Summary: God reveals himself to us through his Word so that we understand that a wilderness with God is better than a paradise without him.
I want to start this morning with an eye test. If you’re wearing glasses, take them off. Cover or close one eye and look at the eye chart (projected onto the wall). How far down the chart can you read? Now try your other eye. If you can make out the letters right above the red line at the very bottom of the chart, you have 20/20 vision. If not, you better get glasses or update your prescription.
While a pair of glasses will help you see an eye chart more clearly, what can you do if you want to see God more clearly? Squint like so many people without glasses do when reading the menu board at McDonald’s? That’s not going to help you see God better, nor will laser surgery. If you want to see God more clearly then open your ears! That’s what Moses learned in our sermon text today. I invite you now to open your ears so that by the end of the sermon you too may see your God and your Savior more clearly.
Our sermon text is a continuation of the true story from last week. We heard how the Israelites made a golden calf and worshipped this while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. After destroying the idol and sending his fellow Levites out into the camp to punish those who had continued to worship that false god, Moses climbed Mt. Sinai again to plead forgiveness for the Israelites. God did forgive them, but he also said: “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way” (Exodus 33:3).
Moses was alarmed at these words and so were the people. While God had promised to send an angel to accompany them, he said that he himself would not go with the Israelites. Think of your reaction if moments before surgery to remove a brain tumor, you found out that the world-leading specialist and veteran brain surgeon was not going to perform the procedure as planned because he decided to stay home that day. Instead a first-year medical student was rounded up to step in and try the surgery for his very first time. Would you allow that man to cut you open? No. And so we’re not surprised to hear Moses plead with God: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15, 16)
Moses understood something that we often easily forget. Without God we are nothing. Moses knew his limitations as a leader. He knew that the only reason he had been successful in getting the Israelites out of Egypt was because God had been with them. How else would Moses have gotten two million people across the Red Sea before the Egyptian army had ground them into the dirt with their combat sandals as if they were nothing more than a bunch of ants? No, if God wasn’t going to go with them to the Promised Land, Moses would rather stay right there in the wilderness. Better a wilderness with God, than a paradise without him.