As a youngster, I thought my dad was Superman. Growing up, we had a Chevrolet station wagon. On one trip I asked dad if he could pop a wheelie by pulling up on the steering wheel. My dad pretended to jerk real hard, and I thought the front end went up. Even though dad wore black dress socks pulled up to his knees with tennis shoes, I knew he was the strongest man in the world. Whatever we needed, whatever problems we faced, I believed he could fix it.
After Moses poured out his soul, and interceded for others, he made some bold requests. After the the golden calf fiasco, the Israelites were spared because Moses asked for mercy. Though God didn’t destroy the people, he told Moses he would no longer accompany them to the Promised Land. Moses knew they could never make it without his presence. So, Moses continued to ask. He said, “If your presence will not go with us then don’t send us from this place. What else but your presence distinguishes us from all the other people on the face of the earth?” In response, God said in Exodus 33:17, “I will do the very thing you have asked…”
Then Moses made his most daring request. In Exodus 33:18 he prayed, “Now show me your glory.” The word “glory” in the Hebrew is kabad, and it means “weightiness, or heaviness.” Moses asked to see the full weight of God’s beauty, magnificence, splendor, and might so he could enjoy and rejoice more in him.
Isn’t that the cry of every football fan? We want to see the star quarterback unveil the real power of his throwing arm. When he does and connects with a receiver for a touchdown, it brings the entire stadium to its feet. We love to see the actual weight of an athlete’s ability. I wanted to see my dad’s glory when I asked him to pop a wheelie with our Chevy. While God was answering, Moses pushed further still and asked for a full glimpse of God’s glory.
Exodus 33:22-23 God responded, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
It looks like God was pleased, even honored that Moses would make such an ask. There is no rebuke. God does all he can to answer his request. Again, God is described in human form – hands, face, and back. While God is not confined to a body like ours, this language helps us see God as personal, capable and desiring relationship with us. God made his glory pass by, but to protect Moses, he hid him in a crevice and covered his face. Seeing the full weight of God’s splendor would have been the end of Moses. By showing him his back, it was limited exposure but still more glory than Moses had ever seen.
In the Bible, visible manifestations of God like this are called theophanies. God showed up in tangible ways to build the faith of his people in critical times so they could fulfill his purposes. I’ve never had a theophany like this, and I don’t know anyone who has. Still, I believe God desires in our day to display his glory. He’s looking for a people who will ask. As Moses was bold, we can also come into the throne of grace and ask God to flex his muscles. He’s pleased when we ask to see more of his glory in our marriage, job, church, relationships, and witness. We could ask God to display his glory by bringing a loved one to Christ, or in helping us overcome a destructive habit. In our time alone with God we can begin by asking him to show us more of himself in his word so that we might love and enjoy him more.
God wants to show up in tangible ways to spur us on toward his purposes. He wants to display his glory that others might glory in him. He loves it when people say, “Only God. I know him. He’s a nice guy, but only God could heal that marriage. I know her. She’s good but not that good. Only God could reach that child. Only God could turn that life around. Only God could reach that community. Only God.”
What if Moses had never asked for this once in a lifetime experience? May it never be said of us that we never had because we never asked. Let’s hold on to Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”