GOD WITH US
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. (Exodus 33:15)Exodus chapter 33 discusses God instructing Moses to provide leadership to the Israelites in their journey from Sinai to the Promised Land. The people have doubts and questions but God guides Moses every step of the way. It is a journey based on faith alone. The popular image of God is an absolutist one: God is unchanging, omnipotent, all knowing, beyond human comprehension. While this image of God is a legitimate and indeed, Biblical one, today’s passage reveals another aspect of God - a God that is immanent, a God “who moves with us” and a God who has taken up His dwelling in our midst. God is accessible; He is “an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46: 1).
God in Dialogue: Moses demonstrates that the God who is immanent is also negotiable, persuadable. In today’s passage, we see Moses in dialogue with God: (“Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways”). As Martha Greene puts it, "As I read the dialogue between Moses and Yahweh in the Hebrew scripture, I envy Moses' intimacy with the Holy One. It is an intimacy that is rare for believers today." When God ceases to be an abstract entity and becomes a living reality, it would be possible for us to enter into a personal relationship with Him and to be in dialogue with the Almighty.
The Face of God: Despite all the intimacy between God and Moses, today’s passage also depicts a God who keeps His distance with the human beings. When Moses demands proof for God’s favor towards him, God agrees to reveal His glory but cautions Moses that Yahweh’s face will forever remain hidden. The Israelites’ infidelity and betrayal had created a gulf between them and the Almighty. “The Golden Calf” (discussed in the previous chapter) had completed the betrayal. Walter Brueggemann reminds us that we are blinded by "commodity fetishes" and therefore, the primary condition for us to re-enter into a relationship with God and experience his presence is the "stripping of ornaments”.
When Yahweh hid His face from Moses, a void is created. We too go through periods of life when we fear that God has withdrawn His presence from our midst. We feel an emptiness and we cry out: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” During such empty moments, if we pause and reflect on how God’s faithfulness had guided us in the past, the vision of endless possibilities will unfold before us. Christian life is indeed a leap of faith. We do not first see, then act: we act and then see.
Prayer: Lord, help us to experience your ever-abiding presence in our life journey. Amen.
Jesudas Athyal, Carmel MTC,Boston