Exodus 33:12-23 remains a pivotal passage for me, an ongoing reminder that it is the Lord’s presence with us which distinguishes us from other people and is the ‘bottom line’ for believers. Moses talks with the Lord, demonstrating that an ongoing relationship with Him is necessary. He can’t afford to rest on his laurels or rely on what God has said to him in the past; he needs God to continue to teach him His ways so that he may continue to find favour with Him. As when God originally called him (Exodus 3), the only thing he has to sustain him is God’s presence (see Ex 33:14 and Ex 3:14). Moses recognises that it is this presence which will be the convincing sign to other nations (Ex 33:15) and boldly asks to see God’s glory. (Ex 3:18)
This is becoming my daily prayer: ‘Now show me Your glory.’ (Ex 3:18) It was a vision of God’s glory that commissioned and sustained the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel; it was a vision of God’s glory in the form of the exalted Christ which fuelled the book of Revelation. God’s glory reminds us of who God is, of His transcendent power, of His personal love and care for us. How did Moses continue through forty years in the wilderness, dealing with a stubborn and stiff-necked people who made an idol the minute his back was turned? How did he cope with the incessant moaning and groaning and complaining which dogged his life? The moments of provision and victory seem overwhelmed by the years of carping and unbelief, and it is hard to see how Moses could retain his sanity in all of that. The answer, I believe, is found in this passage, when God shows him His goodness and proclaimed His name to him. A vision of God is necessary to thrive in this life. Nothing else will satisfy. Nothing else will help us to endure.