God was super angry at the Israelites. The Golden Calf drama (Ex 32-33) was more than He could take. They traded Him, God Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth for a golden statue?! The God who delivered them so dramatically from such horrific oppression?! There had been unending grieving of God, but this was the ultimate.
‘Moses,’ he said, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites” Only one thing, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you” (Ex 33:1-5).
God keeps his promises. Even when He’s unbearably hurt. If He said He will do it, He will do it. And this is exactly what he said to Moses. ‘You go, but I won’t be going with you. I am too angry and I might destroy them.’ Instead, he said, ‘I will send an angel in my place to see that all my promises are fulfilled.’
The Lord ached to be their Presence. Their God. Their King. But the Israelites were in constant rebellion and so he gave them the next best thing, his angels. Moses could have left it at that. It would’ve been easy and the promises would be fulfilled. But it wasn’t enough. Nothing against angels, but there is NO comparison to the Presence of God. Not for God. And not for Moses.
“Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (vv. 15-16).
“And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name” (v. 14).
I believe God relented because He honored Moses’ friendship. God is no push-over God. He will not be treated disrespectfully forever. But He does have a soft spot for those who love Him and walk humbly before Him. Thank God for men like Moses who are those kind of men.
When I think of this Scripture I sometimes wonder how often in our ministries we work with the power of angels instead of the Presence of God. God is so good and faithful that He will fulfill His promises no matter what we do. But are we content with angels instead of God’s Presence? Are we willing to say to God, if your Presence does not go with me, please don’t send me?
We are in the same boat. If the Presence of God does not go with us, then we are no different than the Boys and Girls Club or the Gardening Association or other organizations that are doing mostly good things to serve their community. If God’s Presence does not go with us, there is nothing to distinguish us because there are many who do good who have nothing to do with God. We become just another do-good organization. If not for your Presence, then “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be one who is Ok with angels. It might seem appealing because the promises of God still are fulfilled but for me, if Your Presence Lord does not go with me, then Lord, please do not send me.