Exodus 33:18 – 34:6a

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 14, 2008


Moses had spent 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving all kinds of cool things from God, including the design for the Tabernacle, the portable worship center, as well as just how man is to relate to God.

But while he was gone, the people got restless and wondered what happened to Moses.  They went to Aaron, he made a golden calf, and as the people began to worship with great wickedness, Moses returned.

After this, God told Moses that He wasn’t going to go with the people any more, that they might all be consumed if God were to be too close to them.  Moses pleaded with God that he didn’t want to take the people to the Promised Land if God didn’t go with them.  God agreed to go with the people. The conversation continues …

:18-23 Show me your glory

:18  And he said, "Please, show me Your glory."

glorykabowd – glory, honor, glorious, abundance; from kabad – to be heavy, be weighty

This is not an entirely new concept to Moses.  He’s already seen the “glory” from a distance:

(Exo 24:16-18 NKJV)  Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. {17} The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. {18} So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Moses has been close to God, but he wants to get closer.

:19 Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.

goodnesstuwb – goods, good things, goodness; fairness, beauty, joy

proclaim the name of the LORD – the name of Yahweh. 

Name = Nature.  A name in the Bible often describes a person’s nature.

Abraham means “father of a multitude”, a name God gave him because he would be a father of the Jews as well as all believers.
Isaac means “laughter” because his parents laughed at the idea of having a baby in their old age.
Jacob means “heel catcher” because he was clinging to his brothers heel at birth and because he tended to be a “tricky” person.
Jesus means “Yahweh is salvation” – could you think of another name more appropriate for the One who came to save us from our sins?

God will describe His nature to Moses

By the end of this experience, Moses is going to know a whole lot more about who God is.

:19  I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

be graciouschanan – to be gracious, show favor, pity

have compassionracham – to love, love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate, have tender affection, have compassion

I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious …

God’s point here is that even though Moses is asking for God to accompany them to the Promised Land and asking God to show Moses His glory, God is going to do what God wants to do. God is sovereign.  He is in charge.

We ask for things in prayer, but we also need to realize that God is the boss.

Paul quotes this passage when he is discussing the doctrine of “election”, the truth that God chooses us (Romans 9)

(Rom 9:15-16 NKJV)  For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." {16} So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

:20 But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

Wait a minute!  I thought we read last week that God spoke to Moses “face to face”?

(Exo 33:11 NKJV)  So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

There will be some people who say that this is a contradiction in the Bible.

Keep in mind though – these two places are only nine verses apart.

Here’s how to look at it:  Ex. 33:11 is talking about a kind of intimacy between Moses and God like no other man has experienced.  He was like a “friend” to God.  Speaking “face to face” is meant figuratively, not literally.

Here in verse 20 we get the literal idea of seeing God’s face – and it can’t be done by mortal man.

cannotyakol – to prevail, overcome, endure, have power, be able

Perhaps you could translate this, “You can’t endure to see My face …

Remember the gasoline and match from last week?  Man is covered in gasoline and God is the match.  Man cannot look at God’s face and stay alive.

There are people who have seen “theophanies”, where God shows up in a human form or in a vision (like Abraham, Gideon, or Isaiah)
But these are not literal close up face to face meetings.  In fact we think that most of the accounts in the Old Testament are appearances of Jesus Christ before He took on human flesh in Bethlehem.

John writes,

(John 1:18 NKJV)  No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Jesus shows us God’s face
(John 1:18 NASB)  …He has explained Him.

Will we ever see God’s face? Yes. I think we will when we get our new bodies.

(1 Cor 13:12 NKJV)  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
(1 John 3:2 NKJV)  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

seera’ah – to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider

facepaniym – face; presence, person

livechayay – to live, have life, remain alive, sustain life, live prosperously, live for ever, be quickened, be alive, be restored to life or health

:21 And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.

rocktsuwr – rock, cliff, rocky wall

:22 "So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.

cleft[email protected] – hole, crevice

Some see this as a picture of Jesus – He is our Rock and the only way we can get close to God is if we are in Jesus.

We hear these words used in our music:

“Rock of Ages Cleft for Me”, “Hide me in the cleft of the rock”

covercakak – to block, overshadow, screen, shut off, cover

:23 "Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen."

hand … back … face

We call this kind of language “anthropomorphic” – ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human.

Keep in mind, God does not have literal hands with fingers, a literal “back”, or a “face” like you and I.

These are words used to give us something to relate to.
God does not have a physical body.  God is a spirit being.
(John 4:24 NKJV)  "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

you shall see My back – some guys have suggested that Moses just saw the “afterglow” or the “afterburners” of God after He went by.

Exodus 34

:1-4 New tablets

:1  And the LORD said to Moses, "Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai the first time, God had given him two stone tablets written on the front and back, written by the finger of God, containing the Ten Commandments.

When Moses saw that the people had already broken their contract with God with the worship of the golden calf, Moses broke the original tablets containing that contract.

Now God is going to renew the contract.

This won’t be the last time that God “renews” the covenant.

It will happen again in 40 years before the people go into the Promised Land (Deut. 29:1)
It will happen again after Joshua conquers the land (Josh. 24:25)

tablets of stone – we use the phrase “carved in stone” to describe something that has permanence to it.

:2 "So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.

:3 "And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain."

God doesn’t want anyone else nearby while He and Moses finalize the contract.

No loose videos to be posted on YouTube.

:4 So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

God is going to give the people a second chance.

:5-9 God Describes Himself

:5 Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

God is going to clarify to Moses just who He is.

God is going to describe Himself to Moses.

What do you think God is like?

What’s your source of information?  Is it just your imagination, what you think God must be like?  Is it what you’ve heard someone else say that God is like?

How about paying attention to how God describes Himself?

This description of God is repeated seven other times in the Old Testament (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

:6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God,

LORDYahweh (hwhy)– “the existing One; from hayah (hyh) – to be, become

When Moses first met God at the burning bush on Mount Sinai, he asked God about who He was …

(Exo 3:14-15 NKJV)  And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" {15} Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'

As the “I Am”, God is the always “existing” One, the One who always “is”, the One who lives forever, the One who is always present at every point in time at the same time.

As the “I Am”, you will see God’s name being used to convey the idea that when you have a need, God is the answer to your need.

When Gideon was called by God to deliver the Israelites from the Midianite oppression, he was freaked out.  Gideon needed peace.  God said:
(Judg 6:23-24 NKJV)  "Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die." {24} So Gideon built an altar there to the LORD, and called it The-LORD-Is-Peace.

The Hebrew is “Yahweh Shalom”, or “Jehovah Shalom”

In the New Testament there is an interesting thing woven into the Greek in the Gospel of John.  The Greek words that translate “I Am” are “ego eimi”.  If you search the Gospel of John for these words (23 verses), you will find that they all relate to Jesus, of this idea of Jesus being what you need, and of this concept of God and Jesus as the “I Am”. 
Are you hungry?  Jesus said,

(John 6:48 NKJV)  "I am the bread of life.”

Feel like you’re in the dark?  Jesus said,

(John 8:12 NKJV)  …"I am the light of the world…"

Are you afraid of death? Jesus said,

(John 11:25 NKJV)  "I am the resurrection and the life…”

This is not just me twisting the words of the Bible to fit my point – there is a much easier way to express these concepts in the Greek, but John adds the extra words to make the “I Am” stick out.
One time Jesus was almost stoned for blasphemy, claiming to be God:
(John 8:58 NKJV)  Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
It is important that you believe that Jesus is the “I Am”
(John 8:24 NKJV)  "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

The “He” is not in the original language after the words “I am”.  Jesus says, “if you do not believe that I AM, that He is Yahweh, you will die in your sins”.


The God Who Is

Last week I had the honor of being interviewed by a Cal State Fullerton student for one of her journalism classes.  She had tackled the topic of teaching evolution and creation in public schools.
She raised the question that some people ask, saying that if there’s supposed to be a separation between church and state, and if creationism is a religious thing, shouldn’t that mean that we should keep the teaching of creation out of public schools?
Part of my answer was to clarify that I didn’t believe the founding fathers meant to keep God away from public secular life.
The other part of my answer was to try and talk about the acknowledging of truth.

If there are discoveries in science that tend to raise doubts about evolution, isn’t it in the best interests of science to make people aware of that?  And if there are things in science that point to intelligent design – the idea that there is evidence that there was purpose and structure put into the world around us, shouldn’t we be open to that as well?

Last week my son and I got the opportunity to visit “Blizzard” with my sister’s family, a super-duper computer game design company.

When you look at the encoding that goes into a modern video game and you see how that game is played, do you think to yourself, “Wow, what an amazing thing, this must have been quite a fortuitous accident made by mindless chimpanzees typing away on computers for such a game to be in existence.”

No, the more you look at the coding involved, the more you realize that a lot of work by very smart people went into the code that causes this game to work.

Look at the human genome, the coding that goes into your human DNA.  Your DNA is what determines how you are made, what color your hair is, what color your eyes are.  The coding is stored on 23 chromosome pairs and occupies a total of just over 3 billion DNA base pairs and has a data size of approximately 750 megabytes, about the size of a compact disk.

I don’t know about you, but how do you come up with 750 megs of encoding without some sort of intelligence behind it?

The truth is, there is a God.  He exists.  He has always existed.  He will always exist. He is the great “I Am”