Scripture: Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Exodus 33:18-19 ESV
Observation: Having confirmed to Moses that his presence will go with Israel to the Promised Land and give them rest, Yahweh (per Moses’ request) agrees to show Moses his glory (above verse 18). Additionally, in the above verse, the Lord tells Moses that he will make his “goodness” pass before Moses and proclaim his holy name: “The LORD” (I AM). Still, he will not reveal his face, for no one could behold the full extent of his glory and live (33:20). So Yahweh instructs Moses to stand near him in the cleft of a rock where he will initially cover Moses with his hand as he approaches and then remove his hand as he passes to reveal his glory to Moses (33:21-23).
We read of a similar theophany (appearance of God) in 1 Kings, chapter 19, where God calls out to Elijah hiding in a cave at Horeb (who is on the run from Jezabel). Here, the Lord commands Elijah to stand on the mount of God while he passes by in the sound of a low whisper (1 Kings 19:9-12). Interestingly, as theologian Walter Kaiser proposes, Horeb may be the exact location as that of Moses’ encounter with Yahweh in our reading. And with both men, God reveals his glory to prepare them for the next stage of their mission.
Takeaway: As mentioned in previous Daily Focus devotions, the author (likely Moses) describes God’s planned appearance and actions in human terms (anthropomorphisms) to convey his glorious attributes. So what will this moment reveal to Moses about his God? That Yahweh is:
- near him and with him (imminent),
- holy beyond his complete comprehension (eminent),
- the perfection of goodness, mercy, and grace, and
- his source of cover (protection) from ill fate.
For all these reasons, Moses can wholeheartedly trust in the Lord’s promises, but at the same time, Moses must not presume on the Lord as if Yahweh were his buddy.
The same applies to us. Thanks to the salvific work of Christ, the Father is near us through his Son and his Holy Spirit who indwell us. And Jesus, who embodied perfected goodness, mercy, and grace, is our source of cover from the ill fate of spiritual death. Thus, we can cry out to Abba Father, knowing that no one or nothing can snatch us from his or his Son’s hand (John 10: 28-29). Still, this secure and intimate relationship we enjoy is not one to take for granted, for our Father is holy beyond our comprehension and will not tolerate unrepented sin. So when we behold his glory, we would do well to come as we are: sinners saved by the blood of Christ who offer nothing more than our gratitude, affection, and wonderment for and of our perfect Lover.
Prayer: Father God, you are good, merciful, and gracious toward us as demonstrated in the gifts of your Son and your Holy Spirit. Indeed, thank you for revealing your glory to us through the beauty of your Son and your creation. So would you please help to trust in your loving care while maintaining a sense of your holiness that calls us to behold your glory in humble, reverent worship? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling