“So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, ‘If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.’”—Exodus 34:4–9 (NKJV)
This is one of the most beautiful and important passages in all the Bible. Beautiful because it’s such a poignant picture of how God works in our own personal journey of faith with Him. And important because of what it reveals to us about Him.
First off, we need to see this begins with Moses doing exactly what God had commanded him in the previous passage, which was to prepare two more tablets of stone and ascend to the top of Mount Sinai so God could engrave a second set of Ten Commandments. Now, this was no easy task. The ascent of Sinai alone (whose summit is about 7,500 feet) was quite a task (especially for an 80-year-old man)! But the takeaway we can’t miss here is Moses’ obedience to what God had called him to do.
As Moses ascends in obedience, we see the Lord descend in revelation. The gap between the Creator and His creation is so wide that there’s no way mankind can accurately apprehend who God is. He is simply too far beyond our physical reach, mental capacity, and spiritual perception! In order to know who God really is, we need Him to be the one who reveals Himself to us, which is precisely what He does here by describing Himself to Moses as, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” That is God, Himself, describing Himself to us.
It’s interesting this Scripture says He “proclaimed the name of the Lord.” What does that mean? It’s more than just saying, “My name is ______.” In those days, one’s name was more of a reflection of one’s nature. So, He’s essentially saying, “This is what I’m all about. This is what you can count on when it comes to me. This is who I am and who I am is seen in all that I do.” And what He reveals is wonderful to behold. The ultimate power over all in existence is filled with mercy and grace is willing to suffer long with us, overflowing with what is good and true. He keeps mercy without measure and is determined to forgive sin. But He is also filled with justice, seeing to it that what’s wrong is punished and put right.
Again, there’s a beauty in this passage because it reminds us that our obedience is met with God revealing Himself to us. Those who follow Him will be those who know Him best. And the more we come to know Him, the more awe-struck we are by the sheer wonder of who He is. As with Moses, set your heart to follow close to Him and He will reveal Himself to you in ways that will change your life forever!
Pause: What makes this passage so beautiful? What makes it so important?
Practice: Take some time to remember how God has revealed Himself to you in response to your obedience to Him.
Pray: Lord, fill me with Your Spirit so I can grow in my ability to follow and obey You, for in doing so I know I will also grow in my understanding of who You are, which is the greatest blessing I could ever receive. Amen.