GOD WITH US is a big deal! That’s been our thought as we’ve pondered JESUS together this Advent season at Woodland.
This week we’re in another unlikely passage from the Old Testament—Exodus 33.1-34.9. Unlikely, until we see the connections from Moses’ glorious encounter on Mt. Sinai with God in His glory and the baby JESUS, who is really and finally and perfectly GOD WITH US.
Having seen last week, in Genesis 15, that GOD WITH US in God’s plan of redemption will include a Redeemer to absorb the injustice of our sin, we learn more about GOD WITH US this week in Exodus 33-34.
God keeps His promises (33.1-6). Israel has sinned with the golden calf, choosing to be WITHOUT GOD. God, in response, pledges to lead Israel to the Promised God (because He promised Abraham He would, remember?). Only He will not go with them. Israel recognizes this “disastrous word” and mourns the loss of God’s presence. Who wants God’s promises without God’s presence?
All this reminds us of God’s promises throughout the ages to send a Redeemer. Galatians 4.4 reminds us of God’s fulfillment of this promise: But when the fulness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, so that we might be adopted as sons.
Fantastic news! But how tragic that many will chose—like Israel and the calf at the foot of the mountain—to observe Christmas, but without faith in Christ. The lights, the food, the presents; maybe, they’ll hold a candle on Christmas Eve, but then go back to their Christ-less lives, because they never trusted in Him in the first place.
Sinners need a mediator (33.7-23). The middle section in this account is all about Moses mediating for Israel. No wonder Moses is such an enormous figure in redemption history! You’ve told me to lead this people, but you haven’t told me who will go with me … You’ve told me that you know me by name and I’ve found favor with you, Moses pleads making his case to God. Then, Moses’ request: Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people (:13).
In an interesting twist that shows that God (while not changing and always being true to His character) does alter the way He deals with us based on our response to Him, God relents: … My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (:14).
Moses then asks to see God’s glory as a sign of what God will do.
God shows Himself to His people (34.1-9). In an astounding scene, God passes in front of Moses. Hiding Moses in a cleft of the rock, so that Moses won’t be confused, God shields Moses, so only His “back” will be seen. This is clearly anthropomorphism (speaking about Himself in a way we can understand, since God doesn’t have a body like men). The scene shows that God always reveals Himself to those who desire Him.
God shows Himself to Moses. God will show Himself to Israel. And God shows Himself to us, in JESUS. While God approved of the imperfect Moses for the benefit of Israel, He approves of His perfect Son for the benefit of everyone who will trust in Him.
At Jesus’ birth His shikineh glory will take the form of a star and lead worshippers from the east to Jesus (Matt 2). At Jesus’ baptism Jesus will identify with sinners as the perfect mediator and the Father will say, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (Mk 1). In His life Jesus will keep God’s law perfectly (Gal 3.24). At the tomb the Father will raise Jesus who has proved Himself the perfect law keeper and the perfect Redeemer. After the resurrection the Father receives Jesus back to Himself, and Jesus will send His Spirit to be God’s presence with us (2 Cor 3.18). When Jesus returns He will take us to be with Him and the Father, so that we shall finally see God’s face: No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it [the New Jerusalem], and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads (Rev 22.4).
So … GOD WITH US is a big deal, because, in Jesus, God keeps His promises, provides a mediator and shows Himself to His people.
Because JESUS has won God’s approval, we have GOD WITH US.
And that’s a spectacular thought to help us ponder JESUS this Christmas. May it be your thought. May you trust in JESUS by faith, and then go on depending on Him, looking forward to seeing God’s face at Christ’s return.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!