The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence

April 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
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What a great relief it must have been to hear that God would re-write His covenant laws on tables of stone. Moses obeyed God and took two blank slabs up Mt. Sinai. Then God descended and proclaimed His name and His attributes.

And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Exodus 34:5-7

Do you hear the ominous note in Verse 7? “By no means clear the guilty.” Can you sense the tension and paradox between that and “forgiving iniquity [our sinful condition] and transgression [intentional sin] and sin [the most general category encompassing everything worthy of judgment and death]?”

Moses did not argue or debate:

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Exodus 34:8

He worshiped. God is not a problem to be solved. He is a Person to be worshiped.

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: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Exodus 34:12-16

He told them that, when they got to the promised land, they must destroy the wicked people of the land, or else the wicked people of the land would corrupt them.

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.

Exodus 34:27

Again, this must have been a huge relief for Moses – that God was renewing or reconfirming His covenant with the people and reassuring them that He would be with them.

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. 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. 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.

Exodus 34:28-30

Moses’s face radiated in a way that was visible to those who saw him, but that he himself could not feel. This was a sort of foreshadowing of the great evidence of God’s presence with us in Christ. It makes us humble, yet it should impress and even convict others when God’s glory shines in our life. In Moses’s case, it was literally visible, though, and it terrified the people. They could not honestly question the fact of Moses’s appointment by God as their earthly leader while his face resembled a miniature version of the glory cloud of flashing stormy light they had previously seen on Mt. Sinai. He had to cover his face with a veil so that they could stand to be near him.

And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.

Exodus 34:33

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  1. […] I previously discussed Moses’s glowing face, and the veil which he wore to shield it from the people so they could come near him. […]

  2. […] 57. What Moses Really Wanted from God (Exodus 33) 58. Catechism Question 13 (Exodus 33:20) 59. The Relief and Terror of God’s Presence (Exodus 34) 60. Unveiled Glory and Unguarded Giving (Exodus 34-35; II Corinthians 3:7-18) 61. Up to […]


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