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The Hope of Glory

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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.

I feel compelled to confess to you that I don’t completely comprehend this passage in Exodus 33.  At first glance it seems like an act of divine grace in which God preserves Moses’s life.  God prefaces this statement  by telling Moses that no man can see His face and live.  Moses, in response,  insists on seeing God’s glory. Then something spectacular occurs. God condescends Himself to man and agrees to Moses’s demands. . . but there is a caveat. Moses cannot see God’s face, for if he does he will die. Then, in an intimate act of divine protection, God shields Moses from His full glory so that he will not die.

A few months ago, I alluded to a song which references this encounter between Moses and God. The song, like the passage in Exodus, alludes to God’s protection of Moses from His glory, and speaks longingly for  God’s divine presence. I don’t recall the exact lyrics, but it goes something like “I want to hide where the blazing fire cannot burn me . . . in the cleft of the rock… in your presence O God”.  I’m certain that I did not remember the lyrics exactly as they were penned by the author, but you get the general idea.

Now to clarify, I am not claiming that the author of this song has taken the passage out of context. In fact, I’m quite certain that she hasn’t. What I am saying is that I simply don’t get it.  It isn’t that I don’t understand why one would want to be spared of his life either. I get that. What I don’t understand (and there isn’t an easy way to say this so please bear with me) is this: what is so bad about the alternative?

Yes… God’s blazing fire consumes and destroys – it even brings pain. However,  what is the object and purpose of God’s consuming fire? Is it something to be feared and shunned or something to be embraced? For answers to this question, I will turn to a familiar passage in Malachi 3:

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness

Consider also the following passage from Zechariah:

I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.

Again from I Peter 1:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.”

You see, the consuming fire of God is intended to purify us. It is for our benefit. Jesus likens it to a grape vine in John 15.  When we have a branch which does not bear fruit, the Father takes it away (a painful process). However, even when we are bearing fruit, the Father prunes the fruit bearing branch so that it can bear more fruit (also a painful process). To resist this pruning is to resist the blessing which God has in store for us.

If I were to stand face to face with God this evening as Moses attempted, what would be the result? Instant death for sure… but what else? I dare say that it will not only bring instant death, but through death it will being eternal life!  It would bring instantaneous purity, righteousness and holiness! God’s consuming fire is certainly something to be feared if you are without Christ. However, for those of us who are being transformed, it is something to behold! We long  for the day in which our corruptible nature will be stripped away and we are raised incorruptible! Our hope is in that day in which our body of sin might be destroyed (Romans 6) and we are raised with Christ. Oh to be unshielded from the Glory of God and purified, once and for all from our bodies of sin!

The truth is, this is more than a distant reality- it is a reality which is here and which is now.  St. Paul tells us in Colossians that God has made known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery- and guess what? It is not far off! It is Christ in you that is the hope of Glory! Oh to be purified by the Spirit of the Living God… to cast off the sin which so easily entangles us! Let us look to Jesus who authored our faith and who will perfect it. Let us not turn our souls to another! We have something far greater than Moses… we have the very person of God dwelling within us and purifying us from within.

9 thoughts on “The Hope of Glory

  1. Hey Aaron! I just came back from a mission trip in Pakistan and it was just amazing! I cried and cried the whole trip and then I cried myself to sleep after getting back from the airport today and then woke up and read this and cried again. You put the words that I can’t say into your posts and they mean a lot to me. How are you feeling anymore? Hows the beautiful wife and adorable kids? I’m going back to Pakistan in the summer maybe for good. Thank you for showing Christ to me. I would never have met Jesus if you were never my boss.

  2. I’ve been reading the prophets trying to gain a better understanding of God’s glory and His holiness. I think it is important to understand that He is indeed a holy God that must act justly. However, instead of being afraid, I find comfort. Because He is holy and glorious He CAN refine me. I am not destined to remain as I am with all my failings.

  3. Although, having said that; I cannot say that if I were to come face to face with God today that I would not have some fear.

  4. Thanks for the comment Jami. I agree with what you are saying. It is precisely because of His holiness that we can put our hope in His ability to refine us! I don’t know what my response will be when I finally see God in all His holiness. I think about it often though. I think my initial reaction will be one of dread, because I will be confronted with the deeds that I have done and will realize very quickly that I am in the presence of a holy God. I don’t think that we will enter heaven unaware of the gravity of our sin and (conversely) the enormity of His grace. I think when we cross that threshold, we will be keenly aware of what God has done for us and will finally see our sin as God does. So I agree. I think I will have fear- but only because I will clearly see how much I do not deserve to pass through the gates of heaven. Even if by God’s grace I am able to become holier than I am now, it will all count for nothing because it is the impartation of Christ’s righteousness which will ultimately satisfy God’s justice and wrath.

    Serena, thank you for the kind words. If Christ was seen through me then it was only by God’s grace. I’m excited for you and your new relationship with God.

  5. sophiesladder

    I had a couple of thoughts as I read your post.

    God is an all-consuming fire, He is the refiner’s fire. He burns away all the dross. If you are all dross (or wood, hay or stubble), you are completely consumed. If you have some silver or gold (the Holy Spirit within you), these will be left. The result depends on whether you have anything eternal, eternal life, within you. See 1 Cor. 3:11-14.

    My other thought centered on the fact that no one sees God’s face and lives. We never see God’s face. But it is true that we never see the real, inward ‘face’ of our friends (or anyone for that matter). I have never seen inside you, nor have you seen inside of me. This is the ontological reality. All I see is your outward appearance.

    My point is this. We never see or know the real inward selves of our friends – their true existence is never ‘proven’ to us, yet we believe, we have faith, that they exist and are real. In what sense do rationalists require proof of the existence of God? Why do we require proof of the existence of God when we do not require it of our friends?

  6. Jeff, I believe you have put your finger on the crux of the matter. Moses did not seek to gaze upon the physical face of God because God is Spirit. As such, He does not possess a literal face as we think of it. When he requested that God show him His glory, God responds by saying that no man can see His face. I’ll have to go back and read Exodus 33 again because I’m not certain right now if God is equating His glory with His face, or if He allowed Moses to see His glory, but only in part. Regardless, your thoughts on our own faces are profound and have to admit that I haven’t thought of it quite like that.

    I’m a bit Kierkegaardian when it comes to requiring proof of God’s existence. What sort of proof do we seek? Scientific proof? Legal proof? Logical proof? Emotional proof? These are all very different but they all have one thing in common- they widdle away at our faith and eventually erode it altogether.

  7. I personally don’t seek a “proof”; I too am entirely Kierkegaardian on that. My encounter with Christ is subjective; I encounter Him in my inner being. Did not our hearts burn within us?

    It is the rationalists that seek objective or logical proof, as if God could be proven like a proposition of geometry. He resists such proof. When we attempt to pin him down, put him in a box (or a tomb), define Him, or “crucify” Him, He rises again.

  8. Okay guys. This one quickly went over my head. Why wouldn’t you want proof for something that is going to control so much of you life? I don’t want to sound crass but if Im going to give up really cool things like sex and pot and porn I want proof that Im gonna get something better in return. So why would you decide to give up all the things that make you feel good in life for something that you cannot prove? What’s Kierkegaardian mean?

  9. Anthropolis,
    I mean we should treat persons like persons, not like facts or propositions of geometry. Do you require a “proof” of your friends? Yes, you might get to know them, you might learn to trust them, but to put them through the 3rd degree is offensive.

    When I say Kierkegaardian, I mean the truth is on the inside, not in the objective world. It’s inside me. You’re what’s really real, man.

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