This morning I woke up thinking about old Moses.
Old Moses actually saw God! He saw God with his own two eyes!
Even so, God took some serious precautions with old Moses so that Moses could be safe while starring into all that glory!
First of all, God stuck Moses in a rock crevice. Second, God told Moses, “I will 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 (Exodus 33:22b-23 NIV).”
I know that I have a weird sense of humor and all but this whole incident has always seemed funny to me. Here is Moses who is chosen by God and who for all intent and purpose is God’s number one servant on earth; and, all he really qualifies for is to see God’s backside.
What does this say of the rest of us? Well, it’s a good thing that we have a savior or we’d be in a heap o’ trouble!
But, back to Moses…God issued a very interesting directive to him. “But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live (Exodus 33:20 NIV).”
Curious-er and curious-er!
For the greater part of my life I have interpreted that verse to mean that the greatness of God’s glory is such that if we were to look upon God with our naked eyes we would be fried! I have likened it to walking into the sun!
And, I suspect this notion is not too far off the mark but very recently with the help of theologian Jurgen Moltmann, I have caught a glimpse of another narrative between the lines.
Moses was never the same after he saw God.
There was a physical change of course. The Bible tells us that Moses’ face glowed and he scared everyone so badly that he had to wear a veil when he was out in public (Exodus 34:33-35).
But, I think that I can make the case that Moses experienced an inward transformation as well. From a certain point of view, Moses did die when he gazed upon God!
The old Moses was gone and a new Moses was birthed. So, what does this mean for the rest of us?
I do not think that we can gaze upon the Lord and live. In other words, once we have made our decision to go all in for Christ, the old self really must die for the new self to be birthed.
The apostle Paul seems to chime this same motif, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come(2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).”
Do not dismiss that word IF.
And, if I am to be truly honest here, there will be something of pain and suffering as we die! Pride, ego and self will not die easily. They will fight on throughout the pain of repentance.
As we surrender fully to Christ, we must die to self. It is impossible to serve two masters. We cannot truly gaze upon God’s glory and live.
But the good news is that the death of the self is not the end of the story but a glorious new beginning. Just check out God’s promise:
Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world (Exodus 34:1 NIV).”
Imagine…imagine today the wonders that God has planned for your life if you are willing to die. Moltmann calls it the theology of doxology! What in the world is that?
(Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, p. 8)
All of life becomes: praise God from whom all blessings flow! All of life is changed. All of life is new. Every step is praise as the Lord does wonders never before done in any nation in all the world.
Radical possibilities begin to unfold. Mountains are moved.
The very glory of God is unleashed in our lives and ripples begin that will never end. Generations of your grandchildren and great-greats will be blessed because of a decision that you made today to fully gaze upon the Lord and die.
Maybe Kim Walker Smith says it in a way that is best understood. Take a listen if you’d like:
(Kim Walker Smith, Show Me Your Glory, Jesus Culture: Come Away. Sparrow Records, 2010 & 2015)