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Moses: A Model of Confident Humility

It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Confident humility.... In the time that he lived, Moses was called the meekest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). We see something of his timidity in his reluctance to accept God’s call to go to deliver the Israelites in the first place (Exodus 4:10-12). We understand humility is a crucial aspect of Christian character (Psalm 147:6, Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6), but sometimes misunderstand what it really means and, by doing so, miss out on some of the greatest benefits of our relationship with God.

Moses’s prayers reveal something unexpected about humility, that is: Humble dependence on God enables bold confidence to ask for the extraordinary.

Exodus 33:12-19

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’

This prayer of Moses comes in the wake of the golden calf incident where Aaron had listened to the assumptions of the people that Moses wasn’t coming back from the mountain of God and capitulated to their desire to craft a new form of worship that hearkened back to their experiences in Egypt.

The Lord’s first threat was to completely annihilate the population and start over again with Moses as the genetic funnel through which the Abrahamic covenant would be fulfilled. Moses prayed to the Lord on behalf of the people, and God graciously withheld his wrath. Nevertheless, the incident highlighted a universal difficulty: the impossibility of a holy God dwelling with sinful man. His determination was to send an angel to lead the people to the promised land instead. Verses 12-19 record Moses’ response which is, quite honestly, shockingly bold!

1. Confident prayers find their support in God’s own words. (v.12)

Notice how, in verse 12, Moses leans in on “you have said.” Furthermore, at the end of verse 13 he reminds the Lord (not that He had forgotten) that “this nation is your people,” hearkening back to the Lord’s word to him from the burning bush back in chapter 3. We are right to be careful in demanding anything from God that He Himself has not promised. However, when it comes to claiming personally the things that he has committed himself already to perform, we ought to pray with power and confidence.

2. Confident prayers express great dependence (v.13)

How is it, in verse 13 that Moses expects to find favor in God’s sight? Is it through his best efforts? His logical deductions? Through reading helpful authors, or committing to a plan of self-improvement? Clearly there is only one source for him to obtain this important content: fellowship with the Lord himself. “We can’t possibly please you unless you reveal yourself to us.”

3. Confident Prayers seek God’s glory (v.15-16)

God had demonstrated his power over Egypt in such a way that even his enemies declared “let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against us” (Exodus 14:25) What might they say who found the millions of dead Israelite carcasses in the wilderness should the Israelite host be annihilated as the Egyptians were? Who then would proclaim the greatness of God? “Unless Israel succeeded where other nations would expect them to fail, no one would infer that their God was great” Whenever our desire is first and foremost to see our Savior exalted, we can be confident that however the prayer is answered, the Lord who sees the heart, is pleased in our asking.

4. Confident prayers ask for greater and greater things (v.17-18)

As the Lord answers affirmatively that He will not leave his people (v.14, 17), something compels Moses to make what must be one of the greatest requests in all of recorded Scripture: “Show me your glory.” Moses had seen God’s glory in the smoke and fire which surrounded them by day and by night, had experienced the glory of God’s fiery presence on the top of Sinai, and had communed with the Lord in the tent of meeting until his own face glowed with the light of God’s presence, yet he longed for more. It wouldn’t be out of line to suggest that perhaps his real desire was to see the actual face of God based on the Lord’s response in v.20 that no one can see his face and live. Yet what he was able to experience of God’s glory as recorded in 34:6-7 wouldn’t be replicated until the Word of God, Christ Himself took flesh and, in him, Yahweh dwelt personally among men and we beheld his glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father.

Rather than timidity, fearfulness, doubt or blind hope, the Lord intends for our prayers to be humbly confident. Humble enough to recognize that God must work but confident enough to believe that He will accomplish all he has promised and more!

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