Oh, the wondrous things that Moses saw with his own eyes! Among the things that he saw was the bush that burned but was not consumed from which the Lord spoke to him (Ex. 3). He saw the mighty hand of God working in the ten wonders that plagued the Egyptian people and Pharaoh (Ex. 7-12 ). He saw the Red Sea open up as a wall on either side of him and then proceeded to walk through across on dry ground (Ex. 14:21-31). He saw the earth open up and destroy the adversaries of the Lord. In spite of all of this, even with all that Moses had already seen, he still asked Jehovah, “Shew me Thy glory” (Ex. 33:18).
It is impossible to understand who God is without also understanding something of the glory of the Lord. The word glory is used in scripture to describe praiseworthiness or that which sets one above another in some particular respect. It is that which brings renown. In scripture, when used of men, it is often used of one’s wealth, for instance (cf. Gen. 31:1; Psalm 49:17), or one’s personal dignity (cf. Psalm 30:12) or of man’s wisdom and strength (Jer. 9:23,24). It is also used of things such as the forests of Israel (Is. 10:18) and nations (Matt. 4:8). But man’s glory is as fleeting as the grass which withers away (I Pet. 1:24).
God is inherently glorious (I Chron. 16:27; 29:11). One does not have to look far to see the glory of God for the heavens declare it (Psalm 19:1; Rom.1:20). And yet beyond this natural testimony of God’s glory is something that has a very visible and tangible existence. During the Exodus from Egypt, some of the children of Israel complained about lack of food after only six weeks journey (Ex. 16:1). God promised them bread from heaven and that He would show them His glory (Ex. 16:7). And as they looked out over the wilderness, the glory of God appeared in the cloud that had accompanied Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 16:10).
Then, when the children of Israel came to mount Sinai, the Bible says the cloud covered the mount and the glory of the Lord abode upon it and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud (Ex. 24:16). “And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Ex. 24:17).
Given the fact that Moses had seen all these manifestations of God’s glory, it is puzzling that he now asks to see the glory of the Lord (Ex. 33:18). He must be asking for something different than that which he had already seen. And God allows him to see something more than any person had ever seen before or would ever see again, although the Lord warns him that no man could see His face and live (Ex. 33:20). The Lord told Moses that there was a place by Him, and he would stand upon a rock, and while the glory of the Lord passed by He would put Moses in a cleft of the rock and cover him there with His hand (Ex. 33:20-22).
Moses was then commanded by God to hew two tables of stone so that the law might be re-written thereon. He was to carry these tablets of stone with him up into the mount (Ex. 34:1-4). On the next day, after Moses had ascended the mount, the Lord, Jehovah, descends in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed the name of the Lord (Ex. 34:6). In some form, the Lord stood there with Moses. It reminds us of the transfiguration of the Lord when Moses and Elijah stood with the Lord speaking to Him of the Lord’s impending death (Matt. 17:1-3).
At this moment the glory of the Lord passed before Moses as the Lord proclaimed the name of the Lord by declaring His moral goodness (Ex. 34:6,7). Moses stayed there in the mount with the Lord for forty days and nights and wrote upon the tables of stone the words of the covenant, the ten commandments (Ex. 34:28,29). When Moses came down from the mount the skin of his face shined (Ex. 34:29). Paul tells us that Moses’ face so shined with glory that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold his face and Moses covered it with a veil (II Cor. 3:7; Ex. 34:33).
But the glow of Moses’ face ceased to shine and Paul says the reason Moses put the veil on his face was so that the children of Israel could not look to the end of that which was to be abolished (II Cor. 3:13). As glorious as this scene was, and as glorious as the Old Covenant was, it is far exceeded in glory by the New Covenant (II Cor. 3:9). We now, as Christians, have the privilege of looking into this New Covenant and beholding the glory of the Lord ourselves and are changed into the same image unto glory (II Cor. 3:12-18).
When we look at Jesus though the word we see the Father more clearly than Moses could see Him when He passed before Moses (John 14:7-9). The Lord is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person (Heb. 1:3). We are able to see His glory as the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Though we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), we are able through Christ to rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1,2).
Though in this life we face tribulations, it is really a light, momentary affliction that works a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Cor. 4:17). The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18) because when Christ shall appear, we shall also appear with Him in eternal glory (Col. 3:4; II Tim. 2:10). In heaven, we shall bathe in the light of His glory (Rev. 21:11,23).
Eric L. Padgett