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When He Passes By
By Dr. Mary Craig
Does your heart cry out with the Psalmist: Let my cry come before You, O Lord; Give me understanding according to Your word. (Psalm 119.169)?
Seasons. Dry seasons, rainy seasons, summer, winter, fall, spring. Sometimes we long for that place in God where we are no longer subject to days and times and seasons. Paul charged Timothy to preach the word, to be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4.2). We all would like to avoid conflict, times of testing, threats to the status quo. God has not promised us a life free of upsets, storms, trials, and adversity. He moves in our lives in such a way that we come to know Him, and through Him to overcome. He gives us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that we might discern righteousness and justice and every good course. In the season of storms, in the trials of life, in the testing by fire, we learn discretion, discernment between good and evil, that we might be delivered from the way of evil. (Proverbs 2.6-12)
Iím sure Moses would have agreed. You see, Moses not only witnessed the mighty acts of God, he received the revelation of Godís ways. (Psalm 103.7) Moses pressed for the Presence, for a glimpse of the Glory. Did Moses grasp something we need to lay hold of today; namely, that what we are to God and what He is to us is more important than what we do or what He does?
Moses was on Mount Sinai, a/k/a Mount Horeb, receiving the Law of the Covenant. God had just revealed that His Sabbaths would be a sign that Israel might know that the Covenant Lord is the One who sanctifies. The Sabbath was to be observed as a perpetual covenant, as a sign between God and the children of Israel forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. (Exodus 31.17) The tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, were written with the finger of God.
At the same time, the people below got very impatient. They began to grumble and complain. Yes, God had delivered them from the captivity of Egypt. They passed through the sea. He led them with the cloud by day and with a pillar of fire by night. He split the rocks in the wilderness, bringing streams out of the rock and causing waters to run down like rivers. Then in answer to more complaining, He provided manna and rained meat till they had their fill. God gave them their desire, but their sin kindled a fire against Jacob and anger against Israel because of the unbelief, because of their provocation, their testing and limiting the Holy One of Israel. He brought them to this mountain, Mount Sinai. They forgot His power, His provision, His guidance, His protection.
Moses was taking too long up there on the mount. They appealed to Aaron to make gods to go before them. In their hearts they turned back to Egypt. They made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.(Acts 7.41) It is God who tells Moses what is happening. Nothing done escaped His notice and attention. "Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.(Exodus 32.10) Moses intercedes successfully, turns, and descends the mountain to see for himself the extent of the rebellion and the effects of unrestrained evil. Mosesí anger became hot. He breaks the tablets, burns the idol in the fire, grinds it to powder, scatters it on the water, and makes the children of Israel drink.
Who is on the Lordís side? Evil has opened the door to battle. Rebellion fires the first shot. Moses stands in the entrance of the camp, and says, "Whoever is on the Lordís sideócome to me!" (Exodus 32.26) Separation occurs, followed by intercession as Moses returns to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness for the sin. God pronounces His judgment. Yes, Israel was to continue on, in spite of her sin, butÖ"Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people." (Exodus 33.3)
The people mourn at this bad news. A season of desolation sets in, darkness, the glory departing. Here it is. Judgment will surely come.
Now here is an interesting point. Moses pitches a tent outside the camp. It is far from the camp actually. He goes there, one man, and soon others join him. With a zeal for the glory of God, they intercede. They pray outside the camp, like-minded people quietly, unobtrusively, bearing the burden. Moses couldnít sanctify the people. He offered to be blotted out of the book of life for the sake of the people, but such an offering did not suffice. Jesus, however, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. (Hebrews 13.12, 13)
Godís anger had burned hot, and Moses had wondered why. Yet Mosesí anger burned hot as well when he saw the evil of idolatry. What overcomes such evil? How is sin overcome when a person has been chosen by God and has had visible signs and symbols of Godís power and presence? If we would know God, know the ways of God, we must press past the people, press to meet God outside the camp, press to know His glory.
Moses took unusual action. This says that in the days of exceptional evil, in seasons of desolation, in times when we become aware of unworthiness, uncleanness, and that the God who chose us and loves us and has covenanted to be our God is HOLYÖwe must separate ourselves. We must choose sides, go forth to Jesus, and seek the Lord outside the camp.
God will reward those who diligently seek Him. He will give a manifestation of His presence, a token of encouragement. He will turn His face toward you and speak. So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exodus 33.11) SeparationÖintercessionÖwaitingÖexpecting. The people saw the cloudy pillar, and they began to worship. God had returned. God was listening. God was speaking.
Now this was business as usual. This would satisfy the best of us. But Moses presses. He speaks to God with a thirst for the living God. He presses for the blessing, for a sense of personal assurance. "Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people." (Exodus 33.13)
Moses wants personal assurance, power, confirmation, clarity. He heard the call, received the commission, responds willingly to the commands, but now, he wants more because he needs more. He isnít going to pull this off alone or in his own strength. Look at these people. He needs a real God. He wants God to do what a man can never do. He wants authentication. He asks for an act of God.
Okay. God commits. "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33.14) The Sabbath is back, the place of safety and peace in the presence of enemies, guaranteed by the mouth of the Covenant Lord. With God present, the people will be unique, separate from all the people who are upon the face of the earth, holy unto the Lord.
I should finish this article right here, but thereís more. You would think Moses would be satisfied. God even tells him He knows him by name. Moses has expressed his concern for the Name of God and for Godís reputation before the heathen, but now he prays, "Please, show me Your glory." (Exodus 33.18)
Moses has shown his concern for the people of God. He offered to lay down his own life to spare them from the judgment of God. He expressed his concern for Godís reputation, his passion for Godís Name and Glory. With a holy boldness, he entreats God in reverent fear, with a quiet confidence. He presents his "argument," his pleading, his review of the promises and stipulations. He appeals in an orderly, direct, and specific manner, coming at the situation from different angles. And now he presses for what he needs most in this season of desolation, in the face of evil.
He has heard God with the hearing of the ear, but now he wants to see. He wants to be shown. Yes, he presses for what he needs the most. He presses for a revelation of the glory of God. God had revealed to Moses His NameÖYHWHÖI AM THAT I AM. And now, more than the promise, Moses presses for the revelation of the Person.
The full vision of Godís glory would kill him (Exodus 33.20). Others would find later that even a glimpse brings recognition of unworthiness (Isaiah 6.6, Acts 9, Revelation 1.17). Moses knows he has grace, but now he asks for great grace.
What does God choose to reveal of Himself? He says, "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. You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live. Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 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. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33.19-23)
When He passes by, He will manifest to us His goodness. Godís glory is manifested to us primarily in and through His goodness. At the core of the character of God is goodness. God is good. He never harms in His love. And in times when evil increases, when sin does abound, grace does more abound because God is good.
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, Ďthe Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the childrenís children to the third and the fourth generation.í (Exodus 34.6, 7)
The all-powerful Creator, the self-existent One, the unchanging, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God with no beginning and no end is good and demonstrates His goodness in His covenant, a covenant of grace. God pledges Himself to save His own people. The Creator-Sustainer, Elohim, El Shaddai, is also Redeemer. The Covenant Lord who redeems is holy, worthy of worship. He hates sin and judges it. Sin will be punished. He will never clear the guilty. He loves His own. He shows His love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion to those who are no longer guilty.
Something bothers me today. On T. V. and in the streets people say, "God loves you." But I donít hear much about a holy God who wonít clear the guilty. Itís as if people are saying that God will clear the guilty, that God is love and it doesnít matter what you do. No atonement for offense against a holy God is necessary. Sin need not be punished. What is this? Just say, "Sorry, God," and Heís back? Does "unconditional love" preclude and exclude the necessity of atonement? Even our courts donít operate that way. Unlimited love, yes. Covenant love conditioned upon faith in Jesus Christís atoning work on our behalf, yes.
Moses couldnít "die" for the people, but he did understand that sin had to be dealt with. He did understand that God is Sovereign. And God let him know that lawbreaking and covenant-breaking demanded penalties, would bring curses as the people corrupted themselves and sold themselves to do evil.
Moses came to know the ways of God. God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock. There was a concealing and a revealing at the same time, a blessing and a protecting simultaneously. God came near in a special visitation, as He may choose to do when our focus is on the manifestation of the glory of God more than being on the harvest, or evangelism, or what we are doing for God. When our hearts desire to know Him, He will manifest Himself to us.
Did someone hand you this Newsletter, and you hunger and thirst for the real God? Follow the example of Moses. Seek, ask, press.
God has come near in a special visitation. He came concealed, incognito, in the person of Jesus Christ. Concealed in the Servant who humbled Himself, who made Himself of no reputation, who became obedient unto the death of the cross, God appeared. Jesus declares to us the Father. Jesus manifests to us the Creator, Jehovah Elohim. The Anointed One in the midst walked around and ate and slept like everyone else. Concealed in flesh, God came and revealed Himself.
God is One, at once holy and just, loving and good. His protection comes to us in His provision of Jesus, who died that we might stand in the presence of God and live. Our God is a consuming fire. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Burning and of Judgment. Naked, without the garment of Christís righteousness, without the guilt of sin cleared, the fire of God would devour us and consume us. In His mercy, God withdrew. Always true to His own Nature, God never compromises Himself. God does, however, make a way.
Jesus Christ is the brightness of Godís glory. We will see that brightness in the face of Jesus. We will see in Jesus the goodness of God, the love, the holiness, the righteousness, the mercy, the compassion, the majesty. (John 1, 2 Peter 1.15, Hebrews 1.3, John 14) The guilty are cleared by the free and sovereign grace of God offered to sinners who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ offered Himself as the propitiation, the sacrifice for sin before a holy God, satisfying divine justice. (Isaiah 53, Romans 3, 1 John 2) God is good to reveal His ways, to reveal His glory.
Jesus came to reveal the glory of the Father, the glory of God. (John 17.4) He did all that He came to do, all that He was sent by the Father to do. The cry of the human heart rises to the ear of the Almighty, "SHOW ME YOUR GLORY!" God has. Jesus Christ is the revelation of that glory. When He passes by, will you receive all that He shows you?
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4.6)
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