Exodus 33 - Outline of Exodus (MENU page)
33:1 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:
33:2 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:
33:3 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.
33:4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned:
and no man did put on him his ornaments.
33:5 For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel,
Ye [are] a stiffnecked people:
I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee:
therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.
33:6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.
I will not go up in the midst of thee...- (cf. Ex 3:7,8)
"An afflicted people is the object of Grace. A stiff-necked people must be humbled." [CHM]
the people... mourned... stripped themselves of their ornaments.-
Ornaments (ie., jewelry) are worn for celebration, and to enhance personal beauty.
This was a time of sorrow, which called for national repentance and humbling. cp. 2Chr 7:14
Many of these ornaments may have been decorated with the symbols of idol worship.
By removing them, the people were stating that they would follow the LORD alone.
(But, they would soon return to courting other 'lovers' with their ornaments. cp. Jer 2:19; 4:30)
- - "We must be stripped of all that pertains to self before we can be clothed with the things of God." [CHM]
33:7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp,
and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation.
And it came to pass, [that] every one which sought the LORD went out
unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which [was] without the camp.
33:8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle,
[that] all the people rose up, and stood every man [at] his tent door, and looked after Moses,
until he was gone into the tabernacle.
33:9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle,
the cloudy pillar descended, and stood [at] the door of the tabernacle,
and [the LORD] talked with Moses.
33:10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand [at] the tabernacle door:
and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man [in] his tent door.
33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.
And he turned again into the camp:
but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
This "Tabernacle of the congregation" was a temporary structure (perhaps that of Ex 24:4),
which was used as a "Tent of meeting" before the construction of the Tabernacle for which Moses received the pattern while on Mt. Sinai. Moses moved this Tent outside the camp, illustrating to the people that the LORD was no longer in their midst.
the LORD spoke unto Moses face to face...- This does not contradict 1Tim 6:16 or Joh 1:18.
"Face to face" is an idiom meaning "personally" (cp. Deu 5:4).
Note that their communication involved speech, not sight. Later, Moses would request to see His glory (v.18). But, when God granted his request, He specifically told that Moses that he would not see Him in His fullness (v.20-23; Num 12:8; cp. Gen 32:30).
...as a man speaketh unto his friend...-
Their communion was candid and open (cp. Joh 15:15).
Yet, as Moses heard God's Word, he desired to hear more.
As his prayer continues (in the following verses), he expresses a gnawing hunger for a deeper knowledge of the LORD.
Joshua... departed not out of the tabernacle.- Joshua was being prepared to succeed Moses.
First, he learned to draw near to God, while separated from the unholy camp.
Later, he would learn to minister with holiness and grace, in the midst of an unrighteous people.
33:12 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.
33:13 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.
33:14 And he said, My presence shall go [with thee], and I will give thee rest.
33:15 And he said unto him, If thy presence go not [with me], carry us not up hence.
33:16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight?
[is it] not in that thou goest with us?
so shall we be separated, I and thy people,
from all the people that [are] upon the face of the earth.
33:17 And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken:
for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
Moses' prayer - -
  1. he declared his dependence upon the LORD. v.12
    If the LORD would not go with him, then who would? cp. Ex 3:11,12
  2. he desired direction from the LORD.-
    • show me... thy way... (v.13) -
      {'way' - HB= derek, road, path, manner, habit}; cp. Psa 25:4; 103:7
      Moses had already received marching orders (v.1),
      but he desired to understand the mind of the LORD, so that he could march in step with Him.
    • "that I may know thee..." v.13b; cp. Ex 6:2,3; Php 3:10
    • "that I may find grace in thy sight..." ie., that I might be found acceptable and pleasing to You.
      ...if I have found grace... that I may find grace...- Moses knowing, that his calling to service and to privileged communion were gifts of God's favor, was keenly aware that his life and ministry would not fulfill God's purposes, apart from His enabling Grace.
  3. he desired the LORD to own and oversee His people.
    "Consider {ie., see, look after, watch over} that this nation is thy people." v.13d; cf. v.1-3
    Unless the LORD saw His promises to completion, Israel could not enter into the promised land.
    In prayer, Moses camped upon God's Word, and laid claim to those things which the LORD had said "I will do..." (Ex 6:4-8).
The LORD's answer - -
  1. My presence shall go with thee...-
    {presence- HB= panim, person, face, countenance} v.14-17; Ex 34:9
    Here is the essence of the "grace" which Moses sought -- the assurance of His Presence.
    The Person of the LORD sets His people apart as His own, distinct from all others.
    cp. Deu 14:2; 26:18; 2Cor 6:14-18; Titus 2:14; 1Pet 2:9
    Are we aware of His Presence? (Mat 28:20(b); Heb 13:5(b),6)
    Lacking a sense of His Presence, the lives of many believers differ little from those of unbelievers.
    The chief desire, of those who are born of God's Spirit, ought to be to know and please Him.
    cp. Psa 27:8; Jer 9:23,24; Joh 17:3; Rom 8:15; 2Pet 3:18
    In Christ, God has given us a measure of grace, beyond what Moses knew (Joh 1:16-18).
    But do we yearn to know Him better?
  2. I will give thee rest...- God would bring to completion the task committed to Moses.
  3. I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken.-
    ie., God would also honor Moses' request: "that I may know thee." v.13d
    ...for... I know thee by name. (cp. Isa 43:1; 2Tim 2:19b)
    The Lord reveals Himself to those who are His own. cp. 1Cor 13:12; 1Joh 3:1-3
33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee,
and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee;
and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
33:21 And the LORD said, Behold, [there is] a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
33:22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by,
that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
33:23 And I will take away mine hand,
and thou shalt see my back parts:
but my face shall not be seen.
I beseech thee, show me thy glory.-
Moses' heart, lonely in God's service, yearns for his Master. cp. Psa 42
The word 'glory' is HB= kabod, weight, honor.
Moses did not desire a brilliant display of light. Rather, he wanted to know the LORD in His fullness.
The LORD answered...
  1. I will... proclaim the name of the LORD before thee...(v.19) - cp. Ex 34:5-7
    God is glorified in the manifestation of His grace & mercy to sinners.
  2. no man can see me and live... (v.20) - cp. 1Tim 6:16; Rev 1:16,17
    Even Moses would not survive direct exposure to the full glory of the LORD.
  3. I will put thee in a cleft of the rock... (v.21-23) -
    The rock in "a place by me" speaks of Christ (cp. 1Cor 10:4)...
    • who is the ground of the believer's standing before God, and
    • who was wounded (cleft) for our transgressions.
      In Him, the sinner finds refuge from the fierceness of God's fury against sin (Isa 32:2; 53:5).
      Secure in His shielding hand (Joh 10:28,29), the believer revels in His love and grows in the knowledge of Him (Song 2:14).
      Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
      Let me hide myself in Thee;
      Let the water and the blood,
      From thy riven side which flowed,
      Be of sin the double cure,
      Save from wrath, and make me pure.
      [hymn by A.M.Toplady]
  4. thou shalt see my 'back parts' {HB= achor, 'back' (of an object), 'hereafter' (of time)}.-
    Paraphrase: 'you shall see my after-glow...'
    The glory of God must first consume all wickedness.
    Afterwards, His glory is revealed to those who have taken refuge, from His wrath, in Him.
    Here are some parallels to this aspect of Moses' experience:
    • Much later, Elijah also took shelter in the rock of Mt. Horeb (Sinai), as the LORD passed by. The LORD also met him after His fury passed by. cp. 1Kin 19:8-13
    • Later still, on the mount of Christ's Transfiguration, while Moses & Elijah discussed His approaching death (when the Rock would be cleft), the disciples were engulfed in a cloud, heard the voice of God, and afterwards, "they saw Jesus only." (Mat 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36; Joh 1:14,18)
    • Yet future, "after the tribulation of those days..." (when God's wrath has been poured out upon the earth) "they shall see..." (Isa 26:20; 54:7,8; Psa 27:5; Rev 12:6; Mat 24:15-16, 29-30)

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