After the terrible incident that we looked at in the last chapter, in chapter 33 of Exodus we see the aftermath of the golden calf. The Israelites turned against God, and God is threatening to no longer go with these “stiff-necked people" into the Promised Land. In turn, the Israelites are in a place of mourning - knowing that they could be removed from the love, favor, and protection of God.
In response, we see Moses battling through prayer, crying out to God for mercy on behalf of his people. Moses bears it all in front of the Lord - petitioning and pleading for his presence as they move toward the Promised Land. As he pleads, the Lord relents, granting his presence to Moses and the people of Israel.
Through this story, we witness our own calling to be people of prayer. Although we are called to many things - compassion, mercy, witness, loving the widows and orphans - perhaps one of our greatest daily callings is to be a praying people. This story shows us that prayer is an effective tool, but also our way to show glory to God, as Moses does here.
As we look at this chapter closer, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of not only why Moses prayers, but how he prays, and what he prays for. And in doing so, we’ll uncover what should preoccupy our prayer life.
Our weekly Worship Guide can be downloaded by clicking the image below.
Notes on our Worship Space:
The Cross, the Font, the Table, the Book
As we explore what it means to be the people of God, we have positioned these four symbols prominently to remind us of God’s faithfulness and where we find life, hope and our identity. The cross speaks of Jesus’ atoning death, the Font speaks of the new life he gives us through baptism, the Table speaks of our resurrected Savior who continues to gather us around his table of grace, and the Bible speaks of our source of authority and comfort as God speaks through his living word even today.
The 10 banners hanging in the sanctuary represent the messages in our series on Exodus. It is not just the spoken word but the creative, visual word that tells us of God’s love and faithfulness. See if you can guess which banner goes with which story! Many thanks to the team of Third artists who put them together: Mark Sprinkle, Holly Smith, Kathy Ames and Sarah Hale.
Exodus 33: 1-6, 12-23
1 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.
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.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Exodus 34: 1-8
1 The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.