The image this short passage paints is arrestingly beautiful: people standing and bowing at the entrance of their tents, while Moses walks and talks with God.
A community at home with itself yet always at the entrance: coming and going. And even God stands at the entrance.
These few verses, evoking a strong yearning for the presence of God, cut across the dramatic tale of the ‘golden calf’ and the intense negotiations between Moses and God on the nature of God’s involvement with his people: will he wipe them out or will he leave them in the lurch or not?
That story has not ended yet but in the middle here we are given hope. Hope for God’s immediate availability, the presence of the Holy one, a physical place to meet Eternity.
Unexpectedly this ‘tent of meeting’, the place to meet God, is outside the camp, at the boundary of the community, liminal. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” A ‘friend’ could also be translated as ‘neighbour’. The word harbours a deep reciprocity, mutuality even as it is often used in ‘one to another’. A similar sense of reciprocity we get from the description of the relationship between John and Jesus.
27 December 2015
Exodus 33: 7-11a
This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.