Exodus 33:15 - Not Satisfied to be Saved Alone
If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.Exodus 33:15
The ground-up ashes of their golden calf linger in their stomachs, the Levites have killed about 3000 of their brethren, and the people have suffered a plague of death. But worse than all this, the Lord has said that He will no longer accompany the people of Israel. Otherwise He might destroy them on the way due to their recurring idolatry. Moses alone would live in the presence of the Lord, but not Israel. Here is what the Lord had said to Moses alone: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (33:14). It was at this point that Moses replied, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here… What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Moses understood that God’s living, gracious, and holy presence constituted Israel as a nation.
This text depends on a very important interplay of the singular and the plural. The Lord has declared that He is abandoning his people and will go only with Moses (singular), but Moses pleads in response that these people are God’s people and thus God must go with all of them (plural). Moses is unwilling to abandon his post as mediator and prophet for this people. Either the Lord goes with them all, or they remain where they are.
Moses could have given in to pride and agreed that he and his own descendants ought to be the new Israel. Instead, he shows that he is interested in his salvation only within the context of the whole nation being under God. He is willing to deny himself in the hope of securing the covenant blessings for all Israel. Don’t send us on our way, unless you come with us all!
Israel’s mediator was subjected to a thorough-going test. While God, on the one hand, reveals his great wrath against Israel for their idolatry, He also tests his office bearer Moses to see whether Moses will stand in the gap on behalf of God’s rebellious covenant people. Moses does. His words prove his faithfulness.
In this event the church is given a window through which it receives an early glimpse of the great office bearer, Jesus Christ. God gave Moses to Israel to point ahead to the Archetype. By God’s grace, and ultimately because of Christ’s cross, Moses acted obediently and selflessly (in this instance). He truly did stand in the gap, and was accepted.
If the Lord could say to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name” (33:17), then what has He said to his only-begotten Son? We know that “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses” because he was faithful not just as a servant like Moses, but as the Son of God (Hebrews 3:3-6). His faithfulness to God surpasses that of Moses by innumerable degrees, for He ate the ashes of the golden calf, He suffered the sword of his brothers, and He came under death-plague of God’s wrath. All for us. Whereas God offered to make a new people out of Moses, He put his own Son under condemnation. This Son, our precious Saviour, would not and did not return to his glory until He had secured the presence of God for us. He did not return alone with the words, “Here am I, to do your will,” but in the company of many, with these words: “Here am I, and the children God has given me” (Hebrews 2:13).
Do you know yourself as one of those children, saved by his precious blood? Do you live in the presence of God? In Christ, the redeemed people are assured, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). But none of us is an island, and so we should be careful not to read that promise as though it is only for individuals. Here God’s presence is promised for all of us as his church. None of us should be satisfied to be saved alone. We belong in a body within which we must also seek the salvation of our brothers and sisters. Ask God to show you where you are falling short in this matter, and then act in ways that serve the salvation of the body of Christ.