Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Face Shall Not Be Seen

If your eyes are like mine, this picture is hard to look at straight on. In the past, I've foolhardily ignored all warnings and captured glorious shots by aiming my camera straight at the sun. I love to photograph my husband while he's welding, so whether intentional or not, I've also captured a lot of welding flashes (if you'd like to see my best shots, find me on Facebook). But this is the closest I've ever come to photographing an illustration of glory too bright to gaze on.

And [Moses] said, "Please show me your glory."

Then [God] said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will give grace, and I will have compassion...But you cannot see My face; for no man shall see me and live...Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock...It shall be, while My glory passes by...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

...while My glory passes by...I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand...while I pass by.

We often echo the cry of Moses, "God, let me see You," and experience disillusionment when He doesn't show Himself. What the...? If He's real, where is He? Why doesn't He "pass by" here? Why does Moses get a miraculous encounter and we don't?

Well, let's see. To be fair and scientific, are we comparing apples to apples? Are our motivations and attitudes the same as Moses'?

In general, in a

Why did Moses want to see God? In our search for evidence, our insistence on proof, we often say, "I'll believe it when I see it." The one belief we truly buy into is that we can't know something for sure unless we've experienced it for ourselves. But in the Bible God calls that leaning on our own understanding, and warns us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." --Proverbs 3:5,6

Moses knew the Lord even though he hadn't seen His face. Early in Exodus, Moses stepped out in faith just a little. God met him where he was, and revealed Himself a little. As Moses became more familiar with God, God revealed more and more--more about Who He is, what He can do, how we can live successfully, etc. And over time, Moses' faith grew. The cycle continued, and their relationship deepened. Moses learned that he could trust God. By chapter 33 of the Exodus, Moses didn't want to go anywhere without God! In fact, he didn't want to go anywhere unless God led the way! So by the time Moses asked to see God's face, he was not motivated by a need for proof; rather, he was motivated by a longing to see the Lord, Whom he loved so much.

And God loved Moses, understood the longing behind the impossible request, and made a compassionate choice. A cleft is a place where the rock is cracked open a little, making a small shelter, a shallow cave. God tucked Moses into the cleft of a rock, and further shielded him from harm by covering him with His hand, just as my husband's elbow shields us from the intense brightness of the welding arc in the second photo above.

You know what? The Bible says Jesus is a Rock:

  • Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.' ?" --Luke 20:17
  • "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." --Matthew 7:24
  • "Therefore it is also contained in Scripture, 'Behold I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and He who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' " --1 Peter 2:6

What if, when we cry out, "Please God, I need help! If You're real and You're there, please show me Your glory! Please save me!", God chooses to hide us in Jesus the Rock just like He hid Moses in that cleft? He says He will save us from harm, and that Jesus covers us, or shields us, from the punishment we deserve for our sins. What if it is through Jesus that He hides and covers us...while He passes by?!

Often after we walk through a time of fiery trial, we can tell He's been there ( shall see My back). Perhaps it is because His glory is too great that we cannot see Him in the midst of our trouble, but can see His hand on our lives afterward. Perhaps that's also why, in Ps 94:22, King David (the shepherd boy who killed Goliath, had to flee and hide in caves from King Saul, and later fought numerous battles as king of Israel) wrote “…My God is my Rock. I go to Him for safety.”

How can we go to God when we need a safe place from someone who is hurting us, or when we are afraid, or other times when we need Him?

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking in earnest humility), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." --Philippians 4:6-7

Because it would be unloving, God cannot show us His face; but He can and does reveal Himself to us. He can and does save us. How exciting! Salvation excited King David, too. In his very next song, Psalm 95, he wrote: “Come, let us sing with joy to the Lord. Let us give a loud shout to the Rock who saves us. Let us come to him and give him thanks. Let us praise him with music and song.”

Though His face shall not be seen, He IS! May His glory be revealed to you!