Seeing the glory of
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer, Seeing the glory of God
Background text: Exodus 33:18-23
Devotional text: John 1:14
Last week, I wrote about the biblical phrase “the glory of God,” focusing on some of the scriptures found in both Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament scriptures from last week spoke of the glory of God in both the heavens and the earth, while the New Testament scriptures brought us to the glory of God found through Jesus Christ.
Today, I am beginning with the Book of Exodus, because it is here that we see the Lord leading the people both day and night, taking them to the Promised Land. It is also here that we read of Moses asking specifically to see “the glory of God.”
Chapter 12 of Exodus tells us that 600,000 Israelite men left Egypt on foot, along with women and children (and livestock), all the divisions of Israel, along with those who had come to know and believe in their God. Their leaving marked 430 years in Egypt from the very day they had arrived (Exodus 12:40). Scholars estimate their number to have been about two million people.
To guide them by day and night, we learn in Exodus 13:21-2, the Lord appeared as a pillar of cloud during the day and as a pillar of fire by night. By both day and night, the Lord never stopped leading the people.
In Exodus 24, we find they had reached Mount Sinai, the place where Moses would go up on top of the mountain to meet with God. Moses took three other men, along with 70 elders, with him.
They stopped at the foot of the mountain, where Moses had an animal sacrificed, sprinkling the blood of the dead animal upon those with him, telling them it was the sign of the covenant with God for the forgiveness of their sins, thus allowing them to approach the holy God.
This action marked the sacrificing of animals for the forgiveness of sin. Leviticus 16 goes into more detail about animal sacrifices at that time and prepares us for the meaning of the future sacrifice found in Jesus Christ.
Back in Exodus 24:16, we find the glory of the Lord had settled on the mountain for six days and on the seventh day God addressed Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites waiting below, the top of the mountain looked like it was enveloped in a “consuming fire.” As Moses alone went to meet the Lord on the mountaintop, he remained with God for a total of 40 days and nights.
In chapters 24 through 31, God tells Moses many things for the Israelites to be aware of and to do for the Lord, and for their safety as people, but for those waiting back at the camp, it was a very long time to wait. They responded by turning back to their old ways and made a golden idol of a calf as they questioned whether Moses would ever return to them.
As Moses returned from the mountain carrying the two tablets on which God had written his Ten Commandments, his aide, Joshua, heard the sound of revelry and commotion. When Moses saw what the people had done, dancing around the golden calf, he threw down the tablets of God in front of them, breaking them into pieces.
The story continues, and it’s a good one to read for yourself. Because of Moses, God does forgive his people and they continue on through the desert. God does give Moses the Commandments again to take to the people. And, we find in Chapter 33 God meeting with Moses in the Tent of Meeting.
It is in Exodus 33:18-23 that we read of Moses’ request to see the glory of God. This is where the Lord agrees to pass in front of Moses, only saying that Moses would not be allowed to see his face, because to see God’s face is to die.
God has Moses go into the crack of a rock, saying that as he passes by he will cover the face of Moses with his hand. After he passes by, he will remove his hand and Moses will see his back.
As the Old Testament continues, we find that seeing the face of the glory of God is never seen by anyone. Moses comes closest, and his trust in God found him great favor in God’s sight.
Now, let’s take a look at the continuing glory of God as we enter the New Testament scriptures. John 1:14 says it best as we read the gospel of John: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of his One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I love the continuation of this scripture, verses 17 and 18: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; but God, the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
What these verses are telling us by referring to God, the One and Only, is that Jesus is both God and the Son of the Father. God showed us himself through Jesus, who lived with us on earth, who could both be touched and seen, and showed us the very character of God.
There are numerous scriptures that attest to this fact. Here are a few:
• 2 Corinthians 4:6 — “He is the God who, in the fullness of the new covenant, mediates his glory to us in the face of Jesus Christ.”
• Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God.
• John 17:5, as Jesus prayed in the garden before his arrest, he said, “And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
• Continued in John 17:22-23, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them, and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me.”
As we look at these and more New Testament scriptures, we come to know Jesus as the glory of God. For it was Jesus, known as the Lamb of God, who was arrested and died on the cross, once for all time, for the forgiveness of sin.
It was Jesus, as God’s glory, in the flesh on earth, taken to the cross as the atonement of sin for the world, not to be killed over and over as in the animal sacrifices, but one time, thus making salvation open to all who will believe in him.
To believe in Jesus is to know God’s glory.