If you have read my first blog post (Introduction to My Journey), you know that Moses’ story has been very relatable to me over the past several months, especially in regard to this missionary journey God has brought me on. Sitting in the airport in Taipei, Taiwan waiting for my next flight, I thought that reading something about Moses might be good. I flipped backwards through the Pentateuch, stopping to read in Exodus 33.
To give a little context, the incident with the golden calf at Mt. Sinai had just happened. Israel, God’s missionaries to the heathen, had proved themselves stiff-necked and unworthy. They were told to strip themselves of their ornaments and wait so God could know what to do with them. During this time, Moses pitched the tent of meeting outside the camp and spent hours there talking with God, so much so that the Bible says “the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). In this context—the aftermath of the golden calf and the people waiting there for His decision of what to do with them—Moses has a conversation with God (verses 12-19).
Moses begins the conversation by telling God that He hasn’t said who He would send to help Moses bring the Israelites to Canaan. Yet Moses recounts what God has said—“I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.” Because he knows this about God, he confidently asks for God to show him His ways. God’s affirmative response is, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Now Moses explains how very important it is to have God’s Presence go with them. In fact, he says that if God’s Presence didn’t go with them it would be pointless to go on. See, the Israelites were to be missionaries—to show the other nations what God’s grace and loving kindness looks like. If God’s Presence didn’t go with them, how would the other nations see that the Israelites have found grace in God’s sight? They wouldn’t understand God’s character, and the mission to show His character would be impossible. But with God’s Presence, God’s grace would be evident, and the nations would see clearly the difference in God’s people. In reply, God assures Moses that He will send His Presence—after all, Moses has found grace in God’s sight and God knows Him by name, so why wouldn’t He send His Presence?
The final request from Moses is that God would show him His glory. I’m not sure why Moses asked this, but God eventually obliged as far as was safe for Moses—this is in the next chapter, however, after Moses cut new tablets and God re-wrote the law on them. God’s immediate response was that He would make His goodness pass before Moses and proclaim His name before him. And then He says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Part of His glory is simply that He is God, and He will work as He sees fit. Mere mortals cannot tell Him what to do. But we know that He acts out of love and we can trust Him entirely.
So, what does this mean for me? How did God speak to me through this conversation?
Like Moses, I have a calling from God that is difficult—no, impossible—unless I have help. How can I possibly lead people to Jesus? But God knows me by name, and He has shown me His grace. Lord, if that is true, please show me Your way, that I may know You more and continue to find grace in Your sight. I also know that Jesus died for the Thai people to be saved, so He will surely send help in order that they may be saved. God’s promise? My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
Why is God’s Presence so important in this task? Truth be told, it is pointless to be here without it. I am here to tell people that Jesus can save them, but if Jesus’ Presence isn’t making a difference in my life, what is the point? However, if Jesus is living in my life and changing me, others will notice the difference He makes and be interested to hear about Him. God’s assurance to me is, Don’t worry—of course I will do this! After all, you have found grace in My eyes and I do know you by name, so of course I will be with you to help you.
One thing that is often expected of the mission field is that you will see miracles and wonders on a daily basis. You want to see God working powerfully. Lord, please show me Your glory this year. But in answer to my naive hopefulness, God reminds me that He is sovereign. You will see My goodness & My name proclaimed—but not in response to your demand. I am God, and I will work as I see fit. I may perform miracles or I may not. But you can trust Me entirely.
I can’t see what lies ahead of me this year. I don’t know who my friends will be, how many students I’ll have, or what God will do. But I know that He has promised to be with me—He knows even better than I do that I can do nothing without Him. And He will show His glory, but maybe not always in the way I want.
Lord, if I start to forget how much I need You, please remind me. Thank You for the opportunity to work among Your people here. Lead me to those whom I can lead to You. Help me to trust You even when You don’t meet my expectations.