Reading: Exodus 33:1-3
In many Christian homes you will find a plaque on the wall with one word “Immanuel” which means God with us. It is a very beautiful confession, because it expresses the most important thing in life: God is with us through Jesus Christ. Paul later expresses this very comforting assurance in Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
But if God is not with us we have no hope. And this is the situation of Israel in Exodus 33. God is still angry about Israel’s worship of the golden calf. This sin was very serious for two reasons: first, it is disobedience to God, second it is putting yourself before God, because you want to serve Him on your own terms. God considers Israel’s sin so serious sin that He wants to disown them. He exclaims that Israel is very stubborn (stiff necked); they will just keep on sinning, and that will cause God to totally destroy them (vs 3). So the best thing is to say goodbye to them. However, God will give them the Promised Land to show He is faithful to his promises. But He will not be with them anymore.
This is a major disaster: Israel might eventually live in the Promised Land, but without God’s protection and blessings the land and the people will be cursed, even forever.
This is a lesson missed by many people who say they are Christians, but who in their hearts do not submit to God’s commandments. These people want God’s promises, they want the joy of His blessings and eternal life, but refuse to totally submit to Him. They want both: God’s blessings and their own way of life. They refuse to crucify their old nature and live as true Christians. This is self-centered religion and evil, and attracts God’s curse.
The lesson instead should be: repentance with tears. This is what Israel did: “And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments” (Ex 33:4).
Key text: Ex 33:3 “I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
Question: In Exodus 19:6 God says to Israel “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In Exodus 33:3 God says “I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you”. Is God consistent with Israel? Why?