Exodus 33:18-23

Profiles of a True Church
Exodus 33:18-23
Intro: God’s glory and God’s holiness are two sides of the same biblical coin. God’s holiness is the collective and consummate glory of His nature. God’s glory is the visible and physical manifestation of His holiness. Furthermore, God’s holiness is also everything in God that distinguishes Himself from all that exists. There is simply nothing that compares to Him. Every aspect of His being is distinct from all else that exists. He cannot help but reveal Himself. Remember that the Godhead is eternal. There has always been the Trinity. Therefore, God has always dwelt in community. And there is no community without self-giving. So, God created us to give Himself to us!

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God longs for us to reciprocate – to return His love. He loves – we love. He knows – we know. But His loving and His knowing is far different from ours.

Isaiah 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 
Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” 

God’s holiness and glory distinguish Him from all He has made. 

Psalm 50:21 These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.

Learning about God’s glory means learning about God’s “other-ness.”

Exodus 33:18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

What is God’s glory?

Simply put, it is “the bright light that surrounds God’s Presence”

In Paul’s great doxology in his 1st letter to Timothy, we read about God…

1 Tim 6:16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

God is neither energy nor matter – He is spirit.

John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Wayne Grudem – God’s glory is the created brightness that surrounds God’s revelation of Himself.

God’s glory belongs to Him alone. It is the appropriate outward expression of His own excellence. Glory is a superlative, and God is worthy of praise and honor beyond every superlative.

Psalm 24:10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.

Psalm 104:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, 
Psalm 104:2 Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.

At Christ’s birth…

Luke 2:9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

At Christ’s Transfiguration…

Matt 17:2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.

The Heavenly City yet to come “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Rev 21:23)

Why did Moses ask God to show him His glory? Had he not seen it before? Had he not seen it before many times?

What was the burning bush if not a peak at His manifested glory?

Did he not remember seeing God’s glory in the cloud that protected the Israelites as they escaped from the Egyptians?

Ex 16:6 Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt. 
Ex 16:7 And in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord; for He hears your complaints against the Lord. But what are we, that you complain against us?”

Ex 16:10 Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

Had the glory of God not appeared on Mt. Sinai for everyone to see? Did he not enter inside the glory cloud repeatedly?
Ex 24:16 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. 
Ex 24:17 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. 
Ex 24:18 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. 

The answer is that Moses had indeed seen the God’s glory in the past. Anyone who does wants to see it again! But God’s splendor and radiant holiness is so otherworldly that a person wants more than the previous encounter. 

No one truly experiences the Presence of God and shrugs it off. No one can forget it.

Moses’ question shows that to exercise faith means to learn to take spiritual initiative. It also shows that Moses had not trouble asking God for reassurance. 

If God would show him more of the divine glory, it would convince Moses that the Lord was indeed still close to him, still there to protect him, and still interested in his life.

Previously, the glory of the Lord had always appeared when God decided to reveal it. No one asked. He just did it.

A quick survey of God’s glory appearing thus far showed three characteristics.

The previous instances of manifested Glory were:
(1)    initiated by God
(2)    collectively observed
(3)    from a distance

What is different about this episode?

1.    requested it himself
2.    requested it for himself
3.    wanted to see it up close

Moses asks God for a personal audience with Him to observe the essence of His holiness and nature. The boldness of this man is beyond remarkable.

What will the Lord’s answer be?

Exodus 33:19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Features of God’s Glory:

(a)    His goodness

“I will make all My goodness pass before you”

In Genesis 32, the children of Israel commit a great apostasy. They reject YHWH and worship a golden calf (after experiencing God’s intervening salvation at the Red Sea and seeing God manifest His glory at Sinai. 

Their biggest problem is they don’t know who their God is.

The golden calf episode was a passive-aggressive declaration of war against YHWH. 

“goodness” = (tûb) God’s benevolence; the best; wholeness of life; term used for re-establishing friendly relationships after war

God promises Moses that He is re-establishing friendly relations with the Israelites who had been at war with Him.

(b)    His name

“I will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you.”

In context, God’s name is His reputation. 

God explained the Moses the essence of His name YHWH in Exodus 3.


1.    Promise of His Presence

“I will certainly be with you.” Ex 3:12

2.    God of the Fathers

‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ Ex 3:13

3.    Aware of their sufferings

“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” Ex 3:7

4.    Come to fulfill the promises

“So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey,” Ex 3:8

“What is His name?” or better, “What is He really like?” Yahweh replied, “I really AM” (I am the One who Always is)

To Moses’ request for a glimpse of His Presence, Yahweh replied, “I will reveal to you what I am, now how I look.” And in both instances, God followed His revelation with the calling out of His special name, YHWH.

(c)    His sovereign choice

“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

His favor and His compassion are given only on His terms.


God “showed” His glory to Moses by explaining it to him and protecting him from its severity.

What Moses asks, is more than Yahweh is willing to grant, for Moses’ own good. In other words, God would “show” Moses things that would convince him of the Lord’s Presence yet would stop short of letting Moses look at him.

Exodus 33:20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
Exodus 33:21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.
Exodus 33:22 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.
Exodus 33:23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

By stating that no one can see His face and live, God highlights the gulf that exists between Him and fallen humanity.

Even Moses, whom God speaks to as a friend, cannot look at His Presence without endangering his own life. 

Fallen man is vulnerable and frail.

Psalm 8:4 What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 
Psalm 8:5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. 

The angels now and eventually redeemed humanity will behold God with their eyes in some capacity.

Matt 18:10 Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

1 John 3:2 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.

The human family cannot look upon Yahweh and survive: the gap between the finite and the infinite is too great; man is incapable of this experience.