Exodus 33:12-20 (NIV)
Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”…
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
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.”
Just before we meet Moses in Exodus 33, the Israelites have been camping in the desert of Sinai for about a month and a half. Moses, though, has been gone most of that time. He’s been up on the holy mountain for 40 days and 40 nights as God lays out what He wants Moses and the people to do.
Meanwhile, God’s chosen people who have recently vowed to do everything God commands have pooled and melted their gold jewelry and convinced Moses’ brother Aaron to make a golden calf that they can worship. Moses descends the mountain in Exodus 32 to destroy the golden calf and begin the work of restoring the people’s relationship with God.
When he meets with God again, Moses asks to see God’s glory, which also can be understood as God’s beauty. Moses needs this because he is frustrated with the “stiff-necked” people he is leading. Perhaps he suspects what does happen: this cycle of disobedience and forgiveness and reconciliation will be repeated over and over.
It’s often when we’re most frustrated, disappointed, angry, sad or despairing that we most need to see God’s beauty. When we’re in those moods, it’s easy to lose perspective and think it’s our job to solve the problems that led to them. We forget that God is in control and we’re not. That’s when an experience of God’s beauty and glory can remind us to bring God into the situation.
We can take a tip from Moses and ask God to show us his beauty. That means we need to be ready to see what God will show us. We need to open our eyes and our hearts, and in many cases, we need to slow down and breathe.
I like to walk in the morning. I see many pretty things as I hike along, but if I slow down, I see beauty. God truly is in the details—in the intricate shading of a small flower and its contrasting leaves, or in a conversation with a cat who only approaches me when I dawdle.
When I reflect on seeing God’s beauty, I can look in a mirror and remember that I, too, am beautiful, because I belong to God and he lives in me. And although I can’t make a new color or add a star to the sky, I can do beautiful things: I can be kind, generous, charitable, forgiving, reconciling and so much more, because of the beauty of God.
Show me your beauty, O God. And show me the beautiful things I can do today to give you praise. Amen.
Written by Cheryl Stubbendieck
Cheryl Stubbendieck is a member of Sheridan’s Devotion Writing Team. She and her husband Jim live near Sheridan. Their family includes their son Aaron and his wife Chaitra of San Francisco, CA and their son Reed of Madison, WI. Cheryl was the public relations department head for Nebraska Farm Bureau before retiring in 2012. She spent the next four years as the volunteer manager of Barnabas Community and now helps to manage the OneSent Market.