Redefining the Relationship


I remember taking my son to school for the first time when he was only five-years-old. I held his hand each step of the way and personally escorted him into his classroom. Fast forward ten years when my son was entering high school. On his first day as a freshman, there was no hand holding. The priority of my presence as father had changed. In similar fashion, Israel’s relationship with God had changed. This shift in the relationship was not associated with maturity, but instead, took place because the nation had a stiff neck. A stiff neck that caused them to overlook or forget the covenant demands and promises of the one true God.

  • What takes place in your life when you overlook or forget your need to worship and obey the one true God?


33:1 The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What things in verses 1-3 show God keeping his covenant promise to the nation of Israel?
  2. Why couldn’t God go with the people to the land of milk and honey? How did the people react to this?
  3. Though his presence would not go with them, God did not abandon his people. What do verses 7-10 tell us about this?
  4. What does this passage reveal about Moses’ relationship with God and the impact it had on others?
  5. What is the lesson that you can learn as you stop to consider the reality that there are consequences for spiritual rebellion?


Israel rebelled and blew off God by ascribing worth to cheap substitutes. Their standing with God did not change, but their relationship with him was damaged. In response to the nation’s unfaithfulness, God faithfully redefined the relationship on his terms. He wanted his people to move forward to the land of promise. However, he made a major announcement, through Moses, that would significantly impact the journey of a nation that struggled to remember their need to yield to the one true God. The announcement? He would not go with them. True to his character, he could not go. However, God is always faithful to arrange circumstances so that our dependence and focus returns to him. Even though his children miss the mark, he is always faithful.

  • Ask God to point out places where you are ascribing worth to cheap substitutes.
  • Make a commitment today to worship—with your thoughts, words and actions—the one true God.