The God You Cannot See

In Exodus 34:5–7, the God you cannot see invites Moses (and you) to see him, not with your eyes, but with your ears, heart, and mind. He invites you to know him and to trust him.

Your God is the Lord. You cannot see God’s face and live. God is Spirit, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman. Don’t try to picture or represent God. God is a person. He is not just an influence or an idea. He is distinct from creation, contrary to pantheistic notions. Language that refers to God’s face and hands is anthropomorphic and figurative, but it does communicate, because you are made in God’s image. The perfection and glory of God precludes anything sinful or imperfect in his presence. God is unique. There is none like him. Recognize the glory and greatness of your God!

The Lord has revealed himself to you. The Lord did proclaim his name to Moses. The proclamation of the name reveals the character, the nature of the person. The context is Moses pleading for God’s mercy on Israel who had just violated the Second Commandment. Your God is the Lord. That name means “I am,” Exodus 3:13,14. God is who he is. He is not defined by anything or anyone else. Yet his very name reflects his covenantal faithfulness. He is the God who has redeemed his people and has entered into a covenant with them. He is the God who graciously sends his Presence with his people, even after the idolatry of the golden calf. As God he is beyond any limitation. He is perfect in all that he is. Although you can never know God exhaustively, you can know him truly.

Praise God for his compassion and justice. Praise God for his justice. The Lord is a God who is infinitely just. He does not tolerate or overlook disobedience. God holds you accountable for your sin. You cannot escape judgment. That justice of God can be frightening, yet it is comforting. God will not allow the wickedness and rebellion of the world to go unchallenged. God’s unchanging justice also comforts you. If he has already punished your sins in the person of his Son, he will not, he cannot, still hold you liable.

Rejoice in God’s grace. The Lord cannot speak his name to Moses without describing his compassion and graciousness. He is overflowing in love and faithfulness.

“And this proclaiming of God’s moral perfection was carried out as the fulfillment of His promise to make all His goodness pass before Moses (Exodus 33:19). All the particular perfections that are mentioned here, and all that go with them — God’s truthfulness and trustworthiness, His unfailing justice and wisdom, His tenderness, forbearance, and entire adequacy to all who penitently seek His help, His noble kindness in offering men the exalted destiny of fellowship with Him in holiness and love — these things make up God’s goodness, in the overall sense of the sum total of His revealed excellences…. Within the cluster of God’s moral perfections there is one in particular to which the term ‘goodness’ points — the quality which God specially singled out from the whole when, proclaiming ‘all his goodness’ to Moses, He spoke of Himself as ‘abundant in goodness and truth’ (Exodus 34:6).”

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 146

That character of God is evident as he reveals himself to Moses, the leader of God’s rebellious people. That character is evident as Jesus graciously violates the mores of his culture and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink — and then guides the conversation to confront her with her sin and her need of a Savior. That grace comes to its richest expression in the presence of the God-man, the Messiah, the One who is God’s Presence. In him you have, not just a temporary glimpse of God’s character, but the full revelation of the depth of the love of your God.

Our best understanding of who God is is going to be flawed, because of our finitude and even more because of our sinfulness. But because God is the kind of God he reveals himself to be, you will have eternity to grow in knowing this God.