This passage reminds me of an adult dealing with a wayward child. How many times have parents felt themselves say about their own kids, "I will not go up among you... for you are a stiff-necked people." Well, maybe "consume" is an odd choice of words but we all get the point.
We have this odd relationship with God at this point in that God is going to go with us but is not entirely pleased with us. Maybe God seems to wonder about how good an idea it is to share covenant us!
We also see the belief about God being a local deity. Rather than understanding God to be omnipresent, Moses is imploring God to go with them if God is going to direct them to a certain location.
Finally, we see conflicting stories about how Moses interacts with God. On one hand, verse 11 tells us that Moses spoke with God face to face. Then another account at the end has God covering Moses so that Moses will not see God. Moses sees God's back but not God's face.
|We all have different perceptions as well|
as different interpretations.
It may seem at first glance that this gives us less knowledge because it seems contradictory. However, it does prod us to think more of the mystery of God.
When we share our beliefs about God, they may indeed differ with our neighbor's. Yet both may be needed for a more complete understanding of how God works in our world.
Have you ever discounted another person's views on God because they were wildly different from yours? Maybe rather than outright dismissal, what today's reading tells us is that both may be important for how God is perceived in human reality.
So Moses speaks with God face to face. And yet, Moses can only see the back of God because seeing God's face would be too much for a mortal. As both are true for Moses, they may also be true for us. There may be times when we deeply experience the presence of God and there may also be times when we can only perceive where God has been.
Photo by vigo74 via Flickr.com, used under the Creative Commons license.