October 7, 2016
Exodus 33:18, 20-23; 34:5-7
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Again, I did my best to shorten this rather long passage while retaining the basic meaning. Here is Exodus 33:18 and 20 through 23, plus Exodus 34:5 through 7:
And [Moses]…said, “Please, shew me Your glory.” Then [God]…said, “You
cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live….So…while My glory
passes by…I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and…cover you with My
hand….Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My
face shall not be seen.” …Then the LORD descended in the cloud and…
passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful
and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping
mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no
means clearing the guilty….
There is so much in these verses – and the related surrounding ones – that we can only touch on a few of the basics:
• This was right after the incident of the golden calf, covered in the last blog. I’m sure Moses was feeling abandoned – surely by the people he was leading, for they had rejected him, saying, “As for this Moses…we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1). They wanted a new leader and a new god!
But Moses may have felt rather rejected by the LORD also! For how could God allow all this rejection and idolatry to happen? That’s how we often feel when life seems out of control. “Why would God ever do this to me?!” But we have Scriptures that were given later to assure us – if we will but read and heed them! – such as Isaiah 49:15 and 16:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the
son of her womb? Surely, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See,
I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands….
And Jesus tells us in Hebrews 13:5 and Matthew 28:20 (in that order): “I will never leave you nor forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
• Moses needed assurance, and the LORD graciously gave it to him! And God so often meets us where we need to be met! I do not despise the experiences of others if what they experience – be it unusual – does not obviously go against what Scripture says. For instance, I have heard it said more than once by a grieving spouse or family member, “I needed to know that my loved one was alright. And the Lord gave me a vision [or a special word, or an unusual experience] and let me know everything is ok.” If that is what someone needs, sometimes God will allow it to happen!
• When God told Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20), He shed light on a lot more than what appears on the surface of this statement!
✡ The LORD is utterly holy and powerful – a lot bigger than we can even imagine! A full face-to-face encounter with the fully unveiled God would instantly kill any mortal being! Why is that?
✡ Our mortal human bodies exist under a curse, ever since our first parents sinned (see Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:18-23; I Corinthians 15:42-54).
✡ God had told Adam in Genesis 2:17, “…of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” As spoken of here, death is not just physical cessation of life! It is separation from God, the Giver and Sustainer of life! And if the problem is not reconciled on this side of eternity, it will result in permanent separation from God – in hell forever! (See Revelation 21:8).
✡ Such separation from the presence of the utterly holy God was necessary for mortal man to continue to live. We are born into this life having only the sinful nature. God is so holy, that being fully in His presence will eradicate sin! If that’s all we have – the sin nature – our mortal being would cease to exist!
✡ This is why we need to be born again! (See John 3:3, 5; II Corinthians 5:17; I Peter 1:23). When we accept Christ as Savior, we are given a new godly nature (see I John 3:9; 5:18) that can forever dwell in God’s holy presence!
✡ Until we shed this old nature, there is an ongoing struggle between the old and the new natures! (See Romans 8:5-8; Galatians 5:16, 17). But when we see Jesus face to face, “…we shall be like Him [utterly holy and sinless], for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2). The old nature will be destroyed and only the new godly nature will be left!
• Since Moses could not be exposed fully to the glory of God, the LORD told him, “I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and…cover you with My hand….Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” God revealed only a small portion of His glorious being!
Nor can we see Him now in His full glory! (See I Timothy 6:16). So God veiled Himself in humanity – the incarnation of Jesus Christ! (See Philippians 2:5-8). Only once did Jesus pull back that curtain of humanity that hid God’s glory – and that but a little! It occurred on The Mount of Transfiguration. (See Mark 9:2-7). As Peter later described it in II Peter 1:16-18: “…we…were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory…when we were with Him in the holy mount.”
• One more thing we will touch upon – God told Moses in Exodus 33:19, “…I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.” But read again our featured Scripture above, about what God said as He passed by. He told Moses what He did, does, and will do – what He Himself is all about! He gave Moses His purpose statement!
And Jesus gave us His in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That’s also His name! For Jesus means “Jehovah saves”!
What is your purpose for the Lord on this earth?