On her twenty-first birthday, Barbara Hutton inherited the $50 million Woolworth fortune. She seemed to have a glamorous life with a lavish debutante party, mansions around the globe, and the royalty of Europe as friends. But all her wealth could not buy love: her mother had committed suicide when Barbara was four years old, and her father abandoned her. This emptiness continued throughout adulthood as she hurtled through seven loveless marriages.
Mansions, parties, and money are hollow substitutes for gifts of time, concern, and love. Even if we understand this in our human relationships, we might not always factor this into our relationship with God. We can grow complacent with the gifts He gives and forget our worship and affection for the Giver. When our prayers become a pretense for getting what we want, we’ve surrendered to this temptation.
Moses shows us what kind of relationship we were created to enjoy with God. His relationship with God is likened in this passage to a friendship, the first time we encounter that description in Scripture. Moses relied on open communication with God. He often left the camp for the Tent of Meeting at times when he needed answers to questions, consolation in discouragement, or simply wanted to offer worship and thanks.
Imagine, then, Moses’ horror at the idea that God would withhold His presence from the people. He hadn’t reneged on His promises. He would still lead them to the Promised Land. The gifts would be theirs, but because of their sin, He was no longer promising to go before them and with them. That had been Moses’ confidence in undertaking this mission (cf. Ex. 3:12)!
Moses demonstrated an authentic love for God. It meant that He preferred God to any of the gifts that He could give. He would rather have God’s presence then freedom and luxury in a land without Him. God heard and answered Moses’ prayer, granting mercy to the Israelites.