“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here… What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33: 15- 16)
This is one of the most heart-breaking scenarios in the Old Testament. God was fed up with His people and He wanted them to just go and claim the land He promised to Abraham. But they were to go alone by themselves with just an angel to lead the way.
Just an angel.
At least they would get the promise. They would look successful. They would be fine. In the eyes of the Canaanites and the whole Middle Eastern world, they would look like a promising fledgling nation. But the price would be that they would go without God’s presence.
Honestly speaking, that was an enticing offer for the Israelites who dreaded the presence of God whenever He came down to talk to Moses. For some reasons, these people were not exactly excited about God being with them. Just a chapter later, they would have Moses cover his face because they could not bear to look at the glory of God in it.
But Moses knew the difference between having the presence of God or an angel’s. He knew that the picture of success wouldn’t really be that good if God is taken out of the picture. He was quick to point out that the only distinguishing mark between God’s chosen people and the rest of the world is ONLY HIS presence. Take that away and Israel will be reduced to just one of the many struggling tribes in ancient Middle East.
As I stared at my computer today looking at the verse I quoted above, I was hit with a sudden realization that made perfect sense to me however I look it. We can choose to be successful on our own. With hard work and cleverness, we can make it big out there. We can map out success, build a name, create an empire, be somebody or do anything humanly possible under the sun. But at the very heart of that is the choice whether we will take that next step with or without God’s presence.
Moses was given that choice. Joshua had the same choice. You and I have that choice. Moses refused to move his feet unless God led the way. Joshua chose to serve God with his household. You and I… Now that’s the million dollar question.