I don’t think that Moses ever thought delivering a nation from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the blessing of milk and honey in the land of promise was going to be easy. But after the Mt. Sinai debacle (Ex. 32) I wonder if he started wondering if it was even possible.
After 40 days and 40 nights on the mount in the presence of God, Moses is ready to return to the people with the commandments of God. And the people? Well, after 40 days and 40 nights with Moses out of sight, they’re ready to take their deliverance into their own hands. “Make us gods who will go before us,” they tell Aaron. And, to hear Aaron tell the story, “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (32:24). Poof! “These are your gods, O Israel!”
Now that’s problematic, to say the least. Not just because it’s a grave violation of the first two commandments (which, in Israel’s defence, they have technically yet to receive), but because it reveals a gross incompatibility. A holy God in the midst of a stiff-necked people is bound to cause some collateral damage. A jealous God courting an adulterous nation is going to result in some fireworks along the way. The burning fire of majestic purity can’t help but incinerate the wood, hay, and stubble of rebellion.
And so, for the people’s protection, God says, “I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way” (33:3). Which then sparks one of the greatest conversations recorded in all of Scripture. A man on a mission who knows he can’t do it without God’s presence and power, pleads with God for His presence and power. Culminating in a plea which, I think, should be on every believer’s lips, “Show me Your glory!” (33:18)
But it’s an ask of Moses earlier in this conversation with God that’s captured my imagination this morning. An ask, it seems to me, for perpetual grace.
Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in Your sight, please show me now Your ways, that I may know You in order to find favor in Your sight. Consider too that this nation is Your people.”
(Exodus 33:12-13 ESV)
God, says Moses, You’ve said that I’m graced by You, that I’ve found favor in Your sight. Ok, if that’s true, if I have really been graced by You, then, by that grace, make known to me how You operate. Because in knowing Your ways then I will know You and Your nature more fully. And in knowing You more fully, I know that I will be even more graced by You.
If that isn’t a circular request I don’t know what is. The favor of God begetting familiarization with God, in turn begetting the favor of God.
Sounds like perpetual grace to me.
To be graced by God is to have the way made available to know God. And to know God opens the floodgate of knowing more of His overflowing grace. And that overflowing grace yields an increasingly intimate abiding with God. Which then results in experiencing even more of the grace of God. The fruit of which is knowing God, the outcome of which is more unmerited favor which, in turn, . . . you get the idea.
And that’s what’s needed for a holy God to dwell in the midst of an unholy people. A people who, though counted as righteous and holy because of the finished work of deliverance by Another who Himself was righteous and holy, are still a work-in-progress as they wander in the wilderness on their way to a promised land.
Perpetual grace, it seems to me, is the secret sauce for not being consumed by the fire of a thrice holy God while we battle against the flesh on our way to being increasingly conformed to the image of God, according to the Son of God, through the sanctifying dynamic of the Spirit of God.
Praise God for the availability of perpetual grace. Might our hearts yearn for it as did Moses.
And that too, by His grace. Only for His glory.