Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”
(Exodus 33:15-16 MSG)
The Israelites took God’s presence for granted during their exodus journey. In the previous chapter, they had asked Aaron to make them gods to go before them (Exod. 32:1). So as they were about to make their way to the Promised Land, God decided to let an angel take the lead, leaving them with the gift of His absence:
“I will send an angel ahead of you and I’ll drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. It’s a land flowing with milk and honey. But I won’t be with you in person—you’re such a stubborn, hard-headed people!—lest I destroy you on the journey.” (Exodus 33:2-3)
Of course, the people were devastated when they heard these words (Exodus 33:4). Moses then pleaded with the Lord, begging Him to lead the way. The man who had experienced the distinctive presence of God, wasn’t about to settle for an angel guide. Moses wanted the gift of God’s presence, and that’s exactly what he got.
We always speak of the gift of God’s presence, but I’ve come to realize that the gift of His absence is just as imperative. We’re very prone to take the presence of the people we love for granted and God’s presence is no exception. So He gives us what I like to call the gift of His absence. When we go long enough without a word from Him, we learn to appreciate it more when it comes. I came across a quote once which said, “If someone doesn’t appreciate your presence, make them appreciate your absence.” I believe this is how the Lord deals with us as well. When we don’t appreciate His presence, He makes us appreciate His absence. Jesus said to His disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it” (Luke 17:22). And ever since His ascension to Heaven, the church’s cry has been, “Come, O Lord!” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
To those who value His presence, God promises to stay, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). But those who take it for granted, lose it. Let’s learn to value the gift of His presence before He makes us appreciate the gift of His absence.
Prayer: You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]. Hide not Your face from me. (Psalm 27:8-9 AMPC).