We started studying the Ten Commandments two weeks ago in my study on Wednesday nights and have already seen powerful truths about what God desires and expects and why it is imperative that we follow the Commandments in the spirit God intended. One reason is because following them will help us stay on a path with God, one that will nurture our relationship with Him and help us experience Him as the God who goes with us, the God who is for us, the God who will rest and refresh us, and the God who will embolden us to be overcomers in this life and in the life to come.
Whether we realize it or not, our greatest need in this life is to experience the presence of God, every day, moment by moment. The greatest gift God can give us once we are saved, the greatest gift after that is the present of His presence.
Stand as we read God’s Word from Exodus 33:1-17
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” 4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. 12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people. 14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. 15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.16 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?” 17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Allow me to give you some background for the message today. Moses had gone up on Mt. Sanai to meet with the Lord at the Lord’s request. Moses had already received and communicated the 10 Commandments which included not making any idol or worshiping or praying to any idol. For forty days and nights Moses was meeting with God, getting further instruction about how the Israelites were to live, and the Israelites were getting antsy to move on. They quickly forgot the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt, the God who provided manna for them to eat, the God who allowed water to flow from a rock so that their thirst could be quenched, the One who had led them by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, showing them the way to the Promised Land.
They didn’t want to wait any longer for Moses to come down from the mountain. So they took a notion to make their own god out of gold earrings they were all wearing, and they expected that new god to lead them on. I don’t know what they were thinking, but they basically decided that they could take off their gold earrings, burn them and make them into a calf which would serve as a god to lead them from that place to the Promised Land. All of this took place just shortly after the “don’t make any idols or worship or pray to idols” commandment.
They aren’t so unlike us. Most of us in this room know the commandments of God. We might not be able to list them in order or get all ten down on paper in a quiz, but generally speaking, most people who attend church regularly KNOW what God desires. It’s the consequences we underestimate. Our lives can only change for the worse when we break God’s commands.I don’t care how good you feel when you are doing whatever you are doing or how happy you seem when you are pursuing whatever you are pursuing, when the pleasure we are seeking or the things we hope to acquire aren’t in God’s plans for us, you will find yourself in a world of hurt and wake of devastation when your ride with sin comes to an abrupt halt.
The Israelites underestimated the necessity and value of the presence of God and discarded it for something made by human hands. “Who would think that a gold statue of a cow could replace the power, might, splendor and care and concern of a personal and loving God?
God was deeply offended. He said in verse 3 that He was not going to accompany the Israelites personally on their journey. Since God’s presence is our greatest need, to have God withdraw His presence would be our greatest loss.
Moses could not have heard anything worse. A dagger went through his heart. He had the wind knocked out of him. He couldn’t conceive of a journey without the presence of God. He knew how he had personally relied on God to provide the strategy for the release of God’s people in Egypt. He knew how he had relied on God giving him every word he said as he talked to Pharaoh and as he led God’s people. He knew what he really was without God’s presence leading him, and he knew there was NO Promised Land without His presence. The most glorious land of milk and honey was a wasteland to Moses without the presence of God! Imagine! Even though God said He would send an angel, someone to accompany them on their journey, Moses wouldn’t pursue the Promised Land without the presence of God. He told God, “Forget the milk and honey. Forget the land where great harvests are produced. Forget it all. If I can’t have YOU, I don’t want the milk and honey!”
God’s presence had been what had kept Israel alive in Egypt. It is what had made a way for their deliverance. It was what had guided them on their journey as they had traveled so far and so long. It was what had provided for their every need. It was what was going to give them victory in the Promised Land as they would have to battle to possess what God wanted to give them. No, Moses wasn’t going anywhere without God. It was like he had a sit-in all by himself. He just sat down, folded his arms and said, “God, if you ain’t going then neither am I!”
When you look ahead in life, spiritually are you to the point where you couldn’t picture it without the presence of God? Like you wouldn’t want to take a step without Him? Is He the air you breathe and the water your thirst for? Is He the ground beneath your feet? Is He everything to you?
David knew he was in big trouble after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband to try to cover up the whole thing. He cried out in Psalm 51:11 “Cast me not away from your presence, oh Lord.”He was suffering terrible consequences for his sin. The whole Psalm is gut-wrenching! He knew he had hurt people. He knew he had devastated the nation God had set him over as ruler. He knew Bathsheba would never forgive herself for engaging in adultery with him. They were going to suffer losing their baby after he was born. There was disappointment on so many levels. David knew better. He had lived so well up to that point. He hated himself. He said in Psalm 51:8 that even his bones hurt over what he had done.
Listen, he knew that if he was going to be able to move forward it was going to take the presence of God being active in his life. He may have wondered if God could really forgive him and if there could be a new normal, but beyond that, he probably wondered if he could ever forgive himself. Listen, when you know you have hurt everyone around you, and you have tarnished your witness and you know God has to be so disappointed, and you know you had committed to live better and had always lived better, but you made a wrong choice that snowballed and “lost it all . . .” then you often don’t easily forgive yourself. For some of us it is easier to forgive someone else than it is to forgive ourselves. David was in the pit of “Oh, what have I done?” If he was ever going to recover, if he was ever going to forgive himself, if he was ever going to rebuild other people’s trust, if he was ever going to show himself in public again, if he was ever going to be able to hold his head up high, it was going to be because God’s presence helped him put one foot in front of the other. God’s presence gave him courage to face the people who would never forget what he had done and who would take pleasure in reminding him. God’s presence would give him the strength to shake off the darkness of depression and self-loathing and move on to find new ways to demonstrate that he truly did love God and God’s people. When you are in the pit because you dug your own pit, you absolutely won’t get out without God’s help!
Sin will totally disrupt the manifested presence of God in your life. David who knew his sin had impacted his relationship with God knew it would be life altering and crushing. Cain also knew it after he killed Abel in Genesis 4:13 when he told God, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence. I will be a restless wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.” In Cain’s mind, he had no hope for survival without God’s presence! Where would you and I be without the presence of God in our lives?
As we have seen, losing God’s manifested presence in our lives is the worst possible loss we can suffer. What is it about His presence that makes a difference in our everyday lives?
1. God’s presence reveals God’s favor. Look back at our text in Exodus 33:15-16:
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 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?”
God’s presence was the distinguishing mark that God was not only with Israel, but that He was for Israel. It was a stamp of approval, so to speak. It was a sign to would-be enemies that if they took on Israel, they also took on Israel’s God.
God’s presence made them special. It made them stand out! It was God’s presence that turned a stuttering Moses into a powerful negotiator in front of Pharaoh. Moses’ limitations were well-known to the Pharaoh. Remember, Moses had grown up as an adopted son of the Pharaoh. Even though this was now a different Pharaoh than the one he grew up under, it had to be someone who knew Moses well. Therefore, Pharaoh wasn’t impressed with Moses’ request that Pharaoh let the Israelites go free.
Moses knew it was God’s presence that made the difference in him. Moses didn’t just take the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders” class or some speech and debate classes to turn him into a persuasive speaker. No! It was the presence of God that turned him from weak and insecure to powerful and compelling. Listen to Exodus 7:1: Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.”
There was nothing compelling or impressive about Moses, and the Pharaoh knew it. Moses knew it. Everyone knew it. BUT GOD’S manifest presence in Moses’ life made him as God himself to Pharaoh! Did you ever wonder why Pharaoh didn’t just execute Moses on the spot? Pharaohs weren’t accustomed to taking orders from anyone, and Moses didn’t just ask for a small favor. He demanded the release of 2 million plus hostages. Why didn’t Pharaoh kill Moses on the spot? Because God’s favor was on Moses, and Pharaoh knew it! He may not have wanted to admit it, but he knew it. He could see it. This wasn’t the Moses he was used to dealing with. Something had changed from the time Moses grew up in the palace to the time he confronted this next Pharaoh.
People recognize when the favor of God is on your life. They may not know what to call it. They may not be able to pinpoint that it is God’s presence, but there is something special about people who interacting with the manifested presence of God that causes people to ask either why you do something or they try to ascribe power and authority to you that are special or significant that you know you don’t possess in the natural. You know it is only God’s favor, God’s blessing, or God’s manifested presence at work in and through you that causes others to be influenced or impressed upon in some way. I understand a little bit where Moses was coming from by begging God to go with him. He knew he would be ordinary without God. He knew he wouldn’t be able to lead anyone anywhere without God. He knew he didn’t have the smarts to develop a strategy for success. He knew God’s favor caused other people to either keep their distance, fall into submission or at least respect what he was attempting to do. Moses knew life was hard and he needed all the help he could get.
Most every Monday, I am an undone. That is, on most Mondays, I have an experience where I am so humbled that God would use me, especially in the preaching ministry, to share His words and to witness how through that sharing, families are getting help, individuals are choosing freedom, people are getting courage, lives are being changed. There usually isn’t a week that goes by when one or more people texts, calls, emails or stops by to tell me God spoke directly to them through the sermon. It tears me up (In a good way.) because I KNOW what I am without God! I know I am not convincing, inspiring or compelling, but I know it is only Christ empowering me, Christ enlivening me, Christ equipping me that anything life-changing is transmitted. I have never had one preaching class. I am a singer! I am not a preacher! I have no special preaching skills. It is ALL Him, even the jokes (unless they aren’t funny . . . I take credit for those!) I know what a difference His presence makes, and I KNOW I don’t want to take one step without Him.
Do you know why people have become interested in this church? Why they have been impressed by our outreach? Why our reputation is growing? Why people are being attracted to this place? Why people who don’t even go here recommend this church to others and why people who don’t even go here give money to this ministry and will give to the development of Teays Valley Acres?
It’s because God’s presence is here. God is with us! When God is with us not only can nothing stand against us, but other people will want to stand with us as well!
God’s presence reveals God’s favor is on your life, on your business, on your family, on your church! People know it and are drawn to be a part.
2. God’s presence rests you.
Look at verse 14 of our text: The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” A good shepherd knows when the flock is weary. He knows when it is time to find a cool stream of water, some green grass, and some shade in which to rest. Psalm 23 paints a picture of God, our Shepherd, in just that way.
In Exodus 13:21 we read: 21The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
The pillar of fire and the cloud by day, the symbols of God’s presence were not only the things that led the Israelites and illuminated their path, but they were also the signals to the Israelites of when it was time to rest. When the cloud stopped, they stopped to rest. When the pillar of fire stopped, they stopped to rest.
God’s manifest presence will give us rest. When God is with us, we’ll know not only what route to take, but we’ll know when to stop and rest. The presence of God in our lives helps us to understand our human limitations and helps us know how to pace ourselves.
Many of us tend to think we are indestructible. We are little energizer bunnies. We overdo much of our doings, and don’t have the balance in our lives that will help us endure for the long haul, for the course of the journey.
God wants to be with us because He knows we don’t automatically understand balance. Yes, God wants you to serve Him. Yes, He wants you to commit to worshiping Him and gathering for Bible study and mutual encouragement. But He doesn’t want you stressed out and burned out. Getting to the Promised Land is a process. Too many people think they can just make a run for it and stress and strain to the point where they miss it altogether because they burn out before they are even halfway there.
As we experience God’s presence, we are going to be more in tune with God’s will. We will know better what things we should say “yes” to and what things to say “no” to and we’ll be able to do it without guilt! We’ll naturally walk down a path that gives us energy. There won’t be so many “have to’s” but “want to’s” and “get to’s.” We’ll know when we are getting to the edge and need to take a break.
As we learn to be guided by His presence we’ll be able to recognize when He is sending help our way. We’ll be able to receive ministry and comfort and support from other people rather than try to go it alone.
Beyond all the kinds of rest that we think of in the natural God wants to give us a rest from worry, anxiety, the pressure to perform and succeed, and rest from having to be in control.
Remember Moses was crying out to the Lord. He was saying, “I can’t do this without you. You’re the One who made every miracle happen in the past. If you don’t go with us, I’ll be unable to do what is needed. I can’t lead without you.” Do you hear the worry in Moses’ voice? It wasn’t because he was being defiant, though, but because he was stressed and anxious about moving on without God and rightly so.You want to walk in stress, anxiety, and fear? Go through life on your own without the presence of God. Moses wasn’t even willing to try it.
3. God’s presence revs you up.
Moses was more than willing to go if God was going with them. He knew that God could route any enemy. He walked tall and with courage when He knew God was clearing the way.
We see this illustrated in the life of Joshua in Joshua 1:5.
Joshua 1:5 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
God told Joshua that He was going with him. Now how many of you know that you can have someone with you on a journey and it is of no help?I won’t illustrate that, I’ll just let you think of your own example!
Listen, God didn’t just say to Joshua, “I’ll go with you.” He wasn’t just a passenger on a road trip with Joshua. He’s not an inconvenience or dead weight. God said, “I’ll be with you like I was with Moses.” When God is with you like He was with Moses, you can talk to high ranking officials with boldness. You can speak with confidence as God’s mouthpiece making no apology for ending phrases with “Thus saith the Lord.” When God is with you like He was with Moses, staffs become snakes and turn back into staffs again. When God is with you like He was with Moses, He’ll bring helpers and spiritual partners into your life like He did with Aaron to help you carry out your assignment. When God is with you like He was with Moses, you’ll prophesy about things which are to come and watch them come to pass. When God is with you like He was with Moses, you’ll have authority and people will follow you. When God is with you like He was with Moses, He’ll make a way through the Red Sea and cause anything that is pursuing you to be swept into the sea and drowned. When God is with you like He was with Moses, He isn’t merely along for the ride, but He will take you on the ride of your life as you experience His power, walk in victory and own your spiritual destiny.
God has had me out and about and on social media asking people for money which is probably not on my top ten list of things to do. I’ve asked some for BIG MONEY. It’s not for me. It’s for the capital campaign. Yet there was a time when I would have been scared “spit-less” to ask people for money. Two years ago I actually approached someone and asked for a million dollars. It wasn’t my idea. It was God’s. He promised to go with me. I had two or three people praying and I drove around the person’s house 7 times and was praying and praising all the way. I went on that assignment from God with confidence that God would tell me what to say and that I would leave knowing I had done what He asked me to do. You may be thinking, “I could never do that.” You can’t! I couldn’t! But God, Christ in me, made it possible.
God’s presence gives us courage because when God is with us, He isn’t just present. He is present in power. I can see Joshua swelling with courage as he hears God’s words, perhaps even thinking “What are we waiting for? Let’s get busy! “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
The neatest thing about God’s presence is you can pursue it personally. Moses did. He pleaded with God to continue to be present with Israel. God was moved by Moses petition. He promised to go with him as he led the Israelites. When was the last time you chased the presence of God? When was the last time you begged God in prayer to be present with you in your circumstance? We spend a lot of time pursuing things, chasing things that will never fulfill us and that we’ll often never attain. But how determined are we to experience the presence of God every day?
II Chronicles 15:2 says, “The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”
Seeking means effort and expending energy. It means not giving up until we find Him. We need a childlike resolve that keeps asking, keeps tugging on His shirt tail, keeps pursuing Him until we connect with Him. You can pursue knowledge about Him, but knowledge without a personal connection is education, not a relationship with God. I don’t know what is on your radar right now. I don’t know what the focus is of your life. Perhaps it’s making it through the semester. Maybe it’s getting a house built. Perhaps it’s finding a job or making it through the valley of grief. Whatever it is, it must be second to seeking the presence of God if you’re going to have the courage, rest, and favor of God to make it through anything else. Psalm 27:4 reads, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after . . . to behold the beauty of the Lord.” Verse 8 reads, “When you said, ‘Seek my face, my heart said to you,’ “Thy face Lord, will I seek.”
Are you living daily with the awareness that God is present in your life? Are you aware of His favor, His stamp of approval on your life? Do you have the rest you need physically, emotionally and spiritually because God is present in your circumstances? Do you have courage because God is manifesting His presence in and around you? Do people notice something different about you; something special?
Did you catch why God was willing to send His presence with Moses? It was at the end of our text in Exodus 33 today. God said, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
God wasn’t merely saying, “I know who you are.” He wasn’t just saying, “You’ve got a good name and reputation.” He was saying, “You belong to me.” Do you belong to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ today? That’s how you become pleasing to God. It’s not through church membership, church attendance or good works that makes you pleasing to God. It’s only by accepting Christ’s death on the cross by faith that makes you pleasing to God. Pursue God’s presence by becoming pleasing to God and by belonging to Him.
Our greatest need as people is for forgiveness of our sins and salvation. That is found through accepting Christ as Savior and Lord. After that, our greatest need is for the presence of God to be active in our lives. Can you testify this morning that your greatest need as a human and your greatest need as a Christian have been met? If not, you can change all of that today.