The Glory of God
“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ 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…. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain.'” (Exodus 33:18-19; 34:2)
By John David Hicks
Bible commentator William Barclay tells of a man who lived closer to God than anyone he had ever known: Arthur John Gos-sip, pastor of Saint Matthew’s Church in Glasgow. Barclay shares an incident that occurred after a pressure-filled week that prevented Gossip from preparing properly for his sermon.
“You know the stair up to the pulpit in Saint Matthew’s?
” Gossip said to Barclay. “You know the bend on the stair? Jesus Christ met me there. I saw Him as clearly as I see you. He looked at the sermon in my hand.”
”Gossip,’ Jesus said to me, ‘is this the best you could do for me this week?” Thinking back over the business of that week, I could honestly say: ‘Yes, Lord, it is my best.'”
And then Gossip said, “Jesus Christ took that poor sermon of mine that Sunday morning and in His hands it became a trum-pet!”
The unction and passion of God touched Gossip and his listeners as well. The river of God flowed with blessing, power, and healing. It happened with Pastor Gossip, it happened with Moses, and it can happen with you.
In Exodus 33, God manifested His presence among His people, and all the people “worshiped” (v. 10). Worship is our re-sponse to the person of God. After that wonderful experience, God told Moses to go up the mountain again. God would give him an even greater revelation of His person. God must add to the revelation because Moses, as a finite man, was unable to comprehend the infinity of God. He would have been overwhelmed. God had revealed His glory through the burning bush, then by a pillar of cloud and fire, and later through the tabernacle.
Now, in Exodus 34, God made Moses himself an instrument to reveal His glory. Moses entered the presence of God’s glory where grace flowed. He would never be the same and neither would his ministry. He heard God’s voice, saw God’s character, understood God’s will, and was moved by God’s grace into worship and a fresh passion for God.
God and His Glory
What is the glory of God? It is His glorious moral attributes, His infinite perfections. It denotes God’s revelation of His be-ing, nature, and presence to all mankind.
We know, too, that man was made in the image of God for relationship with Him. But he has fallen short of his destiny to re-flect God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The glory of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:7-11) is that we can now reflect the glory of His Son (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and that God’s character will be seen in His disciples (Romans 15:9) through their deeds (Acts 4:21; 1 Corinthians 6:20), that the Lord’s glory would be revealed through us (Colossians 1:27; Romans 16:27).
It is important to focus our attention on the character of God. For a relationship to be solid, you must know the other per-son’s character: What is his response in crisis? What motivates his actions? Will he stick by you? Is he committed to you? Does he love you? As the Lord reveals Himself to Moses, His glorious character is shown in those attributes that constitute His being. Each word in this ”proclamation” is important to our relationship.
1. Compassionate. Compassion is sympathy with another’s distress, along with a desire to help. God feels compassion for the hurting-those who are beset with problems, broken in grief, and troubled. Jesus goes so far as to identify their distress with His own distress. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison, Jesus told us, we are feeding, clothing, and visiting Him.
The story is told of a visitor to Mother Teresa’s leper hospital in Calcutta. The visitor watched as these wretched people were brought in from the streets. Tenderly a nurse cleaned them and cared for them. After a short time, the visitor turned to Mother Teresa and said, “I wouldn’t do that kind of work for all the money in the world.”
“No,” she replied, “neither would I.” She was doing it for her Lord, identifying Him in the needs of the street
2. Gracious. God’s compassion and love is not based on our worth. There is nothing in your life that commends you to God. His favor can never be earned by our good deeds; He gives His grace freely. Salvation is the gift of God, always unearned, al-ways unmerited.
3. Slow to anger. Time is on God’s side. He is willing to wait for years if need be to enable a person to come to repentance. “He is not willing that any perish.” Although God’s firmness of judgment against sin is in no doubt, he has shown Himself as a gracious God, faithful to His people even when they are faithless. He waits for the “fullness of time,” but it is a dangerous error to presume on that grace. “The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” There is a time when the harvest is over and it is too late to respond.
4. Abounding in mercy and faithfulness. By the atoning sacrifice of Christ, a way was opened for the exercise of mercy toward sinners, in harmony with the demands of truth and righteousness. As grace is receiving from God what we don’t de-serve, mercy is not receiving what we do deserve. How merciful He is to us! And we sing about His great faithfulness, not just in the natural order of created things, but also in our own lives. He is altogether trustworthy-someone who can be totally relied on.
5. Abounding in truth and justice. In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells us that God can never deny Himself. His whole char-acter is bound up in honesty and truth. Truth is the bedrock of all human and divine relationships. God is opposed to falsehood and He cannot lie. Justice, too, is a part of God’s very nature and holiness. God’s eternal righteousness demands that He visit every sin with merited punishment.
6. Maintaining love. And what more is there to say of His great and glorious love to us? It is totally beyond our human comprehension how He could love and give Himself for creatures as unlovable as we were. His love is the counterpart of His grace that is freely given.
7. Forgiving wickedness. Pardon of sin is a divine act. Only God can forgive sin. When God forgives, He wipes out the offense so that the relationship between the sinner and God is restored. The weight and guilt of sin are gone, and “Those whom the Son sets free, shall be free indeed” (John 7:36).
God rounds off this revelation of the glory of His moral character by calling Himself “the LORD, whose name is Jealous” (verse 14). God does not tolerate any rivalry with your affections and service. He wants your total loyalty.
Moses and His Prayer
Moses had prayed to see the manifest glory of God. He wanted the assurance of God’s presence and to experience God’s mighty power and majesty. He knew he would not do much standing when the going got tough, unless he had a vision of God. God’s response was to show him His glorious character, His nature, His way of relating to His creatures. It was not a vision of God’s power and majesty that Moses needed, but of His love and holiness-His glory! God’s glory is not revealed by our intel-lectual discernment, but only by spiritual revelation. God is now going to give that revelation to Moses, so Moses can know God’s ways, His name and character, and how He works.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain'” (Exodus 34:1-3).
Every truly spiritual person has had extended seasons of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. It is his habit to rise early in the morning in order to meet God before he meets anybody else. Many have also found it helpful to keep a journal of insights and ideas, a written record of what they learned as they read the Word and had communion with God in prayer.
George Mueller, the great Christian leader of a few centuries ago, said, “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.”
When you “present yourself” to God, come with the Word of God, bring some paper, and come alone. Be still, quiet your spirit in God’s presence. Come with expectancy that God will speak to you. Write in your journal or notebook the thoughts and pictures God brings to your mind. “My sheep will hear my voice,” Jesus said.
“So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD” (vv. 4-5).
Again God revealed Himself and His character. “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiv-ing wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation'” (vv. 6-7).
What was Moses’ reaction to this manifestation of the Lord? The same reaction anyone has when he catches a glimpse of the marvelous character of God. “Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped” (v. 8). When you see God’s glorious charac-ter, you will have no trouble worshiping.
God will meet you; expect Him. He will proclaim His name, His character to you. In your communion with God, envision Jesus, the Lord, as you pray with the eyes of your heart. The language of the Spirit will touch your heart. As David exhorted in Psalm 32:11, “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart.”
But then notice the progression of the prayer of Moses. “O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance” (v. 9). In God’s presence, his prayer shifted to a concern for others.
Prayer is a dialogue with God modeled through Scripture. God talked with Moses on the holy mountain. God speaks into our hearts and into our minds with insight, illumination, and direction. He confirms it with conviction and His peace.
Finally, God made a covenant with Moses: “I will do wonders never before done,” He said. “Obey what I command you. Do not worship idols. I will be your strength…. I will keep my covenant.” Obedience, faithfulness, and dependence on God are the human side of the bargain. Keeping the covenant is God’s side.
God will speak to you. He created you in His image for intimate fellowship with Him. He gave His life and redeemed you, so you could live in oneness with Him. He loves you and wants your companionship. He will guide you and give you spiritual insight.
Moses took the privilege that is available to all-to seek the Lord and His ways. When you see what God is like, then you can trust Him and have faith. God will speak to you and you can see His glory.
You and Your Response
When Moses came down from the mountain, his face revealed the glory of God. Moses became a channel through which God would reveal Himself.
You cannot be profoundly moved by sentiment or by the idea of God’s justice, but you can be moved by a holy passion that comes out of a relationship with God’s glory, His glorious character. God’s glory is revealed in His mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness, love, forgiveness, and holiness.
God’s intention for us is the same as it was for Moses-to reveal His glory and character. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father” (Matthew 5:16).
This theme is repeated in the New Testament. “Whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
God wants you to have His nature and manifest His glory.
Because of sin, God’s nature cannot be seen in unregenerate man. Man reflects his own glory, not God’s. Our problem started when man withdrew his surrender and obedience to God. The result is that we live by our appetites, our carnal nature of selfishness. God gave the law to show us that we could never measure up to His standard of holiness. As long as we live by our selfish appetites, we are tempted to pamper ourselves, eat too much, talk too much, and praise ourselves.
But even in the Old Testament, God promised a new covenant, when He would give men His character and power by putting His Spirit into their hearts. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
When Jesus came, He said that He lived not for Himself, but for the Father’s glory. Similarly, we are to live for God’s glory. This is why Jesus told His disciples to tarry for the promise of the Holy Spirit and power from the Father. Why is the Holy Spirit given? To enable us to obey God and reveal His glory.
God’s answer to man’s problem is that we be conformed to Jesus. “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). The Christian life is not our striving to be holy in our power, but it is a life lived out through the energy of God’s Spirit.
C. S. Lewis put it well in Mere Christianity: “Our faith is not a matter of our hearing what Christ said long ago and trying to carry it out. Rather the real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe (life) into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”
How do we become more like the Lord? How do we begin to reflect the character of God? God must impart it. He is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). Our part is to depend on the Lord, to focus on Him and His char-acter, to meditate on His Word, to behold His marvelous works, and to look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Paul spoke of this hope: “God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
That’s the secret of the Christian life: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” God is manifested in your life when you know you are loved, accepted, justified, reconciled, adopted, and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
God’s glory is who He is, what He does, and how He shows Himself. It is His awesome revelation in holiness, power, grace, and love. And yet Jesus spoke the stunning words, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them” (John 17:22). We are partakers, not originators, of this glory. God’s revealed glory, the revelation of His character, is the secret of sanctification and growth. It produces moral change.
As Moses was transformed by the glory of God, and his face reflected God’s glory, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
In our day of feeble Christianity, God still calls people into a relationship and ministry to others. What is the message that is so needed today? That the glory of God’s character can be manifested in power and love in the heart of the believer. Man’s part is the surrender and obedience, desiring the relationship. God’s part is the cleansing and the anointing called sanctification. Tarry as Jesus commanded, and then you will have a message, a ministry, and an undying passion for His glory.