Moses wanted more of God. He wanted to understand him, to know him intimately. So he prayed, “If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor.” And God, pleased by Moses’ request, replied, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably upon you, and I know you by name.”
Then Moses, perhaps encouraged by God’s paternal reply, stepped boldly into the depth of his desire and made a wild plea: “Then show me your glorious presence” (Exodus 33:13-18).
Moses didn’t yet understand that God’s presence would be too much for him. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Like the stars high in the heavens, God is too powerful, too bright, too glorious for us to handle up close. Moses wouldn’t have been able to survive a face-to-face encounter with the force that created the universe.
So like a father providing fire for his children without allowing them to fall headlong into the flames, God met Moses’ need. He hid him safely between the rocks and covered his eyes as his blinding presence passed by. And as the glory faded, Moses looked, and beheld, and believed.
The Hope: Behold, the Manger
If you desire to understand God, to experience him and encounter his glory like Moses did, know that he wants that for you even more than you do. And he won’t make you hide between the rocks on a mountain to catch a terrifying glimpse. He’ll meet you in a manger.
God condensed his character into a living, breathing person. He made himself as approachable as an infant, as relatable as a rejected man. Jesus Christ was “all the fullness of God in a human body” (Colossians 2:9). He was “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). He showed up defenseless, in a dirty room, in a rough town, as one of us. He came to show us the glory.
We have all sinned and fallen short, tried to satisfy ourselves with destructive addictions and selfish behaviors that have left us fragile and broken. Weak as we are, an encounter with the weight of Godly glory outside of Jesus would kill us. But rather than letting us die in our fallen world without ever knowing the glory, Jesus took the weight of the world on his shoulders and gave up his life. He traded in his strength for our weakness, his glory for our shame.
“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God…He has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:19-22).
With our weaknesses replaced by the strength of Jesus, we can now enter “right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (Hebrews 10:22). We can walk right into the glory.
On the night of the first Christmas, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds as they kept watch over their sheep. “Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).
When the shepherds heard the news, they said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Luke 2:15). And they hurried to see Jesus, God’s glory covered in skin, and they were filled with great joy.
Like those shepherds, you have been invited; we have all been invited to open the Bible, to see Jesus for ourselves, to decide for ourselves whether or not we will believe him.
“If you believe, you will see the glory of God” (John 11:40).
When Moses finally returned to the Israelites he was leading after seeing God’s glory, they were taken aback by his appearance. “He wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord” (Exodus 34:29). He was so filled from his encounter with God that he was downright joyful, literally glowing.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you...
you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy” (Isaiah 60).
Don’t celebrate Christmas this year without running to the manger to see Jesus for yourself. You might just encounter the glory of God.