In today’s reading the people of Israel are in a time of crisis. They have broken their covenant with God by making golden idols. God has called the people of Israel “stiff-necked” and is considering sending them into the Promised Land alone. (See 33:3, 5.)
But Moses argues with God on behalf of the people. “Don’t send us alone,” Moses pleads. “If your presence is not with us, how will others know who we are?” (ap). Moses acknowledges that we are indeed a stiff-necked people. And we will probably mess up again. So send your presence as a mark upon us so that others will know that you are our God and we are your people.
God hears the pleas of Moses on behalf of the people and agrees to what Moses has asked. And then, Moses, emboldened, asks to see God. Moses cannot see God’s face and live, but God will put Moses in a cleft of rock, cover Moses while God goes by, and then let Moses see God’s back.
In this story we’re invited to reflect on the ways that we are stiff-necked, stubborn, and hard to control. We are a people who think that our way is the right way. If we suspect that God is not keeping up God’s end of the bargain, we are likely to strike out on our own, making it up as we go along.
Yet we have this yearning to be able to see God—if not God’s face, how about a peek at God’s back? We travel through a wilderness in our own homes, communities, and nations. We long to see glimpses of God’s good work in the world. We hunger for signs of God’s presence with us.
Reflect on the places in your life where you feel you are in a wilderness. Where are you seeing glimpses of God’s good work in the world? Write a prayer of yearning and gratitude.
Popular images often portray God as a passive grandfather figure. However, this is not the picture scripture provides. God’s presence has a profound impact on the physical world. In Exodus, Moses feels insecure about the calling on his life and asks to see God’s glory. God in part grants this request, but no one can experience the presence of God completely and live. The psalmist describes how God is exalted and how God’s holiness shakes the earth itself. The New Testament readings explore different themes. Paul opens his letter to the Thessalonians by commending them for their faith and partnership in the spreading of the gospel. In Matthew, the Pharisees attempt to trap Jesus in his words, yet he confounds their efforts.
Read Exodus 33:12-23. When have you struggled to believe that God is with you? How did you find a sign of God’s presence?
Read Psalm 99. How has God heard your cry? How can you listen with God for the cries of others?
Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. When does your faith call you to live in a countercultural way? How do you show the world how to live?
Read Matthew 22:15-22. You belong to God. How do you feel God’s call on your life?
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.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.