Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:19-23)
Picture, if you will, you and me standing in a deep narrow canyon, where the sun is only visible for a few minutes, at noon, and is hidden from view, by the canyon walls, the rest of the day. What would we see after the sun has passed its zenith?
We would have some light, but would not see the sun’s direct radiation. Once the sunlight was blocked by the canyon wall, we would be in a twilight, where everything in the canyon was visible, but the sun, itself, was not visible. If I asked, “Do you see the sun’s radiance?” you would likely respond, “No. The sun’s radiance has passed. I see the rocks and grass on the canyon floor, the rock and shadows of the canyon walls, an eagle in the blue sky, and a rabbit hiding behind that clump of brush, but I don’t see the sun’s radiance.”
“What about beyond the mouth of the canyon?” I ask, “Can you see the sun’s radiance out in the open, beyond the canyon mouth?” “No,” you would likely respond, “I can see sunlight on the rocks, grass and trees, and shadows being cast, but I cannot see the sun.”
Actually, in seeing all the things in and beyond the canyon, we would be seeing the sun’s radiance – not the direct radiance of the sun, but the reflected sunlight. Our eyes are created such that they only see light. When we say we see an object, what we are really seeing is the light reflected off of that object. So, even though, in our imaginary canyon, we cannot directly see the sun, the radiance of the sun is all around us, making the objects in the canyon visible to us.
I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.
In response to Moses’ request to see the full glory of God, face-to-face, God placed Moses in a cleft of the rock, a narrow crack from which Moses could look straight out and see what was before him, but could see neither to the left nor to the right. Then God blocked Moses’ view while He passed by in His full glory, removing His hand to allow Moses to see out after God had passed.
Then I will take my hand away, and you shall see the back side of My glory (my paraphrase).
This is where you and I live in this world, on the back side of God’s glory. We live, every day, in the twilight of being able to see the reflection of His glory in the people, creatures, abilities, actions, and objects around us, but hidden from the direct view of His full radiant glory…hidden for our own protection.
Living on the back side of God’s glory, we cannot see God directly, but can see His glory reflected all around us. I see God’s glory in a friend’s greeting, in an encouraging word, in a child’s conversation, in a baby’s smile, in the moon and stars, in a puppy’s personality, and even in a rooster’s cockiness.
Sometimes, as we look around us, it is difficult to discern God’s glory. Sometimes, we are so surrounded by hatred, bitterness, blindness, unfaithfulness, pain, sorrow, suffering, disease, poverty, and ignorance, that all we see is the shadow of darkness.
And yet, even the ability to discern the shadow of darkness is evidence of the presence of God’s glory. In the deep darkness of a cave, there is no shadow, only complete blind darkness. Our ability to see shadows, to recognize evil and sorrow, to understand concepts of difference between good and evil, is, in itself, evidence that we are not living in complete darkness, but on the back side of God’s glory.
Understanding where we live, and how we see His glory, we can more readily recognize His reflected glory, when we see it.
Oh, how I long for the day that I no longer have to search out the line of demarcation between the reflection of His truth and the shadow of deception – the day when I can see His full glory, face to face, and know Him as He knows me!
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
That day is coming, but it is not here, yet. Today, I live on the back side of God’s glory, protected in a cleft of the rock, seeking to know Him better through the beauty of His reflected glory all around me.
In whom, or what, have you seen God’s glory reflected, this week?