At the morning service on Sunday I preached from Exodus 34:1-9, on the subject of knowing God. In this text the Lord passes by Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai and proclaims to him his name:
The LORD, the LORD, 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 the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (vs. 6, 7)
I drew three lessons from this passage.
First, you know God only by faith. What’s striking about the Lord’s revelation to Moses here is that it is primarily verbal and not visual. Moses asked God, “Please show me your glory” (33:18). And God promised that he would see a glimpse of his glory, not his face but his back (33:23). But mostly Moses heard God’s proclaiming to him the attributes that make up his name (his mercy, grace, patience, love, etc.).
Likewise, God makes himself known to us by his Word. The Scriptures, and ultimately Christ to whom they testify, reveal to us the truth about God that we might know him. And we receive this knowledge of God not by sight but by faith.
So we come know God not by an extraordinary visual revelation but by believing the truth he’s revealed to us in his Word and in Christ his Son.
Second, you know God only if you know the whole truth about God. God’s name, “LORD”, is the sum of all his attributes and perfections. God’s character and nature as God is bound up in his name. And in this passage God declared to Moses the whole truth that constitutes his name, that he is both gracious and righteous, both merciful and just.
We know God truly if we know him in the “totality of his perfections” (as one author said). We cannot either think of God solely in terms of his mercy and grace, nor solely in terms of his righteousness and justice. But he is all these things at all times.
The cross of Jesus Christ reveals wonderfully reveals the whole truth of God. His holy wrath against sin is shown in the suffering and death of Jesus, since he died the death sinners deserve. At the same time his suffering and death reveal the indescribable mercy and grace of God, since he died in the place of sinners, that we might be forgiven.
Third, you know God only if your knowledge of him leads to worship. After the Lord passed by Moses and proclaimed his name to him, “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped” (v.8). And so do all who have come to know God not just with the mind but also in the heart. True knowledge of God is heart-knowledge of him, and that always leads to worship.
To know God is to praise him.
Soli Deo Gloria!