Exodus 33:12-23 (NRSV)
Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.’ Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”
The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” 21 And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
Isn’t it strange that sometimes in the most unexpected ways, in our most vulnerable and fatigued times, there appears a sage voice with perceptive wisdom and a calming presence? The difficulty may not be removed, and we may still have to trudge through the process on the path ahead. But that perceptive wisdom holds the ache, the sage voice respects our reality, and the calming presence offers a time of rest on the journey. Anxiety and the sense of ‘aloneness’, even in the midst of a busy community, builds a fear that saps hope, clouds our vision and is very fatiguing. It hinders our decisions, leadership and life. Moses says it all.
God knows each of us by name. God’s goodness passes before us, even protecting us in an unlikely ‘cleft’. We might only recognise it as the ‘back’ as that goodness passes, as the cleft of rest rolls us gently back to reality, where we can move forward, strangely calmed and feeling supported. Unexpected gracious love, present and passing before us.
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Ever gracious God,
When we are alone and feel no-one beside us,
Reveal to us that you know us by name,
And you consider us your family.
When we are uncertain of what to do,
Reveal to us your ways
So that we may know your wiser path.
When we ache for identity, as one of many,
Reveal to us your favour
So that we understand more of ourselves.
When we are over-burdened,
Reveal to us your cleft in the solid stable rock,
So that we are held firmly and protected.
you cover us with your kindness.
Let us roll gently into the cleft of rest,
As you pass before us,
So that, refreshed in the moment,
we follow your light before us
on the path that we must tread.
Remind us, and whisper to us,
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”.
Amen, amen, amen.