Aimless Without the Lord’s Presence

7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:7-17

Moses once again interceded on behalf of his people, this time deploring the Lord to go with them. I don’t think we fully understand the significance of that request. Nor do we quite understand what it’s like to live without God’s presence in our lives.

I remember aimlessness, going from party to party drowning myself in alcohol, not remembering a lot when I woke the next morning and looking forward to the next weekend to do it all over again.

Hopeless. Aimless. Misguided. Lost.

Without God’s presence, Moses felt lost. He had spoken multiple times with the Lord “face to face”, but he pleaded on behalf of his people. He knew what it was like to be in the very presence of Almighty God. Moses knew what withdrawing His presence would mean: aimlessness.

Brothers and Sisters, God is about ready to do a new and exciting thing in this world. All the signs are pointing to it.

Are you enjoying His presence today?

The “ride” for most will get very bumpy and chaotic.

Are you enjoying the Lord’s presence today?

The Church in the West as we know it is about to be shaken up and stirred.

Are you enjoying His presence today?

I don’t consider myself Nostradamus or a prophet, but based on what has happened over the last 30 days, the next 12-18 months will get very interesting.

Are you enjoying His presence today?

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Fresh Humility

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.'” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb. Exodus 33:1-6

The Lord wouldn’t go directly with the Israelites but instead sent an angel to go before them. He rebuked them strongly for what they had done, and wanted them out of His sight. We do know, however, that God’s presence never left them because He is omnipresent.

An analogy might be if your child were to obstinately run off at a fair or carnival. You know exactly where he is at all times but you’re just far enough away to make the child think hard about what he had done. What will the child do? Read further.

Verse 5 would be better translated “Humble yourself before me and let me see your penitent heart.” In our illustration above, the child might just sit down right where he is and cry loudly for his parents. His crying is a humbling experience (on top of being afraid, lonely, and terrified).

(Obviously the analogy breaks down in today’s society where you really wouldn’t want to leave your child out of your sight in a large gathering like that).

What would it take for the Israelites to humble themselves before the Lord?

What does it take for us to be humble before the Lord?

Sometimes we get so full of ourselves that it’s difficult to humble ourselves. We think, like Mac Davis used to sing, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way…”

The Israelites were about to learn humility the hard way.

Is our humility fresh or has it been a while since we humbled ourselves before God Almighty?

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The World Needs Our Prayers

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made. Exodus 32:30-35

The Lord continued to keep His promise of leading the Israelites. They would be punished for their disobedience however.

We’re not sure what the plague was, but if it was anything like what He sent the Egyptians, the Hebrews would not enjoy it at all. If they had exhibited a bit more patience in waiting for Moses, they would not have had to endure this hardship. Did they learn their lesson? Probably not because they’re human and frail.

Moses did intercede on their behalf and the Lord spared some of His punishment.

It’s probably time to interceded on behalf of the country, the President, Israel, and quite frankly, the world. With the coronavirus being front and center in most news organizations, it’s difficult to turn our attention elsewhere. In fact, Pakistan and east Africa just experienced a plague (often together with the phrase “of Biblical proportions”) of locusts but not many people know about it.

Viruses, plagues, and the economy is about to crash.

We live in crazy times. What will the future even a month from not look like? It’s anybody’s guess.

God, however, has not left his place on the throne. He knows intimately what’s going on in every heart and mind. World events do not shock him for He is in the midst of it all.

Fear not, for God is still with us, among us, and in us. Find comfort in his love and grace today.

Pray that the Lord’s will be done in these perilous times.

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Swift Justice

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.'” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” Exodus 32:25-29

It’s interesting that out of all 12 tribes the Levites rallied to Moses when he called. Then they went through the people killing the people who probably led the rebellion, while the others slinked away. d Moses set the Levites apart because of their actions.

Were the Levites even involved in the revelry of the rest of the camp? It appears they weren’t. As keepers of the tabernacle, they were already set apart for the Lord’s work. By their actions and devotion, though, Moses asked God’s blessing on them.

In our minds, we see what the Levites did as barbaric and ruthless. We only have modern day society as a reference point. They were under a different justice system.

Those who were slaughtered were wicked people. Recall that only a few verses ago, the Lord was getting ready to slay the entire nation, so the vast majority of people (at least 97%) were spared.

Those deaths sent a very clear message through the camp: if you continue in your rebellion, you will see swift justice.

Swift justice is something we don’t see in our world. Not only that, but we see a great deal of injustices every day because of a broken system. We only see justice through our own eyes and not through perfect lenses.

There are injustices all around us if we care to look. Often, though, it’s too difficult to look because it might compel us to do something about it.

I’m not talking about being cut off in traffic type of injustice, but real heart-wrenching injustices: women and children being sex trafficked, slavery, child labor, and religious persecution to name a few. These compel us to dig in and fight them, but it takes work, time, and money.

In the end, though, they are worth the fight, because if we’re not fighting these horrific and unfair predicaments, who is?

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Aaron’s Hand in the Cookie Jar

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” Exodus 32:22-24

That would be a funny story coming from a 6-year-old, but Aaron was at least 83! He really had no excuse but made something up on the fly.

In essence, he said, “they made me do it; I had no control over it.”

Aaron’s hand was caught in the cookie jar and he tried to blame it on the cookies tempting him!

Of course he had control over his actions; we all do (in a free society). We’re not forced to do anything we don’t want to. Aaron wasn’t forced to melt the Israelite’s gold and form it into a calf. If anything, he partnered with them to do it.

The application of this is fairly straight-forward: when you sin, don’t pass the buck and blame circumstances, people, or even the devil for your actions. Own it, ask forgiveness, and move on. Sometimes, though, we have a hard time at each of those actions.

But the Holy Spirit is still in us, drawing us closer as we walk each day. He wants us to walk closer but we often stray in little ways, and correct course soon after we realize we’re off.

Come close to God and He will come close to you. James 4:8

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