The One Distinguishing Factor
Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (Exod. 33:15 NIV)
In Egypt, Moses had every opportunity to enjoy the life that most could only dream of. He had vast resources of education, wealth, security and power. Ahhh, the good life. But was it really? After all, he chose to leave that land, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25 KJV). Something, or rather Someone, was missing!
What is interesting about this verse from Exodus is that after Moses “tasted”, and forsook, all the trappings of the good life, now the Lord was instructing him to go in and possess the Promised Land. The Lord even promised that He would send an angel before them and drive out all their enemies. Instead of the people of God living in slavery in Egypt, soon they would be settled in a land of abundance and blessing as a sovereign and free nation. All their enemies would be driven out by the angel of the Lord and the people could live in peace, rest, safety and blessing! Ahhh, the good life, again! But what was to be different about the Promised Land life of the children of Israel and Moses’ former good life in Egypt?
Due to the hard-heartedness of the people, the Lord said He would not go with them into the Promised Land. He still offered to bless them, as described. Victory over enemies, streams of milk and honey, rest and peace, all were to be had for the taking. “Go ahead, Moses. It’s all yours. Be blessed!” But, as for your God, I will not go with you! To a man who had the entire world’s trappings before; Moses knew they were all comparatively worthless. Like his future brother, the apostle Paul, he could count it all as dung “compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
In much of the church, we have been surrounded with abundance and blessing. But what of His presence? What really makes the church different from the people of the world? Shall we not say with Moses, “Lord, if your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Can we go even further, and cry out, as Moses does in the next verse, “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?" It is not merely the trappings of this world that signify God’s approval, for many people are steeped in His abundance and yet do not seek His glorious face. Rather, it is His presence in the midst of His people that distinguishes them as those with whom He is pleased.
Many in our distinguished church have lost the true distinguishing factor. Many have lost hope that there is a greater manifestation of God available to us. But, at the same time, there is a deep and desperate hunger in many people to attain that which is missing in their lands of abundance. Hearts are not satisfied with this present world’s offering. There is an underlying current of desire that transcends the temporal realm; a passionate love that cries out for a face to face encounter with the Creator of the universe. Can you hear the Psalms being sung? “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God!” “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
As for this world, take it all and give me Jesus! I am desperately hungry for Him. Lord God, for your name’s sake, restore your presence in the midst of your people. We cannot rest until your church is “a praise unto God in the earth!”