If we step back from the day to day history that we are reading about in Exodus, to look at the big picture, we remember that the reason for the past ten chapters of instructions in tabernacle blueprints and furnishings and all the rest, is so that God may dwell with and among His people. It has been the desire of His heart, I believe, to dwell with His people, ever since Adam was exiled from the LORD’s presence in Gen 3.
Now by breaking the covenant and falling into idolatry, Israel has caused God to withdraw. Why? Because He does not love them anymore? No!
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you …” Isa 59:2
The reason the LORD gives Moses, for not continuing Himself with the children of Israel, is because they are stiff- necked; i.e., unbending to His sovereignty, lest they persist in their sin and He consume them on the way.
Now, the LORD gives Moses the bad news, as the Scripture calls it, that His Presence will not go with them. This has been the bad news since the day of Adam’s fall! That I am exiled from the Presence of the LORD, that His Presence go not up with me, is the bad news. But then before we get to Moses’ intercession and the good news, Scripture interrupts our narrative with a seemingly unrelated detail, with where Moses pitched the tabernacle of meeting, and how the LORD talked with Moses face to face (Exo 33:7-11).
In fact, this is not an unrelated detail. In Hebrew, the phrase that is used here and throughout the rest of the Torah, for tabernacle or tent of meeting, is moed. The tabernacle of moed. Moed is first used in Scripture during Creation week:
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons (moed), and for days and years;” Gen 1:14
Moed is an appointment, like an appointment on a calender. So the sun and the moon mark the appointed seasons. It is often translated as a set time or appointed time. So,
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘The feasts (moedim) of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts (moedim).” Lev 23:1-2
The festivals, or holy days (holidays) of the LORD (not of the Jews) are His set time of appointment.
But the vast majority of the time that moed occurs in Torah, it is as the tabernacle of moed – of meeting. So moed is an appointed or set time or an appointed or set place, that He has reserved in order to meet with His people, thus the English translation of tabernacle of moed is “tent of meeting” (and not tent of appointment). The Hebrew reveals the purpose of the appointment – so that God may meet with man. For them to draw near to each other until they meet!
It is not an accident that the seemingly out of place detail about Moses pitching the tabernacle of moed, of meeting, is sandwiched between the bad news of God’s Presence separated from Israel, and the good news (“gospel”) of “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,” (Exo 33:14). The tabernacle of moed, which is a prophetic picture of Messiah and the new birth, of God’s Presence dwelling within the believer through Messiah, brings us to the good news!
I believe this is not another example of Moses getting God to change His mind (as we saw yesterday; Moses did not change God’s mind, for He is unchanging!), but the way God interacted with Moses throughout this incident, He did purposely for our sakes, to paint a prophetic picture of the bad news, and the good news! And once again it is Moses’ (Messiah’s) intervention that brings about the good news!
For further study: These chapters in Exodus are often used to show that the Old Testament God is vengeful and wrathful, who must be appeased by the cooler and wiser Moses – a derogatory and low view of God. Does the accurate description of God we are given in Exo 34:6-7 sound more like the God of the New Testament or the God of the Old Testament? Note every adjective used! Are we finding the God of the New Testament and the gospel of grace here in the Old Testament? Is the doctrine of two testaments for two “dispensations” something that we are seeing Scripture affirm or refute?