By Kevin Thompson • January 14th 2022

In Exodus 33, Moses and God are having a conversation. The people Moses was supposed to lead had a little problem—they weren’t the most faithful bunch. At one moment, they would worship God, but they would turn and disobey Him the next moment. They sang His praises when things were going well and then created a golden calf to worship the moment God took a little too long to do what they thought was necessary.

God called them “stiff-necked” people. Yet He loved them, and He called Moses to lead them. Moses wasn’t always excited about God’s call. Half the time, Moses was as stiff-necked as his people.

When Moses had experienced a compelling moment with God, the Lord sent him back down to the people. But before he went, Moses made a request. “Show me your glory,” (Ex. 33.18) he said. Having experienced a glimpse of God, Moses was convinced that, if he could ever get a complete understanding of the power, majesty, and might of God, there would never be a moment of doubt or discouragement again. He assumed that if he could see the fullness of God’s glory, everything else would take care of itself.

And maybe it would have. Yet, God gave Moses an interesting answer. He didn’t reject the request. Instead, he told Moses, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.” (v.19)

Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God showed him His goodness.

I wonder if Moses assumed the two things were different. I wonder if God saw the two things as the same.

Part of me believes that, if I could just understand the power of God, everything else would fall into place. If I could just comprehend how mighty He is, I wouldn’t fear the things I fear or struggle with the things I struggle with. If I could be convinced of His power, I wouldn’t hesitate to obey.

Yet is it possible that what I need the most is not a glimpse at God’s power but a deep, abiding understanding of the goodness of God? What if I truly knew how good God is? Everything else would take care of itself.

Think about Jesus. If God wanted to display His power fully, His might, His majesty, the way to do that is not necessarily through a baby born in a manager or a Son crucified on a Cross. Yes, the resurrection revealed His power over death. But the life of Jesus was far more a display of God’s goodness than His power. It showed His compassion, grace, and mercy. His goodness was on display as He saw those most overlooked, valued those culture dehumanized, and gave a voice to those who were silenced. The goodness of God is something we are invited to “taste and see.” To the extent that we know God’s goodness, we will obey his guidelines.

EXODUS 33.12-23 (NIV)

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 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. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Reflection Questions:

    1. What is the hope about God?

    2. How is that hope for you?

    3. How can you share hope with others today?