Three decades ago, I realized the important connection in Exodus 33 and 34 between opportunity and experiential reality and wrote about it. I have often come back to this awareness and I am still pursuing the experiential reality. Given how I view the importance of it I have written about it again.
Over the years I have heard a number of sermons regarding Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33 and his heart cry for Yahweh’s presence to go with them to the land of their promised inheritance. With the exception of one I heard a couple of years ago, I believe they all missed the point. I will delve into the verses below to illustrate what I mean.
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of 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 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. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:1–3 (NKJV)
12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 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. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” Exodus 33:12–20 (NKJV)
We see in these verses that Yahweh promised His presence as they traveled and Moses knew the importance of His presence, given he had spent so much time in it. Yet in spite of that assurance his heart longed for something more. He had the realization that while Yahweh’s presence was to be valued it didn’t automatically confer intimacy! It was the doorway or access point, a thin place. The opportunity to pierce the veil between the natural and spiritual realms.
We see a remarkable event being played out starting in verse 12. Moses had been on the mountain with Yahweh, he had spent hour upon hour interacting with Him in ‘the tent of meeting,’ that Yahweh’s visible presence rested upon. They met ‘face to face’ (though Yahweh spoke, it is clear from the text that Moses never actually saw His face). Here in verse 12 Moses in essence says, “You know me but I don’t really know You, who are You?” Moses has the realization that though Yahweh knows Him, all of his time with Yahweh has not given him a revelation of Yahweh’s character.
This whole episode wasn’t about whether Yahweh would go with them, it was about who Yahweh was, the one going with them.
Now we may wonder what this encounter has to do with us and our walk of faith. Let me carry it over to our prayer and worship times, whether individual or corporate. In both circumstances, like Moses, we are spending time with Yahweh. Like Israel, we have a given, His presence is with us. I believe prayer and worship times are thin places, places that provide the opportunity for intimate encounter. They are an opportunity to know Him, to ask Him to show us His glory (we see from Exodus 33:18-20 and 34:5-7 that Yahweh’s glory is His character).
Times of prayer and worship are ‘thin places.’ Places where if we are sensitive to His presence, we have encounter opportunities. May we use them in a wise and ‘timely’ manner.
Thin Place by Vineyard Worship captures this concept.