PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 23:20-33; Promises, Warnings, and The Angel of His Presence

02/05 Exodus 23:20-33 The Angel of His Presence

We come now to the conclusion of God’s instructions given to his people at Sinai. He has communicated to them his expectations for what life lived in community with God should look like. He is a God who loves justice and righteousness, kindness and compassion. He alone is to be feared and worshiped and obeyed, and his presence is to be enjoyed. Here, at the conclusion of his commandments, he pours out good promises to his people, and he gives them clear warnings. This is a passage of promises and warnings. I want to look first today at his great and precious promises and heed carefully his dire warnings, and then I want to turn our attention to the primary promise, the ‘who’ of the promise, the angel of his presence.

God has rescued a people out of slavery to be in relationship with him, to be his very own. He has led them and fed them and rescued them from all danger. He has put up with their grumbling and complaining. He has revealed himself to them, and has communicated with them his character and nature. He has given them clear instructions for life within the community of God’s people. Now he is making them promises. He is going to lead them through the wilderness and bring them into a land he has promised to give them. He is promising victory to them. He is promising to fight their battles. He is even revealing to them some of how he is going to give them victory, and why he is going to do it that way. He promises to care for their needs. He promises to bless them abundantly.

But these promises are conditional. He will do these things “if”. And so there is warning. Let’s look at the promises, and then let’s look at the warnings.

Exodus 23:20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

God’s Good Promises

God promises to send his angel before us. The promise of his presence with us is the greatest promise, so we will save it ’till the end. He says he will

guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared

God’s protection is promised on the paths of life. Where ever you go, I will be guarding you. And I have a goal in mind. I will bring you to that place. I will make sure you get there. Your way will not be unopposed. You will have enemies. But I will be an adversary to your adversaries and and enemy to your enemies. I will bring you to face your enemies, but I will blot them out. I will bless your food supply; I will keep you healthy and make you fruitful. I will make your days full and satisfying. I will send my terror and confusion on your enemies, and cause them to run away from you. And here’s how I will do it. I will do it little by little, because if I drove them out all at once, you would not be able to maintain the land. So I will keep them in the land to maintain it for you, and I will drive them out slowly over time, so that you can enjoy the land, so the land does not become overgrown with weeds and overrun with wild beasts. I will gradually give you the whole extent of the land that I promised as your possession. These are big and rich and generous and far-reaching promises. God keeps his promises. At the end of the book of Joshua, we are told:

Joshua 21:44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands.

Then in chapter 23 Joshua says

Joshua 23:14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

God has kept all his promises. Joshua continues with a challenge and a warning

Warnings for our Good

Joshua 23:15 But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

This would have struck home to the people of Joshua’s day. Their parents forfeited God’s promises and died in the wilderness because of their disobedience to God’s clear instructions. God makes good and gracious promises to his people, but he also warns us so that we don’t miss out on enjoying the blessings he provides. Let’s look at the warnings God gives his people here in Exodus 23. He tells them to pay careful attention; to obey his voice, he warns not to rebel against him, for he will not pardon their transgression. He warns not to bow down to or serve the false gods of the people who dwell in the land, or to imitate their cultures. He instructs his people to completely eradicate any trace of their false religions. He warns against making any agreement with the people or their gods. He clearly warns that the danger of allowing idolaters to remain in the land is that they will influence God’s people to sin against God. They will be a snare, a trap, luring them away from enjoying the reality of a relationship with the true God and enticing them to buy a counterfeit. God warns us because we need to be warned. We have an incessant tendency to become enamored with anything and everything besides God. The desires of the flesh, the deceitfulness of riches, the pride of life, the desire for other things constantly competes for our affection. This warning and command is not the restrictive command of a lover afraid of being left for someone else; this is the kind of warning that says ‘if you touch the stove, you will experience pain and injury’. God demands that we have no other gods, not because he is emotionally needy and craves our attention, but because he doesn’t want us to get burned. If genuine fulfillment and blessing comes only in relationship with him, then turning to other gods is turning away from the only source of real life. Our souls will only be satisfied in him, and he wants to spare us the pain of endlessly running after dead-end damning lies.

The author of Hebrews holds up the Exodus generation as a warning to us New Testament believers; a warning against turning our hearts away from the Lord.

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

We need these warnings today because there is a danger for us today. We have a tendency to ‘go astray in our hearts’, and our hearts can easily become ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’. The exodus generation, who were the recipients of so much of God’s revealed truth, and experienced so many of his physical blessings, were disobedient and did not enter in because of unbelief. The author goes on to exhort us:

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

Physical vs. Spiritual

For them the battle was physical. Their enemies were external and physical; Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, Jebusites. The dangers they faced were tangible and physical; starvation, sickness, barrenness, miscarriage. Their borders were physical; from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, from the wilderness to the Euphrates. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). The passions of the flesh wage war against our souls (1Pet.2:11). The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2Cor.10:4, cf.6:7). We are called to:

1 Timothy 1:18 … wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

And we have greater promises of victory.

1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

The Angel of His Presence

This brings us back to the beginning of the passage and the greatest promise of blessing that God gives. We need to ask the ‘who’ question. Who is the ‘angel’ that God sends to see that his promises are fulfilled? In verse 20 it is ‘an angel’ and in verse 23 it is ‘my angel’ and he is simply referred to in the other verses as ‘he’ or ‘him’. It will be helpful to know that the word ‘angel’ in the bible does not necessarily mean a guardian spirit or a superhuman winged creature. ‘Angel’ can simply be translated ‘messenger’. Let’s look at what this passage says about this messenger of God.

It says he was sent by God, that he goes before God’s people, that he serves as guardian on their journey, and delivers them to the place prepared by God for them. It tells us that he must be obeyed, that he has the authority to forgive or not forgive, that God’s own name is in him. We are told that to obey him is to do what God says, that he brings us to our enemies and God blots them out, that he blesses us and God fulfills our days.

This is not the first time that this messenger shows up in the bible. We have seen him before, when God called Moses.

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. …4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

The messenger of the LORD appeared; and God called to him out of the bush. The Angel of the LORD is equated with God. He shows up again at the Red Sea crossing.

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,

So the angel of God is identified with the LORD himself, and is associated with the cloud, but is distinguished from the cloud. I think it is this same figure that shows up to Joshua in fulfillment of God’s promises.

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Let’s look back at what Exodus 23 says about this messenger and see if we can make the connection with Jesus.

We are told that he is God’s angel or God’s messenger.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We are told that he was sent by God

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

He goes before God’s people

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

He is with us as guardian on the journey

John 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

He leads us to the place prepared by God

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

He must be obeyed

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

He has authority to forgive

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” …7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

God’s name is in him – he possesses the character and nature of God

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

To obey him is to obey God.

John 13:20 Truly, truly, I say to you,…whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

He overcomes our enemies.

Colossians 2:13 …having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

He satisfies our hungers and makes us fruitful

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

We have such great and precious promises in Jesus. Let us heed God’s warnings and obey his only Son, Jesus

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~


February 5, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thats very powerful,God richly bless you,so that you can help us achieve more

    Comment by Ntombie | January 4, 2015 | Reply

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