Day 48: God's Presence

Exodus 33:12-19 Moses used his special relationship to intercede for the Israelites one again. God would remain with Israel and lead their way. God reveals himself through his benevolence and mercy prompting his people to glorify his sacred name. (CCC 210, 696-697, 2666)

Ch 34:5-28 God amended the covenant with Israel and assigned a “ritual Decalogue” that in some ways resembled the Ten Commandments but focused more on norms of worship. Merciful and gracious...and faithfulness: In everything that God does, he reveals his benevolence, grace, and love as well as his faithfulness and wisdom. His very being is truth and love. Even his name, “I AM WHO I AM,” expresses constancy and trustworthiness as one who will always be present for his faithful. The prayer of Moses urged God not to forsake his people. (CCC 210-211, 214, 231, 2056, 2577)

Leviticus 24:5-9 The offertory bread is referenced in the Gospels when Christ, facing charges that his disciples did not keep the Sabbath because they were picking corn to eat, reminded the Pharisees of the time David and his hungry soldiers were given the sacred bread normally reserved for the priests alone to consume (cf. Mt 12:4, 1 Sm 21:1-7). (CCC 2581)

Ch 24:10-23 Blasphemy against God, a grave sin against the Second Commandment, was a serious charge punishable by death. Underlining its seriousness is the fact that the same punishment applied to murder. (CCC 1864, 2148, 2162)

Psalm 80 A shepherd guides his sheep and protects his flock from danger, so it is an apt metaphor to describe the gentle love of God. In a time when the psalmist was sensing God’s absence, he prayed that God would lead his people once again. The metaphor of the vine points out that new life relies on the root for its nutrition and sustenance. The connection to history cannot be forgotten, for it is through reflection on the roots of Israel that the people could recall God’s constant protection and guidance as he led the people out of Egypt and eventually into the Promised Land.

The loss of the Promised Land on account of the people’s infidelity prompted the psalmist to write words of lamentation over this painful state of affairs but did not remove the hope and expectation for a messiah. Christ referred to himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches (cf. Jn 15:5), pointing out that our supernatural life is entirely dependent upon him. (Cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, April 10, 2002)

(The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Who’s Going with Israel?

  • By reminding God of his promises of land and descendants to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses saves Israel’s life, and her journey to the Promised Land can continue.

  • God, however, informs Moses that although he will allow Israel to go to the land of the patriarchs, “I will not go up among you, lest I consume you in the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Ex 33:3).

  • This begins another dramatic dialogue between Moses and the Lord.

  • However, before that dialogue begins, there is a flashback (Ex 33:7-11) to Moses’ interaction with God in the tabernacle, reminding us that “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11).

  • This backdrop is crucial for the conversation that is about to unfold.

  • Given the devastating news that God will not go with Israel, Moses replies by reminding God that at the burning bush he called Moses to “bring up this people,” but that God has not yet told Moses whom he will send to go with him (Ex 33:12).

  • Moses is subtly reminding God of his promise to accompany him on his mission and of the conversation at the burning bush, where God called Israel “my people” (Ex 3:7).

  • God responds by reasserting his initial promise to Moses: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14).

  • This response still presents a problem for Moses because the Hebrew word for “you” in God’s response is SINGULAR

  • God is promising to go with Moses, but not with the people.

  • Identifying himself with the people, Moses says, “If your presence will not go with me, do not carry us up from here,” for “is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and thy people, from all other people that are on the face of the earth?” (Ex 33:15-16, emphasis added).

  • Moses and the people are inseparable; thus, if God is to go with Moses, he must go with Israel.

  • God relents, saying, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Ex 33:17).

  • After this, Moses asks to see God’s glory.

  • God says he will pass before him “and will proclaim before you my name” (Ex 33:19).

  • However, God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33:20).

  • This statement seems to stand in direct opposition to the earlier observation that God used to speak to Moses face to face, as is the custom of friends.

  • How is this apparent contradiction to be understood?

  • After Moses identifies himself with sinful Israel, Israel regains the privilege of having God’s presence among them; however, Moses loses the intimacy he once had with God because of his identification with this sinful people.

  • God passes by Moses, proclaiming his name in a glorious theophany, and Moses sees the back of God’s glory (Ex 33:21-23; 34:1-9).

  • After making intercession on behalf of God’s sinful people and receiving God’s benevolence towards Israel, Moses is unable to see God’s face, yet Moses experiences a fuller revelation of who God is:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. (Ex 34:6-7)

  • In the face of Israel’s shameful apostasy and betrayal, Moses discovers the depths of God’s merciful love.

  • This verse is one of the most quoted lines in all the writings of the prophets, a line treasured throughout Israel’s history and one that will give hope to a rebellious Israel when she later finds itself under judgment and exile.

  • Moses quickly seeks to close the deal: “If now I have found favor in thy sight, O Lord, let the Lord, I pray thee, go in the midst of us, although it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thy inheritance.” (Ex 34:9)

  • The covenant is renewed and Moses brings down new stone tablets with the Ten Commandments.

  • Moses is unaware that his face shines with glory because he saw the back of the glory of the Lord.

  • The people cannot bear to look upon his shining face, and so Moses must wear a veil.

  • This is a powerful image of Israel’s incapacity to receive God’s presence.

  • In fact, the Ark of the Covenant, containing God’s presence, will likewise be shrouded with many veils to keep Israel from direct exposure to God’s glory—which is always dangerous for sinners.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

  • Today we have the new Tables of Stone

  • We also have this incredible description of the relationship that God has with Moses and that Moses has with God

  • Moses gets to be in God’s presence

  • When Moses is in God’s presence, there is this incredible mediation happening where God says, “Listen, I’ll send you an Angel to bring you up into the land of promise. But, I’m not going to go with you because the people are too stiff-necked.”

  • Moses is the great mediator between the Israelites and God

  • (The new Moses is Jesus Christ, who is the TRUE MEDIATOR between God and Man)

  • Moses is the TYPE of Jesus (TYPOLOGY!!!!!)

  • Moses basically says, “If you do not go with us, we will become extinct.”

  • Exodus 33:15-16 says “Lord God, if your presence will not go with me, do not carry us up from here. For how should 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 all other people that are on the face of the Earth.”

  • What makes the Israelites distinct?

  • The Bible makes it very clear

  • The People of Israel are not good or unique because of their own goodness

  • The people of Israel are not good or unique because of their own giftedness

  • The people of Israel are distinct because GOD IS PRESENT WITH THEM

  • The people of Israel are distinct because out of EVERY PEOPLE THAT HAS EVER EXISTED IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY, God was present with them in a unique way.

  • What is that unique way, you might be asking

  • That unique way is THE COVENANT that God has entered into with His people

  • “I will be your God, you will be my people.”

  • Here is Moses telling God that if He does not continue to be present with them, the lack of the one thing that makes them DISTINCT would lead them to become EXTINCT.

  • What makes every people of God in the New Covenant distinct is that God’s presence dwells with us CONSTANTLY

  • If God were to leave us, then we would be extinct

  • There is a response to being distinct like this

  • There is a response to the fact that God’s presence dwells with us

  • The response is in the commandments

  • The response is that we now have to live differently

  • If we are really going to be distinct and unique, then we are going to have to live in a distinct and unique way

  • One of the temptations that so many of us have is that we don’t want to live distinctly

  • We don’t want to live uniquely


  • Think about the Sabbath

  • Six days we work and the seventh day we rest

  • Why?

  • Because no one else does that.

  • No one else rests on the seventh day

  • We have all these feasts and festivals for The Weeks, Passover, etc.

  • Why?

  • Because no one else does this

  • The Israelites were not going to be allowed to intermarry

  • Why?


  • If God’s presence among the Israelites was going to be truly distinct, then they HAD TO LIVE IN A DISTINCT WAY from the people around them


  • God is present in the Holy Spirit

  • If you have been baptized, then you have been made into a Temple of the Holy Spirit

  • Guess what that means?

  • It means that you have been made distinct.

  • It means that you have been made unique.

  • This is not because of our own uniqueness

  • It is because God is there

  • Our response needs to be as it was in the Old Covenant

  • In response to God’s presence, now we have to live DISTINCTLY

  • Ask yourself, “Am I living distinctly?”

  • Part of that distinctive living is listening to God’s Word and letting it shape our lens

  • It also means translating that LENS and that way of looking at the world into ACTION

  • Ask yourself, “How is the Lord asking me, commanding me, inviting me, to live distinctly?”

  • God is TRULY PRESENT and that is what makes our lives, and makes us distinct.

Prayer by Fr Mike: “Father in Heaven, we know that you are good and that you are faithful, that when we turn to you, you are already there. You are the one who actually helps us turn to you. Lord God, even the very fact that we are able to listen to your Word is your gift. The very fact that we want to listen to your Word is itself your gift. Lord God we find every time we turn our hearts to you, our minds to you, our eyes to you, you are already there. That every one of our prayers is a response to you, every one of our prayers is a response to your love that already exists, every one of our prayers is a response to your Grace that is already given. Lord God, we ask you please do not abandon us. Please never abandon us, for without you we would fail. We would fail not only to live, we would fail to exist. So we trust you with all of our hearts and all of our lives. We give you praise today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”