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The Glory Revealed
“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. And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, 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. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.”
Moses prayed, “I beseech thee, show 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, for the revelation of the glory of God is salvation. God had revealed his glory to Moses before. At the burning bush, God our Savior revealed himself to Moses and there revealed “the good will of him that dwelt in the bush” (Exodus 3:1-10; Deuteronomy 33:16). The triune Jehovah revealed his Christ and his salvation to Moses at the bush. And, as all who have experienced his grace will testify, once the Lord reveals his glory, his salvation of sinners by the sacrifice of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, he continues to reveal him more and more, and we continue to experience his salvation day by day, beholding his glory in the face of our crucified Redeemer (2 Corinthians 3:18). Moses saw the glory of God revealed in the manna he rained from heaven, in the water gushing from the smitten rock, in the top of Sinai’s fiery mount, and in “the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof” (Exodus 25:9, 40). The pattern after which the tabernacle was made is Christ.
The whole tabernacle, with its furnishings, its priesthood, the priestly garments, the priestly work, the sacrifices, everything was typical of God’s salvation of sinners by the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the tabernacle furnishings were all completed, it was by divine design something that could be erected by one man in a single day, as we see in Exodus 40. Typically, it represented the fulfilment God’s promise by his servant Zechariah. — “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (Zechariah 3:9). The complete salvation of his people was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ in that single day when he who knew no sin was made sin for us and died for our sins upon the cursed tree (2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Galatians 3:13-14).
What did God reveal to Moses? Moses prayed, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness to 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.”
Moses knew that “God is a Spirit.” He knew that the mind of man can never conceive an adequate idea of the incomprehensible Jehovah. Moses had a great view of God. He knew that God is infinite, eternal, and incomprehensible. Yet, it seems that Moses entertained the idea that the invisible God might be and would be seen.
The eyes of flesh are designed to show us only those things that are physical and material. They cannot reveal that which is spiritual. As long we are upon this earth, we cannot see God with the eyes of clay.
Yet, there is nothing that God’s children desire more than the sight of God our Savior in all his glory. This was that hope which gave David confidence toward God. — “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy: at thy right hand there are pleasures forever more…As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness” (Psalms 16:11; 17:15).
This desire to behold God’s glory is one sure result of sweet fellowship and communion with our God. Moses had spent forty days in the presence of God. We read, “The LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (v. 11). And what was the result? Moses said, “Show me thy glory.” That is always the result of close communion with God. The more we know of him, the more we desire to know. The closer God draws to us, the more we are constrained to cry, “LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us” (Psalm 4:6).
The great purpose of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ to redeem his people was that we might behold the glory of God in him. Our Lord prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). And you can be sure of this, if we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we shall behold the glory of God! Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed in me” (Job 19:25-27). Turn to the back of the Book and read what is written of that Eternal City. — “And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:22-23).
Now, turn from Moses prayer and consider God’s response. Observe the gracious revelation that God made to his friend. Moses asked to see God’s glory. As the Lord passed by, proclaiming his name, he covered Moses with his hand. When he removed his hand, Moses saw God’s “back parts,” the crucified Christ. In the vision of Christ crucified, he understood the name (the attributes) he heard hiding in the cleft of the Rock.
What attribute shall the man of God first see? Will he show him his holiness? Will he show him his wrath? Will he show him his justice? Will he show him his power? Will he bring his sins to remembrance, and show him his omniscience? No. I hear a still small voice saying, “I will make all my goodness to pass before thee.”
Oh, sons of men, the essence of God is his glory, and the glory of God is his goodness! When we read chapter thirty-four, we see that God revealed his mercy, grace, longsuffering, truth, faithfulness, and justice. But the essence of them all is his goodness. The brightest gem in the crown of God is his goodness. God’s greatest glory is that he is good.
My soul longs to make known to the sons of men that God, the infinite, holy, triune Jehovah, is the sum and substance of all good. — “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17).
God alone can make men happy. He is the Father of all mercy. He is the Fountain of all goodness. He is the Source of all joy. — “Happy is that people, whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:15). The splendor of God’s goodness is such that no mortal can begin to tell it all. There is nothing but goodness in God, and nothing but goodness comes from him.
There is nothing of evil, iniquity, or unrighteousness in God’s Person, his ways, or his works. — “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Whatever God does is good, simply because he does it. He may ordain wickedness for a season, but he overrules it for good. He will eternally punish the wicked, but that punishment will prove at last to be good. When all is done and time is no more, the saints in heaven will sing God’s praise even in the execution of his wrath (Revelation 18:20; 19:1-6); and the damned themselves will say, “Amen,” to his judgment (Isaiah 45:23-25; Philippians 2:9-11).
God is immutably and eternally good. The goodness of men is like the morning dew. It soon fades away. But the goodness of God is invariably the same. It continues forever. The entire universe shares in the goodness of God. The whole creation proclaims to us that God is good. — “The Word of the LORD is right: and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Psalm 33:4-5). This world was created by the goodness of God. From his goodness he clothes the fields with green grass and feeds the cattle on a thousand hills. The sparrows come and peck their seed from the hands of the Almighty. Even the wicked upon this earth enjoy the goodness of God. — “The LORD is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9). Out of his abundant goodness, God sends both sunshine and rain upon the just and the unjust.
Our great God rules this world in the goodness of his providence, simply because he is good. We are of yesterday and know nothing. Man is but a flower of the field, withering away. Yesterday he was an infant. Today he is an old man. Tomorrow he is gone. But God is the eternal good that rules them all.
Yet, if you would truly behold the goodness of God, you must see it revealed in the sovereign goodness of the triune Jehovah to his covenant people. O my soul, go back to old eternity and see your name in God’s book of predestinating, unchanging grace! Behold the goodness of God the blessed Father. He chose you for himself. He loved you. He laid up all good things for you in Christ. He gave his only begotten Son for you.
Behold the goodness of God the eternal Son, your Redeemer. He became your Surety and Representative. He undertook all things for your good. He stooped to assume your nature. He lived before God as your Representative to work out righteousness for you. He died as your Substitute to purchase your soul from divine justice. He is the Fountain of all goodness to your soul. He ever lives to speak a good word in the presence of God for you.
Behold the goodness of God the Holy Ghost. All the gifts of divine grace are tokens of his goodness to you. He gives you faith and repentance, the hope of eternal life, and the gift of eternal life itself. He preserves and keeps you. He revives and refreshes you. He comforts you and instructs you.
Here is the great glory of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He is “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin” (34:7).
Alongside Jehovah’s goodness, Moses saw his glorious sovereignty. The Lord God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee.” But there is something more. He said, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” This is another divine attribute. This speaks of God’s great and glorious sovereignty. Moses not only saw that God is good, but also that he is sovereignly good.
God’s goodness without his sovereignty does not completely set forth his nature. If you only see one attribute of God, you only see part of his glorious being. God is good, and he is sovereign. He does as he pleases. And, though he is good to all, he is not obliged to do good to any. He declares, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”
God is an absolute sovereign. He has the right to do whatever he will. He can make man, or not make man. He can create man in his own image, or he can create a brute beast. He had the right to require of Adam anything he liked. And when Adam broke his law, he had the right to destroy all the race or to save whosoever he pleased. We are in the hands of God, like clay is in the hands of the potter, as creatures in the hands of the Creator. God has the right, if he pleases, to save anyone or to crush all into the deepest hell.
The glorious gospel doctrine of God’s sovereignty crushes the pride of man. And men by nature do not like that, because man likes to think that he is something. But is it not right for a man to do as he will with his own? Surely, then, we cannot deny this right to God! If he chooses to let men go on in the error of their way, that is his right. But, if he chooses graciously to intervene (as he has), and say, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” that is his right.
This blessed attribute of God ought to cheer the hearts of God’s children, even as it did the heart of our Redeemer. — “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matthew 11:25-26).
We all deserve God’s wrath. We have no claim to his mercy. But he is sovereignly good, so let us plead with him, and sue for mercy on the grounds of his goodness in Christ. And, maybe, maybe he will show us mercy.
“Perhaps he will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there.
I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away, I know
I must forever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died.”
— Edmund Jones
Matthew Henry rightly observed, “It is never said, ‘I will be angry with whom I will be angry,’ for his wrath is always just and holy; but “I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy,’ for his grace is always free. He never damns by prerogative, but by prerogative he saves.”
Put these two things together, goodness and sovereignty, and we begin to see God’s glory. God is not gracious alone. He is sovereignly gracious. And he is not sovereign alone. He is graciously sovereign.
What did God conceal from Moses? — “He said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live” (v. 20). This was a gracious concealment. There was as much mercy in what God hid from Moses as there is in what he revealed. And there is as much mercy in what God hides from us as there is in what he reveals.
When God hides a thing from us, there is as much mercy in his hiding as there is in his revelation. — “The secret things belong to the LORD, but the things that are revealed to us and to our children.” There are some things God does not intend for us to know. And that man is a fool who tries to pry into them. Let us be earnest students. But let us study only what God has revealed. God said to Moses, — “Thou canst not see my face.”
This statement makes it abundantly clear that no man can see God’s face as a sinner and live. Any man who stands before the face of God, clothed in the filthy rags of his own righteousness, must perish.
No man, even as a saint, can see God’s face and live. There are such limitations to this physical body, that it could not endure the sight of God’s absolute glory. Even when we stand glorified in heaven, we shall behold the glory of God in the person of the God-man.
All that we can ever behold of God upon this earth is that which Moses saw, his “back parts”. — Those words, “my back parts,” I think refer to his regal train, the train that Isaiah speaks of when he saw the Lord Jesus Christ in his exaltation and glory, having accomplished eternal redemption for us (Isaiah 6:1-6). Jehovah’s “back parts,” his royal, majestic train, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate, obedient, crucified, risen Son, our Savior, that One by whom Satan’s head is crushed, God’s elect are saved, all that was ruined by Adam is restored, and all that was made wrong is made right!
I have not yet fully seen him, neither do I fully understand his Being. He is incomprehensible! — “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen!” (1 Timothy 6:16). But, blessed be his name forever, God has revealed his dear Son in me and I know him. — “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.” Oh, may he give the same revelation of his glory to all who read these lines!
Method of Revelation
How did God reveal his glory to Moses? — “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 cleft 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” (vv. 21-23). There is much here that is yet hidden to me. I will not speculate about them. But there are some things that are obvious. And these obvious things are of tremendous importance, instructive and glorious.
Before any sinful man can behold the perfections of the infinitely glorious, righteous, and holy Lord God, he must be put into a place of security and peace. Moses had to be put into a cleft of the rock before he could see God. That Rock was Christ. He is the Rock, the Rock of Israel, the Rock of Ages, the Rock of Refuge, Salvation, and Strength. Blessed be his name forever, our God has provided sinners a place of shelter in the cleft of the Rock, Christ Jesus!
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Grace has hid me safe in Thee!
Let the water and the blood
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Look at the beautiful picture that we have here of the believer’s absolute security in Christ. — “Thou shalt stand upon a Rock.” We stand before God today, and for all eternity, upon this blessed Foundation, and we shall not be confounded.
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”
The Lord God said, “I will put thee in a cleft of the rock,” because no sinner can put himself into Christ. We were chosen in him, redeemed in him, accepted in him. And we were “created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Colossians 2:9-10).
Then, God said, “I will cover thee with my hand.” Not only is the believer in Christ, he is protected by the Father’s hand. — “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man shall pluck them out of my Father’s hand!” (John 10:29). “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
Here is the great superiority of the gospel over the law. — The law had only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of those things. But look at the blessed fulness of the gospel – “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The Glory Revealed
What is the glory of God revealed in Christ?
“And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, 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.” (Exodus 34:5-7)
The Lord God showed Moses his absolute sovereignty, his boundless mercy and grace, his indescribable long-suffering and goodness, the full, complete, free forgiveness of sin by, in, and with the Lord Jesus Christ, our crucified Savior, forgiveness that shows how he can be and is both “a just God and a Saviour” (Isaiah 45:21), in strict, unbending truth and justice.
“And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.” (Exodus 34:8-9)
When Moses saw God’s great glory in Christ Jesus, when he saw the fulness of God in the crucified Redeemer, when he saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, he hurriedly bowed his face to the ground and worshipped God with yet three more earnest prayers.
Blessed, forever blessed are those sinners who do the same! That is what it is to see and experience the glory of the Lord. That is what it is to see and experience God’s salvation in Christ. Soon you shall die. You will stand before the throne of infinite majesty, holiness, and glory. And what will become of you then? — “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God is so glorious, so pure, so full of light that it is written, “God is a consuming fire!” Oh, flee to Christ! Find shelter in the cleft of the Rock!
Now, understand this and rejoice. — “The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). What does that mean? God the Holy Ghost explains it to us in the eighth chapter of Romans.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)
Here Moses saw only the back parts of the living God; but upon the Mt. of Transfiguration, he saw Christ’s “face shine as the sun.” And it shall be so, even with us. Now we see his glory. Now we see him who is invisible. We see his face, but only through a glass darkly. But, O blessed be God, we shall soon see him face to face! — “In my flesh shall I see God!” We shall see him, without sin. We shall see him, personally. We shall see him, as he is. We shall see him. And when we see him, we shall be like him.
“Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face, what will it be;
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ, who died for me?
Only faintly now I see Him,
With a darkling vail between;
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.
What rejoicing in his presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straitened,
And the dark things shall be plain.
Face to face, O blissful moment,
Face to face, to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.
Face to face, I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by.”
We shall see him face to face, and we shall live! God hasten the day, for Jesus’ sake.