I am starting a new series that will look at some of the opportunities the Holy Spirit creates for intimacy. I will look at a few examples from the Old and New Testaments and the opportunities they provide. I will begin with Exodus 33. I have heard many messages on this passage over the years and with one exception they all focused on the need for Yahweh’s presence to go with the Israelites when they went into Canaan and the application is then made that we need the Lord’s presence to go with us when we enter into something. While that application is a truth, in truth it misses the point of this passage.
Understanding this requires both context and a bit of digging into the passage itself. In looking I have a question. Have you ever spent a lot of time with or around someone then realized when they shared something personal that you didn’t know them nearly as well as you thought? Keep that in mind as we look at this passage. I will start with the verses below.
2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Exodus 33:2 (NKJV) 11 So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. Exodus 33:11 (NKJV) 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. Exodus 33:14-15 (NKJV)
Here I have bolded six words, before once, face three times and presence twice. The interesting part is that each time it is the same word in Hebrew.
The noun pānîm, “face,” “countenance,” is derived from the verbal root pānāh (HED #6680), “to turn toward,” and is found in the OT only in its plural form. The noun is well attested throughout the Semitic languages. When combined with le (HED #3937), the term may also function as a preposition, literally meaning “facing,” and often translated “before” or “in front of.”
The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary.
What does this mean? A couple of things. First verse two could be translated as The Angel Presence or Angel of His Face/Presence. The point in this passage isn’t Moses being worried about Yahweh in the form of the Angel of His Presence going with them. He did affirm he didn’t want to go without him but that had already been assured. The key is what Moses requested, he wanted to see Yahweh’s glory. Why is that significant? Moses had his burning bush experience, saw all the miracles in Egypt, their deliverance in the exodus, had spent 40 days and nights on the mountain with Yahweh (Ex. 24:16-18), regularly heard Yahweh’s voice and spent time face to face with Him in the tent of meeting. In fact Exodus 24 says Moses had already seen Yahweh’s glory and spent 40 days and nights in it.
16 Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:16-18 (NKJV)
So, why the request to see His glory? That is the question we need to answer. We tend to read the bible backwards. That is we look at OT passages from what we know. Moses however had to look forward. Up to this point he knew Yahweh was powerful, demanded obedience to His law and had a place He was taking His people to for a purpose. What Moses didn’t know, in spite of all the time already spent in Yahweh’s presence, was anything else about His character. Glory is more than just a tangible presence, it is a visible expression of character and nature (which is why Paul said “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27).
Moses needed a revelation of the character of the One he had already spent so much time with. When he had this experience his face glowed when he came down from the mountain the second time and it continued to happen when he spent time in Yahweh’s presence in their continued relationship. That is what Exodus 33 is about, not needing His presence with them, it is about knowing the one we are with.
So, present day application. When His presence becomes manifest in a worship service or prayer time what do we do? Do we simply enjoy it or do we see it as an opportunity to press in for more? In these opportunities if we press in we can experience what Paul experienced and longed for others to experience. See the verses below and the words in bold.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:15-16 (NKJV)
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV) 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
Moses needed to get to know the One with Him. We need to get to know the One within! Then we need to follow His continual leading. Barrett Browning captured this in what she wrote.
Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries… from Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
It reflects Habakkuk’s heart,
14 For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 (NKJV)
So, here is one Intimacy Opportunity, let’s take it and see His glory manifest through His people!