Ex 32:2 I will send an angel before you, … 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you,
Read Exodus 32:30-33:23
Years ago I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, this week I have had the privilege of re-reading this story with my 5 year old daughter. There is a telling moment when the crew of the Dawn Treader cast anchor on “the island where dreams come true.”
In this beloved tale by CS Lewis King Caspain and his crew discover an enchanted island. It appears to be truly magical; their dreams come true. At first glance this sounds like an amazing place. As their adventure on the island progresses the Narnians discover that actually getting their hearts desire may not be the best, most magical, or most desired outcome. Their deepest dreams become their worst nightmares.
This passage in Exodus seems to describe a very similar event. The people of Israel have longed for freedom. They have longed for the absence of rules and restrictions. They have longed for a God they could control. They ask for the Promised Land, but not the God of the Promised Land. Often in the Old Testament God’s arrival and presence is described as “the angel of the Lord.” In this instance God promises to send an angel (heb. malak) but not the angel of the Lord (heb. malak yhwh).
The people of Israel have asked for their hearts desire: life without the God of Israel. If you read verses 2 and 3 of this story, God does promise to give the people of Israel success. He will in fact even send an angel to go before them, but God himself refuses to go with them. God does not want to be used as a means to an end. The people of Israel longed for freedom more than they longed for God.
Just as Caspian discovered that getting his wildest dream was not what his heart actually needed, Moses and the people of Israel have recognize their need for a Redeemer. Receiving the Promised Land but not having God’s Presence becomes anything but the Promised Land. A land flowing with milk and honey without God’s presence is nothing more than a sticky and sour mess. It is God who makes the desert into a fair paradise. It is the presence of God that transforms any situation. The darkest night becomes the brightest day with dawning of the rays of his glory.
On the cross, Jesus experiences what none of us should have to experience. He hears those words that Israel heard, “I will not go up with you.” In this story of Exodus, Moses offers to potentially be cut off if it will redeem Israel. On Calvary Jesus, does not just potentially offer to be cut off but literally asks to be cut off that we should be redeemed.
Today reflect on your deepest longing. What is it? Or better said Who is it?