It’s frustrating when you recognize someone but can’t call the name. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but it’s not coming. Even finger snapping doesn’t bring the name to consciousness, as if hand movement magically generates recall.
My friend Bill has the uncanny ability to recall instantly the name of everyone he’s ever met! Ten years or ten seconds ago, he can name the person in his sight line, when they last met, what they were last doing, a bit about their personal story, and something about their family.
Moses and the Israelites have known God. God never abandoned them in the wilderness. God provided for them—they had “no shortage” (Exod. 16:18). God guided their journey and kept them safe. They need no jogging of the memory to remember who God is.
But then at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Israelites, in their anxiety about Moses’ absence on the mountain, choose to create a different god—a god of gold. Moses averts God’s anger toward the people, and in the verses prior to these, God tells them to journey on to the Land of Promise, “but I will not go up among you” (Exod. 33:3).
We pick up that conversation in today’s verses. Moses feels compelled to request more from God. In a simple, direct exchange, Moses asks, “Show me your ways, so that I may know you.” I’m pretty certain that God’s reaction must have been, “Really? What more do I need to do?” Yet, without God’s presence, the Israelites are no people. Their distinctiveness as a people is known by God’s presence. Moses once again advocates for the people, and God concedes, “My presence will go with you.”
What about your knowing God and God’s presence makes your living distinctive?
Loving God, may we come to know you more and more each day. Amen.
In Exodus 33 Moses successfully argues that without Yahweh’s merciful presence Israel is no nation and that Yahweh’s and Moses’ efforts have come to naught. Psalm 99 mentions Yahweh’s royal rule, which brings to mind the human agents of that rule: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. Each of these leaders facilitated Yahweh’s conversation with the people and Yahweh’s rule over them. The opening lines from First Thessalonians raise a question about the church’s understanding of evangelism. Paul and his coworkers experience a change in themselves because of the Thessalonians, who become a living proclamation of the gospel by virtue of their ready acceptance of it. In the Gospel reading, Jesus answers a question with a question and confuses his “audience” both then and today.
• Read Exodus 33:12-23. When have you most longed for a glimpse of God’s glory? How did God give you the assurance you needed?
• Read Psalm 99. Where in your life is forgiveness needed to restore a loving relationship? How have you experienced “a forgiving God”?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. As your Christian faith has developed, how have you seen it move “from head to heart to hands”?
• Read Matthew 22:15-22. How do you give to God “the things that are God’s”? What are some of those things Jesus wants you to give?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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