Good Morning Yamon Ki Yesepar and Nevim Arith Haymon:
Exodus 33:14: “And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”
The other night was a warm, beautiful December evening. It was late at night and I was in Southern Illinois on my way to Terre Haute, Indiana. I walked outside alone with God and together we sat under the stars and shared a few moments together. I was reminded of Exodus 33:14.
In looking at the phrase: “My presence shall go with thee…” I find a couple things that give me pause. The first is that the word “to go” is “yeleku” in Hebrew which is in a simple qal imperfect form. I would expect God to put this in a piel form or add a Nun at the end and make the word a paragogic, in other words intensify the word where it would be rendered, “I will most certainly go.” The other question that comes to my mind is why the word for “presence” is in a plural form. Literally this reads: “My presence they shall go.”
Probably one solution to this is that we need to keep in mind that the plural in Hebrew is a little different that the plural in English. In Hebrew, when something is in a plural form it does not have to mean “more than one.” If something is in a plural form it could also be used to express the uniqueness of something or that something is in its ultimate state or is supreme to all others. This would explain why the word “to go” is not in an intensive form. The plural more than makes up for this. Perhaps, what God is saying to Moses, is that he will be guided by the very unique presence of God. This will not be a feel good presence or a counterfeit presence that he drums up with fast music and wild dancing. He will not need to spend hours reciting “praise God” over and over until he feels that “rush.” This will be the genuine article. There is a picture drawn here. It is the presence of God coming softly and naturally as a husband stepping quietly into the bedroom and embracing his wife who is asleep. She then quietly awakes in his arms and returns his affection. The title of Jeanette Oakes’s first book could be Yeleku in Hebrew – Love Comes Softly.
In verse 11 we read: “And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. The word for friend is “ra’ah” which means to consume. The picture is one of two lovers staring into each other’s eyes just consuming each other with their passion. It is like two lovers lying on the ground looking up at the stars and dreaming of their future, the house, white picket fence, dog, children, etc. Then all of a sudden the man will say, “Well we have to get back to work and paint the living room.” His wife would respond by saying: “Ok, we will paint the living room under one condition. I hold a brush in one hand , you have a brush in your hand and we have our other arms around each other and you just keep holding me as we complete this project. When it is done, then let’s come back to this spot and lay here together under the stars” The husband looks at his wife and says: “Yes, I will not only continue to hold you, but I will never take my eyes off of you as we paint.”
Moses and God are sharing a very intimate time on the mountain, just totally absorbed with each other’s presence. All of a sudden God says: “Well back to work getting these people to the promised land.” Moses responds: “Ok, but under one condition, that you continue to hold me, we continue to be absorbed with each other.” God responds by saying: “Of course, but not only that, my eyes will never leave your eyes and when the job is done we will lie together on the mountain again like this and never leave.”
As God and I sit out under the stars talking of our journey together, He suddenly says: “Well, let’s get to work to encouraging My people to study My Word.” I rebel and say: “No, I like it here with you. If we have to go, I will go under one condition that you just continue to hold me.” God responds and says: “Yes, I will continue to hold you on your journey, but not only that I will never take my eyes off your eyes. And one day the journey will end and we can lay out under the stars together forever.”
Oh, and the word “rest?” You wonder where I get this “under the stars stuff” In the Hebrew the word for rest is “navch.” This word implies a rest that comes from just laying down, or a repose. The word “nathan” means “to give.” This word begins with a “nun” and ends with a “nun” and has a “taw” in the middle. This would imply God is promising a rest of repose. In other words God is saying, I will continue to hold you, look into your eyes and no job that I give you will keep us from that time when we will just lay down on the ground and look up at the stars together and one day your work will be over and you will never have to leave to get back to work.