every failure of love, Jesus paid what we owe. “And the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV).
How we long for the response of Moses, who fell down on His face saying, “O God, if you see anything good in me, travel with me, hard-headed as I am. Forgive my iniquity and sin. Own me, possess me” (Exodus 34:8-9, my paraphrase of The Message).
And God’s response?
“I am God…. A God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
–Exodus 34: 6-7 The Message
“[I will go with you], for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”
–Exodus 33:17 NET
ACTION: What happens inside you when you don’t feel God’s presence? What do you turn to in order to create a sense of being “ok” when you can’t seem to connect with God? How does it resonate with you that are special to God and that He knows your name?