The consolations of God - Sixth in a series
Perhaps the best example of a man earnestly desiring God's presence is the story of Moses, when Israel was in the desert, after her miraculous deliverance from slavery under Pharaoh.
Moses was on Sinai fasting and receiving the 10 Commandments and laws for 40 days and nights, and the people grew anxious and lost faith. They pooled their jewelry and Aaron, Moses' brother who had assisted him in confronting Pharaoh, fashioned a gold calf for them to worship. Well, the cow was a sacred animal in Egypt, where, as a nation, they had resided for hundreds of years.
Moses took the stone tablets that had been engraved with the Law by God's finger, and traversed down the mountain. When he saw Israel dancing before the golden calf he threw down the tablets and they shattered. (Ex 32:19-25)
After a firm and somewhat violent reprimand of God's people, Moses returned to Sinai and fasted another 40 days and nights— again neither eating bread nor drinking water (Deut 9:18-19) — before interceding for the people. He reminded the Lord of the promises he had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so God relented from destroying Israel in his wrath.
The situation was righted to an extent, so that the people might continue on their journey to the Promised Land, however, God stated that he would NOT go with them. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned (Ex 33:3-4).
But Moses had sought the Lord on behalf of Israel, and God relented: My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Ex 33:14)
Moses expressed what all Christians should say: If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence. (Ex 33:15-16) Why take even one step if God is not with us? What would be the purpose? What might be the outcome?
Again, God wrote his Law on two tablets, and told Moses to put them in an ark to protect them. (Deut 10:2)
Moses came down from the mountain, his face shining, and taught the people God's law and they set about constructing the tabernacle for the proper worship of the Lord. It all came to pass just as Moses had told Pharaoh: Let my people go that they may worship me. (Ex 7:16; 8:1; 9:1; 9:13; 10:3)
God made known his presence by a cloud or fire above the tent of the congregation:
When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Ex 40:34-38)
So the people of God journeyed to Canaan, yet none of those who rebelled and worshiped the golden calf and argued against entering the land when Caleb and Joshua brought a good report (Num 14:28-33) were permitted to enter. Neither did Moses enter (Num 20:12). But that is another lesson.
Even so, Israel in the wilderness was blessed, for they had the presence of God. It was enough consolation for a lifetime.