I Don’t Wanna Go

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?

Exodus 33: 15-16

Like any good Christian, I like to devote at least an hour of my day to reading the Bible. However, like every Christian, I am an imperfect person, and as much as I would like to devote an hour of my day to studying Scripture, I usually forget, get distracted, or end up prioritizing other things.

Since this happens quite frequently, I found myself last night nearly ten days behind on my Bible reading plan. Realizing I would only get further behind if I didn’t take some time to sit down and read, I ended up spending about an hour and a half reading through Exodus. In the midst of the many chapters and verses, one passage in particular jumped out at me.

In Exodus 33: 12-23, Moses is speaking to the Lord. (This in and of itself is crazy to me, because in verse 11, it says “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to His friends”. Not only is Moses speaking to the Lord and hearing response, he is actually having a face to face conversation with God. So. Cool. But I digress.)

This passage goes on to share a conversation between Moses and the Lord where Moses starts to question God about what is going on. The Israelites at this point have escaped Egypt, set up camp in the wilderness, been quite whiny, and have actually built an idol for themselves with the help of Moses’ brother Aaron. Meanwhile, God has done miracle after miracle, parting the red sea, stopping the Egyptians pursuing them, going before them as a pillar of fire and smoke to guide and protect them, providing food and water in the desert, and even giving the opportunity for Moses to come receive direct commandments from Him on Mount Sinai.

To summarize, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. God has been providing and delivering the Israelites time after time, but the people don’t seem to care much and continue turning away from God. A bit of a frustrating situation for Moses to be in, I’m sure, especially as He is trying to help lead this group of people who seem to prefer captivity in Egypt.

Although Moses had some direction from the Lord to “‘bring up this people'” (33: 12) from Egypt, he doesn’t have all the details he is hoping for, and says to the Lord, “if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways”. Pretty reasonable request, right? Just hoping for a few more details, a little more insight, a greater understanding of what comes next.

And then in response, God says

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest

Exodus 33: 14

That’s it. No explanation, no details, no further instruction. It seems passive. Like God doesn’t really want to tell Moses, or like He’s avoiding the question. It seems like a frustrating response, honestly. But it was enough.

God didn’t give answers to Moses. He didn’t tell him what was coming next. He didn’t explain Himself. But, He gave Moses everything he needed – the promise of His Presence. The promise that He would not leave them alone in the wilderness, abandon them, or fail to deliver them. The promise that He would remain with them and not only that, but He would provide rest for them in the stressful, roller coaster situation they were in.

And in response, Moses says:

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?

Exodus 33: 15-16

Lord, if your Presence is not with us, then it’s not even worth going. Because you, and only you, are what sets us apart from everyone else here on this earth. We are nothing without You.

The truth in Moses’s statement was not just a poetic or passionate declaration of His commitment to God. It was a very factual statement. The Israelites were a very small people group, and if it wasn’t for God specifically choosing to set them apart as a nation, they likely would have been blotted out by the first kingdom or empire they went to battle with. The truth was, the only reason the Israelites were still a nation was because God had selected them – the weak, the insignificant, and the unworthy – to bear His Name.

Here’s the thing about the Bible – God is always using it to tell a story. Often, those stories have a lot of parallels and as one story unfolds, you start to see more and more of the larger story God is writing in the process. In the Old testament, God chooses a nation that is weak, insignificant, and unworthy, and decides to make them the nation that will carry His Name. Then, He sets them free from the nation that is oppressing them. Over many years, the Israelites try to follow God’s commandments, but in the end, are pretty unfaithful. But, despite all this, because of His great mercy, God chooses to love them anyway, covering their mistakes with the blood of sacrifices, and provides for them in every way. In the end, He brings them into the Promised Land, which He has set apart for them and makes them into a great nation, all because of who He is and what He has done.

This is only a small piece of the story the Old Testament tells, but can you see any parallels in this story with an even bigger one that has been told?

How about this – God chooses a group of people who are weak, insignificant, and unworthy, and decides to make them the people that will carry His Name. He sets these people free from the power of sin and death which has been holding them captive for thousands of years. These people, set free from sin and death, try their best to love and serve God, but even then, are often unfaithful. But, despite this, because of His great mercy, God chooses to love them anyway, covering every mistake with the blood of His sacrifice, and provides for them in every way. In the end, He brings them into the Kingdom of Heaven, which He has set apart for them to spend eternity in His Presence, and even on earth, He makes them into a great Kingdom – His Kingdom – all because of who He is and what He has done.

We may not be Israelites, but we are broken, sinful people. And despite this, God has done absolutely everything, even to the point of dying in our place, to set us free from that brokenness. He died for us, and then conquered death, rose from the dead, and gave us the promise of His Presence.

In Acts, Luke accounts Jesus is speaking with His followers and disciples. In chapter one, they ask Jesus what His plans are, what is coming next, and what they should expect. In a very similar way to how God answers Moses in Exodus, Jesus replies,

It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1: 7-8

When we make Christ the Lord of our lives and choose to follow Him, we receive the Holy Spirit, which is His Presence within us. The Holy Spirit is what sets us apart from the rest of the world, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives us peace (John 14: 25-27). Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit will always be with us (John 14: 15-17). His Presence is what shows the world that God has chosen us to bear His Name, and that we have found favor in His sight.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2: 9-10

Back in Exodus, Moses is seeking answers. Things are not going the way He expected, but He knows God has a plan. In Acts, the disciples are seeking answers. A lot has happened over the last few years that they didn’t understand, but they can see God has something in mind. And likewise, today, I am seeking answers. Although I know God has called me and is preparing me for some things in life, I don’t really understand what is happening right now. But, I know God is in control.

What great comfort there is knowing that I am not the first person in history that isn’t getting the answers that I was hoping for when I asked God. And praise God for the even greater comfort which He gives through His Spirit.

I may not know what God is doing right now, but I do know that even when I don’t have answers, the clarity I am hoping for, or the details of the situation, I do have the only thing I will ever need – God’s Presence.

Like Moses in the desert, I want to see the land

But like Moses in the desert, I can’t fully see your plan

Still your love doesn’t stop, When I see the land from a mountain top…

…I don’t wanna go if you’re not going before me

“I Don’t Wanna Go” by Chris Renzema

God is going to take me a lot of places in my life that will be unexpected. I will go through many situations that I do not understand. But no matter where I go or what I do, I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything if the Lord does not go there with me. Because it is only through Him that I am set apart. It is only His Spirit in me that makes me distinct from the world. Without Him, I am nothing.

Father, I may not understand what you are doing. I may not know the details or have the clarity I want. But what I do have is Your Presence. Remind me often, Lord, that Your Spirit is enough. And Father, let Your Spirit go before me. I don’t want to go anywhere without Your Presence there to guide me and strengthen me. Without you, I am nothing, and all I do would be worth nothing. Thank You, Lord, for promising your Presence and peace, no matter what is going on, no matter how hopeless a situation may feel or how confused I may be. Thank You for everything you are doing in advance. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

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