Biblical Story Lesson Plans - Show Me Your Glory

Exodus 34 contains the first succinct description of all of God’s attributes side by side. This is God’s self-revelation, in perfect balance. It is a landmark moment in which Moses, representing Israel, sees a glimpse of God’s glory. Israel as a nation would look back at this moment to know and worship God rightly. If we also want to worship God in truth, we must understand all of his attributes, and this passage is key to that.


Let’s enter into the history of Israel as a nation. After being freed from slavery in Egypt by God’s power, Moses leads the nation into the wilderness where they begin to journey to the land that was promised to Abraham. At some point, they come to Mount Sinai. Here, God calls Moses up to the top of the mountain to receive the Law, God’s moral and ritual standard for the people. When Moses descends from the mountain, he finds that the people have already abandoned allegiance to the God who had just freed them and have begun to worship a golden calf. For their actions, many are put to death. Those remaining express genuine remorse for their sin.

When Moses appears before God again, God tells him that he will not lead the people anymore, because his anger might consume them otherwise. The people’s sin had separated them from God. Moses pleads with God to be with them. God is their protection, hope, salvation, and identify as a nation. Without his presence, they are nothing. And because of Moses' plea, God decides that he will go with them.

Finally, Moses asks God one more question: “Please, show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18). Here, Moses is asking God to show him what he is like. Who is this God that has rescued them? What is he like? Already, they have seen his power and grace displayed through their exodus from Egypt, but there must be more to see. To this question, God agrees to show him his name. “The new ‘name’ of God is not a ‘name,’ as we understand the expression; it is rather a description of His nature by means of a series of epithets."\autocite[Exodus 34:6]{Ellicott} He will show Moses his goodness and character, but Moses will not be able to see him face to face, otherwise he would be destroyed. Instead, Moses will see God’s back, meaning just a glimpse of his glory.

On the next day, Moses travels up the mountain and God descends in a cloud. Hidden behind a rock, Moses hears the LORD pass by, proclaiming who he is. In Exodus 34, God proclaims “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” (Exod. 34:6-7).

All that Moses can do is put his face on the ground and worship. Following this, Moses once again pleads on behalf of Israel and God listens and chooses to renew his covenant with them.

Theological Significance

God’s declaration reveals his attributes in perfect balance. He reveals his mercy and grace, patience, love which desires to forgive and reconcile, and his justice. We can barely scratch the surface of the depths of meaning here. What I want us to focus on is that this is who God is. God is gracious and just. He is loving and wrathful. As Romans 11 says, behold the kindness and severity of God.

If we want to know, worship, and follow God, we must know all of what he has revealed to us. He is worthy of worship, not only for his grace and mercy, but also his wrath and holiness. We cannot pick and choose only the attributes that we like; we would only be making an idol of our imagination. There is one true God, and this is who he is.

That being said, as we begin to understand all of his attributes, we will see how beautiful and glorious he is. In fact, without all of God’s attributes, there is no Gospel message. God’s holiness and justice require him to punish us for our sins. At the same time, God’s grace and mercy compel him to forgive sinners.

But how can God forgive sinners? If a judge today let a murderer go free without any charges, we would cry “injustice”! That would be an unjust judge. In the same way, God, the perfect judge, cannot sweep sin under the rug and let us go free. Someone has to take the punishment.

At the cross, we see God’s holy justice. “In Christ’s sufferings, the Divine holiness and justice are fully shown, and the evil of sin is made known."\autocite[Exodus 34:5-9]{MatthewHenry} But we also see his mercy and grace intersect his justice to display self-sacrificial love. Jesus is God in the flesh, stepping into time and space to live the perfect life that we should have lived and bear the punishment for sin that we deserve.

How do we respond to this? Like Moses, all we can do is put our face on the ground, trust in Jesus, and worship God for all of his goodness!

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