Exodus 33:1-17

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 18, 2007


Moses had spent 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving all kinds of cool things from God.  But while he was gone, the people got restless and wondered what happened to Moses.  They went to Aaron and asked him to make “gods” for them – they wanted something to see and touch.  Aaron made a golden calf, and as the people began to worship with great wickedness, Moses returned.

:1-6 Command to leave Sinai

:1  Then the LORD said to Moses, "Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'To your descendants I will give it.'

:2 "And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

Angelmal’ak – messenger, representative

God is being a bit vague about this.  God is not intending to go with them Himself, but is just planning on sending a messenger.

Canaanite … Jebusite … the people who were living in the Promised Land.

Canaanite[email protected]‘aniy – “zealous”; descendant or inhabitant of Canaan

Amorite‘Emoriy – “a sayer”

HittiteChittiy – “descendant of Heth” ; the nation descended from Heth, the 2nd son of Canaan; once inhabitants of central Anatolia (modern Turkey), later in north Lebanon

Perizzite[email protected] – “belonging to a village” ; a people who inhabited southern Canaan prior to the conquest

HiviteChivviy – “villagers”; 6th generation of descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, who were living in northern Canaan near Mount Hermon at the time of the conquest

Jebusite[email protected] – “descendants of Jebus” (Jebus = threshing place); descendants of the 3rd son of Canaan who lived in or around the site of Jebus, the early name for Jerusalem

:3 "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people."

milk and honey – I used to think this might have meant that there were spigots somewhere in the land of Israel labeled “milk” and “honey”.

Where does milk come from?  From cows and goats.

Where does honey come from?  From bees, from a land that is good for farming.

This is quite a different kind of life from that in the land of Egypt.

to a land – to the land we call Israel.  Then it was known as the land of Canaan.

Show video of Sinai to Israel.

I will not go up – God refuses to go with these people.

stiff-necked – I mentioned last week that this specific combination of words are used exclusively of the Israelites in the wilderness.  I did some more work and found that there were other passages with very similar words:

(Psa 75:4-7 NKJV)  'I said to the boastful, 'Do not deal boastfully,' And to the wicked, 'Do not lift up the horn. {5} Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.'" {6} For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. {7} But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.

The “stiff neck” speaks of pride, it speaks of a person who will not bow, a person who will resist another person, a person who resists God, a stubborn person.

Solomon wrote,

(Prov 29:1 NKJV)  He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

God is saying that these people are in danger because they are simply going to get themselves into trouble and not pay attention to any reasonable warning.

It’s as if the latest rage was to douse yourself in gasoline and then smoke cigarettes.  How stupid can you get?
But these people are “stiff-necked” – they won’t listen to reason.
They’ve already proven it with the golden calf thing.

:4 And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments.

:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, "Say to the children of Israel, 'You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.'"

Say to the children of Israel …

God told Moses to go back and tell the people what He said about them.

Keep in mind what has just happened.  The people have been caught red-handed with a golden calf that God had told them never to make, and they’ve been involved in gross sexual immorality.

Would you give someone bad news from God?  Or would you try and soften it? 

I have a hard time being honest sometimes.
Sometimes it’s pretty hard to be honest and tell someone that they have a problem.  I would much rather be the one to tell someone they just won the lottery instead of telling them that they are doing a stupid thing and are ruining their lives.

in one moment and consume youthey’re soaked with gasoline and God is the match.

ornaments‘adiy – ornaments; trappings (of horses); used to describe things made of gold (2Sam. 1:24), things that a bride (Is. 49:18) might decorate herself with, bracelets, chains (Eze. 16:11), things you wear when you dress up, things associated with putting your makeup on (Eze. 23:40).

This is not the same word (nexem) used for the “earrings” that were used to make the golden calf (Ex. 32:2).

earring (32:2) – nexem – ring, nose ring, earring

These may have been things connected to idolatry.

Remember years ago when people used to wear a gold “ankh” around their necks?  Egyptian symbols of idolatry.
These might have simply been ornamental doo-dads like we wear today, to spruce up your looks.  Taking them off would have been a sign of mourning over their sinful condition.
God is looking for them to at least put a little effort into mourning over their sin.
Look at the example that James writes,
(James 4:4-10 NKJV)  Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. {5} Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? {6} But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." {7} Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. {8} Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. {9} Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. {10} Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

:6 So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

The people are truly mourning over their sin.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about their sin, they paid attention and they too made a change:

(2 Cor 7:9-11 NLT)  Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. {10} For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. {11} Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer. You showed that you have done everything you could to make things right.

Have you been “stiff-necked” before God?  Have you been in rebellion against God?  God wants you to get serious about your sin and turn from it.

:7-11 Moses meets with God

:7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.

tent … tabernacle ‘ohel – tent (same word used)

soughtbaqash – to seek, require, desire, exact, request

tabernacle of meeting – this is not “THE” tabernacle.  That won’t be built and used until the end of the book of Exodus.

God is setting up a temporary place where Moses can meet with Him.

When the actual “tabernacle” is built, it will be accompanied with all the appropriate sacrifices and rituals that will deal with the sins of the people.  God’s tent will be right in the center of the people.

Before those can take place, it is a clear message to the people that God is different from them.  God will be living far outside the camp.

:8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle.

:9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.

pillar of cloud – This is the symbol of God’s presence, a cloud by day and a fire by night.

:10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.

worshipedshachah – to bow down; prostrate oneself

They got up from where they were and made a point of bowing down before God.

:11 So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

face to face – we’ll see next week that there is a limit to what this means.  The idea here is that God is close to Moses.

friendrea‘– friend, companion, fellow; from ra‘ah – to pasture, tend, graze, feed; perhaps the idea of someone you “graze” with.

What a contrast with how God related to the people.  They might have been wiped out in a moment, Moses speaks as a friend to God.


Intimacy in prayer.

This is from Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students” (pg. 46, “The Preacher’s Private Prayer”).  Mr. Spurgeon is talking about the importance of prayer in your personal ministry – how others are affected when you pray as a “friend of God”:
If we cannot prevail with men for God, we will, at least, endeavour to prevail with God for men.  We cannot save them, or even persuade them to be saved, but we can at least bewail their madness and entreat the interference from the Lord.  Like Jeremiah, we can make it our resolve, “If ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, and mine eye shall weep sore and run down with tears.”  To such pathetic appeals the Lord’s heart can never be indifferent; in due time the weeping intercessor will become the rejoicing winner of souls. 
There is a distinct connection between importunate agonizing (sincere heartfelt praying) and true success, even as between the travail (labor pains) and the birth, the sowing in tears and the reaping in joy.  How is it that your seed comes up so soon?” said one gardener to another.  Because I steep it,” (steep:  to soak)  was the reply.  We must steep all our teachings in tears, “when none but God is nigh,” and their growth will surprise and delight us.  Could any one wonder at Brainerd’s success (missionary to the American Indians , early 1700s), when his diary contains such notes as this:  Lord’s Day, April 25th – This morning spent about two hours in sacred duties, and was enabled, more than ordinarily, to agonize for immortal souls; though it was early in the morning, and the sun scarcely shone at all, yet my body was quite wet with sweat.”  The secret of Luther’s power lay in the same direction.  Theodorus said of him:  “I overheard him in prayer, but good God, with what life and spirit did he pray!  It was with so much reverence, as if he were speaking to God, yet with so much confidence as if he were speaking to his friend.”  My brethren, let me beseech you to be men of prayer.  Great talents you may never have, but you will do well enough without them if you abound in intercession.

:11 And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

return to the camp

We might want to ignore all the “jerks” back in the camp.

God’s heart is that we be men and women who spend time in God’s presence and then go back to the camp to tell the people about God.

Joshua – apparently someone felt it was necessary for someone to guard this tent.

:12-23 God’s Presence

:12 Then Moses said to the LORD, "See, You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, 'I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.'

:13 "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people."

wayderek – way, road, distance, journey, manner

Moses wants to know what it means to follow God.  What is God like?

:14 And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

(Mat 11:28-30 NKJV)  "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Moses has interceded for the people.  God has listened to Moses’ request.

:15 Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

Your presence

There is a sense where we can never leave God's presence.

But there's a special sense of God's presence when we are in fellowship with Him, walking close to Him.

Samson took this for granted.  He played too closely to the enemy's fire:

(Judg 16:20-21 NKJV)  And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. {21} Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

Moses doesn't want to go anywhere without God's presence.

How badly do you want God’s presence in your life?

:16 "For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth."

:17 So the LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name."

I know you by name

Has there ever been anyone real special to you who you wanted to get to know, and you knew they didn't even realize you existed?  Or someone you looked up to and you were just another admiring person to them.

Relationship becomes more intimate when you are able to converse with a person, and they know who you are, they know your name.

Jesus knows our name.

(John 10:1-4 NKJV)  "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. {2} "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. {3} "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. {4} "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

gracechen – favor, grace; acceptance; from chanan – to be gracious, show favor; we might say that God is “fond” of us.

This is the word at the heart of the name “John” which means “Yahweh is Gracious”, “Yah is Chen” (yeho-hanan).

Jesus is the embodiment of grace.

(John 1:14 NKJV)  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is what grace looks like.

(Luke 7:36-50 NKJV)  Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. {37} And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, {38} and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. {39} Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." {40} And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." {41} "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. {42} "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" {43} Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." {44} Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. {45} "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. {46} "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. {47} "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." {48} Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." {49} And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" {50} Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
Are you a sinner in need of “grace”?  Do you need to know that God is “fond” of you?  Turn from your sins.  Come to Jesus.