The Glory of the Lord – Exodus 33:18-235 min read
(18) And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. (19) 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. (20) And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (21) And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: (22) 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: (23) And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
33:18 – Moses’ desire to have God’s presence with him went far beyond just having it on Israel’s journey. He had a passion for it and even desired to see the Lord’s glory. We cannot fathom the communion Moses had with the Lord; perhaps Moses did not even fathom it. Perhaps he did not really know what he was asking, for the glory of the Lord is beyond human comprehension. Should we not strive for even a fraction of this communion?
33:19 – “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee…” The Lord’s goodness is His nature; it is His holiness and love all wrapped up in one description. It is not today’s definition of good, a definition that is full of self-satisfaction. It is one to be awestricken at. When we consider what Moses experienced, perhaps it was a fraction of what Christ experienced, except in a positive way. Moses had the goodness of the Lord pass before Him when he was in the Lord’s favor. Christ, however, had the goodness of God abide on Him when he was made sin for us. This goodness of God is a mystery, yet it is one we do not need to fear, because “He is good; His mercy endures forever.”
“And I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee…” The name of the Lord is a powerful one. Demons and even the Devil himself tremble when the name of the Lord is proclaimed with all His honor and glory attributed to it. Imagine the awesomeness of His name when it is spoken by Himself! Saying the name of the Lord would emphasize His character, something which is needed when He is the focus. No doubt this implies that His attributes are eternal and than His goodness and glory are everlasting.
“And will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” The Lord’s mercy and grace go hand in hand. He is merciful in withholding wrath, and He is gracious in giving salvation. To think that the Lord would give mercy to us, even in His goodness, is unthinkable. But yet His mercy is part of His goodness, as His justice is part of His goodness. Again we have a mystery of His character that cannot be explained except through His name.
33:20 – These are profound words, more than we can fathom. Stop and think of what these words really mean. Think about this: if the glory merely around Him can consume a man, how incomprehensible is the glory that His very face possesses! This is the most beautiful yet holy and righteous expression of glory throughout eternity. No one can see this face and live, because it is so holy. Sin has no place in His presence. Should my heart not melt to tears when I realize that my Saviour, the only One worthy to see His face, left the presence of the Father to become of no form nor majesty?!
The expression of God’s holiness is truly revealed to an extent in this portion. He does not tolerate sin, even in the least. How fearful it will be for a sinner to stand before Christ in His glory and realize his sin.
33:21 – What beautiful words: “Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.” Moses could see the Lord’s glory when he stood on a rock, the rock the Lord would place him upon. For us, those to whom God has chosen to give grace, we have a place by the Lord. We stand upon a Rock; this is Christ. We have a place in His presence because our Rock has cleansed us from sin and prepared a place for us. No other foundation can be laid than that which has been laid by the Saviour. We must never underestimate the strength and the implications the death of Christ has. He satisfied the goodness of the Father and made it possible for us to live even though we are in the glory of His presence. We can rest assuredly and say with all confidence: “Behold, there is a place for me; I will stand upon the Rock!”
33:22 – If Moses saw the full image of the Lord, surely he would be consumed. The Lord had to shield His goodness from Moses and place Moses on a rock to protect him. The Lord was actually merciful in not allowing Moses to see His full image. If glory is merely an expression of the Lord’s character, how great his character itself is.
33:23 – The Lord is able to manifest Himself in several forms, and this was one of them. He revealed His back parts to Moses. However, since God is a spirit, one has said that this was an “afterglow which is a reliable indication of what the full splendor is to be” (Hywel Jones, obtained from Believer’s Bible Commentary). Again, if the glory of the Lord’s ‘back parts’ were as much as Moses could handle, how great would His face be to behold!