What Could Be Worse?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
“Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”
I must confess that my first thought as I read this verse was not equal to the gravity of its content. I remembered times on vacation with my family, when my children were bickering in the back seat and my patience was running low. How tempting it would have been to quote part of Exodus 33:3: “But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.” Yet, of course, I didn’t abandon my children somewhere along the highway. And I didn’t threaten to destroy them, either, though I may have said something about “leaving you both home next time.”
Of course, what the Lord confronted in Exodus 33 was far worse than petty arguments and name-calling. His people had egregiously disobeyed him, worshiping an idol in the shape of a golden calf. The Lord saw, not only their outward behavior, but also their hearts, which were inclined to perpetual stubbornness and rebellion. So, though he would continue to let his people journey to the Promised Land, the Lord would not go with them.
What could be worse than this for the Israelites? Not much. I suppose God could have wiped them out on the spot, and that would have been worse. But the presence of God meant everything to the people of Israel. It offered protection. It guaranteed promise. It gave them their distinct identity as a nation.
If I stop to consider how I would feel if God told me he would no longer be present in my life, I can relate to the distress and fear that the Israelites experienced there by Mt. Sinai. Though I can easily take God’s presence for granted, I can’t imagine much that would be worse than living life without him. Thus, this passage in Exodus 33 reminds me of the promise in Romans 8 that God will never let us go: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever felt as if God was not present in your life? When? How does the promise of Romans 8 make a difference to you?
PRAYER: O Lord, when I imagine how I would feel if you said you’d no longer be with me, I can begin to sense the horror of the Israelites. And I’m sitting comfortably in my home, not camping somewhere out in the middle of the wilderness, with no protection or direction apart from you.
How grateful I am for your presence in my life, Lord! I know I so often take this for granted. Forgive me for my lack of awestruck gratitude. Thank you for staying with me in my stubbornness and rebelliousness. How glad I am that our relationship is built on the solid foundation of your grace in Christ.
O Lord, may I live with greater appreciation and awareness of your presence with me. Amen.