I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’ (Exodus 33:19).
How that passage gets overlooked by serious students of the Bible is beyond me.
There is no way to even imagine what Moses saw and heard that day. “All” of God’s goodness passed in front of Moses? And while that was happening the voice of the Almighty was heard?
And even then Moses was shielded from the stark reality confronting him for God said,
You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live (33:20).
The perfection of God’s goodness is lethal to sinners. Even when an old apostle looked on the resurrected Son of God he lamented that
His face was like the sun shining in full strength (Revelation 1:16).
People seem to have a peculiar belief about God. They think the closer you get to Him the better you feel about yourself. I guess it’s like having your picture taken with a celebrity. The illusion of familiarity and equality. However, it seems to fly in the face of something the Apostle Paul said about Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6).
Apparently, a lot of people think to do just that, grasp at equality with God. Moses couldn’t. Jesus wouldn’t. But ignorance or arrogance drives multitudes to think they can reach out and grasp pure holiness.
As soon as sin came into the world what’s the first thing Adam and Eve did? When they heard God walking in the garden, they
hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…(Genesis 3:8).
When Abram was 99 years old God appeared to him to tell him that He was entering into a covenant with him. What was Abram’s response? Did he run to hug God or shout “Hallelujah!”? No, he “fell on his face” (Genesis 17:1-3).
Before God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone and handed them to Moses, He spoke them to the people (see Exodus 20:1). If you think hearing the voice of God brought encouragement or joy to the people, you’re wrong.
[A]nd they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us…but do not let God speak to us, lest we die (Exodus 20:18-19).
When Joshua was confronted by the “commander of the army of the Lord” as he contemplated how to commence the battle of Jericho, did he salute him or shake his hand and usher him to a war table for consultation? No, “Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped…” (Joshua 5:13-14). When the prophet Ezekiel came face to face with God’s glory, he wrote a rather vivid and lengthy description of what he saw which concluded with his response to it all:
And when I saw it, I fell on my face…(Ezekiel 1:4-28).
And then there was Isaiah. The prophet who Jesus quoted more than any other. I cannot summarize it so here is his encounter found in Isaiah 6:1-5:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Odd isn’t it? The prophet saw a vision of the throne room of God and rather than shout and sing he cries out that he is lost!
When Peter hauled in the great draught of fish after telling Jesus it would be useless to go back out,
he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5z:8).
And when John saw Jesus on the prison island Patmos he wrote:
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17).
Do you see what I’m talking about? If you really want to draw close to God you better prepare to fall on your face in humility and despair. What you will find out if you are truly interested in coming into His presence is how holy He is and how unclean you are (I know what Hebrews says about coming boldly to the throne. But if you read carefully it is not due to your goodness but Christ’s ceaseless intercession). Here is my concern. There seems to be an absence of genuine awe, humility, or reverence for God or His holiness today.
Where is the posture of prostration in today’s Christianity? Do you remember the words of King David in Psalm 51?
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (v. 17).
I wonder if Jesus had that statement in mind when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:4)?
Politicians who pass laws legalizing murder and immorality will one day see the face of God. Will they be as confidently smug about their deeds then?
Christian leaders who go along with culture interpreting Scripture as it wishes will some day look into that face that shines brighter than any star. Will they then dare to tell God what He meant to say?
We have come to desire a good time at church more than an encounter with the Holy One.
Just like the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, we don’t really want to hear the voice of God. Because the voice and the face reveal absolute perfect holiness. And who wants to stare at the sun?
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:8-10).
The holiness of God is a burning fire (Hebrews 12:29) of purity. Every step towards that holiness hurts. But we have been invited to step forward and if we do so in humility and on our knees and even our faces in heartfelt repentance, we are welcomed by Jesus Christ Himself.
To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:13-14).
Do you really think you are ready to see the face of God?