If you had the opportunity to hear God say one thing to you in an audible voice, what would you want to hear?
Moses heard God speak on a regular basis. You probably know about the burning bush. Exodus 33:11 says, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 34:29 says, “the skin on his face shone because he had been talking with God.” (ESV)
In the midst of all this speaking, there’s a proclamation that stands out from all the rest.
Moses asks God to show him His glory. Presumably, He wants to actually see God, because God says he may see His back but not His face (lest Moses die). And even though Moses is asking for something visible, God says he will experience something audible. God’s glory will be heard.
What will that glory sound like?
God tells Moses, “[I] will proclaim before you my name, ‘[YHWH].’ And ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.’” (Exodus 33:19, ESV)
The next morning, as promised, God passes before Moses, and He proclaims, “[YHWH], [YHWH], a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7, ESV)
It’s interesting that God tells Moses ahead of time exactly what He is going to proclaim, and then He actually proclaims it the next day, especially since this is a private encounter with Moses. This proclamation wasn’t revealing any new information, but it was revealing the information in a new way.
The most important thing for Moses to hear from God was something Moses already knew.
The most important thing for Moses to hear from God was…God.
He needed to hear God’s name. He needed to hear God’s character. He needed to hear God’s identity: a God who is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, loving, faithful, forgiving, exacting, just, and wrathful…all at the same time.
“I AM WHO I AM,” God had identified Himself to Moses previously (Exodus 3:14).
In the midst of all our needs: for comfort, for healing, for wisdom, for provision, for strength, for holiness, there’s one need that stands out above all the rest.
We need God.
Not His gifts. Not His help.
His name. His person. His presence.
Jesus said it best: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV, emphasis added)
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