Moses was not going to put up with second best. He was not going to be fobbed off with some second-rate angel. Leading the people of Israel was a daunting task at best, and he needed God himself up close and personal. They’d seen marvellous miracles when God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, but the minute Moses’ back was turned, they’d made a golden calf idol and worshipped it, as though that had the power to help them.
They had repented, but things were just not the same. It seemed that God no longer wanted that intimate relationship with the people they’d been favoured with before. In order to find God’s presence, Moses had had to take a tent way outside the camp. The people could only stop and stare, worshipping at a distance, when the cloud of God’s presence came down on Moses’ Tent of Meeting, some way off.
Moses knew he needed God not just with him, but with all the people. (Exodus 33:12-17) Unless they too knew the intimate presence of God, what hope had they of impressing other nations? They were supposed to be the ‘promised people’ entering a ‘promised land’. Without God’s presence there was nothing to distinguish them from any other tribe, nothing to proclaim that they were the people of God’s choosing. Why bother even trying?
Finally God gave his word – ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’
Without Moses’ persistence in prayer, the people of Israel may have never got a step further. But Moses was not prepared to take second best. Because he himself had a relationship with God – known by name – he was positioned to make bold requests, and not give up until he got what was needed.
It was the reason why St Paul was able to pray for the Ephesians
And it is the reason why we need to pray for one another, boldly and fervently. If the Church today is going to have the slightest chance of impacting those around us, every single one of us needs to be rooted and established in love. Every one of us needs to know we are known by name, and every one of us needs to experience the love and presence and power of God every day of our lives. Do you?