Show Us Thy Glory
BY ROBERT M. NORRISMoses has been called to Mount Sinai to receive the law of God. Because he has been away longer than expected, the Israelites begin to panic, assuming that their leader has died. They persuade Moses' brother Aaron to build a golden calf for them so that they can have a new god to worship. They offer sacrifices to it and then indulge in revelry. As sin follows sin, they draw farther and farther away from the Living God.
When Moses sees them on his return from the mountain, he burns with anger. He casts down the two tablets of the Testimony, breaking them into pieces. He then burns the golden calf in the fire, scatters its powder into water and makes the Israelites drink it. Then, through a series of events, in which thousands are killed by the sword and a plague from God, Moses draws the people back to God in remorse and confession.
It is against this background that we come to Exodus 33. God begins by telling Moses that because the people are so stiff-necked, He will no longer lead them into the Promised Land Himself, but will send an angel in His place. But after the Israelites have humbled themselves and Moses has interceded for them, God reassures Moses that He will go with them after all. Then in verse 18 Moses makes this remarkable request: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory."
Heartfelt desire. Moses has received the promises of God and seen those promises fulfilled. He has witnessed God's mighty power. God has even spoken to him as intimately as a man speaks with his friend. Yet, he now cries out, "Show me thy glory." It is the cry from a heart that yearns to know God better.
Moses isn't allowed to look upon the face of God, however, for no one can do that and live. But after the Lord has put Moses in the cleft of a rock and covered him with His hand, He causes all His goodness to pass before him. God then removes His hand so that Moses can see His back. Exactly what Moses sees, the scripture does not say. All we know is, "And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord" (34:5).
But as God passes by before Moses, He makes a proclamation, which serves to put into words the glory that He is showing Moses. Recorded in verses 6 and 7, it reads:The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.Moses' response to this glorious revelation is instant and spontaneous. Verse 8 says, "And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped."
May I suggest to you that what God reveals to Moses to cause him to immediately bow down in worship, He reveals to you and me as well. And it is only after we have received that knowledge of God does our worship become real.
The goodness that Moses SeesWhat has God revealed to Moses? Which attributes of His does He emphasize in His proclamation? Let's examine that statement closely:
Self-existent. God begins by declaring His name, "The Lord, The Lord God"or I am that I am.
Moses thus sees that he is dealing with the ever-existent One. God created all things, yet He Himself never was created. He always exists. Being self-existent, He is also self-dependent. His well-being is not dependent upon our worship. He does not need us to believe in Him. We do Him no honor by confessing His name.
The name I AM THAT I AM also means that God never changes. He is immovable. In all the changing tumult of our life, God is the one fixed point on which we can focus. And while people and circumstances oftentimes betray us, God remains faithful in His love for us.
Because God is ever-existent, He is the Living God that is omnipresent. Our Lord Jesus is in heaven, and yet He is also right here with us. His Spirit lives in our heart, leading, teaching and comforting us as we live our everyday life.
Merciful. The first attribute that God calls to Moses' attention in His proclamation is that He is merciful, keeping mercy for thousands and forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.
It's this quality of God that predisposes Him to grant compassion and clemency to believers. Even before the foundation of the earth, He had written our names in the Lamb's Book of Life. We, being sinners by nature, deserve the full measure of His wrath, but He, being merciful, has pardoned us instead.
It was this quality of God that excited Paul when he wrote, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (Eph. 2:4,5). God is so merciful, says Paul, that when I was trodden down with sin, He made me alive in Christ.
Gracious. Another virtue of God that was revealed to Moses is His graciousness. "The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious..." When God first told Moses that He would make all His goodness pass before him, He also promised, "I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious" (33:19).
By His mercy, God unilaterally chose not to punish the sins of His elect, and by His grace, He pours unmerited gift after unmerited gift to them every day. The very air that we breathe, the days that we have, the moments that we share, how we can be thankful for them. And yet we often are not.
God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment, but we waste them, not even recognizing that it is from His gracious hand that they flow. It is not until we are sick that we appreciate the gift of health. And it is not until we are in great need that we recognize the plenty that comes from Him. It takes trials for us to recognize the graciousness of God.
The most amazing grace of God, of course, is the faith that He has given us to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without it we would never have turned to God; we would still be heading for eternal damnation. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9).
Longsuffering. Another aspect of God's goodness that stirs Moses into heartfelt worship is the patience of God. The word "longsuffering" actually comes from a Hebrew phrase that means "long of nose". You see, when a person gets angry, he crinkles up his nose and crunches his face as he gets ready to strike out verbally or physically. But Moses sees that God is patient and longsuffering. His nose is not crinkled with anger.
Knowing that the Israelites were worshipping other gods even while He was giving the Law to Moses, He could have wiped them out instantly. But thanks in part to Moses' intercession, God relented. So, even though the people are still reveling, He assures Moses that He will continue guiding them through the wilderness.
Like the Israelites, we provoke God to anger every day. We don't seek Him except when we want something from Him, and we don't always live a life that is pleasing to Him. Yet in His patience, and with the Lord Jesus interceding for us, He allows us to continue standing on the ground that He had favored us with. He continues to draw us, protect us and bless us.
Goodness and truth. Next, God describes Himself as being abundant in goodness and truth. John describes our Lord Jesus with a similar expression. "We beheld his glory," he says, "full of grace and truth."
Remember Jesus once told a young lawyer that there is no one good except God. Elsewhere, He declared that Satan is a liar, the father of lies and that the devil rules the heart of the unsaved. This explains why we are so often surrounded by wickedness and falsehood.
But God is abundant in goodness and truth. And Jesus is the embodiment of those two fundamental characteristics of our God. The richness, the sheer bountifulness of His goodness toward us staggers our imagination. He speaks to us words of unadulterated truth. In fact, truth in every description takes its genesis in its source from the Lord.
Holy and just. God concludes His proclamation to Mosesand to us as wellby describing Himself as one "that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation."
By His mercy and grace, God has forgiven all those who would believe on Him, allowing them to spend eternity in heaven. But He is too holy and just to do that arbitrarily, because it would violate His own justice. To satisfy the demands of the law, He had to send His Son to die on the cross for the sins of these believers.
Meanwhile, He has been patient with the unsaved of the world, giving them ample time to repent. Come Judgment Day, though, time will have run out. Christ will then return to judge the unsaved for all the sins that they have ever committed. And He will condemn them to eternal punishment, which is symbolized by the phrase "unto the third and to the fourth generation".
Worshipping the God of GloryWhen Moses, hidden in the cleft of a rock, saw for the first time the goodness of God that passed before Him, he began to know God more deeply in his heart than ever before. At once, He bowed to the ground and worshipped. That was true worship.
You and I might have been converted long ago. We might have been serving in a church for decades. We may have experienced the peace and comfort that only Christ can bring us. So, we thank Him and we praise Him. Nevertheless, we may never have worshipped God the way Moses did that day, for we may never have seen God in all His glory, which Moses
The psalmist knows it when he writes, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God" (42:1). And Paul knows it when he asks God to give the Ephesians "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" (1:17). The desire of Paul's heart is that we, as well as the Ephesians, might know not just the blessings that we've received from God, but all the attributes of God Himself.
When we come to God as Moses did, humbly beseeching Him to show us His glory, and as we read His word with the intent of seeking Him, He might just take us and set us in the "cleft" of the Lord Jesus and cause His goodness to pass in front of us. Then, with the Holy Spirit ministering to our spirit, we will really worship the Living God in truth and in spirit. o
Dr. Robert M. Norris is pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, 5500 River Road, Bethesda, MD 20816.
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