A Weighty Knowledge (Exodus 33:18-23)

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Exodus 33 is a wonderful portion of Scripture which, points us to the gracious and glorious gospel of God. We have seen this in many ways, especially in the typological picture of Moses as the mediator of the people. This, of course, points us to the greater Moses, the Lord Jesus Christ. We have learned much about this but the truth that looms largest is that of Jesus Christ being the favoured Son and Mediator, and thus our safety and security in Him who “always lives to make intercession” for all who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25). It is with this knowledge that we can be sure that He will keep us from falling and one day present us spotless before His presence with glory (Jude 24-25). As the Lord prayed, one day we will share in His glory (see John 17; Romans 5:1-5; etc.).

That is, or at least should be, a heavy thought.

The word “glory” means “heavy” or “weighty.” The word with its cognates, is a key word in the book of Exodus, occurring some twenty times. In addition to “glory,” it is also translated as “slow” (4:10), “hard” (7:14), “thick” (8:24; 19:16), “severe” (9:3; 10:14), “heavy” (9:18, 24; 17:12) and “too much” (18:18). Elsewhere in the Old Testament it is translated numerous times by the word “great” (1 Kings 3:9; etc.).

The idea of “glory” is that of being overwhelmed by the greatness, the “weightiness,” of an event or person. “The glory of God is the weight of all that God is, the fullness of his understanding, virtue, and happiness.”1

The glory of God points us to His character (nature) being such that it heavily influences our response to Him. God’s “weight” comes to bear heavily on us. We might say that God’s glory is His “weightiness.” Respectfully, He is a “heavyweight.” And as we come to this theme of the glory of God, I can identify with the words of A. W. Pink who wrote, “Our pen falters as we take up such a verse as this, for what sinful creature is competent to write upon such an exalted theme as the glory of God?”2

When you think about it, this is precisely where the children of Israel had gone wrong. They worshipped a golden calf because God was not a very heavy influence upon them. Moses understood the people’s need to experience the weight of glory if they would avoid further idolatry. He knew that God needed to “invade their world” in such a way that he and they would never be the same. It is because of this that Moses prayed, “Show me your glory.”

If you will overcome the idolatrous temptations that surround you, then you too need a weighty knowledge of God. This passage helps us in this pursuit by pointing us to the fountainhead of this knowledge: the gospel of God.

A Glorious Request

Knowing God begins with a glorious request. Moses wanted to know God’s glory, and so he asked God to show him. “And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory’” (v. 18).

Moses, having interceded on behalf of the nation, was now assured that the Lord’s presence would go with them. The Lord had relented of His intention to mothball His tabernacle plans. Things were back on track; the trek toward Canaan could begin. The Lord would go with them and the nations would see that the Lord was indeed among them. But there was one more matter for which Moses prayed.

In v. 18 Moses begged God to show him His glory. He wanted to know something of God’s weightiness, of how “heavy” God was. Without the knowledge of God, life would be a weight of grief. It would be grievous, sore, and so Moses asked for a revelation of God’s glory.

We should realise that, while the burden of obedience to Christ is a light one, it is nevertheless a burden. It is light compared to the burden of not knowing Christ, but let us never forget that following Christ involves a yoke (see Matthew 11:28-30). We should carefully consider and choose our weight.

You will remember that Moses had earlier prayed that he might know God and find grace in His sight. He had asked God to consider that Israel was, in fact, His covenant people (v. 13). He wanted the Lord to show him both that He would save His people, and how He would do so. He had some inkling that if the Lord revealed Himself to him (and thus to the people), it would be an assurance of God’s never ending, always-abiding presence. “Lord if you show me (and us) Your glory then I know that You have a special (saving) relationship with us. And if this is the case, then I know You will never leave us or forsake us. So, please, show me Your glory!” A knowledge of God’s glory was his earnest desire.

Everyone in whom the Spirit of God resides desires to know God. Everyone one who has been born again is desirous of seeing more of who God is. But the question is, why? Let me identify three reasons why we should be concerned about acquiring such a weighty knowledge of God.

A Concern for God’s Help

Moses was not about to set out on this journey with the children of Israel unless he was certain that the Lord would go with them. He desired a manifestation of God’s presence. That has a familiar ring to it.

Alec Motyer observes, “Without Moses the people lacked certainty for the future and desired the leadership of a visible god. In principle Moses himself was no different. He too was unprepared to venture alone into the future, he too desired some certainty that the Lord was still prepared to go with him and Israel. . . . The Lord, in marvellous graciousness, set about meeting Moses’ needs, and he did so with a promise, [and] a glimpse of glory.”3

Also, keep in mind the context of this request. There is no doubt that Moses was feeling the weight of the burden of dealing with the sins of his people. An intercessory ministry is indeed a heavy thing. It can be terribly discouraging. And so Moses was in need of experiencing something heavier than his grief; he needed to experience the weight of God’s glory. As Wiersbe says, “When God’s servants are discouraged and disappointed because of the sins of their people, the best remedy for a broken heart is a new vision of the glory of God.”4 A vision of the glory of God is a wonderful weight to counterbalance the heavy burdens of an intercessory ministry.

Moses was aware of the sinful propensity of the people and knew that a high and exalted view of God would enable him to persevere. It is difficult to lead a people who are thoughtless, ungrateful, disrespectful and murmuring. These were certainly characteristics of the children of Israel. Moses needed a vision of the glory of God great enough to keep him persevering. The same was true for Paul many centuries later (cf. Philippians 3:7-14). And so it will be for anyone who is serious about engaging in church life. So it will be for all who are serious about following the Lord as they march through this world.

When you are committed to walking the Christian pilgrimage with others you should be prepared for times of heartache. At such times you need to experience the glory of God. When you experience His weight, then you are strengthened in your weakness (see 2 Corinthians 11:22—12:9).

Perhaps Moses was thinking in terms of the Lord’s manifested presence as recorded in Exodus 19 and 24. He knew that they would be leaving the mount very soon and so such phenomena would be left behind. Moses perhaps made this request because he desired confirmation of God’s restored relationship to them. If God would condescend to reveal Himself to Moses (and thus to them) then he would be comforted that God would be with them.

As we face the world with its myriad of temptations and sinful snares we desperately require the help of God. If the reality of the immanence of God is not heavy upon us then we will all too easily succumb to a practical atheism.

Finally, as a caring shepherd Moses desired to help these people to overcome their idolatry. He understood that a vision of the glory of God to him was something that he could then share with them. And by this they could guard themselves against the onslaughts of idolatrous temptations.

You see, your weighty knowledge of God is a means to equip others. Disciplers, husbands, parents, teachers, you need a vision of the glory of God if you will effectively shepherd others in knowing God. Pray, then, for God to reveal His glory to you, not only for your benefit, but also for the benefit of those whom you are leading.

A Concern for God’s Honour

More importantly, Moses wanted to know the weight of glory because he was concerned for God’s honour. We have a hint of this in v. 16. He wanted the nations to know that God was certainly in Israel’s midst, and this would require the glory of God’s presence.

Why do you want to pursue the knowledge of God? Is it because you desire to be known as a great theologian, preacher, or church member? Or is it for the honour of God? Our desire needs to be like those of Jesus who said, “I have glorified You on the earth” (John 17:4). The honour of His Father was His passion and so must it be ours.

As we grow in our appreciation for the majesty of God then we will find ourselves lost in wonder, love and praise and we will passionately pursue the glory of God among the nations. We will count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, counting them as rubbish. We will passionately and sacrificially pursue the knowledge of God becoming the experience of the nations of the world.

The mission of God is that He be worshipped by all the peoples of the world—throughout eternity. But the nations will only feel the weight of His glory to the degree that His people acquire and display such a weighty knowledge. As we grow in our knowledge of God, fuelled by seeing more and more of God’s glory, His weightiness will be experienced by others. But this will usually require a great cost. And yet no cost is ever too great.

Consider the example of John and Betty Stamm, a missionary couple to China who were arrested and martyred within months of arriving on the field. When the authorities arrested them and wrote to their mission agency demanding ransom, John sent this letter:

Dear Brethren,

My wife, baby, and myself are today in the hands of the Communists, in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is twenty thousand dollars for our release.

All our possessions and stores are in their hands, but we praise God for peace in our hearts and a meal tonight. God grant you wisdom in what you do, and us fortitude, courage, and peace of heart. He is able and a wonderful Friend in such a time.

Things happened so quickly this a.m. They were in the city just a few hours after the ever-present rumors really became alarming, so that we could not prepare to leave in time. We were just too late.

The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.

John Stamm

This man is had been robbed by murderous thugs and imprisoned with his wife and baby daughter. But his concern was not for life or death, but only for the glory of God. That is heavy!

A Concern for God Himself

Finally, Moses desired to experience the weight of glory for God Himself. Yes, he wanted to know God simply for who God is.

As noted above, Moses faced a difficult task. But he knew that if he knew God then he could handle it. In the end this request was motivated by a desire to know God simply because God was God. He wanted God, and God alone.

It has been said, “He who has God and everything else is no richer than he who has God only.” Would to God that we will want God simply for who He is! When this is the case then our desire for God will be so great that all other desires will pale in significance.

In a lecture entitled “The Weight of Glory,” delivered in June 1942 at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, C. S. Lewis said, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us; like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

In a real sense the weight of the glory of God is inescapable. God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and we cannot escape His reality. We may sense the reality of His glory in a sunset, in a spontaneous sense of gratitude, or in cradling a baby. It is impossible to escape this sense of a “heavy other” but, as Peter Kreeft writes, “there is no escape from the glory, for the glory is the glory of God, and there is no escape from God. But there is an escape from knowing it.”5

Sadly, too many can testify to the self-assessment of Agur who wrote in Proverbs 30:2-3, “Surely I am more stupid than any man. And do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor have the knowledge of the Holy One.”

By God’s grace He invites you to come to your senses and to pursue the knowledge of His glory. He calls us from stupidity to sensible surrender.

A Gracious Revelation

Knowing God requires God’s gracious self-revelation. The Lord graciously responded to Moses’ request by promising him a revelation of His glory. There are two main issues here to consider.

Sovereign Grace

God told Moses that he will reveal himself to him by both a passing and a proclamation. Both of these concepts convey the idea of revelation. God was saying that He would reveal to Moses some truths about Himself. The glory that Moses desired to behold would come by God’s free and sovereign self-disclosure. Moses would be given a vision of God. He would have the opportunity to see something of Him—but only because of God’s free because sovereign grace. “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” (v. 19).

A Passing

God told Moses that when he saw God passing by then he would be exposed to His essential goodness. “I will make all My goodness pass before you.”

The word “goodness” speaks of the kindness of God (Psalms 25:7; 27:13; 31:19; 145:7; 65:11-12; Jeremiah 31:14). It also speaks of beauty (Hosea 10:11; Zechariah 9:17). It has been noted that Scripture sometimes uses the word “goodness” as a synonym for God. Perhaps the best illustration of this is found in Jesus’ response to the young ruler, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17).

But what did God mean when He said, “I will pass before you”? Alan Cole answers, “In vivid pictorial language, the passage says that man may see only where God has passed by and so know Him by His past doings and acts. God as He is, in all His mystery, we cannot know or comprehend.”6

In other words, if we want to know God then we must turn to the revelation of how God has worked in the past—primarily as these acts are recorded in His Word. Though God works differently in different eras, the way in which God acts reveals to us something of His character. For example, in creation He manifested His goodness, love and desire for His glory. In His response to the Fall, He manifested His hatred of sin, as well as His grace. In His response to the evil conduct of mankind when He flooded the world, He manifested His intention to judge sinners, as well as His favour in saving Noah and family. His call of Abraham and subsequent events revealed His faithfulness to His covenant.

God’s Name

The Lord was telling Moses that it was through the revelation of His works that He would give him more insight into His nature. And yet note that this was not simply a matter of giving Moses a “video record” of what God had done. Rather God would make His works known through the revelation of His name (34:5-7). In the words of John Owen, “the face of God, or the gracious majesty of his Being, his essential glory, is not to be seen of any in this life; we cannot see him as he is. But the gracious manifestation of himself we may behold and contemplate. This we may see . . . in the revelation, and declaration of this name of God (Exod. 34:6-7).”7

We need to know the character of God, and one way to accomplish this is by knowing the names by which He has revealed Himself in Scripture. A study of the names of God as given in the Bible will reveal a great deal about His character. It will prove wonderfully instructive. It will both humble us and cheer us. It will no doubt do a great deal of good for our prayer life. So long, that is, as we are enabled to receive the revelation.

Sovereign Choice

Note the phrase, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” In the context, it is clear that this has reference to God’s self-disclosure. In other words, God was saying, “Moses, this is what I am like: I manifest my grace and mercy as I deal with my creation. But I exercise it according to my volition.”

Further, God was revealing that no man could demand God’s self-disclosure (though so many foolishly do) but that all men should seek this. God’s self-disclosure to Moses was not merely because Moses asked for it. Rather, God revealed Himself to Moses was completely by His free and sovereign grace. This is always the case.

Cassuto helpfully paraphrases: “It is impossible for you to know when, or if, I shall act thus. I shall be gracious . . . if it pleases me, when it pleases me, and for the reasons that please me.” Cassuto further notes that “we might add, to whom it pleases me. Not even Moses has a ‘right.’ It is all of grace, and sovereign grace at that.”8 God was declaring His sovereign purpose to do what He chose to do. Calvin captures its essence well when he comments, “Assuredly it was an inestimable proof of God’s grace that, after this most disgraceful fall and wicked apostasy of the people, He nevertheless revealed Himself more clearly than before to Moses for their spiritual good.”9

God chooses to save His people. “Nothing will make him adjust his purposes—neither Israel’s unworthiness (32:24) nor all the power of the enemy (33:2). He is God, unchanged and unchanging.”10

Saving Grace

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). This is true even for the likes of Moses. And for this reason, the Lord told Moses that His self-disclosure would be restricted. God was going to reveal Himself to Moses in such a way that he would be blessed rather than destroyed. This was an act of saving grace. “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (v. 20).

Moses would not be permitted to see God’s face, for to do so would result in Moses’ destruction. He will not survive a full revelation of God. The weight of His glory would crush Him. Currid notes that this reference to God’s face “serves as a physical symbol of a theological reality, which is that mankind can only partially perceive and discern the attributes of God. Humanity cannot comprehend his essential nature. The full nature of God is simply beyond human sight and comprehension.”11 No wonder Annie Dillard thinks that it is silly for women to wear fancy bonnets to church when they should be wearing crash helmets!12

We have little concept of the radiance of God. But we gain some insight by scenes such as this one as well, and the one in which Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up (Isaiah 6).

I can remember the days of designated public buildings that were to serve as bomb shelters in the United States in the event of a quick-fingered, trigger-happy Russian or US president. The shelters were identified by signs with atomic symbols. In the event of an air-raid alarm we were to head for a shelter in the hopes of avoiding destruction by radiation. It was a very real concern. But as deadly as such an attack could have been there is one far more certain: that of impending judgement upon your death as you stand before a holy God.

I was saddened recently to read the office of Desmond Tutu referring to the Dalai Lama as “His Holiness.” As a professing Christian leader, Tutu ought to have some concept of what “holiness” is—and that the Dalai Lama falls far short of that standard. Jesus Christ is holy, and it is no light matter to stand before Him in judgement.

When an unbeliever dies and stands before God in His glory, he will melt in fear and trauma before Him. Sadly, on that day there will be no hiding place, no shelter from the storm of the glorious wrath of God.

In a very real sense God was graciously saving Moses from destruction. And so He has saved sinners throughout history since the Fall.

It was an act of saving grace when God dismissed fallen man from the garden. Humans could no longer survive the full presence of God. For thousands of years God has graciously hidden Himself from humanity in order to save us from destruction. If He would come to earth today in the fullness of His glory then we would be destroyed. No unsheltered man can see God and live.

And yet, as we will soon see, there is a way to savour and survive the presence of God. In fact, there is a way to be saved from and by the presence of God.

A Gospel Reality

Knowing God is a gospel reality. We see in these closing verses a wonderful and weighty picture of the gospel of God.

Safe in Christ

Moses could not see God and live. But there was hope.

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.”

(Exodus 33:21-22)

This entire passage reveals God’s gracious condescension. Calvin saw this request by Moses as one of impertinence, as though Moses was seeking to peer into an arena in which he had no right to peer. That may or may not be. Regardless, what does stand out is the grace and mercy of God in acquiescing to the request. God withheld certain revelations from Moses with respect to the knowledge of His glory but still made it possible for him to know Him better. The full radiance of His glory would make the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima seem like a fire-cracker. And so God provided a means by which Moses could survive this encounter. This is the story of the gospel.

The Lord appointed a cleft in the rock in which Moses could be hid from the otherwise consuming glory of God. Moses needed to be protected by God from God! God Himself provided the rock. It was by the free choice of God that He appointed this means of protection. As Moses found shelter in God’s appointed place of safety, he would experience God and at the same time survive the encounter.

Calvin pastorally applies these verses so well to believers when he writes, “God, therefore, whilst He withholds us from a complete knowledge of Him, nevertheless manifests Himself as far as is expedient; nay, tempering the amount of light to our humble capacity, He assumes the face which we are able to bear.13

The face of God “which we are able to bear” is none other than that of Christ Jesus the Lord. God has provided His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ as our place of safety.

We need to embrace the gospel truth that we need protection from the wrath of God; and the glory of the gospel is that He Himself provides that protection. There is safety for convicted and repentant sinners in Christ—who is God—from God Himself! Jesus is the cleft of the rock in which believing sinners hide because, after all, He is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)!

As we move to our final point of this study keep in mind this verse, which informs us that, all along, both Moses and the children of Israel did have the presence of the Lord. This presence of God in their midst was in fact never under jeopardy. The problem was that God had come among them in a veiled way which they did not understand. This once again points us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saved by Christ

In the final verse of this chapter God proclaimed that Moses would be given a glimpse of God—but only in an “adjusted” form. “Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” (v. 23). Moses was graced with “a glimpse of God’s ‘afterglow’—a partial suggestion of what the whole radiance must be.”14 God revealed Himself in an “adjusted” presence.

As Moses was safely hidden in the cleft of the Rock, God passed by and Moses saw a very veiled form of His glory. But it was enough. It was a sufficient vision to enable Moses to know God. The revelation would transform him—God revealed Himself to Moses in such a way that he was changed (34:29-35) rather than destroyed. And that is the storyline of the Bible, of the gospel of God. “In the Bible we see God working out a way of salvation that allows us to know him without being destroyed.”15

This verse makes it clear that God was present, even though He was veiled. And, in a very real sense, this was not much different than what had occurred since Exodus 3. Let me explain.

In light of the theme of this chapter, the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4 are very interesting. Paul said that Christ was present with the children as the Rock. But it is vital to see that Christ was also always with them as God’s appointed “Angel.”

You see the one designated “My Angel” and “an Angel” was none other than the Lord, the preincarnate Christ. He was none other than the second person of the Trinity. This was a Christophany. Christ was with them all along!

Christ was the Angel of the Lord who confronted Moses at the burning bush; He was the Angel of the Lord who went both before and behind the Israelites when they came out of Egypt; He was the Angel of the Lord whom God promised them in their going into Canaan; He was the Angel of the Lord whom God promised them even after their idolatry; and He was the Angel of the Lord whom God promised them even though He said that He would not tabernacle with them.

Yes, the children of Israel always had God’s presence—in Christ! So why in this chapter did Moses make such a big deal about God “presencing” Himself with them? Because even though God was present with them in a Christophany they were clueless. They were like those in Jesus’ day who did not receive Him though He came to them (John 1:10-11). What Moses and the children of Israel needed to learn from this experience was that they had the very presence of the Lord in a veiled form, the preincarnate Christ.

Moses desired to “see” the Lord—as does everyone who knows their need for grace and forgiveness. But how does one see God? By looking to Christ! As Ryken says, “To ‘see God’ is to perceive his divine attributes and understand his way of salvation. And the way we come to know these things is by studying what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ.”16

God revealed Himself partially—very partially—to Moses because no man can see God and live. The weight of His glory is too much for sinful man; it will crush him. And so God revealed Himself in a “veiled” way. He, as it were, “adjusted” Himself to a form that Moses could survive. And the same is true with respect to you and me; though in our case the “adjusted” presence was much clearer.

In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ we have a much fuller vision of the glory of God. And in the person of Jesus Christ we have all that we need to know of God. In fact, in Christ we have all the knowledge of God that we can handle! H. Mowvley writes, “What Jesus does reveal is as much of the divine nature [holiness] as man can see and receive. This is the ‘glory.’”17

This partial revelation of God’s glory to Moses was a manifestation of grace and truth. What was revealed was gracious and truthful. But in Jesus Christ the revelation of God is full of grace and truth (John 1:15).

There is a fascinating parallel between this scene in Exodus and the prologue to John’s Gospel which reveals the truth of the incarnation.

And 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. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 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)

When God became a man, thousands who lived after Moses were enabled to have a fuller experience than Moses ever enjoyed. The Incarnation was God revealed in “safe mode” and in a far clearer way. Jesus was the express image and the radiance of God’s glory. But by the incarnation God, as here in Exodus 33, was protecting man from God. The incarnation was God’s provision for sinners to be saved. This is the story of the gospel.

The incarnation is a massive truth. If Jesus did not come in the flesh then nothing else could be true with respect to His life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension. Packer has this to say with reference to the incarnation: “It is no wonder that thoughtful people find the gospel of Jesus Christ hard to believe, for the realities with which it deals pass man’s understanding. But is sad that so many make faith harder than it needs to be, by finding difficulties in the wrong places.” He then highlights some of these areas where people find it difficult to believe, such as the atonement, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, and Christ’s many miracles. He adds,

But in fact the real difficulty, because the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here at all. It lies, not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man. . . . Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of [these other miracles]; it is all of a piece, and hangs together completely. The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.18

If you want to know God then you must be saved by Christ, who was God in the flesh. Only He can reveal to you what you need to know about God; Only He can shelter you from the storm of God’s wrath.

The miracle here is that Moses had an encounter with God without being destroyed. That is good news. And such is the good news of the gospel of God. You can know God and keep your life. And one day all those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will see the Lord “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12)—a sight to behold throughout eternity.

In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God tabernacled among men (John 1:14). His presence was with lost man and yet man was protected. In the words of Jacob, they saw God face to face and their lives were preserved (Genesis 32:30). The revelation of God in Christ was not full but it was sufficient. God graciously gave some glimpses of His glory in Christ while preserving the lives of those who saw it (Luke 5:8; Matthew 17:1-6; John 18:3-6; etc.). But the glory of God was most clearly manifested in the death and resurrection of His Son.

God was most glorified on the darkest day of history. When the sky darkened at noon as Jesus the sin-bearer was forsaken by the Father, His justice was vindicated as He saw the travail of the soul of His Son whereby the Son secured His seed (Isaiah 53:1—54:1). On that day, in that hour, the universe experienced heaviness. The cross revealed God’s hatred of sin as well as His love for His Son and for all for whom He died. This is why Jesus could pray with anticipation of the cross, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1).

It was because the justice of God was satisfied in the sacrificial death of Jesus that all those who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are eternally protected from the wrath of God.

Moses was given the privilege of safely seeing the glory of God. And billions since have been afforded the same opportunity through exposure to the person and work of Christ—if only they will embrace it. Will you? Look into the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ. That is heavy indeed!

Show 18 footnotes

  1. Jonathan Edwards as cited by Kevin DeYoung, http://goo.gl/WiihF.
  2. A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 344.
  3. Alec Motyer, The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 307.
  4. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Delivered: Finding Freedom by Following God (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1998), 170-71.
  5. Peter Kreeft, “The Weight of Glory,” http://goo.gl/DF8eG.
  6. R. Alan Cole, Exodus: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 225.
  7. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, 22 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 3.1:381n.
  8. Motyer, The Message of Exodus, 309.
  9. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, 3.1:380.
  10. Motyer, The Message of Exodus, 314.
  11. John D. Currid, Study Commentary on Exodus, 2 vols. (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2001), 2:306.
  12. Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper Perennial, 1988), 40-41.
  13. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, 3.1:380-81.
  14. Rousas John Rushdoony, Commentary on the Pentateuch, 5 vols. (Vallecito: Ross House Books, 2004), 2:486.
  15. Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005), 1035.
  16. Ryken, Exodus, 1036.
  17. Currid, Study Commentary on Exodus, 2:306.
  18. J. I. Packer, Knowing God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1973), 45-47.