Have you ever said or thought this? I have! My introverted personality likes company. No, let me be honest. I like to have someone to lean on while I struggle to overcome my shyness or bashfulness. I don’t like to eat alone, and I don’t like to go to events alone. If I go with someone I know, I feel that have a portable comfort zone with me.
I was pleased to discover that I am not the only person who feels that way. No less than Moses himself suffered from this same complex. Do you remember when God appeared to him in the burning bush commissioning him to go to Egypt and lead his people out? Moses didn’t want to go. He begged God to send someone else. He argued that he was not a good speaker. No problem! God provided his brother Aaron to be his spokesman.
The experience of the ten plagues in Egypt, the Red Sea crossing and many other vivid experiences have matured Moses into an excellent leader. He’s learned to trust God and he has learned to pray. His mountaintop experience with God is now rudely interrupted by news that Aaron and Israel have made an idolatrous golden calf. Both God and Moses are enraged! But, he sobers up quickly when he realizes that God is threatening to wipe out the entire nation and start over again from scratch with Moses.
Moses boldly intercedes and God spares both Aaron and the people. Moses makes no excuses for Israel’s sin, but argues that God’s own name and testimony are at stake. If he eliminates his people, what would the Egyptians and the surrounding tribes think? Though God answers Moses’ prayer, God still maintains a posture of distancing himself from the people.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it: And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way. Exodus 33:1-3
Can you pick up on a little attitude on God’s part? “You and that people that you brought out of Egypt!” Not, “my people that I brought out of Egypt.” He promises to send an angel to escort them, but he’s not getting anywhere near that sorry group of people!
What’s happening here? I think God is testing Moses’ true motive. Moses made his case to save Israel based on God’s interests and testimony. Now that Moses has the result he wanted – sparing the people – does he still put God’s name and honor at the top of his priority list? Doesn’t that make sense? How long do you remember God after you get from him what you want? I can’t blame God for wanting to be certain that Moses was being honest with him.
Moses passes the test. He realizes that if God doesn’t go, it’s not worth going.
And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. Exodus 33:12-15
This is great progress in spiritual growth in Moses’ life. At first, he didn’t want to without a human crutch. Now, Aaron, his human crutch has been severely compromised by sin. Moses now realizes that there is nothing more important in life than God’s continual presence with us. In essence Moses says, “God, if you don’t go with us, I’m not going either!”
I wonder how often the necessity of God’s presence even enters into our thinking. Do we just seek God when we’re hurting or in some mess? Do we honestly desire his presence with us in every event of life, in every decision and relationship?
I’m afraid we compartmentalize our lives. “God, I really need you to go with me into that courtroom where I’m getting sued, but I’ll just go to the supermarket by myself if you don’t mind.” If he is really everything, then we should need him everywhere. We might as well seek him and desire him, because he’s already everywhere! We just don’t always like to acknowledge his presence.
… and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:20b