Exodus Chapter 33

Moses spent many days in Mount Sinai receiving instruction from the Lord and was commanded to lead the children of Israel to the promised land. The Israelites had been purged of the rebellious and were called to repentance by Moses for their idolatrous ways. The book of Exodus continues as follows:

1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:
2 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:
3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.

They were promised to be led to the promise land by an angel of the Lord. This was the land of their inheritance, as promised by God to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were also promised that others would be driven out of their land. God could not dwell in their midst, because they were stiff-necked people and He could not dwell with their unwillingness to turn to the Him. If he came to them, they would be consumed.

4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.
5 For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.
6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.
7 And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.
8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.
9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.
10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

The people mourned for the loss of the Lord in their midst. The Lord commanded that they put off their ornaments. I think this means that they were not to adorn themselves or to wear their shoes or head coverings, but I am not sure. Moses built the tabernacle outside of the camp and those who were seeking the Lord, went to the tabernacle. The people watched Moses go into the tabernacle. The Lord visited Moses at the tabernacle, in the cloudy pillar. The people witnessed this and worshipped the Lord. Then, Moses talked with the Lord face to face and went back into the Israelite camp. Meanwhile, Joshua remained in the tabernacle.

12 And Moses said unto the Lord, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.
13 Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.
14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
15 And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.
16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
17 And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
21 And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Moses asked the Lord to show him the way, meaning God’s way, to lead the people and the way to know the Lord and find grace with Him. He talks of the Lord knowing him by name. This is such an important little gem of the gospel. The Lord knows us personally. He has spoken to the prophets as an intimate friend and father. He can speak to us the same way, through His spirit. He does know each of us. He knows the desires of our hearts. Moses knew that if the Lord knew his heart, He would know that Moses desired to have His presence with him and his people. The Lord told Moses that He would be with him. I think the rest he speaks of in verse 14, is the peace of heart and mind, to know all will be well. Moses asked the Lord how they would know if they were doing what was right, unless the Lord was with them.


The Lord favored Moses and showed His glory, but not his face, so that Moses would not die from seeing the Lord. The Joseph Smith Translation of verse 20 reads, “And he said unto Moses, Thou canst not see my face at this time, lest mine anger be kindled against thee also, and I destroy thee, and thy people; for there shall no man among them see me at this time, and live, for they are exceeding sinful. And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.” Because the natural state of man was a sinful state, no mortal man could see the Lord in this life without being changed to a glorified state themselves. Also, there are additional words for verse 23 in the Joseph Smith Translation, which read, “seen, as at other times; for I am angry with my people Israel.” In Moses 1:11 we read, “But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.” Moses saw the Lord, because he was transfigured or changed to be able to see Him. However, because of the great sins of the Israelites, Moses was not to see the face of the Lord at this time.

I love that in verse 13, Moses recognizes that the people were God’s. Moses was their leader, but he recognized that all these people were God’s and not his own. Often times, when man is given a portion of power, he begins to misuse it. Some seek for power, for the purpose of doing what they want to do and making others do for them whatever they desire. I’m guessing that even though the Israelites were a covenant people, some probably looked to Moses more than the Lord. It took greater faith to see the work of the Lord, where it seemed the power was coming from Moses. He was a great man, but without the power of God, he was nothing. He was indeed a humble man, who trusted in God to show him the way. He was a man who desired to do the work of the Lord, and this should be an example to us of how we should live as well.

Moses knew that he could not lead these people without the guidance of the Lord. I think the world would be in a much better place, if more people could see that God is in every detail of our lives. People do great things because they are inspired by God, not because man is great on his own. At times, I find myself moving along with life and I forget just how much God is helping me with. Then, I fall into difficult times and it is then that I see just how much I must rely on God to have peace and joy. It is great to have reminders in the scriptures and from our church leaders, that we are not alone. The Lord is there to guide us in both good and bad times. He is there and is actively helping us become better people. We need to council with the Lord and follow the path he has for us, just as Moses did in these verses.


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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.


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