Sermons

January 6, 2019

Show Me Your Glory

Jason Meyer | Exodus 33:12-23

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory. And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and 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. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”Exodus 33:12–23 

Introduction: Fighting Feelings of Failure

Have you ever tried to pray and you felt like such a spiritual failure that you had a hard time believing that the prayer could even get past the ceiling? I wonder what kind of sense of guilt and inadequacy you are carrying this morning. Perhaps you enter 2019 and you are extra aware of all that you wanted to change in 2018 and failed to do. We can feel our failures with parenting, eating right, exercising, relationships, etc. Or maybe you know that this is Prayer Week and you feel anxious or guilty or miserable because you realize how much you wanted to grow in prayer in 2018 and you feel like a failure in prayer.

This text today is for you. The people of Israel have rebelled against God in an especially large-scale tragedy. An absolute train wreck. God has delivered the people out of slavery in Egypt, and they have come to Mt. Sinai, and there has been a delay (40 days and nights) as Moses is up on the mountain with God.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”—Exodus 32:1

You almost get the sense that any god will do as long as this god goes before them and leads them to this land of milk and honey. And all of this because there is a “delay.” They have seen the wondrous works of God, mighty signs, spectacular deliverance at the Red Sea, miraculous provision, but if there is a moment of delay that does not fit their timetable, they are ready to exchange gods. 

Judgment comes upon the people, and then God declares that the people will go to the Promised Land—the land of milk and honey—but God is not going with them. He will just send his angel or else he would destroy them along the way because they are so stiff-necked and rebellious.

The people hear this word and it is crushing to them. They begin to mourn. Moses now is going to mediate and intercede for the people. This whole story is about one thing: A passion for the presence of God. God said he was going to withdraw his presence, and God’s people want God’s presence back. So Moses is going to intercede with the Lord so that the Lord’s presence will not leave them but will go with them.

The Heart Cry: Show Me Your Glory

This passage is a prayer, specifically a prayer of intercession. We would expect in a text like this that there would be a back and forth – a request and response dynamic. And that is exactly what we see.

  1. Request and Reply #1 (vv. 12–14)
  2. Request and Reply #2 (vv. 15–17)
  3. Request and Reply #3 (vv. 18–23)

The request always demonstrates Moses’ passion for God’s presence, the reply always reveals God’s provision of his presence.

Main Point: Prayer in this passage is a passionate plea for more of God. 

Do you see the stunning implications of that point? If prayer is a passionate plea for more of God, then prayerlessness says something profoundly disturbing: I don’t want more of you. I am OK with what I have. The status quo is just fine.

I promise you that I am not throwing stones when I am making that point. After I wrote that in the manuscript, I came under such conviction that I threw down my red pen and virtually fell on my couch in my office and began to weep. I saw the ugliness of my prayerlessness in 2018. It was devastating.

(Prayer)

Illustration: More!

When my girls were small, we taught them to communicate before they could talk by using basic sign language. One thing we taught them was the hand motion for “more.” We only had to teach them that one time and then it just took off from there. Why? Because when they would taste something particularly wonderful, their eyes would light up and their hands would start making the hand motion: More!

That hand motion captures the heart cry of Moses. Moses has tasted and seen that God is good, and so he is asking for more!

1. First Request and Reply (vv. 12–14)

A. Moses’ Request #1 (vv. 12–13):
Passion for God's Presence

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

The interesting thing about Moses’ prayer is that his request relies upon what God has said in the past. Moses brings God’s promises into the present. He basically reminds God about what God has said and then he makes a bold reasoned request that is built upon it. This is pleading the promises of God in prayer. He is using his mind—he is using arguments in prayer.

Do you see it? He said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have found favor in my sight.’ See verse 13:

Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

What a profound argument! He is saying, “Do what you said you would do—be consistent. You can’t say something and then not follow through. Because I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I can know you and find favor in your sight. God, can’t you see that since you promised this, then you must do this?”

This is a man who met God at the burning bush, who met with God on the mountain for 40 days, but he is still not satisfied. He wants to know God’s plans or purposes (his ways) so that he can know God, and so that this relationship can continue and grow and deepen. That is what it means to have favor with God. He does not want to merely assume God’s favor and become satisfied with the status quo and past grace. He is pressing on for more grace, fresh favor.

B. God’s Reply #1 (v. 14):
The Promise of His Presence 

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Moses got even more than he asked for! He asked to know the identity of the one who would go with Moses. Now he has the answer: God will go with them after all. He will not remove his presence from them. He will take them to the land and give them rest.

2. Second Request and Response (vv. 15–17)

A. Moses’ Request #2 (vv. 15–16):
Passion for His Presence

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

This reply makes my heart soar every time I read it. This is not so much a new request as a response to God’s response. God says that h is presence will go with them and Moses emotes out all the reasons why this has been the cry of his heart.

Here is how passionate Moses is for God’s presence: “If your presence does not go with me, then do not bring us up from here” (v. 15). In contrast to the people who would rather have any god lead them as long as they get to the land, Moses is a true worshiper. What is the land? It is simply a place—a context—where you will dwell with your people. If you are not there, then I don’t want to go there. Do you see what Moses is saying? I would rather be here in this howling wilderness with you than to have a land flowing with milk and honey and ease without you. One thing I know: I can’t live without you. Nothing else matters. What good would milk and honey be without you? These good things lose their value if they are separated from the ultimate good, which is God.

Notice that Moses is not asking merely for himself. He has a passion for the corporate presence of God (v. 16).

For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Without you, we are just like every other group of people on planet earth. This should be a cause for passionate prayer in our churches—may our distinctive quality be that we are a place that enjoys your presence.

Do We Have a Corporate Passion for God’s Presence?

In fact, some people throughout church history have called their places of worship a meeting house for two reasons: (1) the church is the people, not the building, and (2) the building is to be a place where the people of God gather for one purpose: to meet with God. There can be many good things about coming to the church building. I hope the coffee and the pastries are good. Yes, I also pray that you look forward to seeing one another. That is a biblical thing—it is good and pleasant when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1). But above all that, what we really want, what we really need, what we really say about our services is this: We have come to meet with God. God comes to meet with his people in a special way here.

In that way, the church ought to be utterly distinct from the world. In the world, many people are pleading for “more” with a hand motion for a lot of different things. People into sports want to see their favorite team have more victories. Investors want to see more financial return on their investments. And we could give a thousand more examples. But the church is unique in being a place where God’s children gather to enjoy God’s presence. We have a unified hand motion: All of us asking for more of God.

How will God respond to this plea? Let us look at God’s response in verse 17. 

B. God’s Reply #2 (v. 17):
The Promise of His Presence

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 

Look at how willing God is to keep answering these requests. Do you know the heart of God this way? Knowing the boundless heart of God should be the biggest incentive to pray. You are not making requests to someone who is stingy and will usually say “No.” Someone who has to have his arm twisted and be badgered with continuous requests until you annoy him enough that he relents.

Jesus taught us about the Father by comparing him with how we are as fathers. We would not dream of giving our bright-eyed, beautiful children stones and snakes and scorpions when they ask for bread or fish or eggs. Then he gave us the “how much more” comparison to understand the loving heart of our Father. “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give what is good to those who ask?” The Gospel of Luke tells us that the good God longs to give us is the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). In other words, he longs to give us more of his divine presence. God is passionate for his own presence. He wants to give himself to this church. 

3. Third Request and Reply

A. Moses’ Request #3 (v. 18):
Passion for God’s Presence

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

Now we have come to the point where I feel that I stagger a little bit as I read this text. It takes my breath away and puts me back on my heels. Why? Moses is always asking for more. Remember back five minutes ago when I said that this is a man who met God at the burning bush, who met with God on the mountain for 40 days, but he is still not satisfied? God has told Moses that he can learn his ways and that God’s presence will go with them. But that is not enough. Moses wants more. He is not content with the grace he received one minute ago.

Notice that Moses is no longer asking even for the particular blessings of God for the people. He has done that, but now he has moved beyond God’s gifts and God’s blessings right to God himself. He wants personal knowledge, direct knowledge. He wants a greater glimpse of God’s glory than he has ever seen before.

It is almost as if he knows that the only thing that will get him through the trial of leading the stiff-necked Israelites into the Promised Land is a clearer, deeper vision of God. Can’t you all relate to this request? As you look at the mess within you and the mess around you, don’t you feel deep down that you are not going to make it unless you have more of God? Prayer is not a spiritual achievement that we pat ourselves on the back for performing. It is not an achievement; it is survival. You reach the point where you know you just can’t make it without him.

B. God’s Reply #3 (vv. 19–23):
The Provision of His Presence 

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and 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. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Did you see God’s answer to this request? Moses asked for more, but God responded with “all.” He said he would cause all of his goodness to pass by Moses. Can you imagine seeing all of God’s glory and goodness? What a staggering thought. But God tells Moses that he will not be able to see all of God’s goodness and live. This is God’s first answer with a “but” (vv. 20–23).

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live. And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and 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. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” 

His heart is so great that he will reveal himself, but his glory is so great that he must conceal himself. Therefore, we come face to face with a profound question. Is there a way for sinners to see all of God’s glory and not die? Is there an ultimate answer to this prayer? The answer is “yes,” in the gospel 

Gospel Fulfillment (John 1:14–18)

There are at least four fulfillments here in this text.

1. The Word pitched his tent among us.

“And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp” (Exodus 33:7).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.—John 1:14

2. We have seen his glory.

Moses said, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).

“… and we have seen his glory”—John 1:14

3. Full of grace and truth.

“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’” (Exodus 34:6). 

“… full of grace and truth.”—John 1:14

4. No one has seen God.

“But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.—John 1:17–18

Moses only saw the “back” of God—the trailing afterglow of his glory. The apostle John says, “we have seen his glory” (John 1:14). The whole fullness of deity is found in Christ. Jesus is the fullness of God’s glory. Jesus is not part of the glory of God—but all of it! How can any sinner come to God and not be destroyed? Moses could not see his face and live. In the Incarnation, Mary could kiss his face and not die.

The greatest wonder is that at his death, people slapped and punched his face and did not die—rather through it we live. By his wounds we are healed!

Conclusion: Gospel Boldness 

The closing question I have for you is whether or not you really believe the gospel. If you see your sin and failure and feel shame that makes you run from God, then in that moment you are not believing the gospel. We do not earn our way into God’s presence. Reducing our failures is not what gives us the right to come into God’s presence. The right to come into God’s presence is blood bought. At the cross, Jesus paid the price for all our failures. There is a double transfer. Our sins go to him and his righteousness is given to us. The greater our grasp of the gospel is, the bolder our coming to him will be. 

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline

  1. Request and Reply #1 (Exodus 33:12–14)
  2. Request and Reply #2 (Exodus 33:15–17)
  3. Request and Reply #3 (Exodus 33:18–23)

The request always demonstrates Moses’ passion for God’s presence, the reply always reveals God’s passion to provide his presence to his people. The lesson that stands out in the end is God’s passion to give himself to his people.

Main Point: Prayer is the overflow of a passion for God’s presence.

Discussion Questions

  • In Exodus 33:12–13, how does Moses’ first request show a passion for God’s presence? How does God’s reply (Exodus 33:14) show his passion to provide his presence ?
  • In Exodus 33:15–16, how does Moses’ second request show a passion for God’s presence? How does God’s reply (Exodus 33:17) show his passion to provide his presence?
  • In Exodus 33:18, how does Moses’ third request show a passion for God’s presence? How does God’s reply (Exodus 33:19–23) show his passion to provide his presence?
  • How is Exodus 33–34 fulfilled in John 1:14–18?

Application Questions

  • How is prayer a matter of spiritual appetite? Evaluate your spiritual appetite by using your prayer life as a diagnostic. How can you increase your spiritual appetite?
  • How is prayer a matter of spiritual power? How is mountain climbing a good illustration for this principle in prayer? How can we grow in this regard and climb higher in 2019?
  • As a church, what can we do to grow in our corporate passion for God’s presence?

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace to climb higher in our pursuit of God’s glory in prayer in 2019.

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