“I will not go with you.” Exodus 33:3 (NIV)
God brought the people out of Egypt and gathered them at Mount Sinai where He made a covenant with them. But while Moses was receiving the words of God at the top of the mountain, the people were rebelling against God in the desert below.
Moses came down the mountain and smashed the tablets of stone on which God had written. Then he went up the mountain to pray for the people. He even offered his own life for them: “Please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Ex. 32:32). God said to Moses: “Go up to the land I promised… I will send an angel before you… But I will not go with you” (Ex. 33:1-3).
That’s quite an offer—a life of prosperity in a land flowing with milk and honey, and the protection of an angel. Would you settle for that? When the people of God heard these distressing words, they began to mourn (Ex 33:4). What were they mourning about? That God Himself would not be with them. It was their finest hour.
John Piper has framed the question this way: “If you could just have a good job, a good wife or husband, a couple of good kids, a nice car, long weekends, a few good friends, a fun retirement, a quick and easy death, and no hell… would you be satisfied?”
When Jesus was about to be taken from them, the disciples didn’t say, “Jesus is gone, but we can still have a good life.” Or “Jesus will soon be gone, but we can still change the world with His teaching.” The center of their joy was in Jesus Himself. They could not be satisfied without Him.
Reflect on John Piper’s question. How would you answer it?