Full Text for Exodus- Volume 58 - What does it mean that Moses was only able to see the back of God (Exod. 33:23)? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY EDUCATION NETWORK EXODUS DR. DAVID ADAMS #58 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. 10 E. 22nd Street Suite 304 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> What does it mean in Chapter 33 Verse 23 that Moses was only able to see the back of God? >> Josh, I think this takes us back to the very first text that we looked at in the book of Exodus way back in Chapter 3. You remember in that text that Moses sought to know more about God than God was ready to reveal to him at that time. So he asked to know the name of God. And when we looked at that passage, I pointed out that God responded to Moses in such a way that told Moses something but also preserved God's illusiveness and his hiddeness. What in theology we refer to as the ***daus abscontatus, the hidden God. And I think we find that this text here, this part of Chapter 33 sort of returns to the same idea that we saw already back in Chapter 3. And so to set the context here, you'll remember God had said that he was going to send Israel up but that his presence wouldn't go with them. And Moses had interceded and he said, "Please send your presence with us." And God said, "Yes, okay, I will." And Moses was not willing to take yes for an answer. So he repeats the question again. You know, "Please don't send us up if your presence won't go with us." And God says yes again. And at that point Moses apparently thinks "I'm on a roll here so I'll just go a step further." And he says -- in Verse 18 Moses says, "Show me your glory." Here the subject has pretty quickly changed. We're not talking about God going up with Israel anymore. We're now -- this is -- Moses has changed to something that's a personal revelation to him. The topic has shifted pretty dramatically here. And he -- that is God -- said in Verse 19 in response "I will make my goodness pass before you and I will" -- most of these translations translate "I will proclaim before you my name, the Lord." But here is a case where I think a better Hebrew translation would be something like this: "I will make my goodness pass before you and I will define for you my name, Yahweh." Because the idiom here in Hebrew is one that's used to define things. It is the word to proclaim. But the word proclaim when used with the preposition that's followed here can mean either to give something a name or to define the name, to declare, to show what that name means. And that's really what's being done here. And this is done in the next chapter, in Chapter 34, when God defines the meaning of the name Yahweh for Moses. But here he's telling him what he's going to do. He says, "I will make my goodness pass before you and I will define for you my name, Yahweh. And I will be gracious upon whom I will be gracious and show mercy upon whom I will show mercy." Verse 20, "But he" -- that is Yahweh -- "said, 'You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live.' Then the Lord said, 'Behold, there is a place nearby me where you can stand upon the rock while my glory passes by. And I will put you in a cleft of the rock. And I will put my hand in front of you until I pass by. Then I will take my hand away and you can see my back; but my face shall not be seen." So here in this encounter you see what Moses is seeking is -- he uses the words "Show me your glory." But God understands him to be asking for a full revelation of who God is. That's what he means when he says "my face" in this context. He means sort of "Let me see the whole deal" as we would say today. "Give me a full insight into you." And I said Moses is pressing because he's been on a roll. God has been granting him everything he's asked for. And so now he asks for the most that he could possibly ask for. And God says -- first he reminds him of his illusiveness. He says, "I'll be gracious upon whom I'll be gracious. I will show mercy upon whom I will show mercy." He says, you know, "Just a reminder, Moses, that sort of I'm God. I'm in charge here. I'll be the one who decides how much I reveal of myself and to whom and how I reveal it. But I will give you something more than I have given you before." And it's hard for us to know exactly what Moses saw from this description. In fact, there's no way that we can know. But remember, Moses has been meeting with God in the tent of meeting. So he has been meeting and has been in the presence of God. And so pretty clearly from this text Moses is seeking to see something that he hasn't seen before. And God is going to show him more than he has seen before. But just not everything that Moses wants to see. Here again, Moses seeks to know more about God than God chooses to reveal. Moses is engaged in what in theology we call theology of glory. He wants to understand God fully and be able to explain all of God's actions. And God preserves his freedom of movement, his illusiveness. Moses seeks to see God's glory. And isn't it fascinating that God says in response that "I will show you my goodness"? You see, Moses wants a full understanding of God's power. And God says, "It's more important that you understand that I am God than that you understand that I am powerful. My power I've demonstrated, you know, in defeating the gods of the Egyptians. Now I'm going to show you what you really need to understand. Namely, my goodness." So God in his greater wisdom chooses to show something to Moses that's a far greater value than the revelation of power and glory that Moses is seeking. And he couples that with the revelation of his name. He promises to define the name Yahweh. And as I said, this is not fulfilled until the next chapter in Chapter 34. And so we'll look at that passage in a moment. But God -- in doing this God both asserts his illusiveness, the ***daus abscontatus, and he shows Moses a greater mercy and a greater grace than Moses was seeking, even though Moses thought that he was seeking the most that he could possibly seek from God. So by seeing God's back, here that's the sort of language that's used. And keep in mind, human language isn't really designed to be able to express everything about God. Human language is designed to give us a way to talk about our world and to communicate with one another. When it comes to talking about God, human language creeks and fails at its ability to express things. And so here the idea of seeing God's back is something of a metaphorical way of saying that he can see God but he can't see the full revelation that is associated with seeing God's face. So in this way, Moses -- rather, God allows Moses to see him. But at the same time, he refrains from showing himself fully to Moses. He both reveals himself and hides himself. He preserves the hiddeness of God and at the same time shows Moses something far more valuable: His goodness. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***