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?”” (Exodus 33:16, ESV)

The word that the ESV translates “distinct” means “to be distinct, separate, or set apart. It describes the fact that Israel was to be a distinct or different people to God.” [Zodhiates Complete Word Study Bible] Moses understood that God had called out the Jewish people from among every other nation on earth and created a special relationship with them.  They were not to be like the other nations around them, they were to dress differently, live differently, and act differently.  They could not eat the things that every other nation ate, nor could they have the customs of other nations.  Their customs were separate and distinct so that they stood out as different.

Moses also understood that this task was absolutely impossible unless God’s presence went with the Israelites.  He requests that God be present with the Israelites and God agrees to his request.

All of this points forward to a time when God will set apart a people to himself, but this is not the nation of Israel.  This is a people whom God calls out from among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation to be his people and he to be their God.  The nation of Israel was but a down payment and foreshadowing of all that God would do at the cross for every person who puts their faith and trust in him.  The result?  Well, why don’t we let Peter tell us:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV)