“Show me your glory!” One of my favorite statements made by an Old Testament person, this of course being made by Moses in Exodus 33:18. What a bold statement made unto the God of the universe. I have been reading through the Pentateuch for my seminary course and so I have spent quite a bit of time studying through the Book of Exodus lately. One of the things that I have been contemplating, which I may even write my final paper on, is how God reveals Himself to Moses throughout the Book of Exodus.
But anyway, here is one of those great moments where Moses is about to get an incredible revelation of God, and it is given upon the request of Moses to see the glory of God. A quick backdrop…Moses had been chosen by God to lead the people out of Egypt and into the promised land. Moses knew about the covenant that had been made hundreds of years earlier to the patriarchal fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But Moses was not brought up with such a fresh knowledge of God. In fact, there had been at least 350 years since the Israelites had been living in Egypt where God was totally silent. So, I would assume from Scripture that Moses did not really intimately know God the way the patriarchal fathers did, hence his bold request to see the glory of God.
So, Moses is leading stubborn, obstinate, complaining Israel through the desert towards the promised land. Israel is rebelling almost left and right even though they see the hand of God work in amazing and miraculous ways so often. (sound familiar?) A few times God is so fed up with Israel’s rebellion that He tells Moses that He doesn’t want anything more to do with Israel and that instead He will start over fresh just with Moses and make a new people out of him. Moses always reminds God of the covenant that He has made towards the people of Israel and asks Him to not abandon His covenant promise. But an interesting thing to note is that Moses never flat out agrees with God in His assessment of the people of Israel being rebellious, sinful, stubborn, etc. Not that Moses is defending the people of Israel for their actions, but rather than agreeing with God, he is simply reminding God not to break His covenant for His own name’s sake.
So, this happens a handful of times, which leads Moses up to this most daring request that he makes to the Lord.
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
So, here we see God tell Moses that He will not be going with Moses and the people, but rather will simply send an angel to go with them otherwise He would consume them in a moment because of their rebellion. But again, it does not seem that Moses fully understands the extent of Israel’s sin, including perhaps his own. And Moses now gets very bold in his conversation with God. We can see here a man that truly wants to know the Lord.
Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.
Here we see Moses crying out to God, saying, “Show me your ways” Why? “So that I may know you.” Moses has been following this God because he had been divinely commissioned, but it is apparent that Moses does not really know the character of His God. And now, after struggling through the wilderness trying to make sense of God’s covenantal promise, the issue of sin, God’s wrath, the promised land, etc, he gets to this breaking point where he basically cries out, “Lord, in order to go any further…I must know You!” What passion! And we see this grow into this most amazing request…
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”
“Show me your glory!” Wow! Do we really understand what we are asking when we make such a request? I don’t think Moses really knew what he was about to see. I don’t think he knew that God’s first response would be to let him know that God was so holy, big, and pure that nobody could just see God in His entirety and live. That probably shocked Moses and began to prepare his heart to receive a revelation of God. Then the Lord tells him that he will put in in the cleft of the rock and pass by him so that he would only be able to see His back side.
And now let’s see this amazing revelation of God and the response that Moses has from it:
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Amazing! What an amazing revelation that God gives Moses…and gives to us. The first thing is that God proclaims His name…twice. He is The LORD, the Lord. Just in that alone I’m sure was amazing revelation and power understood. I’m sure the Lord doesn’t proclaim His own name in our midst and we just sit casually with the attitude of “yeah, but what else?” No, I’m sure that the name of God alone would bring us flat on our face. But then the way the LORD describes Himself is amazing. The very first attribute that He makes known in this passage is that of a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love”. How amazing is that? I don’t think Moses was expecting that? And often I don’t expect that when I am crying out to God for a revelation of Himself. He follows as well by showing Moses His wrath that does not go unpunished to the guilty.
And now the response of Moses suddenly changes. His eyes are opened:
And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
Note here that Moses quickly bows his head in worship. It did not take him long to see who he indeed had been talking to all this time in the desert. And notice now that Moses has no defense. He is not telling God to simply remember His covenant. He is no longer avoiding the issue of Israel’s sin…as a matter of fact, he places himself as one of the children of Israel who are stiff-necked and he asks that God pardon their iniquity. He is completely humbled. He recognizes that neither he, nor the children of Israel, deserve anything good from God. As a matter of fact, he knows they deserve to be forsaken. But he has also just seen God proclaim Himself as merciful, gracious, and compassionate, therefore he humbly asks that the Lord pardon their iniquity and take them as His inheritance, not on any basis of their own, but simply because God is merciful and gracious.
Can’t you just see how God’s revelation changes people? And the first thing that seeing His glory does is totally undo us and show us how filthy, dirty, stubborn, and sinful we really are. But thank God it does not leave us there long, but rather, once we see our true condition, He covers us with His mercy, grace, and compassion, and forgiveness, not because of anything we have done, but rather simply because that is who He is. He is the Lord, the Lord, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. Amazing!
It reminds me of a few other people’s reactions who also saw the glory of the Lord.
In Isaiah chapter 6 we see Isaiah have this amazing vision of the Lord high and exalted filling His temple. What is the immediate response of Isaiah? A full on recognition of his utter depravity and sinfulness. He cries out…
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The very first words from his mouth are, “Woe is me…I am lost” After seeing the glory of the Lord, the thing that he is most overwhelmed by is his lostness and utter uncleanness. But thanks be to God that He doesn’t leave him there, but instead has the angel come and touch the coal to his lips, thereby taking away his guilt and uncleanness, this of course being a picture of the sacrifice of Christ which removes our guilt and makes us clean before the Lord, the Lord.
I also think of Peter, my favorite person in the Bible, upon his first encounter with Jesus. Here it seems that Peter only gets a glimpse of the glory of Jesus, and yet we see him with the same reaction…an awareness of his utter sinfulness and depravity…
They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken…
Again, thank God that Jesus did not just leave Peter with his full recognition of his sinful state before a holy God, but rather invites him into fellowship with Him. Peter also would soon come to intimately know of the Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, forgiving iniquity…”
And so it is with us also. Have you ever cried out, “Lord, show me your glory that I may know you!” I have so many times in my life. So, why is it then that I am so surprised that the first thing that He does to answer that prayer is to show me my sin, my utterly helpless condition, my total depravity? But thankfully He does not leave me there, but rather reveals Himself to me just as He did to Moses, Isaiah, and Peter, that He is the Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, but will not let the guilty go unpunished. And then He reminds me, like He did to Isaiah, that through Christ I am no longer guilty! I remain a sinner, but now I am blessed to be counted as a sinner for whom Christ died. Amazing!
So, here is what we need to realize…whenever we ask to see the glory of the Lord, the first thing we can expect to see is how utterly depraved our heart is. This is both normal and necessary. Until we see the utter depravity of our hearts, we will still be left trying to defend our own goodness, or at least like Moses, kind of ignoring the sinful matters that God was bringing to hand. So, anybody who still looks within and seems to think that there is a decent amount of goodness within them is a person who obviously has not seen the glory of the Lord. And we cannot fully understand the incredible mercy and grace that God is if we first don’t truly understand how lost we are. And the other most important thing we must remember is that when God reveals His glory to His children whom He loves, He does not let us die in our frightful recognition of our utter uncleanness before Him, but rather reminds us that He is The Lord, The Lord, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, forgiving iniquity… Yes, my friends, with such a revelation, though my sin continue to be exposed before such a holy God, I will continue to cry out to Him, “Lord, show me your glory!” – Cody