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17th May, 2006

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The glory of God: a never-ending feast

Moses had lived long and seen much. He had experienced, first hand, the mighty works of God in the dramatic plagues brought upon Egypt. He had seen the waters of the Red Sea part at his own command; he had stood awestruck on the other side when the walls of water collapsed inwards, crushing the life out of Pharaoh's brave soldiers in seconds. What would I give to have stood where Moses stood and seen these indescribable demonstrations of the power and glory of God. How lucky he was. But surely, you would think, witnessing the power of the plagues and the parting of the waters followed by their ear-splitting return would satisfy anybody. Who could hope to see more of God's glory in action? But just as the grave never says "Enough", Moses had an insatiable appetite for seeing all he could of the glory of God. Not long after viewing some of history's mightiest events from the front row, Moses decided he wanted to see more and submitted his request to God:

"Please, show me Your glory" (Ex. 33:18).

One suspects that the tone of voice in the "Please" resounded with hope and enthusiasm - no whining or cringing like the dog that rolls over on its back when approaching you. The divine response contains some of the most thrilling words imaginable:

But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

Thrilling for two reasons:

1. It gives us a hint of the infinite dimensions of God's glory. But why could we not survive a front-row view of the fullness of divine splendor? Think of it this way: though the sun is 93 million miles away, you cannot look at it long without suffering serious eye damage. How close could a human being get to the sun before being sizzled to a crisp? Yet the glory enjoyed by the sun and the untold billions of other incandescent orbs of gas was given to them by the One who made them. Simple logic tells us He is far more glorious - small wonder we cannot see Him and live.

2. It creates a stark backdrop against which we can silhouette the most thrilling promise of the joy set before us in the kingdom of God:

They shall see His face (Rev. 22:4).

God acceded to Moses' request - kind of:

And the Lord said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen."

In short, God gave Moses a glimpse of unimaginable magnificence, but it amounted, figuratively speaking, to merely seeing God's back from a distance. Eyes of flesh are not equipped to behold majesty "bigger and more splendiferous than the universe". Even with eyes of spirit the glorified saints will never be able to see all God's glory at once. Infinite glory will take eternity to see in ever greater and greater detail. We will never fully traverse its breadth, scale its heights or plumb its depths.

But while we wait for our change to come we can see more and more of God's glory every day. How?

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

As I sit here I see a tiny glimpse of God's glory - a flock of silvereye birds is splashing with delight in the bird bath. They dart in, wiggle around, then flash back to the rim where they shake themselves faster than a rattlesnake rattling its rattle. If you are fortunate enough to be watching a rattlesnake shake its extremity you, too, are witnessing the genius of God in action just as surely as Moses witnessed the power of God in the parting of the Red Sea. The whole earth is full of His glory (Is. 6:3). Why not feast your eyes on God's distant back now in anticipation of seeing His face for eternity.


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