Face to face

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This paragraph gives us a break in the ongoing conversation between Moses and the Lord, but it tells us something fascinating and wonderful – Moses was in the habit of meeting the Lord!

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Bible passage Exodus 33:7–11

The Tent of Meeting
 7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Regular meetings
As the story of Moses’ conversation with God progresses, we get this interlude to explain that he was in the habit of meeting with the Lord in the tent of meeting. To meet with God is the greatest privilege of all. So when Moses would go out to the tent, everyone would stand and worship. A God who chooses to meet with us privileges us beyond words.

The description of Moses’ meetings with the Lord is fascinating. They would meet face to face and talk together as one speaks to a friend (v 11).

Confident conversation
Obviously this paragraph is placed in the text at this point for a purpose. How could Moses talk with the Lord up on the mountain so boldly? How could Moses challenge God and urge him to keep his promise to the fathers of the nation?

Perhaps because Moses was used to meeting the Lord in the tent down near the people. Moses had confidence in the promise because he was well acquainted with the Promiser!


While we don’t see Jesus physically today, we know that one day we will, and that today we can speak closely with our God because he dwells in us by his Spirit. How would regular meetings with God stir within you greater confidence in God’s promises?

Peter Mead

Deeper Bible study

‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully.’ (1 Corinthians 13:12)

How do we describe the wonder and mystery of God’s presence? What situations build the picture that guides our own journey? God had warned of potential destruction if he went ‘with you … a stiff-necked people’ (vs 3,5). He still meets with Moses, but at a distance ‘outside the camp’ (noted twice in verse 7 for emphasis).

‘The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (v 11): the words are simple but stretch our imagination. Further, in the following dialogue God says, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live’ (v 20; compare 24:9–11). Here is the inherent difficulty in talking about God’s presence. ‘For it is necessary to affirm both that God can be known as intimately present and that he is beyond human reach and knowledge’1. Moses enjoys genuine conversation, but God comes in ‘the pillar of cloud’ and the people only see from afar (v 10). The intimacy of ‘as one speaks to a friend’ prepares readers for the following intercession.

The tensions of intimacy with a holy God continue with the coming of Christ. God ‘made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Yet an experience of that glory led Peter to the tension of approach and distance: ‘he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”’ (Luke 5:8) Christ, however, did not go away! We look forward to the day when we shall ‘see face to face’ (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 22:4), but now friendship involving the free communication of God’s will continues. Christ has said, ‘I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’ (John 15:15).

John Olley


1 RWL Moberly, At the Mountain of God, JSOT Press, 1983, p65–66

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To be in your presence (This is my desire)
Noel Richards.
Copyright © 1991 Thankyou Music

  • Song: There's a sound (Restoration Song)
  • Composer: Lou Fellingham, Nathan Fellingham and busbee
  • Artist: Lou Fellingham
  • Album: Promised Land
  • Publisher: Kingsway Music
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2008 Thankyou Music & The Livingstone Collective/kingswaysongs.com
  • Buy this album here

  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 26 November 2017

    We do not have to go to a special place, a shrine or building, to meet with God. The tent of His presence is not away from the business of life as it is in today's reading. Now He tabanacles, dwells, makes His home, WITHIN us. What a wonder and joy this is! Great God of wonders, without Jesus the baby, the God become man, and the evidence of Holy Spirit power we read of and experience, this marvel would be even harder to grasp. Thank You for Your incredible grace. Please help me to always mix enjoyment of Your presence in my heart with awe and reverence for your sovereign majesty, holiness and power.

  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 26 November 2017

    Such caring, practical, helpful,posts yesterday. Thank you everyone, as I join prayers for you dear Carol, David and Jan and others. Ruth, so good to have you back and know you have been well enough to attend such a helpful training. Please would you remember our WL friend Enyobi from Nigeria? He has just suffered a grievous loss with the death of his mentor, his other 'daddy'.. Enyobi was with him, and then drove his body across several states to the mortuary. This on the eve of his Ordination on 12th Dec. it is a big occasion in Nigeria. As far as I know he is still waiting on God's provision of work, and a future path.

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 27 November 2017

    A mystery hides things from us that are there for us to discover ourselves; we need to do the unwrapping. We know when we feel God's presence in beautiful, heavenly moments; His spirit lives within us........"Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is." (1 John 3:2) May all those struggling with life's troubles know that God is walking our path with us and when necessary, carrying us all to safety. Amen.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 27 November 2017

    Peter Mead asks today "How would regular meetings with God stir within you greater confidence in God’s promises?" I wish I'd read that yesterday when my daughter asked 'Does it work if you don't have faith' That was in response to her and her sister's amazement that I've been healed of two arthritic hips through prayer. After an Xray well over a year ago, can't remember just when it was. But I remember the doctor suggesting I use a walking stick and not to walk as far as I was used to doing. I took her advice until reading "whose report will you believe" and then chose to believe Jesus healed 'all who came to him' Saturday we walked over 7 miles and I was as fit at the end as at beginning. The verse that was stirring in my mind the whole of the weekend was from 1 Jn 3 'See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!

  • Ruth Chisholm | Monday, 27 November 2017

    It's the discipline I like in today's passage, of setting the place and time apart. Yes, God's spirit lives in us, but it's the in-depth chats where we allow time for intimacy, listening without distraction where God's will is often discerned and more of His heart for us revealed. Monday morning, I plan my week, it's a discussion with God, what's necessary, my rest, my reading material, my energies, who should I see, phone etc. It's a structure, but held loosely, as the day, week unfolds, events happen and God's in the moment. Weeks back on the occasion of a cancelled chemo, God taught me how to see broken plans as opportunities, in the moment by moment accompaniment, but it needs the discipline, like Moses, of knowing God's heart to discern His will for us. "He calls us his friends and makes known to us all He has learned from the Father." What a privilege we are given, God shares His nature, His plans, the big picture, and then works it out through His spirit in us, in the finer details. His will be done, His kingdom come, on earth, for His glory.

  • Ruth Chisholm | Monday, 27 November 2017

    GILVIN that's a beautiful verse

  • Lynda Spencer | Monday, 27 November 2017

    What spoke to me today was how the people knew and could see that Moses had a close relationship with God. He didn't even have to speak to them, his life and patterns, as you say RUTH, his discipline, all spoke without words to the Israelite people. It puts me in mind of a song we sing which includes the words, "To be found in You and known as Yours." I want to be known as the Lord's by my very life and habits, that others may see Jesus in me. CAROL, your post (which I got to late) touched my heart. You remain in my prayers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxpPIa-BskY

  • Jack Russell | Monday, 27 November 2017

    Quite a turnaround from before with how the people related with Moses. Going from being wild and out of control, a laughing stock of enemies to honouring Moses and God. Whether they feared the consequences of not doing so or were willingly acting that way is perhaps a pointer to all knees bowing toward Jesus - the implication being that is doing out of choice or being made to.

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 27 November 2017

    The young man Joshua gets my attention, he stayed in the tent, he stayed in God's presence, later he was chosen to lead the children of Israel in to the promised land. To be in God's presence continually. He was in the background not in the forefront but he was getting to know God what an example to us.https://youtu.be/typ7cueKdT4

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 27 November 2017

    The young man Joshua gets my attention, he stayed in the tent, he stayed in God's presence, later he was chosen to lead the children of Israel in to the promised land. To be in God's presence continually. He was in the background not in the forefront but he was getting to know God what an example to us. https://youtu.be/typ7cueKdT4

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 27 November 2017

    The young man Joshua got my attention, he stayed in the tent, he was in the background not up front and he was chosen to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. To be in your presence, to sit at your feet to be in your presence to sit at your feet when your love surrounds and makes me complete this is my desire, o Lord this is my desire this is my desire, o Lord this is my desire to rest in your presence not rushing away to cherish each moment here I would stay this is my desire, o Lord this is my desire this is my desire, o Lord this is my desire

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 27 November 2017

    Sorry friends computer acting strange today it looks like you got my post in triplicate.xx

  • Lynda Spencer | Monday, 27 November 2017

    Well, BARBARA, if any comment is worthy of reading three times that one certainly is! It's the hardest thing, I often find, to stay quietly in God's presence when there is so much to do, so much responsibility. Yet it is vital to our ministry that we do just that. A timely word for me today - thank you!

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