The presence of God among his people sets them apart

We are set apart and holy, not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

How will anyone know that you look favorably on me–on me and on your people–if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

Exodus 33:16

This is a passage in Exodus where God reveals his glory to Moses. Almost all of the commentary on this passage focuses on God’s revelation of himself to Moses, and how Moses was permitted to see at least a portion of God’s presence.

However, what is sometimes overlooked is why this was necessary for God to do at all. He didn’t have to reveal himself to Moses. But if we look more closely at what had preceded this event, we see Moses questioning God about exactly how this takeover of the land of Canaan was supposed to work.

It appears that Moses was of the opinion that the people could not accomplish this on their own, that God would somehow need to provide some sort of miraculous help. Moses asked God whom he would send to accompany this collection of former slaves into the land that he had promised them. He wanted to better understand how God would accomplish his purpose with them, reminding God that this rag-tag group consisted of the people God had originally called to himself.

If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”

Exodus 33:13

God responded that he himself would accompany them.

The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest–everything will be fine for you.”
Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.

Exodus 33:14-15

Moses reveals that if the miraculous help they had received when they left Egypt does not continue, then they are better off remaining in the desert. If God was not to accompany them, then what would distinguish them from any other nation?

Moses correctly states that it was God’s presence among them that set them apart. They were to be a unique people due to their unique relationship with the Creator.

In the same way, it is God’s presence among his people today that sets us apart from all other nations. While his kingdom is universal in scope, the unique relationship of believers with our Creator should cause us to act and think in ways that are distinct from our respective cultures. It is his presence that causes us to be the salt preservative in the decaying world, the light amidst the darkness of ignorance.

Ultimately we are set apart and holy, not because of what we do or who we are in ourselves, but because of who he is and what he chooses to do through us.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

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