Exodus 33:14 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
GOD’S PRESENCE WITH HIS CHURCH
Exo 33:14. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
IT is not in the power of words to express, or of any finite imagination to conceive, the extent and riches of divine grace. The instances in which it was manifested to the Israelites of old, inasmuch as they were obvious to the eye of sense, are more calculated to excite our admiration; but the church at this time, and every believer in it, experiences equal tokens of God’s kindness, if we can but view them with the eye of faith. It was under circumstances, wherein the Israelites had justly incurred God’s heavy displeasure, that the promise in the text was made to them: and to us, if we do but use the proper means of attaining an interest in it, is the same promise given, notwithstanding our heinous backslidings, and innumerable provocations.
That we may be stirred up to improve it, we shall point out,
The blessings here promised—
Though the promise was given immediately to Moses, yet it was not literally fulfilled either to him or to the people of that generation; since both he, and they, died in the wilderness. This circumstance alone would lead us to look for some mystical accomplishment, which it should receive; and while the Scripture warrants, it will also fully satisfy, our inquiries on this head. The promise has relation to us, as well as to the Israelites; and teaches us to expect,
God’s presence in our way—
[God had refused to proceed any further with the Israelites, on account of their worshipping the golden calf. In answer however to the supplications of Moses, he had condescended to say, that he would “send an angel” in his stead. But when Moses would not be satisfied with that, and continued to plead for a complete restoration of his favour to Israel, God, overcome, as it were, by his importunity, promised to go before them still in the pillar and the cloud [Note: Exo 32:34, with the text.]. More than this they did not need; and less than this could never satisfy one, who had ever experienced the divine guidance and protection. And has not our blessed Lord made the same promise to us? Has he not said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world [Note: Mat 28:20.] ?” Has not his prophet assigned this as a reason why we should dissipate our fears, and look forward to the eternal world with confidence and joy [Note: Isa 41:10.] ? On this promise then let us rely; and let us know, that if we have God for our guide, our protector, and provider, we have all that can be necessary for us in this dreary wilderness.]
His glory as our end—
[Canaan was a place of rest to the Israelites after the many difficulties that they sustained in their way to it: and heaven will be indeed a glorious rest to us after our weary pilgrimage in this world. Now as the prospect of the land flowing with milk and honey, sweetened all the fatigues and dangers of their journey in the wilderness, so the hope of “that rest which remaineth for God’s children,” encourages us to persevere in our labours to attain it: and this rest is promised us, in spite of all the exertions of men or devils to deprive us of it. Our conflicts may be many, and our trials great; but our rest is sure; for God hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee [Note: Compare Jos 1:5, with Heb 13:5-6.] ”.]
These blessings being so necessary, we should anxiously inquire into,
The means of attaining them—
Moses is here to be considered in a double view, as a type of Christ, and as an example to us: and, in these two capacities, he teaches us to look for these blessings,
Through the intercession of Christ—[Christ, like Moses, has immediate access to that Divine Being who is wholly inaccessible to us [Note: 1Ti 6:16.] ; and it is owing to his entrance within the tabernacle to “appear in the presence of God for us,” that the wrath of the Almighty has not burst forth upon us on numberless occasions, and consumed us utterly [Note: Heb 9:24.]. It is not only at our first return to God that we must seek the mediation of Jesus Christ; we must apply to him continually as our advocate with the Father, expecting nothing but through his prevailing intercession. This is the way pointed out for us by the beloved disciple, especially in seasons, when fresh-contracted guilt has excited just apprehensions of the divine displeasure; “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous [Note: 1Jn 2:1.].” Whether therefore we desire grace or glory, let us seek it through Christ, as the purchase of his blood, and the consequence of his intercession.]
Through our own importunate supplications—
[While the Israelites put off their ornaments in token of their unfeigned humiliation, Moses, as their representative, importuned God for mercy, and urged his requests with the most forcible and appropriate pleas [Note: 2, 13.]. In this manner should we also cry unto our God for pardon and acceptance, not enduring the thought of being left by him, lest we come short of that rest to which he has undertaken to lead us [Note: Heb 4:1.]. Nor should we cease to plead, till we have an assured hope that he is reconciled towards us, and a renewed prospect of his continued presence with us to the end of life. It is in this way that his people have prevailed with him in every age [Note: Dan 4:7-8; Dan 4:17-19.] ; and he has pledged himself to us, that, when our uncircumcised hearts are humbled, he will remember his holy covenant, and return in mercy to us [Note: Lev 26:40-42.].]
How greatly are we indebted to Jesus Christ!
[Where shall we find one who has not made to himself some idol, and “provoked the Lord to jealousy?” And how justly might God have sworn in his wrath that we should not enter into his rest! But our adorable Saviour has sprinkled the mercy-seat with his precious blood, and offered up the incense of his own prevailing intercession on our behalf. Surely he is well called “Our peace [Note: Eph 2:14.],” since he alone procures it, maintains it, perfects it. Let us bear in mind then our obligations to him, and ascribe to him the glory due unto his name.]
How earnest ought we to be in intercession for each other!
[In the history before us we behold one man interceding for a whole nation, and that too under circumstances where there could be scarcely any hope to prevail: yet he not only obtains a revocation of the sentence which God had passed, but a renewal and continuance of his wonted favours towards them. Shall we then neglect the duty of intercession, or intercede for each other merely in a formal way, as though we expected no answer to our petitions? Let us not so greatly dishonour God, and so wickedly slight our own privileges [Note: 1Sa 12:23.]. We are expressly commanded to pray one for another, yea, and to make intercessions for all men [Note: Jam 5:16.]: let us not doubt therefore but that, by pleading earnestly with God, we may obtain blessings for our friends, for our country, and for all whose cause we plead. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”]
How happy are they who are enabled to live upon the promises!
[Were we to consider the length and difficulty of our way, the enemies we have to encounter, and our utter insufficiency for any thing that is good, we should utterly despair of ever reaching the heavenly Canaan. But God promises to us his presence in the way, and his rest at the end of our journey; and “he who has promised is able also to perform.” Let our trust then be in him, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Let us “cast our care on him who careth for us.” Let our discouragements, yea, our very iniquities, bring us nearer to him, and cause us to rely more simply on his word. Thus shall we experience his faithfulness and truth, and be monuments of his unbounded mercy to all eternity.]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.