Moses wanted to see God’s glory (see Exodus 33). He wanted to experience the “otherness” of God. It wasn’t enough for him to hear God’s voice, have real conversation with Him, and be lead through the desert by Him.
No, he wanted to have his temporal eyes exposed to the eternal God.
And, God was willing to do this. He was going to show Moses something that would scare the hair off his head. He was going to show him His glory.
But God wasn’t going to show what Moses actually wanted, because Moses would have been incinerated by the full vision of God’s glory. Instead, Yahweh states,
20 “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Moses was about to see the posteriora Dei, or God’s backside.
We want to see God’s glory too. We will do the silliest things to “see” this. Trans-like states, repetitive chants, eastern style meditation have all crept into the Christian church in an attempt to see the invisible God.
Unsatisfied with the Word in the Word (Christ in the Scriptures), man turns to himself to find an alternate route that is more satisfying to our fleshly nature. We would rather do this than have to look at God’s backside. That would be much too insulting.
But, in fact, God does tell Christians to look at His backside. What else is Jesus on the Cross? Is that the Glorious God we want, or the ignoble, defeated, bloodied sacrifice that God puts in our face?
Certainly there will come a time when we see His glory (whether we are Christians or not). And, the work of His death brings a guarantee of resurrection for those who believe and are baptized, which means we will enter into a heaven full of God’s glory.
But we must travel through a veil of tears to get there. Jesus promises that the servants are not greater than the master, and the suffering He underwent is the path for His children.
That is not to say that God won’t work many wonderful things here. That is not to say we shouldn’t pray with confidence. It is to say that God’s glory is hidden in His humiliation before our eyes. This is crucifying in itself. It sounds like a contradiction to our reason.
And that is … exactly the point.
To God be the glory, forever and ever. Amen