We have been taking a close look at the interaction between Moses and God recorded in Exodus 33. The chapter began with God telling Moses that He isn’t going to go with Israel into the Promised Land, because the nation is stubborn and unwilling to walk in faith with God. Then we read about Moses establishing the Tent of Meeting where he regularly meets with God, and how the nation responds with admiration for Moses and reverence for God when he goes to the Tent. In this article, we will focus on the unbelievable requests Moses makes of God, and the more surprising favorable answers God gives him.
You can change God’s mind from a place of intimacy
As we begin with Exodus 33:12-14, we find the first exchange between Moses and God.
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)
To understand in context what Moses seems to be asking, we have to refer back to verses 1 to 3 in which God said that he would not go with Israel into the Promised Land, but would send an angel to lead them instead. Moses is now asking God whether He had reconsidered what he said about not going with Israel Himself. Moses reminds God that He had told Moses that Moses had found favor with Him. And Moses asks directly for God to show Moses ways that are pleasing to God, so that Moses can know God better, and can continue to please God.
Then Moses simply reminds God that Israel is God’s people. And with that, God hears Moses’ implicit request that He Himself go with Israel into the Promised Land, and grants it. Then God, with no prompting, adds the part about giving rest. The commentators I read all agree that this means that God will bring them into the Promised Land, because this was the rest that they had been promised.
God likes it when we ask him to help us know and follow him better
It seems to me that there was something about what Moses said or perhaps how he said it that changed God’s heart. I think it might have had something to do with Moses asking to understand God better so he might continue to find favor with God.
You can’t manipulate God
I want to be careful here. I don’t want us to think that we can manipulate God. Manipulation is to convince someone to give you what you want under either coercion or deception. God cannot be manipulated, because he cannot be coerced or deceived. However, I want us all to learn how to please God and touch his heart, not for the sake of getting something, but for the sake of giving something: love. God wants us to want to love him, and if we already love him, then he wants us to learn to love him better. That is what Moses is really requesting: “Teach me how to love you better.”
Moses responds to God’s promise by affirming his need for God in Exodus 33:15-17, and for asking for more from God regarding His presence.
And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” (ESV)
Moses not only wants God to go with them, but for God to go with them in such a tangible way, others will be aware that He is with them. Moses wants the whole nation to be a witness to the world of the reality of God. Again, we see that God responds to Moses on the basis of intimacy – God agrees because Moses has found favor with God as a result of developing this intimate connection with Him.
This is such an important point for us to understand: You can ask things from a position of intimacy that you can’t ask if you don’t have that position.
My kids can ask me for things – and get them – that I wouldn’t agree to give to other people’s kids. And we have that well-known saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” – which implicitly tells us that a person with power or resources is more likely to help a friend or even an acquaintance than a total stranger.
In the next post, we will see how Moses continues making outrageous requests, and how God continues to say, “Yes!”