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The Story
The Presence of the LORD

Let’s begin in Exodus 33.  It begins with a request by Moses to YHWH.  See if you can relate to this request.

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, "Please show me your glory." 

This is a confusing request. 

--Moses saw YHWH in the burning bush... “I AM!”

--Moses saw God in all the miracles of the Plagues. 

--Moses witnessed YHWH’s work crossing the Red Sea.

--Moses was on Mount Sinai and saw the hand of God write the Ten Commandments. 

If anyone had seen the GLORY of YHWH, it was Moses.  But I don’t think that is what Moses is asking... not the power... not the glory, exactly, but the presence of God. Moses wants to see God, personally! Not the fire and smoke and awe, but behind the curtain.  Moses wants to see who YHWH is.

Wow.  That is my request as well.  I would love to be like Adam and Eve to walk in the cool of the evening in the presence of YHWH.  To be with God. 

Here is the good part of this story... God answers Moses request with a yes, well sort-of, a little.

Exodus 33:19-23 And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.   But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live."  And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen."

Moses is placed in the crack of a rock to protect him from the full presence of the LORD.  Then, as God walks by he removes his hand so Moses could see a glimpse of the back of God. 

In Exodus 33:23 the cleft protected Moses from YHWH, himself.  But the cool part is Moses got to see behind the curtain to watch God walk by... sort of like Adam and Eve in the Garden.

This request by Moses to be “with God”; to see God; to witness God... is part of who we are as well... We all want to experience God in our lives.  Am I right?

This is what I want to discuss, this morning, from chapter 5 of The Story... the presence of God... Woven through chapter 5 is the reoccurring idea of the presence of YHWH with the people.

Watch how this unfolds...

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Let’s begin on Mount Sinai.  Three months after leaving Egypt they come to the Mountain of YHWH. 

Exodus 19:4-6 “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."

YHWH’s offer is... keep my covenant and you will be mine. 

YHWH, then, speaks to the people...

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me...”

God continues to tell them all the rest of the Ten Commandments.  But watch what happens after God’s words...

Exodus 20:18-21 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, (all the stuff outside the curtain) the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die."  Moses said to the people, "Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin."  The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

The people are afraid of God.  Maybe, that is just a bit too close to God.  Even that’s okay with YHWH...

Exodus 20:21-24 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.  And the LORD said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: 'You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven.  You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.  An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.”

Just worship me... only.  Just love me... only.  If I am your God... only... I will come to you and bless you.

The people agree...

Exodus 24:3-8 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do."  And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.  And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient."  And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

The Covenant of Mount Sinai is joined in the presence of the LORD.  Thing are wonderful.

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Then, God gives Moses instructions on how to build a wonderful thing called...The Tabernacle... This wonderful tent where YHWH dwells

Exodus 25:9 “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”

Exodus 25:22 “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

The presence of the LORD was in the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle is a mini-Garden of Eden... sort of.  As God used to be with humanity, He is again in the Tabernacle.  The living presence of God is with humans again in the Tabernacle.

I wish I could stop my sermon here. It is wonderful. YHWH and the children of Abraham are together.  But you have already read chapter 5, you know of the terrible sin of the Golden Calf. While Moses was on the Mountain getting all the Law, gone for 40 days, Aaron makes an idol and the people break God’s heart by worshipping this...thing. 

Exodus 32:9-10 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked (obstinate, rebellious) people.  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."

God is going to wipe out all of the children of Israel and instead rise up some children of Moses to take their place.  Moses talks God off the ledge. God does not wipe out the Israelites.  But YHWH decides not to go with his people anymore; not to be with his people.

We come back to Exodus 33.

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Exodus 33:2-3 "I will send an angel before you ..."Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way."

“Okay, I will send an angel. But I’m not going to be with the people anymore. But Moses was not going to let this happen either. Moses is audaciously, stubborn.

Exodus 33:15-17 And Moses said to YHWH, "If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.  For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?"  And the LORD said to Moses, "This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."

The Covenant is renewed, again, after the Golden Calf disaster...

Exodus 34:10 And YHWH said, "Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”

YHWH is with them... through the wilderness and ultimately into the Promised Land.  More on how that plays out in next week’s chapter.  Spoiler Alert... it doesn’t go smoothly.  But the point is YHWH is with them all the way into the Promised Land.

I don’t want to end this sermon without following this thread of “God with us” on through the Scriptures...

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About 500 years later, Moses’s Tabernacle becomes Solomon’s Temple... this intersection of God’s presence on earth continues for another 1000 years.

But when Solomon’s Temple is destroyed in 586 BC, and then rebuilt 70 or so years later after the Exile, there is no indication that God ever dwelt in the temple again. 

Around 0 AD or BC we have a wonderful verse...

Matthew 1:23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).

God came to walk amongst his people again as one of us.  Jesus was one of us.  He lived with us. Like God with Adam and Eve.  Jesus spoke to us.  He revealed who God is behind the curtain.  We see YHWH in him.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

In His death on the cross, Jesus changed the nature of temple...

Ephesians 2:19-22 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

God dwells within his people.  There is a powerful way that the presence of God through the Spirit dwells today in his people. We are his temple.  His presence dwells within his people through the Spirit.  No longer is the presence in a tent or a building... but in his church. 

We connect to YHWH now through the Spirit within us.  We need to park here... just a moment and let that soak in... But I can’t.  I need to end the story.

Watch where it all began is where it all ends...

Revelation 21:22-26 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

God began walking in the cool of the evening with humans.  In the end, which is the beginning again the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will walk with us again on the restored earth! 

The YHWH dwells within his people, today, but I long for the day when I like Moses from the cleft of the rock, or more like Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, or those who walked with Jesus, get to see behind the curtain to experience the presence of God for eternity.   

Tim Stidham

February 11, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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