“And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name'” (Exodus 33:15-17, ESV).
The backstory of these verses is that while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments and other instructions from God, at the base of the mountain the Israelites had fashioned a golden calf to worship as their god, thinking Moses had abandoned them.
When Moses came down from the mountain he was so enraged that he threw down the Ten Commandment tablets and smashed them. Futhermore, God was ready to rid Himself of the Israelites. He told Moses to go ahead and lead the people to the promised land but He would no longer accompany them with His presence. Instead, God would send an angel to lead Moses and the Israelites into the land.
Moses was not satisfied with that plan and in these verses Moses implored God not to abandon His people. Moses begged God to reconsider and to go with him and the people of Israel to the promised land.
Moses declares that it is only God’s abiding presence with the Israelites that makes them distinct from all other people on the earth!
“For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, NLT).
A quick read through the book of Leviticus (which is generally the way I read it) may lead you to believe that the focus of the book is on obedience to God’s law–obedience to a set of moral laws that seems to establish a code of conduct practically impossible to follow.
Upon closer inspection you will see that the theme of the book is holiness: “You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common” (Leviticus 10:10, NLT). What’s behind the laws, and is stated repeatedly throughout the book, is a description of God’s holiness.
So, if the Lord is holy, the people who worship Him must be holy because only holy can be in the presence of Holy. Yahweh is certainly not a god who can be worshiped from afar. He is the “I AM” who resides among and within His people.
“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years” (Judges 6::1, NASB).
After the time of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, each of the tribes settled in the land allocated to them. Since, the Israelites had not completely conquered or subdued all the various Canaanite people-groups as a nation, it was left to the tribes to fight against the Canaanites still remaining in the land they occupied.
The Israelite tribes often formed regional alliances among themselves to fight against the Canaanites. And the Canaanites often formed coalitions with one another and with people groups surrounding the land of Canaan to fight against the Israelites.
“That you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11:7, NASB).
This statement is the conclusion of Moses’ declaration to Pharaoh before God sent the final plague, the deaths of all the firstborns, against Egypt.
A previous meditation about the plagues God sent against Egypt to convince Pharaoh to emancipate the Israelites established that what matters to God is where your allegiance falls. The Israelites couldn’t serve serve God and Pharaoh.
“Let my people go, so they may serve me” (Exodus 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3, NASB).
If I asked the question, “What did God tell Moses to say to Pharaoh?” you would probably respond, “Let my people go!” At least that’s the way I remember it, but that’s not the whole story.
A closer reading of the story of the plagues God sent against Egypt to convince Pharaoh to emancipate the Israelites in Exodus 7-10 reveals there’s more to God’s directive to Pharaoh than just release the Isralites. And, what else God told Moses to tell Pharaoh suggests that the conflict between God and Pharoah played out in this narrative was of cosmic proportions!
“Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8, NASB).
In this verse God is describing Job to Satan, showcasing him as an example of faithfulness among human beings. God repeats this same description to the devil in vs. 2:3. And, the book of Job begins with this same description: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (vs. 1:1).
“On that day even the harness bells of the horses will be inscribed with these words: Holy to the Lord. And the cooking pots in the Temple of the Lord will be as sacred as the basins used beside the altar. In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. All who come to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices” (Zechariah 14:20-21, NLT).
The last chapter of the book of Zechariah closes with visions of both the salvation and judgment that occurs at the coming of God’s universal Kingdom–“the day of the Lord.”
These last verses of the chapter and the book describe the pervasiveness of God’s holiness in His Kingdom. So much so that even the inscription on the harness bells of horses and the cooking pots in the Temple will be holy.