This has to be one of the most unbelievable and amazing prayers in all of the Bible. It is not a prayer to be ushered into the Promise Land. As a matter of fact, it is a prayer asking not to get there except under a very specific condition. These wilderness wanderers had been guilty of idolatry. They had invited the anger of God and as a result God had withdrawn His presence from them. No longer would He be their personal guide. No longer would He manifest Himself in their midst. Sure, He would follow through on His promise and bring them into the land of Canaan, but He wouldn’t be the One to lead them there. He would send somebody else to be their guide.
This reality cut Moses to his heart and he cried out – “If you’re not going to go in with us, then we don’t want to go. I would rather lose your presence in the desert than to lose it in the land that You’ve promised to give to us. It’s not enough that you’ve brought us so safely to this land that truly flows with milk and honey, if you’re not going there I don’t want anything to do with it. If such a terrible separation is going to take place then let it happen out here – outside of Canaan – not in the land that you’ve told us you are giving to us. ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.’”
I feel the same way Moses must have felt. I hear people all the time talk about how they need the presence of the Lord to make it through the day, to make it through the dust and the dirt, to make it through the fight – the troubles and trials of this life – and no doubt they do. But I believe that the presence of the Almighty would be missed more in the calm and under a sunny sky. I think that if I were to lose the presence, the fellowship of (not my relationship with) the Lord that I would prefer for it to happen out there in the desert, not in the Promise Land. I agree with Moses, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.”
The prayer of every Believer ought to be, “Through the good times and the bad times, Lord, please be with me.” Yet, I believe that I would miss His presence more in the good times than in the bad times. I would not normally think of my Savior in the storm, but would miss Him so in the sunlight. He’s been to me the last bloom on every flower, the crowning tint in every sky. I think that is where I would miss Him the most – the places that I’m most used to seeing Him. I’ve never considered the storm to be the clothes my Lord wears everyday. That’s just something He wears when there is a job to do. I’m used to seeing Him wear the clothes of calmness because that is the outfit that I’m most used to seeing Him in. To no longer be able to meet my Master in the clothes I’m used to seeing Him would be like seeing the familiar suit left behind by the death of a dear friend.
“Lord, if I must part from You, please let it be in the desert, in the wilderness, now – not in the land of Canaan.”