It was a critical time for Moses and the children of Israel. After the disappointing betrayal with the golden calf, Moses returned to Mount Sinai, weary and frustrated, to speak with God and make atonement for the sins of the people. Moses asked for God's forgiveness, and God gave a surprising response: "Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way"—I will keep my promise about the land, but then I am finished with you (Exodus 33:3).
God had been in Moses' life for a while now—at God's initiation. We know that Moses did not start out as the most willing participant in God's plan, let alone lead with much more than fearful reluctance. But he had come a long way since those early days after the burning bush episode. He saw God free his people from Egypt, carry them to safety across the Red Sea, and begin to establish the family of Israel as a nation, a people to call his own. ...1