The Glory and Goodness of God
Exodus 33:18 – 34:9
Introduction: Have you heard about Pocket God? It’s one of the top-selling video game applications for Apple’s iPhone. Here's the game description found on iTunes:
What kind of god would you be? Benevolent or vengeful? Play Pocket God and discover the answer within yourself. On a remote island, you are the all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders. You can bring new life, and then take it away just as quickly.
Seeing that game options include throwing islanders into volcanoes, using islanders as shark bait, bowling for islanders with a large rock, or creating earthquakes to destroy the islanders’ villages, designers seem to think players will only want to play the role of a vengeful god—which must mean they think that’s the only kind of god players can ever imagine being real.
Brian Lowery, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; http://www.apple.com/iphone/ (Pocket God entry)
Our view of God is extraordinarily important. Moses understood how important when he requested that God show him His glory. Of course, no man (not even Moses) can gaze upon the face of God and live. So, God allowed His goodness to pass before Moses.
Moses wanted what we all want – to know God. This is the core of the next section in our series through the book of Exodus. Let us begin reading in Exodus 33.18 (stop at 34.9).
“And [Moses] said, “Please, show me Your glory.” ” (Exodus 33:18, NKJV)
18 Moses asks God to show him His glory. We must not see this as a full out revelation of the first Person of the Godhead. No one can see God and live (cp. v. 20).
“And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” ” (Exodus 33:18–23, NKJV)
19-23 God states that He will cause His goodness to pass by Moses. He will also proclaim the name of the LORD before Moses. But Moses cannot see the face of God, the glory of God and live. The glory of the LORD will pass by, and then Moses shall see the LORD’s back.
God is revealing to Moses His character, what He is like. Moses cannot see the face or front of God, but He sees the back. Of course, the idea is not that God has a back, but that Moses will see the place where the LORD had passed. He saw the passing glory of God.
God protected Moses from a certain death by shielding his eyes when He passed by. Of course, God the Father does not have a hand – this is called anthropomorphism (using human physical characteristics and applying them to God for our understanding in a literary way). Note here that God in fact protected Moses from Himself. God covered Moses with the shadow of His hand (cf. Isa 51.16).
Application: That protection is found in Christ today. Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14.8). Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (14.9).
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth …No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1.14, 18).
You see the glory of God in the Word of God. The Word of God reveals Jesus Christ to us. However, right now we see Him as in a mirror, dimly, but in Heaven we shall see Him face to face (1 Cor 13.12).
“And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.” ” (Exodus 34:1–3, NKJV)
1-3 Moses prepares to meet God by cutting out two tablets to replace the ones he broke. The LORD will write the words that He had written on the first set of tablets (Deuteronomy – second law). Moses will ascend Sinai in the morning, but he must be alone. Another man or even an animal is not to come near the mountain.
“So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. ” (Exodus 34:4–5, NKJV)
4-5 Moses obeys the LORD and the LORD descends in the cloud-pillar. This cloud demonstrated the Presence of the LORD, but it also hid the Presence of the LORD. The LORD calls out His name.
“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” ” (Exodus 34:6–7, NKJV)
6-7 The LORD calls out His name twice as He passes by. He the LORD – YHWH (tetragrammaton); the One Who Always Is (I AM). Recall the burning bush when God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Ex 3.14) This Hebrew verb testifies of God’s eternal self-existence. He is sufficient in and of Himself. He is – no end and no beginning.
Moses wanted to know if the Presence of the LORD would be with him and with Israel. This is the LORD’s answer: The attributes characterizing the LORD:
Merciful – genuine, caring compassion; God holds toward man a tender attitude of concern and mercy. He withholds what is due man from a punitive nature.
“So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2.13).
God is merciful; He sympathizes with our weaknesses. As we are low and in great need, God is a merciful Father who is eager to pick us up and put us right before Him. Even “as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him” (Psalm 103.13).
I have had opportunity to be on the receiving end of God’s fatherly mercy many times. As a father, I now know what it is to be on the giving end. When a dad sees genuine brokenness in his children, he cannot help but rush in and lavish his children with love and care. However, mercy is not for the froward, stubborn, and rebellious children. They experience chastening and disapproval until the brokenness appears once again. So-called mercy toward rebellious children is really just lenient behavior destroying America’s youth.
Gracious – God does for man that which man does not deserve. He gives to man what is not due him from a positive nature.
a. God giving good things to undeserving people; like eternal life (Eph 2.8-9)
b. Be careful of an attitude that sets you in a direction in which you believe you deserve something – the only thing we truly deserve is eternal hell-fire.
Longsuffering – slow to anger; patient with man when man fails Him.
a. He does not desire to act against us, even when we are so unfaithful and stubborn.
b. He desires that we turn back to Him, but if we do not, He will act.
c. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9).
Abounding in Goodness – the loyal love of God; man is unreliable, but God is always good; always loyal and faithful to His promises.
Abounding in Truth – God always speaks truthfully. We may rely upon His Word. We may trust in Him in matters of life and death – eternal life and death.
Keeping Mercy for Thousands – maintaining His loyalty to thousands of generations (a way of saying forever) as long as those generations do not break His covenant established with them, His mercy will endure forever.
Forgiving Iniquity –activity that is crooked or wrong
Forgiving Transgression – overstepping your bounds; rebellion or revolt
Forgiving Sin – missing the mark; moral wrongdoing; the standard is God’s Law and they have missed it
God forgives by taking our sin and carrying it away, relieving us of the burden of guilt.
One writer approaches the topic of our distortion of God’s person by relaying a personal testimony:
When I found a brand new lap-top for half price on eBay, I told my friend and musical colleague Spencer about my bargain of a find. He was worried: “Usually when something's too good to be true …”
"I know," I replied impatiently, "but the seller has a 100 percent approval rating."
"Be careful," warned Spencer.
"Of course," I assured him, annoyed. I wasn't born yesterday.
I sent the seller $1,300 and discovered in very short, sickening order that I had fallen prey to a classic scam. A fraudster had hacked someone's eBay identity in order to relieve easy marks like me of our money.
I felt [like a] fool—and didn't want to tell Spencer. The next time I saw his number on my caller ID, I didn't answer. I could just imagine his "I told you so."
Soon, I was avoiding Spencer completely. And I started to resent him. Why did he have to be so judgmental? Why couldn't he be on my side? Why was I ever friends with that jerk?
Eventually, we had to fly together to perform at a concert. "Whatever happened with that computer thing?" he asked an hour into the flight. Cornered, I finally confessed my foolishness, dreading the inevitable response. But as soon as I told Spencer about my mistake, a strange thing happened. The enemy I had turned him into evaporated. Spencer turned into Spencer again, my teasing but deeply empathetic buddy.
As embarrassed as I was by my eBay error, I felt even dumber about the way I had allowed my shame to distort my perception of a best friend. If my hand had not been forced, I would have remained estranged from him indefinitely.
I've always considered myself perceptive, but the longer I live, the more I discover my susceptibility to misinterpretation. This is true of the way I view my friends, truer of the way I see my enemies, and perhaps truest of the way I perceive God.
Condensed from an on-line article by Christianity Today magazine, © 2009 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit ChristianityToday.com.
Carolyn Arends, "Our Divine Distortion," ChristianityToday.com (12-18-09)
Guilt over back-sliding, defiance, and even moral failure need not be a burden you carry out of this room tonight. God is willing to carry these things away in forgiveness because of the work of Jesus Christ.
Not Clearing the Guilty – making sure He carries out His justice; the guilty will get what they deserve – these our people who rely upon themselves not Christ
Visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers Upon the Children, Grandchildren, Great Grandchildren, and Great-Great Grandchildren – the Father will judge these successive generations because each continues to commit iniquity; Israel could not rightly think something like “we can probably get away with doing this in our generation because God punished an earlier generation for doing it, so the punishment for it has already been given, and we don’t have to worry about it.”
“So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” ” (Exodus 34:8–9, NKJV)
8-9 Moses responds to this powerful revelation with worship. What else can he do?? He then asks the LORD for what has already been given him. He had found grace, the LORD would go among them, He would pardon their iniquity, and take them as His inheritance. O how great the love of God!
Hymn: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me God (339)
 Stuart, D. K. (2007). Vol. 2: Exodus (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (717). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.