After the display of outright rebellion against the Redeemer and His covenant (a covenant that Israel consented to), their leader went with fear and trembling before a wrathful and angry Elohim, to intercede on behalf of Israel. Moses and Joshua entered the tent of meeting, pitched outside the camp, and waited to see if the cloud would descend and land in front of the entrance. YHVH’s words were still ringing in Moses’ ears: "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you… Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin" (Exodus 32:33-34). This did not bode well with Moses, who knew what the consequences may turn out to be. YHVH’s recent proposal, to destroy the people of Israel and to start all over again with his seed, was fresh on his mind (Ex. 32:10).
Fortunately the cloud did come down and positioned itself in front of the tent, while Moses intoned the following: "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 grace/favor in My sight.' Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace/favor in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people" (Exodus 33:12-13 emphasis added). Moses was not ignorant of YHVH’s “grace”, as he understood the deliverance, the “eagles’ wings”, the manna, the water from the rock, and the total provision for the people of Israel. Yet there was still something missing in his relationship with the Almighty. He did not have that quite assurance that YHVH would totally forgive them and would not forsake them. The grace that he had in mind was still somewhat shaky.
When the people first arrived at the mountain, Israel’s Deliverer presented Himself to His “subjects” in an awesome and overpowering way that left them in fear and trepidation. This initial impression, upon the initiation of the first Sinai covenant, was at the foundation of their relationship with their Elohim. Signed and sealed by the blood of the bulls that Moses sacrificed and sprinkled on the people, this covenant had been a conditional agreement. It is worthy to note that this overwhelming display of sight and sound did not instill in the people a desire to walk in obedience to their Deliverer. Their attitude was similar to that of children who grow up in families where strict laws and punishments are enforced.
In his quest for a deeper relationship with Elohim, Moses suspected that there was another “face” to this Master of the Universe, and so his intercession continued: "If Your Presence (panim – face) does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found favor/satisfaction/appeasement in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate (palah - distinguished, marked out), Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth" (33:15-16 emphases added). What was Moses driving at here? Was he reminding YHVH that these people, this nation, was His own testimony as to Who He was/is? Moses remembered full well what Elohim had said to him during the negotiations with Pharaoh, at the time when the Hebrews were extremely upset at he and Aaron for making their burdens even more difficult.
Here is what Elohim said to Moses at that auspicious time: “And Elohim spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as Elohim Almighty (El Shaddai), but by My name YHVH I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: 'I am YHVH; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your Elohim. Then you shall know that I am YHVH your Elohim who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am YHVH'" (Exodus 6:2-8). In this declaration YHVH repeats His name five times. It is necessary to take to heart this entire dialog, when we intercede for Yah’s people. But more important will be the next episode, as YHVH is about to call Moses back up the mountain.
Just before the cloud lifted from the tent of meeting, Moses made his last plea: "’Please show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness (tuv) pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of YHVH before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live’" (Exodus 33:18-20).
Moses no doubt was greatly relieved by YHVH’s positive response to allow him to get a glimpse of the glory of His presence. But for that to happen YHVH needed to put him in the cleft of a rock, and additionally also to cover him with His hand and only after His glory passes by would He lift off His hand, so that Moses would see His… back. This event is encouraging for us, who have been placed in the cleft of the Rock of our salvation - “Yeshua” - so that we too may get a glimpse, and even more than a glimpse, of the glory of the great goodness (tuv) of our Elohim, for it is the goodness of YHVH that leads to repentance, and if I might add, to obedience (see Romans 2:4). (To be continued)
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