Moses receives a command from the Lord to deliver to the people a message that he will not go with them; but he will not wholly leave them without a witness of his mercy, for he will send an angel before them. This chapter relates to us this message, and the effect it wrought on the minds of the people. Preventing grace opens a renewal of communion between the Lord and the people; and Moses obtains a promise of God's presence with his people, and a special token of the Lord's favour to himself.
We shall have a lively sense of the awfulness of this message, when we call to mind what passed between God and his servant Moses in the Mount, when the Lord was giving him directions for the building and furniture of the tabernacle. This tabernacle was not begun; and, therefore, to bid the people go towards Canaan, before the tabernacle service was even set about, carried with it the strongest testimony of the divine displeasure. God will perform his promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; yet he will not grant them the visible tokens of his presence and favour. Reader! remark with me, that all blessings, in order to become blessings indeed, must be made such by the Lord himself sanctifying them, and making them sweet. See Deuteronomy 28:2-12; Deu_28:15-23.
2 Corinthians 7:10-11.
These were strong marks of true repentance. See 2 Samuel 12:20.
The removal of the tabernacle was another indication of the Lord's displeasure. Leviticus 26:21. This tabernacle, it should be remembered, was only the temporary camp, where ordinances had been occasionally observed, until the appointed tabernacle was erected. Observe, there were some gracious souls to whom the Lord had given a spirit of supplication and prayer. And is it not so now? Hebrews 13:12-13.
Is not the Lord Jesus here pointed out? Are not all eyes by faith directed unto him, when going in before the mercy-seat? Acts 1:9-11.
Observe the sweet fruits of grace. Zechariah 12:10. It should seem that the cloudy pillar had withdrawn from the camp during their idol worship, and now again returned. When the Lord inclines our hearts to seek him, he comes to bless us. James 4:8.
Is it not probable that this was the Lord Jesus in a visible form, as the covenant man? see Genesis 17:1; Gen_18:1-2; Judges 13:3-8 with Exodus 21:22.
Reader! I charge it upon you that you keep in view him whom Moses represented, through the whole of this most interesting interview. Is it not by him, whom the Father heareth always, every token of divine favour is conveyed? John 1:18.
Observe how Moses improves upon God's mercy; just now it was this people, and the Lord in displeasure had called them Moses' people, but now Moses calls them God's people. What a sweet prayer is that of the prophet's to this amount. Isaiah 63:15-19.
Observe the power of prayer: compare Exodus 33:3 with this verse; the change is not in the divine mind, but in the people. The Lord varies his dispensations according as his grace makes them suited to receive the change. Isaiah 63:9-11.
See how Moses advanceth in requests. Genesis 18:23-32; Numbers 14:14.
This is the grand cause of all, having found grace in the Lord's sight. Romans 9:15; Matthew 11:26.
Observe, Moses had been long in the Mount with God, and yet now desired fresh communications of the divine presence. Reader! mark this down as a sure testimony of having tasted God's graciousness, that the soul longeth for more. Psalms 63:1-2.
Observe, God's glory in the salvation of sinners is his goodness; Jesus is the Father's glory. Hebrews 1:3.
1 Timothy 6:16, with John 1:14-18.
Was not this rock Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:4. Do not these cliffs mean the wounded side of Jesus, in which the church is sheltered? See Song of Solomon 2:14. By seeing the Lord in passing, doth it not mean that our present views are all transient? In heaven it is reserved for the full manifestation of glory. 1 Corinthians 13:12. But how precious that view, 2 Corinthians 3:18?
My soul! think, seriously think, in the view of the Lord's withdrawing the symbols of his divine presence from Israel, how truly awful must that state of the soul be, from whom the Lord hides his face, and taketh away the influences of his Holy Spirit. How will the heart grow hardened, and the conscience become stupid and secure, through the deceitfulness of sin, if God restrains his grace, and remits the awakening calls of his love. Blessed God! I would say with thy servant of old, Take not, O take not, thine Holy Spirit from me! Whatever beside thou art pleased to recall, (for all thy mercies are but lent, not absolutely given), though thou takest my strength, my health, my property, my children, nay all my comforts, take not, O take not thine Holy Spirit from me!
Teach me, Lord, also, in this history of thy church before me, to see the sweet effects of returning grace. Here I behold how God inclines the hearts of his people to pray: and how preventing mercy even outruns their petitions. Thus, Lord, let thy grace descend upon me. Carry me not up hence, not even from a wilderness, to Canaan, except thy presence go with me. Dearest Jesus! every place is Canaan with thee; and without thee heaven itself would be no heaven to my soul. Place me in the clefts of the rock, even in thy wounded side, dearest Redeemer; and in thee, and thy complete salvation, shall I behold thy glory, even all the goodness of my God passing before me.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Exodus 33". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany