Moses has not finished asking questions yet. He has assured himself of God’s presence for the way he must go. There is rest. From that rest he now asks to see the glory of the LORD. This goes beyond asking for His way. Going the way of and with God is the way that gives sight of the glory of God. Seeing God’s glory is also more than what he saw of God on Mount Sinai. There he saw the holiness of God.
God tells him that he will see His glory. Moses asks, “Show me Your glory!” The LORD answers that He will show all His goodness. God’s goodness is His glory. He wants us to know Him by the glory of His grace, more than by the glory of His majesty. The prophet Hosea speaks of a time when the Israelites will “come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness” (Hos 3:55Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.).
The special thing about the glory of God’s goodness is its sovereignty. We see this sovereignty in that He will be gracious to whom He will be gracious. He is the sovereign Owner of every human being and completely free to make distinctions in granting His grace. Nowhere do we read that He says “I will be angry with whom I will be angry,” for His anger is always righteous and holy. He never destines to judgment, because judgment is something man makes himself worthy of.
Paul quotes what God says of Himself to Moses here in response to those who accuse God of injustice. They find it unjust that He gives His grace to some, while righteously withholding that grace from others (Rom 9:15,1815For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.).
Yet Moses does not get to see the glory of the LORD in full, but only a part of it, and standing on the rock in the cleft of the rock. In the Old Testament, God’s glory can only be seen in a limited way. At that time God cannot yet show what He showed in Christ later on. In Him God’s righteousness and God’s love have become perfectly visible. Christ can say: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:99Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and [yet] you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how [can] you say, ‘Show us the Father’?).
The rock is a picture of Christ (1Cor 10:44and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.). Moses must stand on that basis to see God’s glory. He has to disappear completely into it. Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:1515He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.).
Moses can only see the glory of God if He has passed him by. We can only see the glory of God when He has gone His way. We also see that in Christ. We look back at a completed work on the cross where the perfect revelation of God as light and love has become visible.