Exodus 33:12-23

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 33:19 (HCSB)

19 He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”


This passage seems to be the detail of Exodus 33:11, from the last passage, with Moses speaking face to face with God. We continue to see the contrast between Moses and the rest of the Israelites when it comes to the relationship with God. Here is what we might note from this passage:

  1. Moses speaks freely with God. Isn’t that what a relationship does? It is not that Moses is crude or disrespectful, like we can often be even with our best and closest friends, but he has the freedom to speak his mind, his concerns and cares, and his differences with God’s plans. This is what our relationship with Jesus should look like, not a sanitized, through the motions, vanilla relationship. We should plead with Jesus, just as Moses pleads with God, as well as rejoice with Him over things that are joyful.
  2. Intercession works! The idea of God “changing His mind” is something that troubles me a bit, and I think is a bit of theological quicksand, but it seems undeniable that Moses’ intercession here changes the trajectory of events. God had said He would not be traveling with the Israelites on their trek to Canaan, but Moses does not accept that and continues to ask God to change His mind. And what we end up seeing are two shifts. First, in Exodus 33:14, God concedes to going with Moses. The second “you” in v14 is a singular use, so it would seem that God is specifying just Moses as the one He will be with. But Moses follows up again with a request for God to be with all the Israelites, all His people (also suggesting that v14 was directed solely to Moses). And then we have the second shift, and God relents and grants that He “will do this very thing you have asked.”
  3. Just like we can reap the negative repercussions of sin, even the sin of others, we can also reap the rewards of the obedience and intercession of others. God has changed His mind, He has decided to honor Moses’ request, and will be with the Israelites. But notice in Exodus 33:17, it is not because of the Israelites, it is because God knows Moses, and Moses has found favor. Perhaps this is why there are plenty of spots in scripture that guide us to associate with believers over those opposed to God?
  4. God decides who will receive His grace and compassion. Even though it seems like God has changed His mind, and done it twice in a matter of seconds, it seems to me that this is not a literal description of God. I think that this section of scripture is emphasizing the relational aspect of God, and specifically our interaction with Him, thus He is described with some human-like attributes. I say that because in Exodus 33:19 God reminds us that He’s the one who decides. It’s not a group thing, He’s not accepting and considering input from man, there is no internet poll that He has posted. I think all along God knew this was His decision, I think the intercession was for Moses, and by extension, for us. It is a practical example of what a facet of our prayer life should look like. It was a chance for Moses to experience the grace and mercy of God. There is nothing to suggest that suddenly, because Moses asked for Him to come along, God now might not destroy the stiff-necked people… yet He is coming along. God is never out of control, and He always knows what is to happen. And that should be a great comfort to us, no matter what the situation.


Lord, thank You for Your grace and mercy. And thank You for being always in control. And thank You for bringing us into Your family, and establishing a relationship with us. I pray that we will continually draw closer to You, and deepen our prayer life through honest conversation with You, just as though You were our best friend sitting across from us. Thank You for listening to us, and for allowing us to join You in Your plans. Amen.


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