And he (Moses) said to him (God), “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15, ESV)

If God’s presence, protection, and permission are not with us, it is pointless to proceed with our own personal plans.

Today’s chapter is nestled between the Israelites idolatrous interaction with the Golden Calf and Moses’ remaking of the Ten Commandments (remember, he broke all of them previously?). At the end of the story about the Golden Calf, Moses pleads with God on the Israelites’ behalf. In His holy anger, God told Moses He would destroy them for their sin – He would start over and make a great nation with Moses. Then in the following chapter, we find Moses interacting so closely with God that his face shone so brightly he had to cover it so people could look at him.

Both these stories reveal the close level of fellowship Moses maintained with God. And from that perspective, we would naturally believe he could get whatever he wanted from God, right? Not necessarily.

Never Proceed Without God’s Presence

In today’s reading, God tells Moses He wouldn’t lead the children of Israel as He had done previously – He was still quite angry due to the Golden Calf party they had thrown. Moses then makes a bold statement: “If your presence will not go with us, then don’t take us further on our journey to the Promised Land.” Even though the magnificent land of promise awaited their arrival, Moses didn’t want to take one more step without God’s full presence.

Then toward the end of the chapter, we find Moses asking something much bolder. “Since I’ve found favor in your sight, please show me your glory.” In His providential protection, God does not grant Moses’ request as He knows this will instantaneously kill Moses. But He does allow as much of Himself to be seen as possible. After hiding Moses in a cleft in the mountain rock and covering him with His hand, He allows Moses to see His back after He has passed by.

Even with this intimate level of fellowship and with God’s favor bestowed upon him, God did not grant Moses what He asked as He knew it would destroy him. Similarly, He will only give us what He knows is best. Will we trust Him to not move forward without His presence?

Discussion Questions
  • What special prayer request are you earnestly asking God to grant?
  • If God’s answer is “no” or “not right now,” what will be your response or reaction?
  • What steps can you take to establish a close, intimate level of fellowship with God while acknowledging His complete sovereignty?
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