Moses was the man of ardent yearning to know God. It was his dominant desire; to be assured of the Lord’s favour. His varied experience of privilege at the Egyptian court and exile in the wilderness had taught him the futility of heathenism and the foulness of his own heart that had rushed him to commit murder and left him to the musings of his wild estrangement from God in the lonely regions on the far side of the desert. Moses had much time to ponder serious matters of the soul until his encounter with the Lord in the burning bush. There Moses learned that any approach to God could not be casual. He must approach the Holy One with caution and only through the access of the promises granted to the Patriarchs. Even with caution in his heart, and covenant promises bidding him and covering him, “Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:6). Nearness to God was by no means an automatic human entitlement even when God made the first move man-wards. There was a protocol to be observed – man’s awareness of the divine majesty and his own misery. Grace is never cheap. The pearls of the Gospel are never strewn before swine. Grace has a price (and the cost has been met by Jesus Christ). When we reach out towards mercy God reveals its value together with our ill-desert, and our meeting with God is always a marvel that humbles us. Moses desired God but knew that he did not deserve him, but the Lord’s compassion and Moses’ inner compulsion made him daring enough to declare his passion for intimacy.
In his earnest dialogue with God Moses became convinced of two fundamental soul-saving facts: a) Man comes to know God because he is previously known by God in electing love. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19). b) God is only known through the condescension of his own self-revelation through his word and by his own enlightening and persuasive presence that is so impactful it cannot be resisted. The knowledge that God imparts is effectual interior knowledge, insight into God that lodges inside the recipient of revelation. The mutual indwelling, he in us and we in him, is initiated. The object of God’s self disclosure is to display “all his goodness”, i.e. the fact of his perfection, the range of his qualities, and the array of his attributes. All these will be enjoyed in his act of generous self-giving to those he selects for this inestimable privilege. His goodness becomes an attraction to the called, and the possession of the converted.
Moses is the man who exemplifies the stunning discovery of the reality of grace as utterly sovereign and free, a mercy granted of God’s unmotivated, unconditional goodwill towards those who have emphatically renounced all connection with him and all subjection to him, and consequently have absolutely no claims upon him. Destitute of all entitlement or expectation they are favoured by divine determination alone. Salvation is solely of the Lord and wholly according to his choice without reference to human quality or co-operation. It is equivalent to the “uncaused” bolt from the blue as far as man is concerned. Moses represents what all the elect come to recognize in due time, that God affords us protection from himself: “I will put you in the cleft of the rock”. Our only hiding place from the God of judgment, because of our sin and his offended glory, is God himself. He nestles us in his own side and covers us by his own hand. Our safety is in him, against his own flank and under the unfurled fist, that once clenched, will strike his enemies fatally. The relentless Aggressor against evil makes himself our fortress and “passes over” us so that we shall be spared (for God to “pass over” the guilty, spared by grace, is a fundamental feature of Moses’ consciousness. He knows the constant closeness of retribution). Our Attacker becomes our Defender by plucking us out of range of his righteous fury to “a place near me”. Holy wrath is graciously averted from us. The Angel of Death ignores the sentence of death against us. It has been rescinded by divine decree. The Lord’s hand does not smite us, for our names, precious to him, are engraved upon his palms (Isaiah 49:16). Thus he has notice to quit avenging action against us.
The narrative of Moses’ revelation from God is a summary, through hindsight (the backside of God in his recorded deeds and intimations), of the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ to the believer. His cherished Saviour is clearly delineated in the Mosaic “preview”. Christ is the Rock upon which we stand and in whom we hide when the vengeance of the Lord is unleashed (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4. For they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ). He is the manifestation and presence of the glory of God whom Moses longed to see (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ). That for which Moses was pining, and much more, is found in Jesus, the Prophet whom he forecast and was expecting (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Jesus is the place, presence, and protection that God affords us through his mighty and sovereign grace. He, the God-man, is the only one with the right to draw near to God and as he does so he brings us in his train. Accordingly, we pass muster. As we gaze upon him we see the face of God and revel in his fellowship. The One battered and bruised upon the cross, and risen from the tomb, has the right and voluntary obligation to preserve us until we enter his glory. “He will see his offspring” (Isa. 53:10), and God will heed his prayer, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me… Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:12 & 24).