“Show me your glory.” Exodus 33:18
Moses had made a bold request. A daring request. A request few Christians today would think to ask. In a me-centered culture where clay gods are made of the rich and famous, and where many worship at the altars of materialism and self-absorption, seeing God’s glory is not on most people’s list of most important things to do. But it is if you desire the “one thing” (Psalm 27:4); which is to dwell in God’s presence and see His glorious beauty.
John Owen (1616-1683) said, “Nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls hereunto as a constant view of Christ and his glory.”
As Christians, seeing God, through the eyes of faith, is never something that happens apart from His Word. And it is the Word of God, the Bible, which is the single lens by which a person can see God. Similarly, Moses’ desire to see the glory of the Lord was attended by God’s word which the Lord spoke directly to him.
And he (God) said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ Exodus 33:19
Moses had ongoing conversations with God. God’s voice was audible to him. Moses knew the voice of God. He had seen the power of God and stood in the presence of God as one would, in a manner of speaking, face to face (Exodus 33:11). But to see God’s glory, as Moses requested, was to push human interaction with the Eternal, all glorious God to it’s limit. Today, we don’t need to hear the audible voice of God. Because we have His infallible written Word. Which means, everything that God wants us to know about Him he has made clear through the inspired Word, the Bible. Therefore, if we are to see a splendrous sight of Him it will be because we have read and thoughtfully meditated on the scriptures (Psalm 27:4). Gazers of the divine are mindful of this: Seeing God occurs when the Spirit of the Lord, through the knowledge of His word, reveals a deep impression of His reality to a pure and Christ-devoted heart (2 Corinthians 4:6, Matthew 5:8).
Like the Psalmist, whose ‘one desire’ was to gaze upon the Lord and His beauty (Psalm 27:4), Moses yearned to see the glory of God. So he boldly asked the Lord,“Show me your glory.” In light of all that Moses had seen, it might appear to be a strange thing to ask. After all, had he not heard God speak to him from a fiery bush that didn’t burn (Exodus 3:2)? Had he not seen the most powerful monarch on earth, the Egyptian pharaoh, brought to his knees by ten miraculous judgments from God (Exodus 7:5)? Had he not witnessed God’s deliverance when over a million Jews walked safely on dry ground through the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus14:16)? And had he not seen God’s guidance and protection by the mysterious cloud by day and a column of fire by night (Exodus 13:21)? But for Moses it seemed it wasn’t enough. He had seen the works of God, and had heard and been given the words (ten commandments) of God. But there was one thing left that he desired- to see God himself in all His resplendent glory. What he wanted more than anything else was to gaze upon the Divine face. It was a bold request. A daring request. And the thing which was stunning was God didn’t hesitate to fulfill his desire.
The scene that follows in Exodus chapter 33, I believe, can serve to show us how we may deepen our own devotional time with the Lord. After God had warned Moses: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”(Exodus 33:20) the Lord directed him to a place near Him and then onto a cleft in the rock.
“And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock…” Exodus 33:21-22
This is remarkable. The Eternal God said to a mortal man,“Here is a place by Me…” Think of it. The Creator of heaven and earth wanted Moses to be near him. He wanted a one-on-one encounter with him. He desired alone time with Moses. Moses had longed for God to reveal His magnificent glory and the Lord was about to give him a private showing! From this passage of scripture we can learn something about the heart of God. God reveals himself to a person whose innermost passion is to see Him in a wonderful display of His glory. If we look at the focal point of Moses’ request we will observe that he was not asking to see more astounding miracles, nor was it a plea for personal provision. What Moses wanted was to catch a glimpse of God’s beatific glory! Would the Lord not do the same for us whose hearts yearn to be near the Lord of Glory? Most certainly. God desires nothing more than for us to be near him. The apostle James said,
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
If our desire is to gaze on the beauty and glory of God, He will not hesitate to draw near to us as long as we are willing to dwell in His presence (Exodus 33:9). But it’s what God does next which demonstrates the sweet union that happens when we make time to be alone with Him (Exodus 33:7). If we want to experience the nearness and wonder of God it won’t happen in the rush and distractions of life. The scriptures tell us the Lord put Moses “in the cleft of the rock.” Essentially, He took Moses far away from the people to a private place. A small hewn out place, in the side of a mountain. Something like a small cave. It was, to parley a contemporary phrase, Moses’ ‘man cave’. There is much we can learn from this. The wonder, the glory, the beauty of God are the rewards of those who desire to be with Him in private. Jesus too, spent much time alone with his Father. He instructed others to isolate themselves for times of intimate, secret encounters with the Heavenly Father.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
Secret, devotional, heart-felt longings to have a Word-inspired vision of the Lord are the desire of those who want to see, with spiritually sanctified eyes, not just what God can do for them, but to see the wonder of God himself.
Churchman, Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) encouraged Christians to find a time and a place to be alone with the Lord:
“when a man sets apart an hour a day it may be, sets apart some time, and goes into a private closet, or a private walk, and there he does solemnly and deliberately meditate on heavenly things.”
Find your piece of holy ground, that secret place where you can boldly approach God’s throne (Hebrews 4:16) and like Moses, daringly and humbly ask the Lord, “Show me your glory!”
copyright © Steve Covarrubias August 2017