11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
READING EXODUS 33
God gets so angry He says He will not go with them to the Promised Land. He’ll send a messenger, an angel, to be their GPS.
What happens next is an eye-opening conversation between a fed-up God and Moses who very much needs this fed-up God.
Watch for the following themes in Exodus 33-34:
- God’s presence
- God can be reminded of His own characteristics or words and He doesn’t seem to mind
- God as Local or Global God
- What makes us special?
- Mercy of God
I grew up singing the Fanny Crosby song (1890), “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry thirsty land. He hideth my life in the depths of his love, and covers me there with his hand, and covers me there with his hand!”
Whoa! The only thing I don’t like about Fanny’s song is that I didn’t write those amazing words and have them put to music. What a beautiful tribute to the story of God putting Moses into a crevice in a rocky place and passing by and showing His amazing backside!
Though we don’t have a direct story about how Fanny wrote this song, it’s clear it is inspired by Exodus 33. Crosby’s life is an inspiration. She must have been reading or someone else was reading and told her about Exodus 33. We do know she ministered among the poor and forgotten, vulnerable people in the late 1800s, ones needing the hand of God to hide them from the horrors of their existence.
Lord, it seems in this story that there’s a contradiction of communion with you. On one hand, we see Moses in his tent, and You would “speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” But when Moses asks for You to show His glory, you only show your backside?! We can’t handle taking in your full on glory and live to tell the tale.
As we follow you, God, we see you ahead, and we see your glory, but we also think we want to see your face–you have shown us your face in Jesus.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.