And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
When Israel blatantly disregarded God’s holy law in the matter of the golden calf, God, through His appointed officebearers, slew three thousand of those who had not repented. Now, in light of Israel’s great sin against God, the question in Moses’ mind was, will God’s goodness and mercy continue with us or not?
In order to be assured of that, Moses asked God to reveal His glory, to which request God responded by revealing His glorious name. In light of our great and many sins, we too need to know whether God will continue with us or not. Wonderfully, God also reveals His name to us.
Knowing that Israel had sinned a great sin, Moses, a type of Jesus Christ our Mediator, prayed to God seeking Israel’s forgiveness. “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (). Already here, when Moses asked God to blot him out in Israel’s place, we see something of a recognition that God would require a substitute to pay for the sins of His people.
In response, God made it clear to Moses that He could not simply overlook sin: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book…” (). Immediately following this, God told Moses, “I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way” ( ). In themselves, Israel did not deserve God’s presence.
Understandably, Moses, the typical mediator, was concerned for Israel. It was not enough that God would be favorable to Moses; Moses wanted to know whether God would be favorable to Israel and continue to count them as His people (cf.). Moses must know
whether God would go with Israel or not: “And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” ().
Whereupon God told Moses that He would go with Israel. But Moses wanted to be absolutely sure; so he asked God, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” (). As if to say, “Show me that which is a manifestation of Thy glorious and favorable presence with us.” Although Moses did not have the same level of understanding we have today, ultimately his request boils down to this: Show me the Christ, who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person (cf. ). Show me who will go with Israel to bring them to the promised land! We know from I Corinthians 10:4 that Christ, the spiritual Rock, did indeed go with Israel.
Is that not what all of us ought to pray as we make our way through this world? “Show us Thy glory. Lord, we dare not go through this wilderness without Thy presence. If Thy presence go not with us, then our journey to the promised land cannot prosper. If Thy presence go not with us, then carry us not up from here.” How many people imagine they can journey through life without Jesus Christ! How many imagine they can get into the promised land by themselves! But the truth remains, Jesus Christ is the only way. Miserable is that soul who thinks he can make it on his own. With Moses, we ought to pray, “Lord shew me thy glory. Show me that Thou art favorable towards me and all Thy people.”
In response to that request, God promised to reveal Himself to Moses: “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (). Jehovah’s name, of course, is not just some letters on a page; rather, His name is the sum total of the revelation of God’s being and nature. So when God promised to make His goodness pass before Moses, that very act would amount to a proclamation of Jehovah’s name.
Up on the mountain, just as He had promised, God revealed His glory to Moses: “And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord” (). And a glorious name it was! What was the content of God’s name revealed? “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” ( ).
This is the name that Moses needed to know in light of Israel’s great sin. This is the revelation we need to know when our sins rise up against us and accuse our consciences. Israel needed to know about the Lord God (Heb. Jehovah El, referring to the great I AM, who is the mighty God). Israel needed to know about the I AM who does not depend upon us for His faithfulness, the God who is able to deliver His people from their misery.
What must Moses know about this glorious God? He is a God of mercy, truly moved to care for us according to His deep-seated compassion. He is a God of grace, showering us with favor despite our sinfulness. He is longsuffering to us-ward, slow to anger, not willing that any of us, His people, should perish. He is abundant in goodness and truth, overflowing with goodness far beyond measure toward undeserving sinners, ever true to His promise.
His goodness and truth are revealed in the fact that He keeps mercy to thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. That is to say, He forgives all sorts of offenses: He forgives the iniquity of our crooked natures; He forgives us for our rebellion in transgressing His law; and He forgives us for missing the mark of His perfect holiness.
Strikingly, part of the revelation of God’s goodness includes the revelation of His justice: “And that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation” (b). If someone sins, God cannot pretend there is no guilt. Rather, He will punish the guilt of sin from one generation to the next.
Although God’s mercy and His justice might appear to contradict each other, they are in fact in complete harmony: When God forgives, He does not ignore justice in the least. Instead, He fulfills His perfect justice in order that He might show mercy towards His people. Exodus 34 makes it clear that God’s goodness embraces all of His attributes, including His mercy and justice.
As soon as we look at God’s mercy and justice together, we are led to the most glorious manifestation of God’s name.
What is the name that Jehovah revealed to Moses? It is the name according to which God would be gracious to whom He would be gracious and be merciful on whom He would be merciful. God’s glorious name is revealed in His grace and mercy manifested towards His elect through Jesus Christ. When Moses needed to know whether God would continue faithful to Israel or not, God revealed that His grace and mercy are unconditional: He will be gracious to whomever He wills. He will be gracious in Jesus Christ.
How can God be gracious and merciful to forgive us our sins? Through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who fully satisfied God’s justice by taking the guilt of our sins upon Himself and suffering in our place.
The most glorious manifestation of God’s name, therefore, is found in Jesus Christ. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (). Jesus being the brightness of God’s glory, it is impossible that any mere creature could show forth God’s glorious mercy and justice like He does.
Will God go with sinners such as we are and bring us to the heavenly Canaan? If God will not go with us, then truly our plight is hopeless. Thankfully, God has revealed Himself in Jesus, whose name is Immanuel, “God with us.”
When Moses saw the revelation of God’s name on Mount Sinai, he made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. We have the most glorious revelation of Jehovah’s name. How do we respond?