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Exodus 33:18-23 - A View of the Glory of God

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Crossroads Baptist Church

Pastor Thomas S. Myers


Exodus 33:18-23

             It was Fridtjof (FRIT yawf) Nansen, the great Norwegian explorer, who went North to fathom the depths of the Arctic Ocean.  After he found the place he was going to lower the lines, he lowered his first line.  It didn't reach bottom.  In his log book he wrote, "Deeper than that."  The next morning he dropped his second line.  It didn't touch bottom either.  In his log book he wrote, "Deeper than that."  He continued with all of his lines and he couldn't find a line that would touch the bottom of this vast ocean.  After each attempt he would write in his log book, "Deeper than that."  This pioneer oceanographer was frustrated as to what he should do next.  Finally, he decided that he would tie all the lines together and attempt to plumb the depths of this ocean.  When he had tied them and let them all drop, they still didn't reach the bottom.  He wrote in his log book,  "EVEN DEEPER THAN THAT!"  If it were possible to tie together all the depths to which man has tired to examine the glory God, we would still have to write "EVEN DEEPER THAN THAT!"  In Exodus chapter 33, Moses asks to see depths to the glory of God.   


Exodus 33:18

18 Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

            Moses  says to God, "I want to see your glory."  Well, the question I want to ask is, what aspect of God's glory is God going to reveal?  Maybe God will show Moses his justice?  Maybe God will show Moses his holiness?  Maybe God will show Moses His wrath, or His power?  Will God move a mountain, or cause an earth quake?  How will God display to Moses His glory?  Do you want to know what attribute God shows Moses?  Look at verse 19 and listen to the still small voice of God.

EXODUS 33:19

"the LORD said, "I will cause all my     goodness to pass in front of you."  


            What was the divine attribute that God was going to display before Moses?  His goodness.  Think with me for a moment about the goodness of God.  Some of us don't even see the goodness of God.  We are kind of like the guy who was riding the Pacific Railroad years ago.  He had heard about the great, towering Rocky Mountains.  When the train had reached the 10,000 foot level of the Rocky Mountains, he kept asking, "When are we going to get to the Rocky Mountains?"  The fact was he was at the summit.  His problem was that the train went up the Rocky Mountain so gradually the did not really notice the great height of the Rocky Mountains.  To him, the mountains seemed like hills. 

            Some of us are just like that.  We have been going along the path of life ever so gradually that we don't see the goodness of God.  We have forgotten about the goodness of God in the fact that He displayed a beautiful blue sky this past summer.  We have forgotten about goodness of the incredible sun sets we had day after day.  And if I were to talk about the goodness of God for all the food He has allowed us to eat, we will all go on diets.  Just think about all the apples you have ever eaten, all the bread, all the vegetables and all the meat you have ever eaten.  I suppose every one of us has consumed whole acres of corn, peaches, and watermelons.  And if we were to add up all the beef we have consumed, it would be a whole herd. 

            Did you know that God even displays His goodness by the events that surround your life?  The events that have happened to you even display the goodness of God.  Maybe you heard about the man was who walking through the woods, praying and meditating on the goodness of God.  All of a sudden, he looked up and saw a great big oak tree, and, on top of the oak, a little acorn.  Then he looked down and saw a little stem and, at the end of the stem, a great big pumpkin.  The man looked up and he looked down, and he said, "This is stupid!  That tiny little acorn shouldn't be on that big tree, and that big pumpkin shouldn't be on that little stem!  Too bad I wasn't around at the creation of the world."  I would have said: "God!  That little acorn should go with that tiny stem, and that big pumpkin should be on that big tree."  Then the man decided to take a rest, so he lay down underneath the oak tree and fell asleep.  Now, as fate would have it, the tiny acorn fell and hit the man in the nose, waking him up and causing him to cry out in pain.  Then he realized it: "Suppose things were the way I wanted them . . . suppose the pumpkin was up there in the tree instead of the acorn -- I would probably be dead."  And they say that the man walked away with greater faith in God, saying to himself:  "Whatever God does, God does it very good."  There are times in our lives when things are not going the way we would like them to go.  We cry out, "It's all wrong!  It's stupid!  It shouldn't be happening this way."  At times like these, we must have a deep faith in the goodness of God, believing with all our heart that God knows best, that whatever God does, God does well.  There is the goodness of God.  There is another manifestation of God.    


            Notice what God tells Moses in verse 19. 

Exodus 33:19

19  I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom  I will have compassion. (NIV)


                God displays to Moses the sovereignty of God.  There are some who are afraid to say anything about the sovereignty of God lest they offend someone.  Some don't think that God is glorified in the doctrine of the sovereignty of God.  But God is sovereign.  When God made the world and all that is in the world, didn't He have the right to make everything whatever shape and size He wanted?  God has the right to make any creature He desires.  If God wanted to make a worm or a dog, He had the right to do it.  When God made mankind, he had a right to say to Adam, "You shall not touch the forbidden tree."  And when Adam broke God's command, and ate the forbidden fruit, God had a right to remove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.  God is sovereign.  He has a right to take us all to heaven or to destroy us.  This is what God meant when he said in verse 19:


Exodus 33:19

19  I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom  I will have compassion. (NIV)


            But this doctrine stirs up our pride, does it not?  People want to be somebody.  They do not want to bow down before God, and have the sovereignty of God preached to them.  God has said that, if you go to His throne in prayer, He will hear you. But He has the right not to hear you if He so chooses.  That is the doctrine of God's divine sovereignty, and it can be difficult to understand.   

            But when you put God's goodness together with His sovereignty, you will see God's glory.  If you take sovereignty alone, you will not understand God.  You must put God's goodness with His sovereignty.  When you speak of God's sovereignty you must include God's goodness.  When Moses said, "Show me your glory," God made Moses see that the glory of God's goodness and the glory of God's sovereignty go together. 

                 In a remote Swiss village stood a beautiful church.  It was so beautiful, in fact, that it was known as the Mountain Valley Cathedral.  The Cathedral was not only beautiful to look at -- with its high pillars and magnificent stained glass windows -- but was beautiful to hear.  You see, this church had the most beautiful pipe organ in the whole region.  People would come from miles away -- from far off lands -- to hear the lovely tones of this organ.  But that's what the problem was.  The columns were still there -- the windows still dazzled with the sunlight -- but there was an eerie silence.  The mountain valley no longer echoed the glorious fine-tuned music of the pipe organ.  In fact, the valley was either totally silent or worse yet filled with unbelievably horrible sounds.  Something had gone wrong with the pipe organ.  Musicians and experts from around the world had tried to repair it.  Every time a new person would try to fix it the villagers were subjected to sounds of disharmony -- very penetrating noises which polluted the air.  One day an old man appeared at the church door.  He spoke with the pastor and after a time the pastor reluctantly agreed to let the old man try his hand at repairing the organ.  For two days the old man worked in almost total silence.  The pastor was, in fact, getting a bit nervous.  Then on the third day -- at high noon -- the mountain valley was filled with the most glorious music you would ever want to hear.  Farmers dropped their plows, merchants closed their stores -- everyone in town stopped what they were doing and headed for the church.  Even the bushes and trees of the mountain tops seemed to respond as the glorious music echoed from ridge to ridge.  After the old man finished his playing, a brave soul asked him how he could have fixed the organ, how could he restore the music and harmony when even the world's experts could not?  The old man merely said, "It was I who built this organ 50 years ago.  I was good enough to build it -- and now I have sovereignty chosen to restored it."  That is what the goodness of God and the sovereignty of God is like.  In the goodness of God, He created the universe and in His sovereignty  he chooses to holds it together.  There is the glory of God as He displays His goodness and sovereignty to Moses. 


            I think that when Moses made his request to see the glory of God he did not really know what he was asking.  You see, if God showed Moses His full glory Moses would die.  No one can see God in His glory and live.  That's why God said to Moses verse 20:

Exodus 33:20

"you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (NIV)

            Why can't you see God in His glory and live?  Because the glory of God is so brilliant and radiant it would consume you.  It would be like trying to get close to the sun.  The sun is so brilliant and radiant that it would evaporate you.  Do you remember the angels in Isaiah 6 that are called seraphim's?  They are the ones that minister in the presence of God.  Look at Isaiah 6 and see what they have to do when they minister in the presence of God. 

Isaiah 6:2

2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. (NIV)

            They have to cover their face and their feet when they were in God's presence.  Why?  I take it that it was because God's presence is so holy and awesome that they would be consumed if they looked upon the presence of God. 

            In every instance, even when someone has a vision of God they are consumed by the presence of God.  When Ezekiel saw the Lord in a vision what happened to him?

Ezekiel 1:28

28 HIS APPEARANCE WAS Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so

was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell face down. (NIV)

            When Ezekiel saw the Lord God in a vision, he fell face down. 

            Look at Daniel 10:5 and see what happens to Daniel when he saw the Lord in a vision.

Daniel 10:5-8

5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and

legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (NIV)

            What happened to Daniel?  When he saw the Lord he had no strength left in his body and he felt as if he was going to die. 

            Look at Revelation 1:12 and see what happened when John the apostle saw the resurrected Lord Jesus in a vision. 

Revelation 1:12-16

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (NIV)


            When John sees our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in all His glory what happens to Him?  Look at


Revelation 1:17

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (NIV)

            Moses had to receive a gracious concealment of the glory of God.  Look at Exodus 33:21-23

Exodus 33:21-23

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." (NIV)

            What is God doing here?  He is giving Moses a gracious concealment of His glory.  He put Moses in a crevice, where Moses could not see to the right or see to the left.  Then God put his hand in front of Moses' face so Moses could not even see what was in front of him.  And then the full glory of God passed by.  There was a gracious concealment of God's glory.  God had a gracious concealment for Moses, for the angels, Ezekiel, Daniel and John the apostle.


            But there is an hour coming when we must all see Jesus Christ.  We will either see Him as Savior or Judge.  When you see Jesus as Savior, then you come before Jesus forgiven.  When you see Jesus as Judge, you come before Him in judgment.  Wouldn't it be better for you to settle your case out of court and come before Jesus as Savior?  Let this prayer be your prayer.  "Lord Jesus, I need You .  Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins.  I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord.  Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.  Take control of the throne of my life.  Make me the kind of person You want me to be."   

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