Exodus 33: 1-6;12-14 – Guest Post by Ben Oliver
I remember being in a preaching class, led by Ben Davies (the previous Senior Pastor of Kerith Community church) when the question came up: – “What is God’s Greatest Gift?”. It caught my attention because I didn’t know the answer for sure. I had an idea. Having spent years in kids church, I knew, like most questions you were asked in church as a kid, the answer was probably: “Jesus”. But something told me there was more. What do you think?
Today’s passage gives us a bit more insight. Have a look at Verses 1-6, then read on.
They say you don’t really value something until you’ve lost it. The people of Israel had lost something very precious in our passage today. Previously, they had just made a cow idol to worship out of their gold earrings. Ironically, they did this just as their leader Moses was up a mountain, receiving the 10 commandments, one of which was: “you shall have no other gods before me”. That is what you call really bad timing!
Well, in response to this betrayal, God pulls out of going with them on the journey to the promised land where he’s sending them. He tells them, “I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” v3.
How do they react? They are distraught: “…They began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments” v4. They lost something most precious and realised it immediately.
We were made to be in right relationship with God. When we’re separated from Him, it hurts. That’s why a relationship with God is so much better than merely keeping religious tradition . That’s why when we’re in relationship with him, our souls still feel pain when we’re not close to him. The people of Israel were faced with being separated from God – and they were in mourning.
God’s Greatest Gift
Remember my question from the preaching class? God’s people were distraught because they had lost the greatest thing he could give them. His Presence made all the difference to Moses and to the Israelites. His Presence makes all the difference in our daily lives. God’s greatest gift to us is himself.
Look in verses 12-14 again.
Moses, the leader of God’s people, speaks with God on their behalf, pleading with him not to leave them exposed and alone. He knows what God’s people need, is God himself. As a result, God makes an amazing promise to Moses in verse 14: ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’
There was nothing better God could have given than himself. Today, right now, no matter what circumstances you face – God’s Greatest Gift he’s offering you is himself – his presence with you. You’ll know when he’s with you because he gives you rest – a peace you can’t find anywhere else, and often doesn’t make sense given the potential turmoil of your external circumstances.
But hang on, what about Jesus?
Well, Moses paints a picture here for the role Jesus will play several hundred years later. Moses is ‘interceding’ – standing in the gap – between God and the people – acting on their behalf. Jesus is the supreme ‘Intercessor’ who, as both God and man, was the only one able to bring us into right relationship with God. He stood in the gap for us, making peace between God and man, for those who receive him. Once again, God gave us himself (Jesus) to enable that to happen.
So what’s the answer?
Did you spot that? Because God longed to give us himself, because God gave us himself in Jesus, because God gives us himself today in the person of the Holy Spirit, he says to you right now: ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ If you’ll receive him, God has always and will always give you the greatest gift – himself.
– Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you think through: What does your day hold in store for you? Who are you meeting? What’s on your To Do list?
– Go a little deeper: What are you most anxious about? What difficult conversations or decisions lie ahead? Why are you feeling any insecurity or anxiety? Where do you need God’s presence?
– Speak this into every one of those parts of your day: ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’
Ben Oliver is a pastor at Kerith Community Church, where Michael & Esther Ross-Watson worship. He is married to Beccy and they have three blond(ish) primary school daughters, who keep his house full of make-up, mess and sparkly shoes.