Exodus 33:12-39:43

We are now permitted to hear the terms of this "face to face"
speaking between Moses and the Lord, and we can at once perceive that
the Lord did deal with him as with a friend. As we read verses 12-23 we
may well have our hearts stirred: especially so as we remember how much
closer is the relationship of children and sons into which we are
brought. In result, the friendship into which we may enter, as given by
our Lord in John 15: 13-16 is of an even more intimate character.

Moses is emboldened not only to intercede for the people but also to
request for himself a more definite knowledge of what he might expect
in the way of the Divine leadership, and in the understanding of the
way that was decreed. In verse 14 we have the answer to the first part
of his request.

Jehovah promised that His presence should
go with him, and in that fact fear was to be allayed and rest was to be
found. The next verses show how fully Moses realized that to have the
presence of God with them was the all-essential thing without which
they could not go forward, nor could their special place as the people
called out from amongst the nations be maintained. Their subsequent
history fully bore this out. As they departed from the Lord, so they
lost their separated place, and the departure of the glory from the
midst of the city, recorded in Ezekiel, was the commencement of the
long epoch during which they have been dispersed among the nations. Yet
even so they have never lost their identity, and ultimately, restored
by mercy, Jehovah will be in their midst, so that the name of the
Jerusalem in the coming age will be, Jehovah-shammah "the Lord is
there" (Ezek. 48: 35).

The first request, then, of Moses
was, "Shew me now Thy way," and this was granted, as we read in Psalm
103: 7, "He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children
of Israel." The people saw the wonderful things He did but Moses was
permitted to know the end God was pursuing in the doing of them. But
when Moses made his second request, "I beseech Thee shew me Thy glory,"
he met with a refusal. He was permitted to see the "back parts" of the
Lord but not His "face," for no man could see that and live. Moses was
only to see God when He had passed by as it were, and thus discern Him
in the way He had taken.

How great is the contrast when we
come to the New Testament. We open John's Gospel and we read, "We
beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." We
pass on to the Epistles to read of, "the light of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4: 6). The Christian
today is given to know something of the "glory," as well as of the
"acts" and the "way." It is delightful to know that though Moses could
not then see the glory, he did see it in the face of Jesus when he was
with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. And then he knew right well
what it would cost the Saviour to make that glory available for him and
for us all, for he spoke of His decease.

For the time being
Moses had to be content to know the goodness and the name of the Lord,
and in connection with that His grace and His mercy were displayed.
Here we have the statement which Paul quotes in Romans 9: 15, "I will
have mercy on whom I will have mercy;" and by this is declared the
sovereignty of God. The point is that Israel had lost everything on the
basis of strict law, and yet God elected to show mercy and continue
with them. Israel had therefore no ground for objecting to God choosing
to show mercy to Gentiles in these Gospel days. From the days of the
golden calf they owed their own existence to the mercy of God.

Though this was so, they were still left under the law which had been
given, and hence,. as we open Exodus 34, we find that Moses was to hew
two tables of stone like the first and again come up with them to the
top of the mount, that God might write the words on them as He had done
before. As on the first occasion so again, no man was permitted to come
near, and even flocks and herds were to be kept from the mount. The
holiness of God was emphasized once more, but this time in harmonious
connection with His mercy.

If we meditate quietly for a
little upon verses 6 and 7, we shall be repaid. Here are brought
together features of the Divine character which we now know quite well,
but to Moses they might have seemed to be in many respects at variance
one with the other. He might have desired to ask, If He is abundant in
truth as well as goodness, how can He be gracious to a people such as
we have proved ourselves to be? Or again, How can He rightly forgive
iniquity and transgressions, if He will by no means clear he guilty,
and even visit the sins of the fathers on the children? Centuries later
the Psalmist, writing as a prophet, anticipated the happy millennial
day, when it shall be said that, "Mercy and truth are met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85: 10). But even
so, there was no full display of "grace and truth" until they "came by
Jesus Christ" (John 1: 17) and were harmonized by His death and

As some find difficulty in the latter part of
verse 7 it may be well to remark that God is here indicating how He
deals with men on earth in His holy government. When it is a question
of His judgment for eternity, the dead will be dealt with "according to
their works" (Rev. 20: 12, 13) and there is no thought of a child
bearing the sin of his father. In speaking to Moses, God was not
dealing with the issues of eternity, but with His government of Israel
under the law in the light of His mercy that had just been declared. In
the working out of God's government in this world, the way in which the
iniquity of a father adversely affects his children is a fact too
obvious for any of us to overlook. The laws of heredity, which God has
ordained, are very real.

As these things were made known to
Moses he was deeply affected, as we see in verses 8 and 9. He
worshipped in the recognition of God's grace, first toward himself and
then toward the people, and once more he sought pardon in the
confession of their sin and stiff-necked spirit. It is good for us to
see that a sense of grace does not lead to the minimizing of sin. The
reverse is indeed the fact. It is in the presence of grace that sin in
its gravity is fully declared, as is shown by the Lord's words,
recorded in John 15: 24.

In response to this confession and
plea of Moses, God declared a fresh covenant, in which He pledged
Himself to work wonders, which would manifest His power in the sight of
His people, though He did not reveal what the nature of these wonders
would be. What we do see in the rest of this chapter is that this fresh
covenant was of a subsidiary nature, and did not in any wise cancel or
modify the covenant of law which had just been established, since
certain enactments of the law are freshly enforced.

We can
well understand what is ordered in verses 11-17. The people had just
fallen into the great sin of making the molten calf. The idea of this
they had evidently brought up with them out of Egypt. God was going to
drive out before them the nations of Canaan, that were sodden with
forms of idolatry even worse than those of Egypt, hence the most
complete separation from those peoples, from their gods, their altars
and images, was enjoined. They themselves and all that pertained to
their idolatrous worship were to be destroyed. God had entered into
covenant with Israel, hence they were not to make any covenant with
those nations.

In verses 18-26, we have certain details of
the law recapitulated. It is not easy to discern the connection between
the various items specified but we can see that if they observed them
the rights of Jehovah their God would be safeguarded, on the one hand,
and on the other, they would be a nation quite distinct in their
observances, and thus marked off from other peoples. In verse 24 there
is one statement which they had not previously heard. If they obeyed
the command that their males should leave their homes to appear before
the Lord thrice every year, God guaranteed the safety of their land and
homes during their absence. What the wise man states in Proverbs 16: 7,
would thus be verified, and if they took God at His word all fear would
be removed.

Again Moses was on the mount in the presence of
God for forty days and forty nights, miraculously sustained without
food or drink. Again the ten commandments were written on tables of
stone and committed to the hands of Moses, so that he might bring them
down to the people. Verse 29 records how he came down. In his hand he
had the tables of stone: in his face there was a reflection of the
glory, and, though not mentioned here, we know he also possessed "the
patterns of things in the heavens" (Heb. 9: 23), which had been
entrusted to him. The commandments made their full demand upon all the
people and were plain for all to see. The full significance of the
"patterns" was doubtless veiled to them, but we know they set forth
God's way of meeting all the guilt which the law revealed.

Still the glory that shone in the face of Moses was connected with the
law's demands, and therefore it bought fear to Aaron and the children
of Israel. The significance of this episode is expounded to us in 2
Corinthians 3: 6-18. The glory in the face of Moses was connected with
a ministration of death and of condemnation, and hence he had to place
a veil on his face, when in the presence of the people, though before
the Lord he did not need it. In contrast to this, we know the glory of
God—and not merely a reflection of it—in the face of Jesus Christ, and
no veil is needed, for that glory speaks to us of life and liberty and
not of condemnation and death.

The glory in the face of
Moses was not something inherent in himself; indeed he was unconscious
of it at first. Moreover presently it faded —it was "done away" (2 Cor.
3: 11). Here again we see the contrast, for the glory in the face of
Jesus abides for ever. And further, it has a transforming effect on
those who by faith behold it, whereas the glory in the face of Moses
only produced fear.

Moses faithfully conveyed the Divine
commands to the people, as we are told in the opening verses of Exodus
35, and particularly he impressed upon them the rest that was to be
observed on the sabbath day. Not even a fire was to be kindled in all
their homes. Being the sign of the covenant, there was to be a strict
observance of it.

The rest of this chapter is taken up with
the recital of all the materials that were commanded of God for the
construction of the tabernacle and all its furniture; then form verse
20 to 29 we are told how very willingly the people responded to the
orders they received. It is emphasized that every man and every woman
had a part in the offering, and that what they gave or did was a
willing service.

Then from verse 30 to the end of the
chapter, we get the two men whom God had chosen pointed out to the
people, with the plain intimation that the skill they now possessed to
carry out the intricate work involved, was not their own but given to
them of God.

In both these things we may find encouragement
for ourselves. For the work of God today the same two things are
needed—first the willing heart, and then the skill. Both are the gift
of God, and in our day the skill expresses itself in the prophets and
evangelists and pastors and teachers, of whom we read in Ephesians 4:
11. These gifts are given, not for the construction of a tabernacle,
but "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ." God's work still has the
character of building up; for to "edify" is to build.

now have four chapters (Exodus 36-39), which are occupied with the
record of how the Divine instructions were carried out under the hand
of Bezaleel and Aholiab, who were the workmen specially commissioned.
As the substance of these chapters has already been before us we shall
content ourselves with just picking out details here and there.

First, let us notice verse 5 of chapter 36. When God moves in the
hearts of men He can produce a response worthy of Himself. The people
brought as their offering not merely what was wanted, but "much more
than enough." We see something similar, and indeed even surpassing it,
in 2 Corinthians 8: 1-5. The Macedonian saints were "in a great trial
of affliction;" that is to say, passing through wilderness experiences,
and yet they gave "to their power," and even "beyond their power,"
exceeding the hopes of the Apostle, for they, "first gave their own
selves to the Lord." It is not surprising that a response produced by
the grace of God goes beyond that produced under the law fine though it
might be.

Exodus 37. If these chapters be compared with the
earlier chapters, small added details may be discovered; such as the
fact that both the cherubim were of one piece with the mercy seat,
illustrating the fact that where the blood of sacrifice is, there the
demands of righteousness and of mercy are satisfied together.

Further, the order in which the various articles are mentioned is not
as before. Then it was according to spiritual significance, now just in
the order in which we should consider them, working from within to

Then in the latter part of Exodus 38, the sum of
the tabernacle is given by the hand of Ithamar the priest, and the
weights of gold and silver used is specified. As to this our reactions
may well be two-fold. First to wonder that so much was available seeing
the wilderness surroundings of the people; but second, that what was
used was as nothing compared with the immense stores that were laid up
by David for the temple which Solomon was able to build. Yet all the
time it was true that, "The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with
hands" (Acts 7: 48).

In Exodus 39 we have details of the
making of the priestly garments for Aaron and his sons; and then at the
end of that chapter we learn how everything that had been made was
presented before Moses for his inspection. All had to pass his eye, for
he had received most stringent instructions on the mount that all must
be made exactly according to the pattern entrusted to him. Moses saw
that it was so, and blessed the people.

Should we today be
any less careful to observe all the instructions afforded in the New
Testament as to our behaviour, whether individually or as in the
assembly of God? To ask this question is surely sufficient. The answer
is obvious.