“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” Exodus 33:19-22
It is not permissible to see God’s being with our human eyes, because He wants us to live to tell about Him, and our sinfulness would altogether overwhelm us in His holy and glorious presence.
But Moses boldly petitioned to see God’s glory. And God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, granted that Moses see just His back. In fact, God covered Moses with His hand and only removed it at the first moment when it was safe for Moses to look upon Him.
Why would God not want everyone to see His face?
Can you imagine the world of trouble that human beings would cause creating and recreating the face of God? Painting. Sculpting. Duplicating. Publishing and posting. Especially in our very visual generation. The face of God would be reduced to an all too familiar, flawed representation that in no way compares to who He truly is. And people would come to replace the real God with a mere likeness.
Just the chapter before, the people of Israel demanded Aaron make them a golden calf to worship [Exodus 32]. They sang and made offerings to a piece of over-sized bovine jewelry!
The same danger existed with God showing His face to them. Wouldn’t these same hard-hearted people have desired to sculpt God’s portrait in gold and precious stones? But to whose glory and honor?
He didn’t want an empty self-portrait. He didn’t need their offerings or to enslave them in religious rituals, prostrating themselves before His image. He wanted their hearts full of love for Him. Just as He wants us to passionately pursue a personal relationship with Him.
In every other world religion, the false god has a face, an image that the followers associate with their worship–because they are no god at all, just an image made by human hands. But the One True God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1 & 57:15-17].
He is holy [Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 2:2; et al].
He is beyond understanding and compare [Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:23; Job 36:26; et al].
And we will behold God when we stand redeemed before Him in heaven one day [1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2].
Are you living to see God face to face?