Exodus 33:2 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: 3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way. 4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.
God was preparing the people to enter the promised land. They resume their journey through the wilderness in Numbers. The book of Leviticus, which we will be getting into soon, is just a continuation of instructions for the priest's service in the tabernacle. God told Moses here that He would send an angel before them and that He would drive out the inhabitants of the land. But God didn't mean He would do it alone! The Israelites had to fight to possess the land of promise. God does not always make things easy for us, we often have to fight the prince of this world to gain the Promised Land! The Israelites didn't just walk into an uninhabited land and take over. God was with them during their battles and they did overcome the enemy with His help, but they had to have courage and faith in the Lord. God then told them He would not go up with them, thus He was sending an angel. The reason He gave was that they were a "stiffnecked people". The word stiff-necked means stubborn, arrogant and obstinate. I'm sure everyone of us have been stiff-necked many times in our lives but the important lesson to learn from this chapter is not to be stiff-necked with God! God can not use and will not bless an arrogant, obstinate Christian. Probably the reason God had the people take off their ornaments is that they symbolized what was used to make the golden calf. One commentary said these ornaments were taken from the Egyptians and were most likely used in pagan worship back in Egypt and that is why they were ordered to remove them. But the people's ornaments were also used to make the articles of furniture used in the tabernacle so I doubt this was the sole reason. Aaron had just used their earrings to fashion an idol for them to worship and they were asked to remove the signs of idol worship from their bodies and step forward and recommit themselves to God. How many times do we come before the Lord with the signs of the world still on us? How many times have you been praying and thoughts of the day or what was scheduled for tomorrow sneaked into your mind? We need to put off our ornaments before we come into the presence of the Lord!
7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. 9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
The tabernacle, probably still under construction, was just a tent with an outer wall.
Moses had it set up outside the camp and went into it to talk to God. After he entered
the tent, the glory cloud descended and stood at the door. Why do we go to church today? I'm
afraid many of us go to see and be seen. I think the church is probably used much as a
social club a lot today. Just as the tabernacle was used as a place to meet and talk
with God, the church should be a place of worship and restoration from the world. We should go
there expecting to talk to God and also expecting Him to talk to us. Verse eleven
says that the Lord spoke to Moses face to face. Now arises the age-old question,
"Has anyone ever seen God?". The answer to that is, "No", although Moses came
closer to seeing Him than any other person we have record of. In Genesis 32:30 Jacob said he
had seen God face to face but this was just a slight exaggeration. He had just wrestled
with an angel and he thought he had seen God face to face. John 1:18 and I John 4:12
state clearly that "No man hath seen God at any time." We also find this question
answered in verse 20. Moses asked God to be with the people. He said in verse 16, "For
wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not
in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people
that are upon the face of the earth." He was asking for a sign from God that He was going
to be with them on their journey. God then revealed himself to Moses. He said no man could
see Him and live but He told Moses to go to a certain rock and he would pass by and allow him
to see his back.
Exodus 34:1 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. 2 And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. 3 And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. 4 And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. 5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD."
This is the second tables of the Law. Moses broke the first ones in a fit of rage after the Israelites made a golden calf and were worshipping it in drunken abandonment. He is now receiving the 10 commandments all over again much as we must return and start all over again after repenting of sin in our lives. God proclaimed His name to Israel: merciful, gracious, longsuffering, good and true. He has mercy for thousands and He forgives transgressions and sin although that forgiveness does not always clear the guilty for sometimes their sins follow on down even to the third and fourth generations. You can't just say you are hurting no one but yourself when you sin. Sin always has far-reaching consequence. And there are even some sins that affect our children and grandchildren. We once had a lady at our church who kept foster children. One Sunday we brought one of the babies she was keeping home with us to give her a break. Before I left the church with the baby, who was about 3 months old, she warned me that this was a "Coke-baby". I didn't understand what she meant. She explained that the baby's mother had been on coke while carrying her and that the baby would go into fits of violent trembling. She said to just hold her close when she did and she would eventually calm down. I broke down and cried when I saw that poor little infant shaking all over because of the sins of her mother.
8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. 9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.
This is the fourth time Israel is called a stiff-necked people. God did not save the nation of Israel because they were a superior people or because they were good or promised to be good, He saved them because He is "merciful, gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth!"
10 And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee. 11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: 13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: 14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
God promised to be with the people as they take the land of promise. He promised to show marvels among the nation of Israel and to do "terrible" things with them. Terrible here means extreme things causing great fear on the other nations who observed Him in action! If God had not put his shield around the people as they journeyed through the wilderness and took possession of Caanan they could never have accomplished what they did! He told them He would drive out all their enemies. He also warned them not to make a covenant with any of the people of the land. We will find out later that this is exactly what some of them did, though. They were also warned to destroy all the altars and images of the pagan gods as they possessed the land so they would not be tempted to worship them. He instructed them to keep their feast days and Sabbaths.
27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. 28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. 30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
Moses was forty days and nights without food or water writing the second tablets of stone. When he finally did come down from the mountain his face shone so bright the children of Israel were afraid to come to close to him. He put a veil on his face until he was through speaking to them. How long has it been since your face has shone with the glory of talking with God?
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