God of Grace and Glory!
God of Grace and Glory!
In our scripture lesson today, Moses found himself pleading with God… imploring God, if-you-will… on behalf of the people. Of course, the people being God‘s people, his chosen people… Israel. They had managed to mess things up again, by forging an idol, and worshiping it… a golden calf.
So Moses interceded for the people, speaking to God, praying, “God you’ve been so good... you called me to ‘bring this people out of slavery in Egypt and lead them to the promised land.’ You said, ‘I will be you God and you will be my people.” But now you’re saying you won’t go with us any longer. But without you, without our God, we’re nothing… Lost and alone… with no purpose or meaning. So God you have to go with us, because without you, we’re nothing.”
Moses KNEW beyond any doubt that the Israelites needed God. They had completely trampled all over the first and second Commandments, there’s no doubt about that. The people had, for all intents and purposes, turned their backs on God. But Moses knew that God simply couldn’t turn his back on his people. God’s People couldn’t afford the Lord’s absence... For without God’s presence, there was no hope.
Of course, God had every right to be angry at his people. They had openly, and willfully, taken on and worshiped false gods.
But instead of anger, God heard the sincerity in Moses voice, and heart, and relented… Saying, “I will go with you, but not because of these people… I’ll go with you because you, Moses, have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” That word, translated “favor” can also be translated “grace” (KJV). So Moses had found grace/favor in the eyes of God, and Moses KNEW God. And based on that grace… God chose to accompany the children of Israel to the promised land. Whoever said the old testament isn’t about Grace didn’t know what they were talking about.
The story could’ve ended right here… And it would’ve been a great story. But it didn’t. In fact it took a dramatic turn, as Moses blurted out, “show me your glory!” I’m not too sure Moses knew what he was asking for! I think he was simply overwhelmed at the moment by the grace of God. And that grace, that taste of God’s grace, caused him to want more! Kind of like the “you can’t eat just one” syndrome. If you eat one cookie you want another, and another. Of course, eating the whole bag could make you sick. Moses had tasted just enough of God‘s grace, that he wanted more, and more… in fact, he wanted it all.
The only problem was… Moses couldn’t handle it all. Moses had forgotten that no one can see God’s full glory, and live. God‘s full glory, and grace, and favor, are just too much for any one human to not be consumed by at all - undone.
Maybe you remember Isaiah’s experience in the Temple, when he experienced God’s presence, and he cried out, “I’m undone, I’m a man of unclean lips, who lives among a people of unclean lips, yet I’ve seen God.” And Isaiah had only seen the hem of God’s robe! He hadn’t come close to seeing the full glory of God.
So, God shielded Moses from His full glory. He hid Moses in the cleft of the rock, so he wouldn’t experience that full, overwhelming glory of the Lord… And he let Moses see him, but only from behind, as he was walking away. And at that moment Moses knew God was a gracious, and merciful God, beyond anything he could ever have imagined.
Of course truth be told, we find ourselves in a similar position today, don’t we? We’re constantly making some kind of golden calf of our own. Sometimes we admire our own works so much, that we fail to honor God… Or give glory to God for the fact they were able to build, to own, to have authority over the things of this world. And to that rebellious, lost, ornery, self righteous world… God keeps extending grace, upon grace already given.
God keeps showing himself to us! In fact, I think God reveals himself to us all the time. I think God revealing himself is so familiar, that we become accustomed to it. As he reveals himself to every day people, just like you and just like me… People who get to see God the very same way Moses did… And they come to know that God will be merciful to whom God will be merciful. Just like Moses and the people of Israel so long ago.
But then, the truth is, that’s how God operates. It’s God’s way of doing business, so to speak... to reveal his holy present through forgiveness, and mercy. Is that not why Jesus came? Is that not why Jesus died on the cross? And now, through Christ, and in Christ, God has declared for all to hear, “I am God… I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious… And I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.”
I know I’ve shared this story several times before. But a good story is a good story.
John Newton, was a slave trader. In fact he was captain of a slave ship. And the trip from Africa to America was deadly, and inhumane, and one of the darkest chapters in human history. Human beings, just like you, and just like me, with feelings, emotions, lives… were packed on ships like cargo, without proper hygiene, or proper clothing or food… and many didn’t survive the trip.
John Newton, was a sinner among sinners, as he was responsible for the deaths of countless people… and the enslavement of countless others. But one day, that all changed. Very much like Moses, John Newton saw Jesus… as he repented… and came to Christ and was delivered from a life of murder and sin. And to commemorate the forgiveness and salvation that he experienced in Christ, he wrote a little hymn… to a tune that many believe… was being sung on those ships. Maybe you’ve heard it. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” John Newton saw Jesus Christ in the amazing grace that saved him. He had experienced, and he had seen, the glory of God… And that glimpse of glory changed his life forever.
What about us? Have we glimpsed God‘s glory? Have you and I experienced the grace/favor of Christ?
I believe God‘s word with all of my heart. And when God‘s word says no one can truly see God and live, I believe that to be the truth. But I also believe it to be the truth, to say, that no one can ever really see God in Christ, and stay the same!
For when we see God, revealed in Christ… when we honestly truthfully experience God… We die to our old self, and our old ways of thinking, and living. Maybe, seeing God, and experiencing his saving grace, we really do die… Because we die to the ways of this world.
May we all be so blessed with such a death.