Think back with me, to a time when you felt oppressed, bullied, enslaved, helpless, up against a wall. A time when you wanted nothing more than to be rescued or delivered from your situation. We all have a time in our lives when things are just plain bad and we want them to get better. Throughout Exodus, we get to see firsthand how faithful God is to His people. He rescues them from a ruthless Pharaoh, parts the Red Sea, quite literally destroys their enemies, and points their path toward the Promise Land. Jumping to Exodus 33, we meet a new type of Israelite.
Formerly a people helpless in their slavery, these men, women, and children were now free to wander the desert. Not exactly the deliverance they had in mind. Throughout their desert wandering, their hearts also took a little trip away from what they once held steadfast. The passion they formerly spent on worshipping their Rescuer was now being wasted on worthless idols. It will come as no surprise that God didn’t love that. In fact, in Exodus 33 we hear God tell Moses that he is going to honor all of the promises He made and deliver them to the land flowing with milk and honey, but that He is not going with them because He has a feeling He would just wipe them out. He is sending an angel in his stead.
I don’t know about you, but I have a couple of thoughts there. First- God is seriously still going to bless them after they screwed up so badly? Cue the guilt, shame, and remorse I’d be feeling if I were them (and have felt when I've royally screwed up). Second- God can’t bear to be around them so He is going to send an angel lest he consume them on the way. I don’t know what consumption by God would be like, but I’m not keen to find that one out. Looking at you Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19).
I have several more thoughts about this, but I want to flip back to Moses and his response. When the Lord shares this with Moses, his response blows my mind. He led these people who have seriously messed up and his reaction is not one of “yes, I understand, thank you for not killing us now” or “I am so sorry we can’t get our act together.” What does Moses do? He quotes God back to himself. Moses challenges him in a bold, humble way.
“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 favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
You should know that I am not a professionally trained Bible scholar. This is just one woman’s take on the above intercession. My. Mind. Is. Blown. What a friendship that Moses has with God where he can say all of that!? Keep in mind that this exchange is pre-Jesus, so talking to God wasn’t something that just anyone got to do like we can now. There was a whole process and ceremony that went along with speaking to the Almighty and only certain people had the honor. God told Moses he would send an angel, Moses wants to know who. Not only is he asking for names, he also asks that God show him His ways. What’s even more profound than Moses interceding for a sinful people is that God hears him. In fact, without skipping a beat, God says, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” Boom. Request granted, Moses can go home happy, right? Wrong. Our friend Moses continues to say one of the most profound statements in all of scripture (in my non-scholarly opinion).
“If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.”
Ahem, what now? The Israelites have been wandering around this mountain and are more than anxious to get to that Promise Land they heard so much about when they left Egypt. They’re so anxious to get out of the desert that at one point they even volunteer to go back to slavery. Yep, you read that right. They think they’d rather be enslaved than dependent on God’s timing. Despite their grumblings and disobedience, Moses is asking to stay in the desert? Moses would rather stay wandering the desert with God, than go to the land overflowing with milk and honey without Him.
Let’s jump back to our present day lives. At the beginning of this we all thought of a time when we wanted to be delivered. Whether it was from a boring job, frustrating circumstance, toxic friendship that we just can’t fully break off- there is something that all of us are sitting in. There is also something that all of us dream of- the dream job, the perfect marriage, a family, selling out a stadium, discovering a cure. If God knocked on your front door today and said that whatever your deepest desire is, you can have it with the single condition that He isn’t going to be part of it- what would you say? Many of us would take a moment to think about it. We’d weigh the options, evaluate the possibilities, and maybe even say yes. I’m not judging friend, I’m just as human as you are. Moses’ response to God shook me to my core. I got one of those all too familiar queasy feelings when you know that something in your heart isn’t right. What a reality check. There are things in life that I desire so deeply I can’t even begin to express my passion for them. If God offered those to me, I’d like to say that my instant response would be to say, “No way. I don’t want it if you’re not in it,” but the truth is that I might hesitate for a moment. What if his deliverance wasn’t just for you, but those you loved the most? Healing from a disease, rescuing from financial troubles? Would you be able to say “not without you coming too”?
As calloused as it may sound, anything that we value over God is an idol. Commandment numero uno says that we shall not have any other gods before the Lord. What dreams give you pause today? What in your life is so precious to you that you would put it above spending time with God? What situation seems so hopeless that you’d rather be delivered alone than wait on God’s faithfulness and perfect timing? There is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming big, with wanting deliverance, having hope. In fact, that’s an amazing thing and I sincerely hope that every single person reading this has something that you desire with every fiber of your being.
Take a moment today to do a heart check. Identify 2-3 areas in which you actively choose something other than God. What do you do in the morning instead of starting your day in the Word (sleep, social media, working out, etc)? When a situation comes up at work, do you try to handle it yourself, boosting your pride, or do you take a moment to pray for guidance? Is there a friendship you are trying to keep together when you know in your gut, it’s not healthy? What about a chance for a dream job where you only have to compromise a little bit? Whatever it is, I want to challenge you to write it down and put it by your bed or by your coffee maker- maybe tape it to the bottom of your monitor. Put it somewhere that you’ll regularly see it. Every time you read it, do a heart check and ask God for help putting Him first.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much your heart can shift when you allow it. If you’re nervous about letting go of whatever you wrote down, I get it. It’s terrifying to loosen our perceived grip. From one recovering control freak to another, you better believe there is a post coming dedicated to exactly that. For now, just take a few baby steps and ask God to show you where you have put Him in second place. Before you know it, whatever you wrote will have a much fuller meaning because you’ve invited the One who put the desire there in the first place to be a part of achieving it. By the way, there’s a chance that the importance of what you wrote will decrease. That’s not a bad thing. It just means that you’re making room for something even greater!