God’s Declared Name Reveals His Goodness
As I was doing this study, I tried to pay careful attention to what God has to say about His glory. What is the emphasis He puts on His glorious nature, and what does He want to be known for? Often, God is characterized as an ego-maniac by non-believers who only cares about His fame. This idea is not surprising when you think about how humans naturally seek after glory or what is considered to be worthy of glory. However, let’s look at how God desires to be known.
Moses asked that God would show Him His glory. He had already seen God’s glory revealed through the awesome wonders performed in Egypt to rescue His people from slavery. He had seen all God’s miracles in the wilderness and God’s glory leading them as a cloud by day and firey pillar by night. He had been given God’s law and spoken with God hearing His voice. He had just given God’s law to the Israelites and had seen them immediately break that law before He returned from the mountain.
This context is incredibly important because it was in the context of pleading for God’s mercy and presence to remain with them when he made this specific request to see God’s glory. He wanted an intimate knowledge of God and to know for certain Who He was at the core of His being.
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:17-23)
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. (Exodus 34:5-8)
Did you see God’s response to Moses? He said He would make His goodness pass before Him, and He would proclaim His name. God had already proclaimed one of His names to Moses. He is the Great I Am or the self-existent one. However, when asked to show His glory, this is not the name that He declared. He declared his covenant, steadfast love. Holy, perfect love is always faithful and merciful to all who call upon Him. “For Thousands” has the idea of the to the thousandth generation…or in that cultural reference, it carries the idea of forever. He also emphasizes His justice, because perfect love is also perfectly just. He does not allow for that which brings death to go unpunished. (Note: God is not saying that He will judge future generations for their parent’s sins. He is clear when giving His law in Deuteronomy that children should not pay for the crimes of the parents and neither the parents for the children.)
What is Moses’ response to this declaration? It is to worship. He fell down on His face in awe and wonder at this great and good God. Our God desires to be known and glorified for His everlasting, lovingkindness.
Study it Out
- Read Exodus 33-34 for a full context of Moses’ interaction with God. Note especially the passages that show Moses interceding on behalf of the people? Who is He clearly representing and what are we meant to be reminded of? (See Hebrews 3-4, 9:11-28)
- Why was it so vital that God proclaims His faithful, covenant love to Moses at this specific time? How do these two chapters show God’s complete hatred for sin versus His love for humanity?
- Read the following passages and note what is displayed about God’s faithful love. Lamentations 3:21-24; Psalm 89:1-4; Isaiah 43:1-7