Article by Pastor Adam WallerElder at GraceLife London
“The Promise Land without Yahweh was not of more value to Moses than the glory of God with them in the wilderness.”
This world is full of people striving to accomplish something of significance in their lives. Some just want to make it till the end of another work week, others to the end of a semester of school, and yet others through a tough season of life because of finances difficulties or illness.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people are striving toward something particularly special: a wedding day, a promotion, the birth of a child, or just the anticipation of planned time with family and friends. There are many aspects of life that are being pursued and that may very well be in your future.
Considering all the different ambitions that you pursue in this life, there is one constant temptation: to try to obtain what you are reaching for while forgetting the triune God in the process. As all of us are trying to make it through some issue of life or move towards a future day that we are greatly anticipating, we must ask ourselves if where we are trying to go or what we are trying to get is more important than our relationship with Christ throughout the journey.
One of the greatest statements of faith and commitment to God in the Old Testament comes in Exodus 33:15. Israel had sinned against the Lord in making a golden calf to worship and the Lord had punished them sternly. Because of their inability and unwillingness to keep the Mosaic Covenant, the Lord gives a severe statement on the consequences of their sin.
“I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Exod 33:2-3)
He would send an angel to defeat Israel’s enemies so that they could be recipients of the anticipated promise of their land “flowing with milk and honey” just as the Lord had promised. However, the Lord Himself would not go with them. In other words, Israel would have all that they were expecting but would have to pursue it and receive it without God with them through the wilderness and even in the land.
But this was not satisfactory to Moses. He responded to this declaration from the Lord with a surprising request, “If your presence does not go with me, do not lead us up from here” (Exod. 33:15). It was not enough to receive the land and the promises but for the Lord’s presence to be with the people of God the whole way there. The Promise Land without Yahweh was not of more value to Moses than the glory of God with them in the wilderness.
You may wonder why the LORD’s presence was so important to Moses. He goes on to say, “For how shall it be known that I have favour in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and Your people? Is it not in Your going with us, so that we are distinct, and I and Your People, from every other people on the face of the earth?” He understood that without Yahweh’s presence, the land of Canaan was just a good piece of real estate, and Israel was just like the other nations.
What Moses desired was communion with the true God that demonstrated that God was for them and blessing them. He wanted the clear distinction in his life and in the lives of all of God’s people that it was their Holy God who made the difference between them and other people on the earth.
How about you? Is your ambition in life at this moment sought after only in light of God being with you through the process and even with you when you have this pursuit, or do you want something so much that you have valued it over your relationship with God? Is there something that you are pursuing or waiting for so much that it dominates your time to the extent that Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, and even time with the family of God is compromised?
I pray that you and I, like Moses, will value seeing the glory of God and communing with Him constantly more than any other ambition we have in this life; that we would savour above all else Jesus Christ who died for us so that we could have fellowship with Him. So in every ambition, in every pursuit of life, let us all pray each day, “Lord if your presence does not go with me, do not lead me up from here!”