Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Part II: God's Sustainment Of Israel In The Wilderness Wanderings Amid Humanly Hopeless Trials
P. Learning To Repent And Enjoy God's Fellowship In His Grace
(Exodus 33:1-23)
  1. Introduction
    1. The believer either experiences God's fellowship, or he is out of fellowship with Him, 1 John 1:3-4, 5-7.
    2. The lack of fellowship with God is an ominous, spiritually barren state, one Moses dreaded, and for which he pleaded with God that sinful Israel might not know it. We view the passage on that subject for motivation never to be rebellious against the Lord, but always to repent of our sins to enjoy His blessing:
  2. Learning To Repent And Enjoy God's Fellowship In His Grace, Exodus 33:1-23.
    1. After Israel's sin with the golden calf (Ex. 32), God told Moses to take Israel into Canaan, Exodus 33:1.
    2. However, instead of Himself going with them, the Lord claimed He would send an angel before them to drive out the Canaanites and give them the blessings of the Promised Land, Exodus 33:2-3a.
    3. God explained this claim arose because the people were "stiffnecked," or "stubborn and unresponsive" to the Lord, Ex. 33:3b with Bible Know. Com., O. T., p. 155. This state was intolerable to the Lord, and He would have wanted to destroy them were He to stay in their midst, Exodus 33:3c!
    4. Hearing this, the people mourned, and left off their ornaments, Ex. 33:4. This fulfilled God's call through Moses as He had said He would destroy the sinful people were He to come into their midst, and that He wanted them to leave off their ornaments until He decided what to do with them, Exodus 33:5-6.
    5. In striking contrast to this unwholesome barrier of fellowship between the people as a whole and the Lord, Exodus 33:7-11 reports on the blessed spiritual intimacy the blessed few had with God (as follows):
      1. Before the tabernacle was built (Ex. 35:4-36:1), Moses would pitch a tent outside the camp of Israel and call it the "tent of meeting," Exodus 33:7 ESV, NIV.
      2. Everyone who sought the Lord would go outside the camp to that tent, Exodus 33:7b ESV.
      3. Moses himself went there to commune with God; when he did, everyone else would stand at his tent door and view Moses until he had entered the tent. The Lord's pillar would then descend to door of the tent where God would speak with Moses, and the people would worship the Lord, Ex. 33:8-10.
      4. Opposite how the prophets gained God's insight by visions or by dreams, when Moses met with God, the Lord would speak face to face with him as a man would with his friend, Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:6-8b!
    6. Accordingly, at this time when God threatened not to have His presence go with Israel anymore, Moses entered this tent of the congregation and pleaded with the Lord to go with Israel, Exodus 33:12-16. His plea was based on God's grace as Moses begged God to protect His reputation in staying with His people who were to testify to the Gentile nations of God's goodness and grace in His dealings with Israel, 33:16.
    7. The Lord heard Moses' plea, and graciously agreed to continue going with Israel toward Canaan, 33:17.
    8. Since Moses knew how terrible it would be to miss God's fellowship, Moses asked the Lord to display His full glory unto him, Ex. 33:18. In the context, this request was given to squelch Moses' fear of being rejected by God due to His warning not to go with Israel, and that by God's revealing more of Himself.
    9. In grace again, God arranged for Moses to see the backward part of His glory, Exodus 33:19-23:
      1. God's response to Moses' statement that He would be gracious to whom He chose to be gracious revealed God's decision to heed Moses' request to see His glory was based on grace, Exodus 33:19.
      2. Thus, "with great precautions", God let Moses see His backward part and not His face, for no man could behold God's face and live, Ex 33:20-23; Ryrie Study Bible, KJV, 1978 ed., ftn. to 33:18-23!
      3. God hid Moses in the cleft of a rock until His front had passed by, and took away His hand in grace so that Moses could behold His glorious back part! (Exodus 33:21-23)
Lesson: Knowing how dreadful it would be even to enter Canaan with of all its temporal blessings but without God's presence, Moses told the people to cease wearing their ornaments in remorse for their sin, and he pleaded with God graciously not only to go with Israel, but to show a greater amount of Himself than he had seen as assurance that God's presence would continue to go with them!

Application: May we always REPENT for blessing that is available in God's grace and NOT be unresponsive to Him; failure here means a loss of fellowship that is worse than any other experience!