Experiencing The Glory Of God
Experiencing The Glory Of God
In our text we have a conversation between Moses and the Lord God Himself. Listen as I read that passage. Exodus 33:18-23… NIV
That’s an intriguing passage, isn’t it? At first we’re almost shocked by the words of Moses. Moses boldly asks God to reveal His glory. Can you imagine that? Our first reaction is shocked amazement. The second is maybe to condemn Moses for doing it. We would never do anything like that. Right?
Wrong. We do it often. We either think it or we say it. "God, just reveal yourself to me. If you would just see to it that I win the $10,000,000 Sweepstakes, then I would know beyond any doubt that you are really God."
Job did something like that. The scribes and the Pharisees did it. Mankind has always made demands of God. "God, just zap me with a divine lightning bolt and make me instantly pure and holy so that I would never think evil thoughts or never say bad words again." "God, just reveal yourself to me, and I will be your boldest witness in all the world. God, just heal all the people that I know who are sick. Just perform some miracles and we would know beyond any doubt that it is you." How strong our faith would be, if we could just catch a glimpse of God now and then and know that God is real.
But when Moses said something like that to God, the Lord replied, "Moses, the first thing we need to get straight is that I am going to do this my way, not yours. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Then He said, "I am going to pass before you. My glory is going to be there." "But, you’re not ready to see it. So here is a rock, and you stand on the rock and get ready. The moment I pass by I am going to take you and put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand. Then I will pass by. Once I have passed by I will remove my hand and you will see my back. But you are not ready to see my face because no one can see my face and live."
That passage of Scripture tells us something about the way God reveals Himself, even to us today. First of all, it says that God sometimes passes so near that you can feel His presence. You can know that He is there. But at the same time, there is a dimension to God that you and I will never be able to see or understand or comprehend with our finite, puny minds.
One preacher compared our understanding of God with our understanding of the sea. He said, "I know the sea but I don’t know the vastness of the sea. There is a part of the sea that washes up on the sands of my life. I can bathe in it. It lulls me to sleep with its waves. And yet, I know only a very little part of the sea."
It’s the same way with God, isn’t it? He is so close we can almost reach out and touch Him. And yet, He is so magnificent that we will never completely understand all about Him. I think there are times when God reaches down and helps us in special ways, and we realize beyond any doubt that it’s the Lord doing it.
I love a story told by Ralph Craddock. In one of his lectures he tells about a time when he says that God revealed Himself in a very special way. He said that he was riding in the non-smoking section of an airplane, where he always sat. While he was sitting there, a man across the aisle lit up one of these long black cigar type cigarettes and started puffing away and blowing smoke into the air.
Just then this lovely stewardess came by and Craddock motioned to her and asked, "Isn’t this the non smoking section?" She said, "Yes, it is." He said, "Well, the man across the aisle is smoking." She looked over and said, "He sure is." He asked, "Could you do something about it?" So she went over and politely said, "Sir, this is the non-smoking section. Would you mind moving back to the smoking section? There are plenty of seats back there."
The guy just took a big drag on his cigarette, blew smoke right into her face, and defiantly stayed in his seat. She turned back to Craddock and shrugged her shoulders like, "What do I do now?" And he shrugged his shoulders like, "I don’t know what you do now. You’re in charge." He said that then this very beautiful stewardess turned around and went to the back. He thought maybe she was going to check with her supervisor or something to find out what to do next.
She didn’t come back for a while. But when she did come back she had a full tray of soft drinks and peanuts and was passing them out to the passengers. It was obvious that she had decided not to do anything about it at all. This guy was still puffing away and the smoke was still in the air.
But just as she got even with Craddock and the fellow who was smoking, the plane hit an air pocket. Suddenly, all of the drinks on that tray spilled over on that guy, dousing out his cigarette, splashing all over his expensive suit and tie, and ending up in his lap.
"And then," Craddock said, "the beautiful stewardess fell into my lap." "Now," he said, "You tell me there is no God."
I want to talk about the nearness of God this morning. Let me share five areas where I think we can experience the glory of God.
1. WE CAN EXPERIENCE GOD’S GLORY IN NATURE.
A. First of all, I think we can see God in the nature that surrounds us. Many passages of Scripture come to mind. Let me read a couple of familiar ones to you from the book of Psalms. The first is Psalms 8:3. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place . . ."
Here is the psalmist out on some moonlit night, staring up at the sky. He experiences the serenity of the evening and realizes that it is God who has made the heavens and put the moon and stars in their proper places.
In Psalm 19, vs. 1 and 2, there are similar words. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge."
He is saying that when we look into the heavens we see the glory of God. The sky itself proclaims the work of His hand. Day after day, God is speaking to us. Night after night He is revealing His glory and knowledge to us.
Listen to these words in Job 12:7-10. "But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."
The book of Romans suggests that we are without excuse. Even if we have never heard a sermon about God, we are without excuse. Because nature itself reveals to us what God is like, and what God has done. Maybe we can’t see His face. Maybe we can’t know all the vastness, but He is there, nonetheless. So look around. Open your eyes and feel the presence of God.
II. WE CAN EXPERIENCE GOD’S GLORY MORAL ORDER OF LIFE.
A. Secondly, I think we see Him and experience Him in the moral order. There are rules and regulations that govern life. Like it or not, they are there. They have always been there, and they always will.
For example, God says, "Whatever you sow, that’s what you are going to reap." God says again, "Be sure your sin will find you out."
It is a fact of life, you see. There are certain rules and regulations that God has ordained to govern the way we live. But the world today stands in defiance of the rules and regulations of God. It says, "We’ll live life our way. We don’t believe in God, so there is no need to listen to His word."
But the moral order stays in its place, and man is powerless to change it. You still reap what you sow. You still harvest the results of your sin. Your sin still finds you out. Sooner or later it will catch up with you. Every time we see a person who is suffering physically because of the defiance of God’s laws we are reminded once again of the moral order of things. It is there and we can’t change it.
B. The other side is also true. If you sow good seed, you harvest a good crop. God formed you and He knows you inside and out. Since He is the manufacturer of the product, follow the rules in His book of instruction and the blessings of life are yours.
God says, "Live life the way I have designed it to be lived and you will find that everything just goes better for you." That moral order is there and it is a testimony to the nearness of God. He is always close to us.
III. WE CAN EXPERIENCE GOD’S GLORY IN OUR WORSHIP SERVICES.
I think we experience Him sometimes in our worship services. We ought to experience Him all the time when we come together for worship because He is here. You know He is here. He promised that He would be. He said, "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I will be."
So He is here this morning. We are privileged to worship Him, praise Him, pray to Him, acknowledge Him as the Lord and Savior of our lives. And He honors us with His presence whenever we come together in His name.
Do you realize what a blessing it should be week after week to enjoy one another’s company? To enjoy the fellowship of the saints? To enjoy the food that comes from God’s Word? To enjoy times of praise and worship together, and to have the Lord honor us with His presence?
There are times when God comes so close in the moments of worship that you can almost reach out and touch Him. You may not see His face but He is there nonetheless, and you can feel the wind of His presence as He passes by.
IV. WE CAN EXPERIENCE GOD’S GLORY AS YOU SEE THE CHURCH.
I think there are also times when we experience the presence of God as we see the church operating as the body of Christ, as it begins to function the way it has been designed to function.
You feel the presence of the Lord taking place in the fellowship of the saints. I have seen that many times throughout my ministry as people reach out to pray for and to encourage others, sensitive to their needs. Times when people are sick or hurting and fellow Christians come to help.
How beautiful it is just to see the church operate the way it is supposed to, and in this we can feel the presence of God as He goes by.
V. WE CAN EXPERIENCE GOD’S GLORY IN THE LIVES OF HIS PEOPLE.
A. I think sometimes we see God in the lives of people who have lived a faithful life to the glory of God. Some of my favorite people are senior saints. Look into their faces, and you’ll see there the radiance of a life that has been lived with an awareness of God.
When you look into their eyes you can almost see the sparkle of the presence of God because they have lived faithfully year in, year out. When you look into faces like that you know God is alive and He is near.
B. Now the teaching of the passage is that God is so close and yet He is so distant. It is almost a paradox, isn’t it? There is a part of God that is so vast that you and I will never understand. And yet there is a part that we can’t miss unless we are blind and deaf to Him.
He is so near that we can’t help but hear and see Him. It is like stepping into the sea and feeling the refreshing sensation of the water rushing over our toes. It is like the sea saying, "Come on in, there is more. Take another step and see how good it feels."
That is the way it is with God. He is saying, "There is part of me that is close to you, but there is more. Just step out and experience more and more of my presence."
C. Jesus stood before a lonely world. They looked at Him and asked the same thing that Moses asked. "We would like to see the Father." Jesus said, "When you have seen me you’ve seen the Father."
So read the gospel. Read about God becoming flesh, about Him breathing our air and eating our food and experiencing our temptations, about His concern for the lost, for the ill, for the hungry, for the poor. And as you see more and more of Jesus, you will see more and more of God.
Jesus is illustrating what God is like. Moses was in the cleft of the rock. God’s hand covered him as His glory passed by. Now maybe that is not a very bad place to be. Because when we are covered by the hand of God there is nothing evil in this world that can harm us.
CONCL. Today we stand in the presence of God and we’re privileged to see just a little bit of Him. We can’t see His face yet, but one day we will look into His eyes, and we’ll see Him in all His glory.
Right now we listen and we watch and we wait and we hear and we sense and we know God is near. He is there in the rustle of the leaves. He is there in the sounds of voices lifted in praise to Him. He is there in the moral order. He is there in the church as it works together to be a functioning body. He is there in the people who have lived faithfully for Him.
Look and see. Listen and hear. His glory is all around, if you’ll just see it.