Study Notes

Exodus 33:1-34:35

Moses has come down after 40 days on the mountaintop, only to find an idolatrous party going on. He smashes the tablets, orders men to be killed until the party stops, then goes back up on the mountain to intercede for the people.

33:1-6 Go Without Me

God tells Moses to go lead the people into the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, He says, He Himself would not be leading them, but an angel. The people will be getting the promise of God, yet without the presence of God.

The people were bummed. They mourned, and didn't put on any of their jewelry.

33:7-11 The Tent Of Meeting

Remember that the tabernacle has not been constructed yet. This is just a tent that was set aside for meeting with God.

It is very possible that this was Moses' own tent. Remember back in chapter 18, Moses' father-in-law Jethro showed up, and we read,

Exod. 18:7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare, and went into the tent.

But whatever it was before, it is now a place that Moses meets with God. It will be called the Tent of Meeting until the tabernacle is constructed, and then the Tabernacle will take on that name.

So this first Tent of Meeting was used for anyone who sought the Lord. A special thing, however, would happen when Moses entered the tent - the pillar of cloud, God's presence, would descend and stand at the entrance. When the people would see this, they would all worship at the entrances of their tents.

What does this communicate to us? Something for the congregation and something for the spiritual leadership.

For the congregation:

If we desire to seek the Lord, it will be outside of the multitude of people. We need a prayer closet, a mountaintop, a retreat, a quiet place. Jesus Himself encouraged the disciples to come away to lonely places where they could pray.

For the leadership:

When Moses would meet with God, the congregation worshiped. This is part of the ministry of example. As spiritual leaders, we cannot expect the congregation to be worshippers if we are not. We cannot expect them to seek the Lord if we're not.

Face To Face

The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. As we've discussed many times before, this was not God the Father, for as we will see in a few verses, that is impossible for a human to endure. No, this was on Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. Moses was one of many people, including Hagar, Abraham, Jacob, and Joshua who saw God the Son face to face.

Joshua Would Not Depart

Notice how subtly Joshua has been worked into our text. He is described here and in chapter 24 as Moses' servant, and in Numbers 11 as

Num. 11:28 ... Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth

So far, we've seen Moses delegate the battle with the Amalekites to him, he stayed on the mountain 40 days while Moses was up at the top with God, and now he stays in the tent of meeting even after Moses leaves.

To me, Joshua is a perfect picture of an ideal assistant pastor. He's a young guy who desires to minister, yet not seek the spotlight. He's willing to do the dirty and dangerous jobs. He unconditionally supports his leader, and desires to work at least as hard as that leader. Let's keep an eye on Joshua as we go through the Pentateuch, for we will see that his patience, quiet endurance, and faithfulness will bring him to a place of being the one to lead the congregation.

33:12-17 Stick With Us Lord

Moses has learned that prayer can influence the hand of God. The Lord told him that he wasn't going to go with them, but now Moses intercedes, saying, "If you're not going, then don't send us anywhere either."

So the Lord agrees, saying, "My presence shall go with you."

33:18-23 You Cannot See My Face

Moses realizes that even the intimacy he feels with God isn't nearly what it could be. Back in verse 12, he said,

Exod. 33:12-13 ..."Thou hast said, 'I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.' Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight.."

Moses pleads with God, "Please, I want to know you more. Show me Your glory!" "Sorry, Mo. You'd die. But I'll tell you what - I'll let you see My afterglow." Moses will only be allowed to see the afterparts of His glory dissipating. No one in human flesh could see God the Father's face and live to tell about it. As the apostle John told us,

John 1:18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

But Moses is getting the best thing possible for a man of flesh!

Gracious And Merciful To Whom I Will

At the end of verse 19, the Lord says something that is difficult to comprehend. Paul quotes it in Romans 9:

Rom. 9:14-16 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

The sovereignty of God. The right of God to do things the way He knows are just - even when they might seem unfair to us. A lot of people complain about the way God does things without explaining them. They say, "If I was God, I wouldn't do it like that. I'd do it completely different." But like Paul says after quoting this...

Rom. 9:20 ...Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?

Difficult as it is to grasp, God will have mercy and compassion on whom He will have mercy and compassion. He knows, we don't - and He never owes us an explanation. We should praise God for the things that He HAS explained!

34:1-4 New Tablets

"By the way, Moses... Make a couple more stone tablets like the ones you broke. Tomorrow morning, bring them up on the mountaintop, and I'll write on them like I did the last set."

It doesn't seem like God is angry with Moses for breaking the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Maybe because Moses was just acting out physically what the people had already done spiritually - broken God's laws.

34:5-9 The Lord Shows His Glory

As God passes by Moses, He describes Himself with seven attributes:

1) Compassionate. God is so compassionate, so merciful. We sin, we're ripe for judgment, but in His love, He has compassion on us, and shows His love for us.

2) Gracious. The Lord is gracious - giving us unmerited favor. He blesses us even though we don't deserve it. He loves us even though we're unloveable.

3) Slow To Anger. God is longsuffering - He's so patient. He waits and waits and waits for us to come to repentance. He endures so much of our sinful natures, anticipating the day when we will turn from our sin and seek Him fully.

4) Abounding in Lovingkindness. The Lord is so merciful and good. Pitiful little words in the English language to describe how wonderful He really is.

5) Abounding in Truth. Finally, we see that He abounds in truth. He is faithful and right, He loves what is true, He is truth itself. Satan is the father of lies, but God abounds in truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. How good to know that with God, His words and His deeds are one.

6) Keeps lovingkindness for thousands. Again, a picture of God's mercy displayed.

7) Forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. A forgiving God who covers both inward sins of our minds and outwards sins of our flesh.

Visiting Iniquity, Forgiving Iniquity

As we discussed when God said this back in chapter 20, many people have misunderstood that God has brought about "generational curses" - that people's afflictions and infirmities are because of their parents' sins. Worse yet, they are led to believe that their own childrens' sicknesses or hardships are because of past sin.

We need to understand that God made sure to clarify this in the Law - that He doesn't hold people accountable for their parents' sins:

Deut. 24:16 "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin."

It is very simply that God visits iniquity upon people that reject and hate Him. When sins are repeated generationally, as the psalmist admitted...

Ps. 106:6 "We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly."

...then certainly as the pattern continues, God judges that. Ezekiel 18 is a must-read for this area of study, which tells us for certain that we can break these generation patterns of sin.

Ezek. 18:14 "Now behold, he has a son who has observed all his father's sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise."

So let's focus in seven times as much on the seven attributes that we clearly see rather than the one statement that get so misunderstood.

Moses Worships

Moses made haste to worship. When we catch even a glimpse of who God is, we become worshippers. Moses begins to pray and intercede again. When we catch a glimpse of who God is, we become people that pray.

34:10-17 Beware Of The Inhabitants

God is warning them against falling into the practices and religions of the people of the promised land. They are not to strike friendships or bargains with those people, but rather to destroy their idolatrous items.

34:18-28 Reminder Of The Laws

Now God brings to reminder all of the covenant agreement that was given back in previous chapters.

34:29-35 Moses' Shining Face

The glory of the Lord affected Moses physically. He was glowing from God's "radiation." The people saw him shining and backed off or ran away! He called them back and reviewed all that the Lord had spoken, then he put a veil over his face.

Why did Moses cover his face? We learned that back in 2Corinthians, chapter 3...

2Cor. 3:12-13 Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in {our} speech, and {are} not as Moses, {who} used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away.

Moses wasn't trying to keep them from seeing the glory, but to keep them from seeing the glory fading. The veil hid the glory as it disappeared.

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