Popular culture may have given us the impression that it’s no big deal for a human being to meet a god. But Exodus teaches us that God – the real one – is very different from the Greek or Roman gods (and others) who cavort around flexing their divine muscles and doing amazingly stupid things fuelled by hormones, vanity and spleen.God is not like those ridiculous, eternally adolescent gods. He is not only incredibly powerful, but also completely pure, good, right. He cannot pretend not to be. That’s right, there’s something God can’t do. He cannot be untrue to himself. And that means he can’t ignore impurity, evil, and wrong.In Exodus Chapter 33 we see the friendship that existed between Moses and God – God speaks to him ‘as to a friend’. It’s a picture of what our relationship with God could be – and also of the intimate relationship between God the Father and God the Son (see Chapter 32 where Moses foreshadows Jesus’ sacrificial death, by offering to give up his eternal life, if God will spare the Israelites who rejected God).
Moses asks God, you’ve promised to send an angel (a messenger) to help us get to the place you’ve promised us – who’s it going to be? God says, I’m coming with you myself. Boldly, Moses says, ‘Then let me see your glory’.
But it’s not that simple. God has to arrange it so that it will be safe for Moses. If Moses sees the face of God, he will die – because that is what happens when imperfection meets perfection. Sinfulness doesn’t rub off on God, but God’s perfection is like the furnace of a refinery – nothing impure can survive it.
So God arranges for Moses to stand in a particular place, so that when God passes by him, he can hide him in the cleft of a rock, covering Moses with his own hand, until he is safely facing away – then Moses can see his back, and live.
The rock is a picture for us too – of Jesus, the Rock who shields each one of us from God’s purifying goodness, so that we may see him and live.