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“Show Me Thy Glory”
“And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:12-3)
This portion of Holy Scripture contains one of the boldest prayers a man ever uttered. At first glance, it might appear that no mere man upon the earth could ever ask such a favor from God. This is a mighty request, a very great request. Moses said, in verse 18, — “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.”
Moses could not have asked for more. This is, perhaps, the greatest request of faith to be found in all the volume of Holy Scripture. Here, Moses stands out as a giant among giants. Abraham showed great faith when he went out into the plain to offer up intercession for such a guilty city as Sodom. It was a great faith that enabled Jacob to lay hold of the Angel of the Lord, refusing to release his hold until he had received the blessing he desired. Elijah was strong in faith when he was able to rend the heavens and bring rain from the skies that had been as brass before. But it seems to me that if you put all these requests together, they would pale in comparison with this prayer of Moses. It is the greatest request that a man could ever make to God, — “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.”
The revelation of the glory of God is the greatest blessing any man can ask, and the greatest blessing God can give to any man upon this earth.
After making his request, when he had put his desire into words, Moses’ bones must have trembled, his blood must have chilled in his veins, his hair must have stood on end. Jacob was a man of great faith, but, when the Lord God revealed himself to him, Jacob was astonished that he had survived the revelation. — “Jacob called the name of that place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). When Manoah saw the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, he was struck with fear. — “Manoah said unto his wife, we shall surely die, because we have seen God (Judges 13:22). Isaiah’s response to the vision he had of God’s glory was “Woe is me! For I am undone; (I am cut off) because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). The Apostle John was a truly noble man, an example we would be wise to follow. Not only did he lay his head upon the Savior’s breast physically, he walked in heart to heart communion with the Son of God. Yet, when he saw the exalted, glorified God-man, he said, “I fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17).
Moses himself was astonished that God would even speak to him, much less that he should show him his glory. He said to the children of Israel, “Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man and he liveth…For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” (Deuteronomy 5:24, 26). Surely, Moses himself was astonished that he could ask such a favor as this. — “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.”
But how did Moses come to make such a request? What was it that God used to put this prayer in his heart? What inspired this man to pray, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory”?
Moses had been in Sinai’s mount in communion with God for forty days (Exodus 24:18). For forty blessed days he dwelt in the presence of his God. Jehovah had spoken to him as a man speaks with his own friend. Such nearness to God gave the meekest man on earth the boldness of faith to ask the greatest blessing any man could ever enjoy upon the earth.
Moses’ prayer was the culmination of God’s gracious dealings with him and of his faithful reliance upon his God. Before Moses said, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory,” he had sought and received several other tokens of God’s gracious favor. The Lord God revealed his good will to Moses, his purpose of grace in Christ, in the burning bush (Exodus 3). He revealed his great and glorious name, JEHOVAH, to his servant on Horeb’s holy ground. Moses had seen God’s wonders in the land of Ham. He saw Pharaoh and the armies of Egypt in the Red Sea.
Look back to chapter thirty-two. The Lord was angry with the children of Israel, because they had made a golden calf and bowed down before it. The Lord said to Moses, “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (v. 10). But Moses loved the children of Israel and sought God’s glory. He was more concerned for God’s people and God’s glory than he was for himself. So, he put God in remembrance of his covenant with Abraham, and of his deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt. He argued that if the nation were slain, God’s name would be mocked and blasphemed by the Egyptians. Then, he prayed, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin —; and if not, blot me I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (v. 32). Like Jacob of old, Moses prevailed with God. By God sparing the guilty nation, he received a fresh testimony of God’s grace.
This great prayer, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory,” was preceded by three other great prayers. Let’s look at them.
“And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.” (Exodus 33:12)
In verse 1 the Lord told Moses to bring the children of Israel on to the Land of Canaan. In verse 3 the Lord told Moses he would not go in the midst of the stiff-necked people. Christ, the Angel of the Lord, would continue to go before them and behind them; but he said he would no longer walk in their midst. Moses knew he could not perform the task before him without God’s help and presence. Watch him plead his cause before the Lord. Watch him put God in remembrance (Isaiah 43:26).
“Thou hast said, I know thee by name.” You have declared that you love me, that you have chosen me, that you have redeemed me, that you approve of me, that you have ordained and predestined me, that you accept me. Then Moses said to the Lord God, you said to me, “Thou has also found grace in my sight!” You are the object of my favor and good will.
“Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.” (Exodus 33:13)
Read the word “if” as “since.” Moses was not expressing some doubt concerning God’s grace or of the fact that he was the object of God’s grace. Rather, he is pleading his cause, offering a reason for his prayer. — “Since I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way.”
The Lord God had commanded his servant to guide his people. But Moses knew and confessed his weakness and ignorance and sought the guidance of God to walk in his way. He knew that God’s way was not the way that man would choose. He knew that God’s way might be a rough and dark way. But he knew God’s way to be the best and wisest way. Only as Israel walked in God’s way would the name of God be glorified. So, he prayed, “Shew me now thy way.” — Thy Way through This Wilderness! — Thy Way among All These Enemies! — Thy Way to Canaan! — Thy Way of Providence! — Thy Way of Grace! — Thy Way of Salvation! Blessed is the poor, needy soul in this dark wilderness of earth and time who asks the Lord God, “Show me now thy way.”
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
“Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.” (Psalms 5:8)
“Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.” (Psalms 27:11)
“Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way.” (Psalms 44:18)
“Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.” (Psalms 86:11)
“Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.” (Psalms 119:37)
Look at the reasons Moses urges before the Lord, the reasons he desired to know God’s way. “That I may know him” (Philippians 3:10). — “That I may find grace in thy sight.” The Lord God, the God of all grace before whom Moses bowed was and is our Savior, who declares, “My grace is sufficient for thee!”
Next, God’s servant prays, “Consider that this nation is thy people.” He put the Lord in remembrance of his elect people, his covenant people, whom he had chosen for his own heritage (Deuteronomy 9:26; Joel 2:17). — “Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:9). — “Jacob (is) his people and Israel his inheritance” (Psalm 78:71). They are a sinful people; but they are your people. You chose them. They are a stiff-necked people; but they are your people. You redeemed them. They are a straying people; but they are your people. You called them. They are a weak people; but they are your people. You keep them. They are a fallen people; but they are your people. You gave them your name. They are a fickle people; but they are your people. You took them into covenant union with yourself. They are just people, just men and women, just flesh and blood; but they are your people. Your honor is wrapped up in them.
In verse 14 the Lord God makes a great promise of great grace. — “And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” God’s presence is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of his presence. — “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9).
The rest promised here speaks specifically of Canaan, the land of rest. Canaan typified God’s salvation in Christ. The promise is the blessed sabbath rest of grace and salvation in Christ (Hebrews 4:9-10; Matthew 11:28-30).
As soon as Moses heard God’s promise, he said, I’ve got to have that, and laid hold of the promise, urging God’s promise as the basis of his prayer. — “And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (v. 15). — Without his presence, without Christ, everything else is worthless and insignificant. Even the land of Canaan, the promised land of rest and plenty, is nothing in comparison with God’s presence, nothing in comparison with our Savior.
It does not much matter what we have or where we are, if we do not enjoy the presence of God. But if God is with us, the greatest hardships in the wilderness are easy; and we pass through our difficulties with peace, if not pleasure. It is as though Moses had said, “Lord, if you go with me, I can do all that you require. But, if you will not go with me, then all will come to nothing.”
Moses goes on to use even stronger pleas, with which to urge his request before the throne of grace. Like a child on his father’s lap, he argues his case for the thing he wants. Like a poor, needy soul before one who is able to supply his need, Moses offers reasons for God to give him his abiding presence.
“For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Exodus 33:16)
The Lord’s presence with us is the manifestation and evidence of his grace toward us, upon us, and in us. His presence with us and in us is our sanctification, the thing that separates us and distinguishes us from “all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” The word “separated” might be better translated “marvelously separated;” and truly we are marvelously separated from all people by our God, by his purpose, by his purchase, by his providence, by his power!
In verse 17 we read the Lord’s answer to Moses’ prayer. — “And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.”
Now, I want us to look at this great request to see God’s glory and see God’s gracious response to it. May it please God the Holy Spirit to show us something of God’s greatness and his glory. — “And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory” (v. 18).
“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20)
In this present state we see through a glass darkly. We see nothing perfectly. We certainly do not and cannot see God’s glorious face, his magnificent Being fully.
“And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21-23)
When the Lord God passed by Moses, the one who passed by him was Christ, the pre-incarnate Savior, in human form. God’s “back parts” refer to our Savior’s humanity, specifically to his suffering and death in human flesh. It was his back parts, his humanity, his heel, that was bruised in our redemption. It was his back parts, his heel, his humanity, that crushed the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).
It is only in the cleft of the Rock that you can behold the glory of God. In Western North Carolina there is a mountain called Grandfather Mountain. As you drive along the highway, you can look at that mountain from many different places and wonder where it got such a name. But, if you drive on until you get to the north side of it, you can look up from its base and see, clearly and distinctly, the image of a man with a flowing beard. And so it is with you. Come under the shadow of the cross. Come there as a penitent sinner. Look there upon that visage more marred than any man. Realize that the Sufferer hangs as the guiltless Substitute, dying for your sins. And you will see in him the glory of God’s goodness. His beauty will ravish your soul. But the only place to behold that glory is in the cleft of the Rock. Until you see God’s glorious goodness in Christ, any sight of him will terrify you.
Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just, and sacred Three,
Are terrors to my mind!
Would you see the glory of God? — Look to Christ. Only in the crucified Lamb of God does God show his glory (2 Corinthians 4:3-6; 5:17-21).