Sermon #231 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “Show Me Thy Glory”
Text: Exodus 33:18
Subject: Moses request to see God’s glory and God’s reply
Date: May 6, 1979
My text this morning contains one of the boldest prayers that a man ever uttered. Indeed, it seems to me that no mere man upon the earth ever asked such a favor from God. Listen to this great prayer. This is a mighty request. Moses said, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” He could not have asked for more. This is the greatest request of faith that I have ever read or heard of. Moses stands out as a giant among giants. Abraham showed great faith when he went out into he plain to offer up intercession for such a guilty city as Sodom. It was a mighty faith that enabled Jacob to lay hold of the angel of the Lord, refusing to release his hold until he had received the blessing he desired. Elijah was strong in faith when he was able to rend the heavens, and bring rain from the skies that had been as brass before. But, it seems to me that, if you could put all of these prayers together, they would not exemplify the greatness of faith that is contained in this prayer of Moses. It is the greatest request that a man could ever make to God, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” In all of Sacred Scripture, I find no parallel to this prayer. His prayer surpasses that of any other man. I am astonished that any man, even Moses, could be bold enough to ask such a thing. Surely, after he had put his desire into words, his bones must have trembled, his blood must have chilled in his veins, his hair must have stood on end. Jacob was a man of great faith, but, when he had such a manifestation of God, he marveled that he was not slain — “Jacob called the name of that place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Gen. 32:30). When Manoah saw the angel of the Lord, he was struck with fear. “Manoah said unto his wife, we shall surely die, because we have seen God (Jud. 13:22). Isaiah was one of God’s choice servants. But, listen to that holy prophet’s response to the vision he had of God’s glory; he said, “Woe is me! For I am undone; (I am cut off) because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Perhaps one of the holiest men who ever lived was the Apostle John. Not only did he lay his head upon that physical breast of the Savior, spiritually he walked in the communion of the Savior’s own heart. Yet, when he saw the exalted, glorified Son of God, he said, “I fell at his feet as one dead” (Rev. 1:17). Why Moses himself was astonished that God should even speak to him, much less that he should show him his glory. He said to the children of Israel, “Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man and he liveth…For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” (Deut. 5:24, 26). Surely, Moses himself was astonished that he could ask such a favor as this, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.”
But how did Moses come to have such boldness and confidence before God that he could ask to see his glory? If you will read chapters thirty-two and thirty-three together, I think that you will see that this boldness expressed by Moses arose from his communion with God. For forty days he dwelt in the presence of his God. Jehovah had spoken to him as a man speaks with his own friend. Such nearness to God gave the meekest man who ever lived confidence to ask the greatest blessing any man could ever enjoy upon the earth. But this prayer was the culmination of God’s gracious dealings with Moses, and of Moses’ faithful reliance upon God. Before Moses said, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory,” he had sought and received several other tokens of God’s gracious favor. I want you to observe the three prayers that went before this one.
Look back to chapter thirty-two. The Lord was angry with the children of Israel, because they had made a golden calf and bowed down before it. The Lord said to Moses, “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (v. 10). But Moses loved the children of Israel, and he sought God’s glory. So he put God in remembrance of his covenant with Abraham, and of his deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt. He argued that if the nation were slain God’s name would be mocked and blasphemed by the Egyptians. Then, he prayed, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sins —; and if not, blot me I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (v. 32). Moses had wrestled with God and prevailed. Thus he had received a fresh testimony of God’s grace, in sparing the guilty nation.
Again Moses showed his desire for God’s glory and his faith in him in verse thirteen of chapter thirty-three. “Not therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way.”
God had commanded his servant to guide his people. But Moses commanded his servant to guide his people. But Moses confessed his weakness and ignorance, and sought the guidance of God to walk in his way. He knew that God’s way was not the way that man would choose. He knew that God’s way might be a rough and dark way. But he knew God’s way to be the best and wisest way. Only as Israel walked in God’s way would the name of God be glorified. So he prayed, “Shew me now thy way.”
Then Moses expressed his utter dependence upon God. In verse fifteen we read, “And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” Here Moses shows the high esteem he had for God. Without his presence, everything else is worthless and insignificant. Even the land of Canaan, the promised land of rest and plenty, is nothing in comparison with God’s presence. It does not much matter what we have or where we are, if we do not enjoy the presence of God. But if God is with us, the greatest hardships in the wilderness are easy; and we pass through our difficulties with pleasure. It is as though Moses had said, “Lord, if you go with me, I can do all that you require. But, if you will not go with me, then all will come to nothing.”
O brethren, would you see God’s glory? Then, you must be like Moses. You must spend much time in communion with the Lord of Hosts. You must speak to him in the prayer of faith. You must walk in his way. And you must count his presence to be your greatest gain. O beloved, heaven itself would not be heaven, unless God had said, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest” (v. 14). The bliss of the city beautiful is given in the name of that place, “The Lord is there.”
Now, my friends, I want us to look at this great request to see God’s glory, and see God’s gracious response to it. May it please God the Holy Spirit to show us something of God’s greatness and his glory.
The greatest desire of redeemed souls, and the purpose of their redemption is that they may see the glory of God and live.
I want to raise three questions that will, hopefully, be helpful to us in understanding this great request and God’s gracious response to it. I think each of these questions will lead us to some profitable lessons, if God will graciously enable his servant to preach and his people to hear. “Shew Me Thy Glory.”
· What did Go reveal to Moses?
· What did God conceal from Moses?
· How did God reveal his glory to Moses?
I. The first thing that I want us to consider is this, what did God reveal to Moses?
Moses prayed, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness to pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”
A. There are two or three lessons which should be drawn from Moses’ prayer — “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.”
When I look at such a text as this, I am more inclined to meditate than to preach. I fear to speak upon such a noble theme, lest I should dishonor the one whom I most desire to honor. What sinful tongue is competent to speak upon the glory of the infinite God? Like Isaiah, I am constrained to cry, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips.” Nevertheless, there are some blessed thoughts that I have gleaned from this text, which I want to share with you.
1. For those who have experienced God’s redeeming grace, there is nothing that we desire above this – To behold His glory.
a. We are fully aware that while we are in this tabernacle of clay, this desire shall never be fully realized.”
(1.) I do not think that Moses himself fully realized what he requested. I am sure that Moses knew that “God is a Spirit.” He must have been aware that the mind of man could never conceive an adequate idea of the incomprehensible Jehovah. Moses had a great view of God. He knew that God was infinite, eternal, and incomprehensible. Yet, it seems that Moses entertained the idea that the invisible God might be seen.
(2.) Brethren, these eyes of flesh are designed to show me only those things that are physical and material. They cannot reveal that which is spiritual to me. As long as I am upon this earth, I cannot see God with these eyes of clay.
b. Yet, there is nothing that God’s children desire more than the sight of his glory. This was that hope which gave David confidence toward God. “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy: at thy right hand there are pleasures forever more…As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness” (Ps. 16:11, 17:15).
2. This desire to behold God’s glory is the sure product of intimate fellowship and communion with God.
Moses had spent forty days in the presence of God. We read, “The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (v. 11). And what was the result? Moses said, “Shew me thy glory.” Such is always the result of close communion with God. The more we know of him, the more we desire to know. The closer God draws to us, the more we are constrained to cry, “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us” (Ps. 4:6).
3. The great purpose of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ to redeem his people was that they might behold the glory of God in the face of his Son. Our Lord prayed, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, by with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). And, brethren, you may be sure of this, if we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we shall behold the glory of God! Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed in me” (Job 19:25-27). Turn to the back of the Book, and read what is written of that Eternal City. “And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:22-23).
4. There is one other lesson suggested by this prayer. Beloved, when we come before the throne of God in prayer, we may be bold to ask great things of God. Moses had prayed before. And God gave him what he desired. So now his faith is increased to ask the greatest thing possible, “Shew me thy glory;” and God was not displeased. Oh remember when you pray that you are coming to the King and bring large petitions with you. The great God is honored by great request. Open the mouth of prayer wide, and he will fill it.
B. Now, I want you to turn from Moses prayer and consider God’s response. Observe the gracious revelation that God made to his friend.
Moses asked to see God’s glory. But he saw n o similitude. No visible form passed before him. He had an audience. He had a vision. But it was an audience from behind a covering. It was a vision not of a person, but of an attribute. I can almost picture Moses. There he stands, in that cleft of the rock, with the hand of God sheltering him. God is about to show him his glory. What attribute shall the man of God see? Will he show him his holiness? Will he show him his wrath? Will he show him his justice? Will he show him his power? Will he bring his sins to remembrance, and show him his omniscience? No. I hear a still small voice saying, “I will make all my goodness to pass before thee.”
Oh, sons of men, the essence of God is his glory, and the glory of God is his goodness! If you read chapter thirty-four, you will see that God revealed his mercy, grace, longsuffering, truth, faithfulness, and justice. But the essence of them all is his goodness. The brightest gem in the crown of God is his goodness. God’s greatest glory is that he is good.
1. My soul longs to make known unto the sons of men that God, the infinite, holy, triune Jehovah is The Sum and Substance of All Good. “There is none good but one, that is God” (Matt. 19:17).
God alone can make men happy. He is the Father of all mercy. He is the Fountain of all goodness. He is the Source of all joy. “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 144:15). The splendor of God’s goodness is such that I cannot begin to tell it all. If I had the tongue of the seraphim and the space of eternity, I could not even start to give you an idea of his goodness. But, I would like to make a few statements to impress your hearts with his goodness.
a. There is nothing but goodness in God, and nothing but goodness comes from him.
There is nothing of evil, iniquity, or unrighteousness in God’s Person, his ways, or his works. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Whatever God does is good, simply because he does it. He may allow wickedness for a season, but he overrules it for good. He will eternally punish the wicked, but that punishment will prove at last to be good.
b. God is immutably and eternally good. The goodness of men is like the morning dew. It soon fades away. But the goodness of God is invariably the same. It continues forever.
c. The entire universe shares in the goodness of God.
(1.) The whole creation proclaims to us that God is good. “The Word of the Lord is right: and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Ps. 33:4-5).
This world was created by the goodness of God. From his goodness he clothes the fields with green grass; he feeds the cattle on a thousand hills; the sparrows come and peck their seed from the hands of the Almighty.
(2.) Even the wicked upon this earth enjoy the goodness of God. “The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Ps. 145:9). Out of his abundant goodness, God sends both sun and rain upon the just and the unjust.
(3.) God rules this world in the goodness of his providence, simply because he is good. We are of yesterday and know nothing. Man is but a flower of the field, withering away. Yesterday he was an infant; today he is an old man; tomorrow he is gone. But God is the eternal good that rules them all.
d. But, my dear brothers and sisters, if you would truly behold the goodness of God, you must look to the sovereign goodness of the Triune Godhead to his covenant people. O my soul, to back to old eternity and see your name in God’s book of predestinating, unchanging grace!
(1.) Behold the goodness of God the blessed Father. He chose you for himself. He loved you. He laid up all good things for you in Christ. He gave his only begotten Son for you.
(2.) Behold the goodness of God the Holy Spirit. All the gifts of divine grace are tokens of his goodness to you. He gives to us faith and repentance, the hope of eternal life, and the gift of eternal life itself.
(3.) Behold the goodness of God the eternal Son, your Redeemer. He became your Surety and Representative. He undertook all things for your good. He stooped to assume your nature. He lived before God as your Representative to work out a righteousness for you. He died as your Substitute to purchase your soul from divine justice. He is the fountain of all goodness to your soul. He ever lives to speak a good word in the presence of God for you.
(4.) Behold, here is the great glory of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He is “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin” (34.7).
2. I can say no more concerning God’s goodness, though I have said nothing in comparison to what could and should be said. But this is not all that Moses saw. If you will look at the words that follow my text, you will see that God said, “I will make all my goodness to pass before thee.” But there is something more. He said, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” There is another attribute of God. There is his sovereignty. Moses not only saw that God is Good, but also that he is sovereignly good.
a. God’s goodness without his sovereignty does not completely set forth his nature.
If you only see one attribute of God, you only see part of his glorious being. God is good, but he is a sovereign. He does as he pleases. And, though he is good to all, in the sense of his benevolence, he is not obliged to do good to any. “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”
(1.) God is an absolute sovereign.
(a.) He has the right to do whatever he will. He can make man, or not make man. He can create man in his own image, or he can create a brute beast. He had the right to require of Adam anything he liked. And when Adam broke his law, he had the right to destroy all the race, or to save whosoever he pleased.
(b.) We are in the hands of God, like clay is in the hands of the potter, like creatures in the hands of the Creator.
(c.) God has the right, if he pleases, to save anyone in this house this morning, or to crush all who are here into the deepest hell.
(2.) The doctrine of God’s sovereignty crushes the pride of man. And men by nature do not like that, because man likes to think that he is something. But is it not right for a man to do as he will with his own? Surely, then, we cannot deny this right to God!
(a.) If he chooses to let men go on in the error of their way, that is his right.
(b.) But, if he chooses graciously to intervene (as he has), and say, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” that is his right.
(3.) This blessed attribute of God ought to cheer the hearts of God’s children, ever as it did the heart of our Redeemer. “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt. 11:25-26).
(a.) We all deserve God’s wrath.
(b.) We have no claim to his gracious mercy. But he is sovereignly good, so let us plead with him, and sue for mercy on the grounds of his goodness in Christ. And maybe, maybe he will show us mercy.
Perhaps he will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish, I will pray,
And perish only there.
I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away, I know
I must forever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died.
Quote: Remember, “It is never said, ‘I will be angry with whom I will be angry,’ for his wrath is always just and holy; but “I will shew mercy on whom I will show mercy,’ for his grace is always free. He never damns by perogative, but by perogative he saves.” – M. Henry
b. Put these two things together, goodness and sovereignty, and you see God’s glory. God is not gracious alone; he is sovereignly gracious. And he is not sovereign alone; he is graciously sovereign.
II. In the second place, I want you to briefly consider this question – What did God conceal from Moses?
Read verse twenty. “He said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live.” This was a gracious concealment. There was as much grace in what God hid from Moses, as in what he revealed.
A. Mark you, beloved, when God hides a thing from us, there is as much grace in his hiding as there is in his revelation. “The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things that are revealed to us and to our children.”
Brethren, there are some things that God does not intend for us to know. And that man is a fool who tries to pry into them. Let us be earnest students. But let us study only what God has revealed. God said to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face.” “There is a point to which we may rightly go, but no further; and happy is the man who goes as near to it as possible without overstepping it.” – C.H. Spurgeon
B. This statement certainly makes it abundantly clear that no man can see God’s face as a sinner and live. Any man who stands before the face of God, clothed in the filthy rags of his own righteousness, must perish.
C. Then, again, this verse shows us that, no man, even as a saint, can see God’s face and live.
1. There are such limitations to this physical body, that it could not endure the sight of God’s absolute glory.
Even when we stand glorified in heaven, we shall behold the glory of God in the person of the God-man.
2. All that we can ever behold of God, upon this earth, is that which Moses saw, his “back parts”.
Those words, “my back parts”, I think refer to his regal train. You have all seen pictures of great kings. As they pass by, their long royal robes flow behind them. Now, we have seen his royal robe. I hope you have seen it. How glorious! How majestic! How beautiful are his “back parts”. What must his face be? I have fallen in wonder to behold his back parts. But, I haven’t yet fully seen him, nor do I fully understand his Being. He is incomprehensible! “Who only hath immortality dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen!” (1 Tim. 6:16).
QUOTE: “No human creature is capable of perceiving the infinite and eternal Spirit in all his majesty and ineffable glory.” – A. W. Pink
III. I have one more question for your consideration. I trust that you are not growing tired. My subject is so great that I could speak for hours, and never begin to touch the hem of the garment. But give me your attention only a few minutes longer, to search out the answer to this most important question – How did God reveal his glory to Moses?
Read verses twenty-one through twenty-three. “And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock; and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by; and I will takeaway mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” This is most blessed. Let me draw a few parallels from it.
A. Before any sinful man can behold the perfections of the infinitely glorious, righteous, and holy God, he must be put into a place of security and peace.
Moses had to be put into a cleft of the rock before he could see God. Now that Rock was Christ. He is the Rock, the Rock of Israel, the Rock of Ages, the Rock of Refuge, Salvation, and Strength.
1. Beloved, God has provided us a place of shelter in the cleft of the Rock.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Grace hath hid me safe in Thee!
Let the water and the blood
From thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Illustration: It is only in the cleft of the Rock that you can behold the glory of God. In North Carolina there is a mountain called Grandfather Mountain. As you drive along the highway, you can look at that mountain from many different places, and wonder where did it get such a name. But, if you drive on until you get to the north side of it, you can look up from its base and see, clearly and distinctly, the image of a man with a flowing beard. And so it is with you, my friend. Come with me under the shadow of the cross. Come there as a penitent sinner. Look there upon that visage more marred than any man. Realize that the Sufferer hangs as the Guiltless Substitute, dying for your sins. And you will see in him the glory of God’s goodness. His beauty will ravish your soul. But the only place to behold that glory is in the cleft of the Rock. Until you see God’s glorious goodness in Christ, any sight of him will terrify you.
Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
The holy, just, and sacred Three,
Are terrors to my mind!
2. Look at the beautiful picture that we have here of the believer’s absolute security in Christ.
a. “Thou shalt stand upon a Rock.” Brethren, we stand before God today, and for all eternity upon this blessed foundation, and we shall not be confounded.
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness,
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
b. The Lord said, “I will put thee in a cleft of the rock.”
You see no sinner can put himself into Christ. We were chosen in him, redeemed in him, accepted in him. We were “created in Christ Jesus.”
c. Then, God said, “I will cover thee with my hand.”
Not only is the believer in Christ. He is protected by the Father’s hand. “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man shall pluck them out of my Father’s hand!” (John 10:29). “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91:1).
B. Here we also see the great superiority of the gospel over the law.
The law had only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of those things. But look at the blessed fullness of the Gospel – “God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
1. Sinner, soon you shall die. You will stand before the throne of infinite majesty, holiness, and glory. And what will become of you then? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God is so glorious, so pure, so full of light that it is written, “God is a consuming fire!” O, flee to Christ! Find shelter in the cleft of the Rock!
2. Brethren, here Moses saw only the back parts of the living God. But upon the Mt. Of Transfiguration, he saw Christ’s “face shine as the sun.” And it shall be so, even with us. Now we see his glory. Now we see him who is invisible. We see his face, but only through a glass darkly. But, O blessed be God, we shall soon see him face to face! “In my flesh shall I see God!”
· We shall see him, without sin.
· We shall see him, personally.
· We shall see him, as he is.
· We shall see him, and when we see him, we shall be like him.
Face to face with Christ my Savior, Face, what will it be;
When with rapture I behold him, Jesus Christ, who died for me?
Only faintly now I see him, with a darkling vail between;
But a blessed day is coming, when his glory shall be seen.
What rejoicing in his presence, when are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straitened, and the dark things shall be plain.
Face to face, O blissful moment, face to face, to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so.
Face to face, I shall behold him, far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all his glory, I shall see him by and by.
· We shall see him face to face, and we shall live! God hasten the day, for Jesus sake. Amen.