Sermon on Exodus 33:12-23
Text: 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.’ 13 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.”
14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 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?”
17 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.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Weary. There’s just something about the word that makes you feel what is being described. It is that feeling of being wrung out. You are so tired that you can’t even move. It permeates every part of your body. We have all experienced weariness at one time or another. Maybe you came here this morning feeling weary. What is it that makes you feel weary? It might be some physical task that you are in the middle of. We can feel weary when we face difficulties in life. It just seems like one disaster after another. Just when we get one fire put out, another springs up. There may be some medical issues that we or a loved one is dealing with. There are tensions at work. The list goes on and on of things that make us feel weary. When we feel this way, we look for something that will revive us, something that will give us rest. The problem is that most of the solutions that we try are only distractions. We may temporarily forget the things that make us feel weary, but when the distraction is gone, the weariness comes creeping back. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find something that would give us true and lasting rest? This morning, we find that source of true rest. God says to you and me, “I WILL GIVE YOU REST.” This rest is 1. A Gift Of God’s Mercy and 2. A Gift Found In God’s Word.
God made this promise to Moses in verse 14 of our text. He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Why was Moses in such need of rest? Actually, it wasn’t just Moses that needed the promised rest from the Lord. It was the entire nation of Israel. The reason that they were in such desperate need of rest is described in the previous chapter. In chapter 32 of Exodus, while Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the terms of the covenant agreement between God and the people of Israel, they became restless. They fashioned a calf of gold and began to bow down and worship. They even called out, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:4) God told Moses what was happening and said “I have seen these people and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:9&10) Moses pleaded for the people and the Lord relented and did not bring about the disaster that he had threatened.
After Moses went down the mountain, he confronted the people about their idolatry. As a result of their idolatry, more than 3,000 Israelites died. Then the Lord spoke again with Moses and told him that the Israelites were to leave there and go to the land that had been promised to their forefathers. However, the Lord said, he would not go with them. He would send an angel to lead them the rest of the way. When the people heard this, they saw just how grievous this sin of idolatry had been and they repented. Moses, then, interceded for the people. He said, “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.” (Verses 12&13) Moses politely was asking that more than an angel accompany them on their journey. He prayed that the Lord would personally lead them, as he had done in the past. He was also asking for a full restoration of fellowship with the Lord.
In response to that prayer, the Lord said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Verse 14) How wonderful those words must have sounded in Moses’ ears! God said that he would personally go with the people of Israel as they made their trek. God, also, promised them that he would give them rest. They would reach the Promised Land. God would fulfill the promises that he made to them. As he said these things, God also showed that he would fully restore the relationship that he had with them. The Israelites would be his people. This, obviously, was done, not because there was any merit or worthiness on their part, but because God is gracious and loving and chose to forgive them. The promise of God’s rest came because he showed mercy to them.
Earlier, we talked about those things that make us weary. I didn’t mention one thing that also makes us weary. That is our sins. We know what God demands of us. However, we must all plead guilty to the sin of idolatry. We may never have bowed down to a golden calf as the Israelites did. However, if anyone or anything has ever been more important to us than our relationship with God, we have broken the First Commandment. What have we trusted more than God? Have we put our trust in our resources or our own abilities more than trusting that God would take care of us? Have we ever chosen the pleasures of this world at the expense of what God said was right and wrong? We all must plead guilty to this. We also know that God does not overlook sin. Just as he threatened to abandon the people of Israel in the wilderness, so God threatens to abandon us for eternity. Just as God threatened to annihilate the Israelites, so he threatens to annihilate us forever in hell. The pressing load of sin and its consequences makes us weary. There was not one thing that we could do to get out of this situation.
How beautiful these words also ring in our ears! “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” God promises to give us rest. Jesus echoes these words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus invites you to come to him with all of those sins that are weighing you down. He gives us rest. He gives us rest by telling us that he has paid for all of those sins. He took that mountainous load of sin that was on your back and placed it upon himself. He carried that load, plus all of the sins that anyone has ever committed, and went to cross and paid for them all. That load of sin that was weighing you down has been lifted. You are now perfect in God’s sight. Jesus’ resurrection assures us that full fellowship with God has been restored. Furthermore, he promises you rest when you reach the end of your traveling days. Then, all that dragged you down during this life – the illnesses, the tensions, life’s difficulties – will be gone. All you will feel is God’s rest for all eternity. Even more than that, God promises to be with us each step of the way until we reach that perfect peace in heaven. We praise our God for showing us mercy and giving us this rest.
However, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually see God in action? If he would just give us some sort of sign that everything will work out in the end, that would be so helpful. Moses asked something similar of the Lord. He said, “Now show me your glory.” (Verse 18) When Moses had spoken to the Lord at other times he some visible form. Now, however, he wanted to see the Lord in all of his heavenly perfection. In his mercy, God said no to his request. He said, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Verse 20) Even though Moses enjoyed a special relationship with God, he was still a sinner. No sinner can stand in the presence of the holiness of God and live. However, God told him, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Verses 18&19) God would reveal himself to Moses in the proclamation of his name, the “LORD.” This is a special name of God, which highlights his undeserved love and goodness. He spoke of the mercy that he shows to his people. He has compassion on his people when they are in need. Though Moses may not have gotten what he asked for, in his love, God gave him what would be helpful to him.
As I said earlier, sometimes we think to ourselves that it would be so wonderful if God would give us some sort of sign that he is there ready to help us when we are feeling overcome and wearied by all of life’s difficulties. Yet, he does reassure us again and again of his love and compassion. For example, when we feel overwhelmed with the load and guilt of our sins, he reminds us that Jesus has paid for those sins. One of those promises is found in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” We also read in Hebrews 10:10, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The fact that we know that our sins have been forgiven lifts a heavy weight from our shoulders.
What about all of the other things that weary us? God offers rest for those situations in his Word, as well. When we are concerned and become wearied about providing for ourselves and our families, Jesus tells us, “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:25,32) We, also, find Paul’s words in Philippians 4:19, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” When we think, “I can’t figure it out,” we read in Proverbs 3:5&6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We find ourselves thinking, “I just can’t do it. It’s too difficult,” we read in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” When we feel abandoned by friends and family, Jesus reminds us, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Finally, we have this assurance that, no matter what may be making us weary, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) No matter what may be making you weary in this life, God speaks to you in his Word offering hope and encouragement and comfort. He wants to give you rest.
Life can be difficult. You don’t need me to tell you that. There are plenty of things that make us weary. However, you don’t have to face all of these things on your own. We thank God for the family and friends that he gives to us to help us during these times. Yet, we know that we can’t count on them all of the time. There will be times when they are not there for us. There will be times when they would like to help us, but are unable. How blessed we are to know that God is right there, ever step of the way. We read about the rest that he offers to us in his holy Word. May we go there and be reassured of all that he has done and will do for us. We, also, know that he loves and has given us the greatest rest – the forgiveness of sins. As we leave this place and go back to our lives, we hear again the promise that God makes to us. “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Amen.
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