He had ascended the mountain and the LORD had descended in the cloud. He had taken his position in the cleft of the rock, and God had covered him with His hand. He had longed to get up close and personal with the Creator’s beauty and was permitted to behold the Creator’s back. The goodness had passed by. The name had been proclaimed. Moses had seen the glory of God, and now, his face was buried in the earth as he worshipped.
And you’d think that would have been enough. That having asked to see the glory, and then seeing it, it would have checked the last box on his bucket-list. No more petitions. What’s left to ask for? And you’d think that encountering the glory of God would have left him speechless. That he might have been wasted from witnessing the wonder.
But Moses had one more ask in him. One more request. And really, if you chew on it a bit, it’s quite an audacious ask.
And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your inheritance.”
(Exodus 34:8-9 ESV)
Break it down. Moses admits he’s leading a parade of “stiff-necked people.” No disputing that. A people who are stubborn, obstinate, and rebellious at heart. Though delivered from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, still bound by the cruel taskmaster of self. With Red Sea salt still in their clothes they question whether God can really bring them to a land of promise. Hard-headed. Hard-hearted. Ready to give God their back even when God desired to shine His face upon them.
And yet, Moses asks:
“Let the Lord go in the midst of us.”
Uh, talk about you mutually exclusive components. A holy God in the midst of an unholy people. Righteousness mixing with unrighteousness. Light cohabiting with darkness. How was that even possible?
What’s more, Moses pleads:
“And take us for Your inheritance.”
What?!?! Are you serious, Mo? Why would the Sovereign God of the universe, the One who spoke all things into being, even consider taking a stiff-necked people as His own. What possible place could their treachery find within His treasury? Moses, give your head a shake!
But Moses knows what he’s asking. He gets the implications of what it will take for holiness to dwell in the midst, and for them to one day be taken into His presence.
“Pardon our iniquity and our sin”
LORD, forgive us our iniquity. Make a way to justly acquit us of the guilt of our sin. Do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. Make us holy, even as You are holy. That You might dwell in our midst and we might live in Your presence. That You would delight in owning us as Your inheritance even as, freed from the guilt and shame of sin, we would desire owning You as our God.
Big ask. Bold. Brazen. Audacious, even. Brings to mind another off the charts petition:
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
(Luke 23:34a ESV)
And on what basis could such audacious asks be made?
“If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord . . . “
Moses had known the grace of God. He had encountered, up close and personal, the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s steadfast love. He had seen His patience, had experienced His mercy. And so, Moses asks for that grace to be extended to a people undeserving of grace. But hey, isn’t that where grace works best!
Jesus was the embodiment of the grace of God and so mediates for those in need of such favor. A Savior for sinners unable to stop sinning on their own. Ready to impart hearts of flesh to stiff-necked rebels with hearts of stone set on following the gods of their own appetites and pride. The Light ready, willing, and, praise God, able to translate into His kingdom people of darkness.
An audacious ask? To be sure.
Such amazing grace? Ya’ think?
For God’s glory? Yes and Amen!