Exodus 33:17-23. 17 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.” 19 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. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Over the last two chapters of Exodus we’ve been watching Moses intercede for his people after the golden calf debacle. He has pleaded for their lives, appealed to God’s covenant with Abraham, and to God’s reputation itself. He has even offered his own life as an atoning sacrifice.
Much like Abraham in Genesis 18, Moses is negotiating with God.
God: My angel will lead you to the land.
Moses: We don’t want to go without you.
God: I will go with YOU, Moses, but not with these stiff-necked people.
Moses: The people have repented. If I have found favor with you then stay with all of us.
God: OK. I’ll stay. I’ll dwell with all of you in the land.
Moses: Now please show me your glory.
Shouldn’t the next words out of Moses’ mouth have been “Thank you. We’ll try to do better this time.”
But instead Moses takes the negotiation one step further with what may be the most audacious prayer in all of scripture – Show me your glory.
God’s blessing without God’s presence was not enough for Moses. And now God’s presence without God’s glory is not enough for Moses. No more veil. No more cloud of smoke or pillar of fire. I want to see your face. Your glory. I want to know the real you, God. Who are you? What are you like? This is a prayer that Moses has already prayed (though not as abruptly).
Exodus 33:13. 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. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
In the Bible glory means weight or weightiness. It has been a common word used all throughout Exodus. Pharaoh’s heart was weighty (“hardened”). The Egyptian army’s chariot wheels were weighty in the mud.
God is glorious. And all glory flows from him. This includes our glory. Glory is our meaning, purpose, significance, identity. Glory is hardwired into us (Paul Tripp). We live by an instinct for glory. Longings to be strong, successful, beautiful, creative, all flow from our glory instinct. Glory gets you out of bed in the morning. It gives you a reason to live. Glory seeking is what our hearts were made for. Glory is why we listen to great music, or watch sports, or get caught up in a video game for hours. Glory is why we want “likes” on social media or “views” on this blog. Glory is beauty and majesty and worth. It is perfection and transcendence. And yet, like Moses, we want and need it to be imminent, close, visible.
Into the Wild – a story about the search for glory.
Moses is realizing what we all need to realize – only God’s glory can fill the longings that we all have inside of us. Sin occurs when we steal God’s glory and give it to ourselves, or something else (like a golden calf), a reduced version of God.
This is why Moses’ prayer must be the ultimate and final prayer of our hearts.
God heal my sickness.
God take away my addiction.
God thank you for my new job.
God please bless my business.
God please restore my relationship with my daughter.
All of these are good prayers but they all fall short of the greatest of prayers. The prayer to see the glory of God. The prayer to experience the presence of God.
Moses could have prayed “God get us to the promised land.” Or, “God please don’t kill us all.” And he did. But his final prayer, the ultimate prayer was “God please show me your glory.” Because without the glory of God we die anyway.
The truly amazing grace in this story is that God answered Moses’ prayer. Sort of. God allowed Moses to see his glory, though still veiled. Still covered within the cleft of the rock and by the hand of God. Moses saw the back of God’s glory. But my face shall not be seen.
What’s even more gracious is that God has answered this prayer for you and me before we even prayed it. God has shown us his glory in Christ Jesus and we didn’t even have to ask. And the truth is we never would have. We would have been content with all of our lesser glories. We would have continued to be glory thieves and live in glory desperation.
But in Christ we have seen God’s face. We have seen the fullness of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ our Savior.
John 1:14. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
2 Corinthians 4:6. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Union with Christ means our search for glory is over. All the transcendent glory of God is visible in the face of Jesus Christ. God is present IN us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. And now we behold his indwelling presence with eyes of faith. No more cleft of the rock to shield us. No hand over our face. No catching just a glimpse of his back.
Are you beholding God’s greatest glory today? Are you beholding the glory of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Or are you still clinging to lesser or counterfeit glories that alone will lead to death.
“To live is Christ” means the ultimate prayer, “God show us your glory,” has been answered once and for all. It is Jesus. His living. His dying. His glorified life in and through us, shining in our hearts for all to see.