Exodus 33:15- 16 – “Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
This week begins the grind, folks! In this week’s readings from Exodus, you might be asking yourself the question “why?” a lot. As God talks with Moses amidst the clouds and thunder on Mt. Sinai, why is it so important to be giving details of something like a lampstand. Why does God take the time to mention that there has to be eleven curtains made of goat hair for the tabernacle? Why so much detail about a breast-piece that the priests would wear or the basin the priests would wash in? Why all these specific requests from God?
Think one word – holiness. Often when we think of the word “holy” it automatically conveys a moralistic idea. Someone who is holy is someone who is perfect, or without sin. Someone who is holy lives a morally upright life. That’s absolutely true! But the word more so conveys this idea of being “set apart.” God is holy in that he is completely “set apart” from sin. There’s a sense of awe and reverence over something that is holy. In Exodus 3 the ground on which Moses was standing near the burning bush was holy ground. The tabernacle had the Most Holy Place. The Sabbath was the holy day for the people of Israel. Jesus is called the Holy One of God.
This might give us a better clue as to why God includes these details we’ll see in the remainder of Exodus and pretty much all of Leviticus. Through these laws and sacrifices, God was setting them apart as his own special and chosen people. They would be distinguished from other nations.
After the incident with the Golden Calf, Moses says these words that is evidence of an understanding that without God’s presence, there was no point in heading to the Promise Land. Without his presence among them, they could not be holy. They could not be set apart from the heathen nations around them and therefore, they could not be set apart from sin. So he asks the Lord for his presence.
The same is true for you. For us to be in the presence of a holy God, we too must be holy. And for us to be holy, we need his presence. We need the presence of the grace and mercy of the Holy One of God who went headlong in Jerusalem to bring holiness to us (Matt 21). Sin set us apart from God. Grace now sets us apart from sin. You are a holy nation.
So in the chapters to come, see the specific ways God set apart his chosen nation of Israel, the many times they rebelled against his holy law, but the patience of God as he continues to make them holy through his grace and mercy.
Blessings on your reading this week!