top of page

In Need of an Intercessor

When the Israelites broke their covenant with God at the base of Mt. Sinai, something fundamentally changed in their relationship to Him. Even after doing the equivalent of stomping on His promises and His covenant, God was still going to give them the Promised Land, but now, they weren’t going to be able to go with Him.

Exodus 33 starts out: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

The Lord tells Moses he can lead the people to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord will send an angel (messenger) before them to drive out the various peoples who live in the land. But listen to the middle of verse 3. “But I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” 

Something has dramatically changed. The God who has been with them every step of the way out of Egypt now cannot go with them because he knows he is going to consume them on the way because the people are so stubborn in their hearts.

And so they mourn. What they were getting was so much better than what they deserved but they realized they had just lost so much. They had lost the presence of God, and without that, what’s the point?

Verses 7-11 really detail what was being lost. Moses would take a tent outside the camp to meet with God. When Moses went out to the tent, the people would stand up at the door of their tents. And when Moses entered, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance and the people would worship. That’s how close to God they were before.

Moses went even further than that. Exodus 33:11 says, “Thus the Lord USED to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

The Israelites had a relationship with God, but now, because of their sin, that intimacy is gone. Now God says that his presence cannot go with this people.

They could have said, “Well, at least we can still go to the promised land!” “At least we still get God’s blessings that he promised.” But that’s not how they react.

They realize the blessings of God are nothing without the presence of God.  And in the wake of God’s mercy, the people are convicted of their sins.

Isn’t that sometimes what we need in our lives too? A wake up call where it could have gone so much worse, but suddenly we realize the damage our sin is causing. That’s the first step in repentance.

So how is Moses going to respond to this sentence?

In Exodus 33:12, “Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say 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 grace in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

What does that mean? Moses responds to this disastrous message by talking with God.  “God, you can’t leave! I need to know you. I need to know your ways. I cannot do what you have called me to do without you.”

The Lord agrees, He will go with Moses and Moses will enjoy God’s rest.

Then Moses keeps going: “He said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.  For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

Pay attention to the pronouns here. God says, “You and I, Moses, we’re okay. My Presence is still with you but it can’t be with Israel after this. You were up with me on the mountain, but everyone down at the base committed this awful sin. I can’t be with them…”

But Moses PUSHES God. Moses says, “We need You to be with all of us!” He’s interceding for all the people.

And maybe you can imagine the Lord taking a pause. He thinks for a moment, but Moses has moved Him. He will go with the people, all of them, “for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17) 

The reason God will go with people and dwell in their midst is because Moses has found favor in God’s sight and God knows him. Moses interceded and it pleased the Lord.

That’s the role Jesus plays for us. The reason God can dwell with us is because of the intercession made by Jesus. Jesus is the Son in whom God is well-pleased and accepts his intercession for us.

Even though the repentance and mourning of the Israelites earlier was important, it wasn’t enough to move God. Repentance has no value without an intercessor.


bottom of page