Reading: Exodus 33:4-11
Israel sins with the golden calf therefore God will depart from them. This awakens the Israelites from their spiritual sleepiness; suddenly they understand the seriousness of their situation. If God is not with us, we are doomed. They repent; “they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments” (vs 4) just as God had commanded. At that point God already shows a glimmer of hope. Instead of rejecting them He reconsiders; saying “that I may know what to do to you” (vs 5).
Moses understands the crisis. He places the tabernacle of meeting (a temporary tent preceding the tabernacle) outside the camp. God will not meet him inside Israel’s camp which is polluted by sin.
The people consider this; so when Moses speaks with God, “all the people rose and worshiped” (Ex 33:10). This is another sign of repentance and faith. They are allowed to pray to God and beg His favour; and God will listen through the mediation of Moses.
See God’s grace at work! God is not totally cutting off the hope of pardon. God shocks them into fear, urging them to repentance. God often presses down heavily upon sinners to encourage true humiliation and repentance. When David does not repent “my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).
We must carefully consider this. When God rebukes us, sending us fear or a sense of our corruption, we can be fearful of Him and afraid to pray. But see, by His rebukes God urges us to flee to Him for forgiveness; and this is our comfort: when we truly repent God forgives. Jesus Christ says “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9).
Key verse: Ex 33:5 Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.
Question: When God rebukes you, do feel that God is rejecting you, or do you feel His tender mercy calling you to repentance? Which is right? Why?