My Presence Will Go With You…

 My dear readers, we will  definitely continue with our New Testament series – but I just could not miss this week’s Torah Portion, Ki Tissa, my favorite Parashah. There are many amazing stories here –   Ki Tissa is one of the richest and most complex portions in the entire Torah; however, there is a particular startling story in this portion that has been speaking to my heart for a long time:   for years I’ve been puzzled by this story; for years I’ve been sensing that God is revealing here a great mystery, not only about Israel, but about each one of us as well.

The 33rd chapter of Exodus describes events happening right after the terrible sin of Israel, right after the golden calf and the tablets broken by Moshe. At the end of the last chapter, we saw Moshe interceding for the people and being able to convince God to forgive Israel. Already, in the beginning of this chapter, Moshe receives God’s confirmation: yes, He allows Moshe to continue his mission of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, the Land flowing with milk and honey. However, in His words we can still hear the echo of His recent wrath. While commanding Moshe and Israel to depart for the Land, He says, “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[1].

Well, this seems to be an absolute and definitive statement, completely clear and expected, completely fair after the terrible sin the people of Israel had committed just before.  This Torah portion, actually, is all about this, about God’s holiness and about how He and His presence cannot, by any means, dwell with a sinful man. I will not go up in your midst … How great must be the readers’ surprise, however, when literally several verses later we read, And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”[2] .

How could it possibly be? We know that  He is not a man that He should change his mind [3], so what can the explanation be for this seemingly contradictory and sudden change of His decision?

This is the profound mystery we find in this Torah Portion – and in this Book at all.   All of a sudden, we realize that this  is not only about God’s holiness, but also –  about God’s mercy. Yes, His holiness is such that He cannot dwell and cannot go with sinful and sinning people, –   yet, He chooses to dwell and walk with His people, for such is His mercy. Don’t you ever think of yourself as not deserving God’s fellowship? Don’t you ever wonder how can God still be patient with you and merciful to you – while you would give up on yourself a long ago?   Just think of it – each one of us knows millions of reasons why the Lord could –and should – tell us: for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are … stiff-necked. Each one of us fully deserves these words, each one of us fully deserves God refusing to go with him – and each one of us is fully aware of that. Yet, more than anything in the world, each of us is longing to hear from Him something completely different: My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest – and the amazing thing is that this is, indeed, what He is saying to us! This is His astounding promise to each one of us, the incomprehensible mystery of His mercy: we are stiff-necked, we do not deserve His love and His mercy, – yet, He goes with us and gives us rest.

***

In most English translations,  we find the same phrasing in both places: “I Myself will go”, “I Myself will not go”. But in Hebrew, it is a little bit different; it says: My face will go with you, and when we remember that prior to this, the Lord promised to send His Angel (Exodus 33:2, 23:20), then we come to the Angel of His Face — Malach Panav. Who is this Malach Panav?  This name is met in full only in one place, Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old, but we see this special Angel, who speaks in the name of God in the first person, and who stands before people in the form of a man, and after these meetings, some people realize that they have seen God, yet their lives have been spared. So, we also see this special Angel in Genesis 18 appearing to Abraham, and when Someone wrestles with Jacob in the place where he subsequentely named Peniel, and in the meeting of Gideon with the Angel, and in the meeting with Manoa, Samson’s father, and in other places. Indubitably, we find him here, as well: The face or presence of God is going with Israel!

This is something we have to remember: there in the wilderness,  this amazing promise of His mercy was given to Israel, in the first place. Unfortunately, too often not only our enemies, but our friends as well –  sometimes, even we ourselves, – see  our people  as being completely left and abandoned by God, as walking alone through the vast wilderness of  trials and sorrows –  as the ones to whom God said: I will not go up in your midst   Indeed, these were His words to us;  but it was also to us,  that He said:  My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”  – and this is the most important  part!  Ever since, His Presence has been going with Israel everywhere – and do you realize what it actually means? All these centuries, in all the pain and suffering we were going through  – in pogroms, in ghetto, in concentration camps, – in all these  horrible moments (or weeks, or months, or years)  of complete loneliness and misery, when to everybody, including ourselves, we  seemed to be utterly abandoned,  – in reality, we were not alone, the Lord has been  walking with us!  In all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them.

 

Excerpts from my book  about Hidden Messiah (“As Though Hiding His Face”) are included in this article, so if you like the  article, you might enjoy also the  book,  you  can get  it  from  my page:   https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/   

[1] Exo 33:3

 

[2] Exo 33:14

[3] 1 Sam.15:29

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Join the conversation (13 comments)

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  1. Angeline Musarurwa

    Julia, you bring comfort to a lonely soul. Last night I saw why Hashem allows bad things to happen to me. How can His Presence be with a sinful person like me, today you have reminded me of His Great Mercy. Be blessed Julia and may He continue to walk with all the Jewish people.

  2. Dr. Maureen Sanger

    Everyone must absolutely read “The Hidden Messiah”. I have done so numerous times and will continue to be Blessed and to experience not only Messiah but the Jewish people I a deeper light with love. Everything that Julia writes unpacks the Scriptures.
    Shalom, Dr. Maureen Sanger

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom Maureen, it’s wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for your generous words, I also wish everyone read about Hidden Messiah, i believe it’s so important for our understanding of Israel’s story. Blessings!

  3. Beth

    Shalom Julia, Thanks much for your insights which are very much appreciated. I dont always send a comment but do rejoice with all that we are able to receive such truths. I always look forward to your blog. God’s blessings on your ministry. Love in Jesus Christ our LORD.

  4. Louie

    Ms Bloom, I have been reading your articles (though not every one, but it has been many) ever since you first began with the Institute and I want you to know I am filled with the Spirit of God and thereby I know that you are surely a person who is guided and protected by the Presence of Hashem. You often write about deeper truths in God’s Word. One day I will meet you and fellowship with you in the Presence of our God, the God of Israel. Thanks for your writings.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words Louie! Blessings!

  5. Carla Gade

    My heart is overflowing! Isaiah 63:8,9 Yeshua!

  6. Eric Luxton

    God YEARNS to make His presence known to Israel ….

  7. Renee Gelman

    This drash made me cry! It really touched my heart! Once our eyes, as Jews, have been opened our hearts yearn and wait for the final deliverance and Redemption of our people Israel! “Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai!”
    “His Love endures forever!” Kili Olam Chasdo!

  8. Nick

    Thanks Julia! This lesson reminds me of, “He May not protect you from everything, but He will be with you through anything.”
    Nick

  9. Brian Parker

    Well said Julia!! And yes we need to remember these words of promise every day. B

  10. Dr i Cromwell

    Shalom Julia Blum, I am a messianic Judean Jew living in england, and i OFTEN feel totally alone. As one of my recent night time prayers to our G-d was just on this sentence. Thank you for this as i personally need and needed it. You MUST also be a messianic jew who believes in Yahoshua truly?
    I do not have a computer of my own have to use government one being TIMED! But would love to keep receiving your lessons etc
    Shalom and may our Hebrew G-d bless you and keep you safe.
    Dr Iathane (Y’israel) E Cromwell 07903592264 mob

    1. Julia Blum

      Blessings also to you, Dr. Cromwell! I am glad you follow this blog!