Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, stayed behind in the Tent of Meeting. — Exodus 33:11
The universe of which we are a part is full of vast mysteries. We don’t know its age, we can only guess at its size, and speculation is rife concerning the details of its generation. Having said that, there is no doubt that in recent years our knowledge of the universe has increased dramatically. Gone are the days when Galileo struggled with the church over the issues of the earth’s place in the solar system, and no longer do mariners dread the Straits of Gibraltar for fear they might be approaching the edge of a flat earth. We know the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa; we know the earth is a globe. But while our knowledge of the universe has grown exponentially our knowledge of God has not.
Who can say that modern man knows the eternal God more intimately than Moses? Moses regularly met with the Lord “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). And which modern man would dare claim to know the risen Christ better than Paul the apostle, who met Christ on the Damascus road?
There may be two reasons for this. Firstly, modern man may not be as eager to know and understand God as his forebears were. While the advances of science have increased our knowledge of how the world works, and the wonders of technology have greatly enriched our lives materially, the result has been a tendency to worship the creation at the expense of the Creator—to love the material rather than the Maker.
Secondly, God has traditionally and historically set limits on His own self-revelation. To Moses, whom He called “friend,” God said, “You may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live” (33:20). Moses’ request for a greater vision of the Lord in order that he might be better equipped to serve the Lord was completely understandable. The Lord’s response was a reminder that, however intimate a man may become with God, man is limited in his capacity to know God.
The full revelation of divine majesty and glory must wait until man is glorified in God’s eternal presence. In the interim, modern man should combat a minimal knowledge of the Lord by seeking to know Him better, while recognizing that a hunger to know God is indicative of a longing for eternity and a desire for the ultimate which will never be satisfied in time and space. In this life, the best we may hope for is to see God “from behind” (33:23). In eternity, we will see Him face to face.
For further study: Exodus 33:1-23
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.