EXODUS 33:12-23 The more we commune with Christ and follow Him, the more glorious we become
EXODUS 33:12-23 The more we commune with Christ and follow Him, the more glorious we become
Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.”
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
Moses endeavoured to restore the covenant that was broken by the golden calf incident. Despite God’s assurance of His favour towards Moses, Moses demanded for the assurance to include the people. Moses knew for him to succeed, he must appeal to God’s favour towards him and the people. For deep within the heart of God lies an infinite capacity to love sinful men. By appealing to God’s infinite mercy and compassion, Moses not only succeeded in restoring the covenant with Israel, he caught a glimpse of God’s back. Moses’s desire to see God’s face stems from his love for the truth. However, the revelation of God’s face will in the same breathe invoke commandments beyond any man can undertake. How then, can man grow in God’s likeness without seeing His face? It is for this reason that Christ came to mediate, by “stepping down” God’s glory to our level so that we may know God and walk with Him one step at a time. Today’s devotion teaches us: The more we commune with Christ and follow Him, the more glorious we become.
Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me.
Moses’s plea, “You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me” seemed to have disregarded God’s earlier promise of a warring angel (see v.2). Apparently, Moses had treated the angel as inconsequential being focused only on whether or not God Himself will accompany them. Then, Moses reminded God by His own words, “I have known you by name.” Indeed, Israel warrants divine favour not by virtue of their moral standard but by their ordination as God’s children. Israel’s special status before God was later reiterated by Prophet Isaiah,
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine! – Isaiah 43:1
Here, Moses was looking to obtain God’s favour (acceptance) towards establishing a love relationship with Him. In the course of this love relationship, Moses reaffirmed his commitment to follow God, and to shepherd the people according to His ways. God responded by assuring Moses of His favour and commitment to bring him into the Promised Land to possess it (I will give you rest). But He stopped short of including the people within His covenantal favour.
Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.
Moses is observed repeatedly using the phrase, “I and Your people”. Even as God continued to assure Moses of His favour, Moses demanded for the assurance to include the people. Moses implored God to accompany the people, to distinguished them from other peoples. This is truly the essence of the covenantal promise, not the possessing of the Promised Land. God responded conclusively in v.17 by acceding to all that Moses had requested.
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
Moses’s request to see God’s face is paralleled to his earlier desire to know God’s name (see Exodus 3:14). We can say that Moses’s desire to know God intimately stems from His desire to walk in His ways (see v13). The question remains: what does Moses’s request have to do with Israel’s plight? Indeed, Israel’s survival as a covenant nation and Moses’s request are intertwined. The more Moses knows God and manifest His glory, the more Moses is able to intercede and shepherd the people.
What comprises God’s glory?
- God’s glory is identified by his “goodness”. In responding to Moses’s request to see His glory, God said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you…”
- God’s glory is also represented by His name: “will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.”
- God’s glory is revealed by His righteous judgment: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”
- God’s glory is projected through His face.
In essence, God’s glory is revealed in terms of His attributes rather than His “visible appearance”.
Why is it impermissible for Moses to see God’s face?
God’s reply offered no real explanation apart from the consequence of death. This is because man’s heart is deceptively evil, and no man can see His face without hardening his heart against His holy nature. Earlier in the chapter, God gave the same reason why He would not accompany the people to the Promised Land. Indeed, divine proximity without obedience will only result in destruction.
THE CLOSER WE ARE TO GOD, THE MORE IT IS REQUIRED OF US TO OBEY.
The Israelites had come to realise why it is so important for God to go to the Promised Land with them. The angel may help them deal with the natives in the land and to clear the path into the Promised Land, but they will not enjoy the privilege of being God’s children – highly favoured and distinguished from the other peoples. That said, God’s covenantal presence binds them to live according to God’s law. And any man who have tasted of God’s covenantal grace, if he continues to disobey His directives, will incur His wrath. This was played out at the incident of the golden calf where 3000 died (see Exodus 32). And the incident when Moses violated God’s command to provide water for the murmuring Israelites (see Numbers 20). Moses, in a bid to botch the miraculous provision of water hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Because of Moses’s close proximity to God, the consequence of his disobedience was very severe. The Lord said to Moses,
“Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” – Numbers 20:12
Will believers today incur God’s wrath as in the days of Moses?
To answer the question, we must first understand the role of Christ in relation to God and to humanity. In the days of Moses, there is no one worthy to mediate or (if you will) to “step down” the glory of God. Hence, God’s glory is either full-on or no glory at all. That also explains why the Israelites had to run for cover when God appeared at Mount Sinai in His glory. However, the advent of Christ has changed the way God’s glory is being presented to the world. Christ brings God’s glory to man at a level that we can understand so that we may learn to approach God one step at a time. The Apostle John said,
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. – John 1:18
Through Christ, we can get an “explanation” of God, to experience God not as Moses and the Israelites experienced (either full-on glory or no glory at all), but in a form that we can assimilate (He has explained Him). A full-on manifestation of God’s glory is not only unconstructive but destructive to sinful man. When God reveals Himself in full-on glory, he requires man to respond in absolute holiness and obedience. Much like a powerful flash of light which causes us to instinctively avert our eyes, we will turn away at the full-on appearance of God’s glory. But Christ mediates by “stepping down” the manifestation of God’s glory in accordance to each person’s level of faith and maturity. Through Christ’s mediation, God’s commandments are no longer severe and burdensome but light. Jesus said,
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Through Jesus, God reveals to each person a degree of His glory that is helpful and relevant to his growth and needs. Jesus will not lay on us a commandment or burden that we are not ready to bear – that is divine love, that is grace and truth. On the other hand, the Law of Moses came forth from a full-on glory of God which no man can bear. John said,
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. – John 1:17
Because God’s perfect Law are mediated and lightened by Christ, we are able to fulfil it. As we commune with Christ and follow Him, we will one day see God as He is.
THE MORE WE COMMUNE WITH CHRIST AND FOLLOW HIM, THE MORE GLORIOUS WE BECOME
How can we grow and evolve towards God’s glory and likeness? It is by communing with Christ and following Him daily. Moses did not have the privilege of seeing God’s face but only His back. But believers today have the privilege through communion with Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” – John 14:9. And Paul said, “For in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete” – Colossians 2:9-10a. Indeed, it is through seeing God’s face continually through Christ that we progress towards perfection.
That said, the measure of God’s glory (His commands, wisdom and authority) revealed to each person is different. For the measure of glory revealed must commensurate with our readiness to respond. As we progress in faith, Christ reveals more and more of God’s glory to us so that we may progress even further.
To commune with Christ is to be concern with the things that weigh on His heart.
What does it mean to commune with Christ? Many today pray to Christ while being oblivious to the concerns that weigh on His heart. We go to Him asking what we should do amid our predicaments. We ask Him to enlighten us on the many questions that are on our minds. We ask Him to give us blessings and grace for healing. The fact is: none of these will cause us to grow in His likeness. Knowledge does not cause us to grow. Neither does power. But only love will cause us to become like God in His glory. Communion is the process of receiving and giving love. Two persons in a love relationship will not extract concessions from each other. They care for each other by seeking to understand the things that weigh on each other’s hearts. They pour their lives into each other by putting the other’s interests first. In the same way, we commune with Christ by caring for Him, and by putting His concerns before our own. It is based on this communion that we grow from faith to faith and from glory to glory. To see God’s face is to commune with Christ.
As we commune with Christ, we come to understand the things that are truly important. By communing with Christ, He shares with us the things He is about to do in the world. It is through communion, Christ grants us higher authority to reign with Him. It is through communion, Christ enlightens us concerning the mysteries in the heavenly realms.
Spend at least 20 min at the beginning and at the end of the day to ask Jesus to reveal an aspect of you and of Him that you do not yet know.
Dear Lord, change my heart and cause me to be more concern for You and for the nations. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.