Throughout the book, Barton follows the story of Moses. In this chapter, she focuses on his conversation with the Lord after the people made the golden calf (Ex. 33:12-23). The key in verse 15 when Moses says, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
I remember seeing this passage with fresh eyes a year ago as I was leading a planning process for a congregation. At the time, I focused on the corporate aspect of Moses’ request: do not send us up from here. Clearly, Moses was interceding with God on behalf of the people, but Barton shows a very personal side to this request as well:
What he [Moses] needed now was an experience of God’s goodness, his graciousness and mercy. All of a sudden this was more important to him than any promised land he had ever dreamed of (p. 158).
She goes on to say:
This is a pivotal moment in the life of a leader. It is the moment when whatever the promised land is for us – a church of a certain size, a new ministry, a new building, writing a book, being sought out as an expert – pales in significance when compared with our desire for God. At this point we might realize that we are missing the presence of God for ourselves personally. … there is no promised land we could ever envision that matters nearly as much as the presence of God in our life right here and right now (p. 158-159).
The question for me, and for you, is: do we really believe this? How have I defined the “promised land” in my life and ministry? Am I prioritizing earthly accomplishments for God over my relationship with Him? When I feel frustrated, is it because I’ve put too much emphasis on short-term goals and too little on abiding in Christ (John 15:5-8)?
It’s clear that God gives each of us work to do (Eph. 2:10) and that we are to do it to the best of our abilities. But the next time that I’m feeling beaten up, despite giving it my best, I’m going to try to rejoice in the reward of God’s presence.