(Part 1 of 3)
WHAT is ONE THING a church should be known for? What is that non-negotiable ONE THING upon which everything hangs? What is that supreme ONE THING that if you don’t have it, you might as well close down the church?
The answer can be found within Exodus chapter 33. God was about to annihilate Israel. Moses made a desperate prayer. From that passage, we will rediscover that ONE THING.
Recall that Israel was greatly oppressed by the Egyptians. God had compassion upon them and used Moses to bring them out of Egypt. Moses led them through the desert, towards the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. By the time we read Exodus 32, they had a stop-over at Mt. Sinai, where they encountered God and received the Ten Commandments.
Then something went terribly wrong. Moses was up at the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, receiving further instructions from God. Meantime, back on the ground, the Israelites created an idol, a golden calf, and called it as the god that rescued them from Egypt. It was bad enough they violated one of the Ten Commandments, the one against idolatry. Worse, their festivities degenerated into revelry. Put simply, they went wild. The Hebrew term connotes sexual orgies.
Back at the mountain, God told Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.” Not only that, God was getting fed up. “I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone, so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.”
Without missing a beat, Moses pleaded for God’s forgiveness. “Turn from your fierce anger, relent and do not bring disaster on your people.” The Lord relented and did not bring on Israel the disaster He had threatened.
Moses went down from the mountain and disciplined the people. Then he went back to God and prayed, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed. They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive them.”
Now listen carefully to God’s response: “Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised. I will send an angel before you and drive out your enemies. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey.”
Stop at this point. Supposing you were one of those Israelites who just heard that. How would you respond? HALLELUJAH! You would be jumping up and down with excitement. Imagine: You’re on your way to the Promised Land. An angel will go ahead of you. That angel will drive away the people already in that land. You will settle there and enjoy all its blessings, the land flowing with milk and honey.
But there’s one catch. God continued, “But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
Think about that for a minute. God will answer all your prayers. God will bring you every blessing you want. God will even assign mighty angels to serve you. But God Himself will not be with you. Would you accept this deal?