What Distinguishes the People of God?
Exodus 33 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. At the bottom of the page in the Bible I read for my daily devotions I noted, “It is the Presence of God—the ‘with-ness’ of God—that distinguishes the people of God.” It wasn’t just that He had delivered the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt that made them His people, it was that He was present with them.
This chapter relates the incident when the Israelites had greatly sinned through idolatry, and God had threatened to destroy them, or, barring that, to withdraw from them so He wouldn’t be tempted to destroy them. But Moses and the people seemed more distressed about the idea that God would withdraw His presence than of His threats of destruction. Moses pleaded that either God would go with them, or that they would not go forward at all.
God had said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest,” which was reassuring, for Moses said, “How will anyone know that You are pleased with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” So, if we were asked what distinguishes God’s people from everyone else, would our first answer be that it is His presence with us that is our hallmark? That presence is what Moses sees as the essential distinctive for God’s people.
It is not just our assurance that He has redeemed us and brought us out of bondage that marks us as His people, His children. He did that, but it was a means to an end, not the end in itself. He redeemed and delivered us so we could be with Him, and He with us. If that is not what we are experiencing, we are missing the primary reason for which we were saved. We need to ask ourselves if our distinguishing feature as a child of God is His active, personal presence in our lives. And if we cannot answer “yes” to that question, we need to plead with Him, as Moses did, that we not go another step until we can be assured that He is, indeed, present with us.