First Day of Lent, Ash Wednesday
Posted on March 6, 2019 byunder
Scripture: Exodus 33:1-23 (NKJV)
33:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
4 And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.'” 6 So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.
7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.
12 Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”
14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”
17 So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”
18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”
19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
21 And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
By their idolatry Israel broke the covenant. The Lord is no longer obligated to go with them into the Promised Land. Everyone removes their ornaments so that their appearance matches the humility and penitence in their hearts. Yet Moses is bold to approach God and remind Him of His promises. It’s as if Moses said, “You said I’ve found favor in your sight. You’ve said this nation is Your people. You can’t abandon Your people.” The Lord hears Moses’ plea for mercy and promises His presence will go with them into Canaan. He even grants Moses’ request. Moses can’t see God’s face, His bare divinity and glory, but He promises to declare to him His goodness.
Today we enter the penitential season of Lent. Like Israel, we are to repent of our sins, humbly confess them, and remove the ornaments of pride which adorn our hearts. Our idols are not calves of gold, but they are idols nonetheless. We must admit that God is not obligated to go with us through this life or lead us into the promised land of everlasting life.
But it is also a season to earnestly hear God’s promises and confidently pray that God would remember them. He has promised to forgive every sin when we believe that for Christ’s sake we have reconciled God. He has promised to never leave nor forsake us. In Christ we see the goodness of God.
We pray: Almighty and Everlasting God, who hatest nothing that Thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.