And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
How marvelous that in a Pentateuch where Almighty God distinguishes His people through hundreds of sacramental expressions, touching everything from civil practices to food preparation to waste management, the spirit of these voluminous letters is clearly given in Scriptures like Exodus 33:16. Ultimately, the real distinguishing mark between believers and unbelievers is not in anything we put on or cut off or take in or deprive ourselves of, but in the presence of God throughout our lives of faith.
Maybe you’ve chosen to give up alcohol, friend, or you don’t stay out at bars with your work buddies till the early hours of the morning. Sobriety stands out in a drunken world, but unbelievers can be sober too. Maybe you’ve removed foul language from your vocabulary, and you don’t partake in the slander and gossip that typically accompanies casual conversations. Prudence stands out in a crass world, but unbelievers can be prudent too. Maybe you’ve made some public statement of purity, perhaps it’s a ring on your finger or a note taped to your computer that says, “I will set no evil thing before my eyes.” Purity stands out in a pornographic world, but unbelievers can be pure too. In fact, unbelievers can circumcise themselves and follow ten commandments and decry injustice and pull orphans off the street and pray fervently and fast monthly and tithe weekly, and perhaps even do all this with more aplomb than we do! But there’s a world of difference between practicing virtue for virtue’s sake and practicing virtue for the sake of the glory of God Who “works in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
That God goes with us today, carrying us through every sorrow, empowering us through every temptation, sanctifying us through every trial—that’s what distinguishes us above all else!