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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, October 15, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Exodus 33:12–23

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the 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 no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, 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.” (NRSV)

This is a passage of comfort. It’s as though Moses does not believe God’s words and so keeps asking for assurances. He begins by recounting all the things that God has already said, but Moses wants more. God has encouraged Moses, has known Moses by name, has been pleased with Moses.

But Moses struggles to trust that. In response to God’s promise to be with Moses, Moses responds as though he hasn’t heard that at all. God says his Presence will be with the people, and Moses responds as though he has to convince God to go with them. “If you don’t go with us, don’t send us,” he says.

It’s so easy to feel as Moses does in this story. In our minds we may believe that God is with us, and yet we sometimes feel so alone. We believe that God cares for the creation and for God’s people, and yet where is God when things fall apart? Our hearts do not experience God’s presence and devotion to us.

I love that Moses keeps asking for increased understanding and experience. After hearing God’s words of assurances, Moses asks to see. God gives Moses a solid rock upon which to stand, a rock that is near God, and promises to place Moses in a protected place and cover him with God’s own hand as God passes by.

In our own lives, we may wish to see God face-to-face, to understand all things. It can be comforting to think that, like Moses, we have been covered by God’s own hand shielding us. Sometimes we may not hear the words of comfort from God, but we may have only the vague sense that God has passed near us and is protecting us.

God of protection and God of comfort, place me on solid rock near you. Help me to know where to stand. Shelter me from that which might overwhelm me. And let me be strengthened by your presence passing close to me. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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