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If Thy Presence Go Not

If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” Exodus 33:15

Dear congregation,

This is one of the most remarkable prayers in the Bible. It is not a prayer to get to the promised land. It is a prayer against getting there if it means losing the presence of the LORD. Because Israel had been guilty of idolatry, the LORD threatened to withdraw His presence, cease to be their Guide, and to send an angel in His place (v.2). No, He would break His covenant promise of bringing them to Canaan, but it wouldn't be by His hand. He would put them into the hand of a trusted emissary. To this Moses says in effect, “If I must choose between a dessert place with Thee, and prosperity without Thee; I will stay here in the dessert.” “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.”

Dear one, what if the LORD would say to your soul, “Salvation, peace, and heaven are thine. For thee there shall be no more trial, no more sorrow or grief, no more fear or pain. Thy way will be, from this day forward, a plain smooth path to heaven. But I will not go with thee. My personal presence will no longer lead. Thou shalt have a pillar and a cloud, yes, but I will not be in it. I will send some other means to be your guide.” What would your reaction be? To Moses, and the people of God, no matter how difficult life in the dessert may be, it would be nothing compared to His absence. The believing heart knows that nothing else can take His place. Nothing can take the place of that immediate, close, and assuring presence of the Spirit. Matthew Poole once said of this text, “Let us rather live and die in the wilderness with thy presence and favor, than go into Canaan without it; for even that promise of rest, which I value so much, is worthless without thy presence,” So Moses echoes back God's own words from verse 14, and turns them into a prayer, ““If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” Can you say this?

Your servant in Christ,