One of the most memorable parts of the Scriptures, for me, is the prayer of Moses: “I beg You, show me Your glory!” After having received the tablets of the Law and being commanded to construct the Tabernacle for worship, he prays to God to reveal to him His glory. It’s remarkable to me simply because the life of Moses is marked with multiple instances of the revelation of God’s glory: God appeared in His glory to Moses in the burning bush as the light of fire. God appeared to Moses and the people of Israel in His glory in the pillar of fire and cloud as they travelled. God appeared to Moses and the people of Israel in His glory when there was lightning, thundering, the blasts of angelic trumpets, fire and cloud, and thick darkness on Mount Sinai. God appeared to Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel on the mountain with a pavement of sapphire under His feet, as clear as the heavens, where they ate and drank with God. Moses even saw that God dwells between the cherubim and that they offer up to Him a priestly service, when he saw the heavenly Tabernacle because, as we know, he fashioned the worship of Israel after the pattern that he saw on the mountain (Exodus 25:9, 40).
Yet, even after having seen God in His glory so many times, he was never satisfied but instead continually craved another vision of God’s glory: “I beg You, show me Your glory!” (Exodus 32:18)
We all know the story of the holy prophet Moses. He was born to holy parents, Amram and Jochebed, who hid him against the command of Pharaoh. When they couldn’t hide him any longer, they put him in a basket and placed the basket in the river. He floated on the water until he came across the daughter of Pharaoh, who had compassion on him and raised him. After 40 years, he came to the aid of his Hebrew brothers when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man. He killed the Egyptian and fled for his life into the land of Midian, where he would find the priest Jethro (also called Reuel, “friend of God”) and marry one of his daughters.
While he stayed in Midian, he took up a “quiet and peaceful course of life” (Life of Moses II.19) where he “lived alone in the mountains away from all the turmoil of the marketplace” (Life of Moses I.19) where he cared for sheep. It was here that Moses first was illumined by the light of God in the burning bush and was commissioned to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery.
Through the power of God, the prophet Moses brought 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, God waged war against the gods of Egypt, and the rite of the Passover was established. After the firstborn sons of Egypt died, the Israelites were given a miracle again when they reach the Red Sea: God parted the waters with a great wind so that they could pass through it on dry ground, and He brought the waters back together again in order to drown the Egyptians. This is what St Paul called the baptism “in Moses.”
In the wilderness, he struck the rock to give the Israelites water to drink, he interceded for Israel while they battle Amalek, he received the Law and the pattern of the Tabernacle, established the priesthood and the service of the Levites, and sent 12 spies to bring back a report of the land of Canaan that God had promised them. The spies, we know, came back with a bad report of the land and spread a faithless spirit among the Israelites. For this reason, God swore that they would not enter into His rest but that their children would enter into the land. So, after 40 years in the wilderness, he exhorted the Israelites who would enter the land to follow God, keep the commandments, and choose life. Then, at 120 years old and after seeing the promise land from a distance, he died peacefully on Mount Nebo and was buried by the hand of God.
The life of such a great prophet isn’t given to us for the sake of learning facts or collecting trivia. Moses’ life is one of the greatest given to us in the Scriptures, and one of the most detailed. This is because a lot can be learned from such a holy example: that the knowledge of God is of more value than the knowledge of the world; that a quiet and peaceful life (1 Timothy 2:2) is to be prized more than a life “anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41); that the blood of the Lamb is our only hope of salvation; that the people of God prevail only by the sign of the Cross; that man should not live by bread alone, but by the word of God; that fidelity and faithfulness to God is of more importance than comfort; that intercession is powerful; and that the commandments of God are life, and not a burden.
Most importantly, however, the God-seer Moses taught us that the spiritual life is one of constant progression into the great mystery of God. Saint Gregory of Nyssa sees this, and so writes in his work on the life of Moses, using the verse from Paul which says “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Moses truly did seem to forget of all of his spiritual progress in God: his overcoming of the passions, his blamelessness before the people of Israel, and his multiple visions of God. And he certainly strained forward to what lies ahead, crying from the heart: “I beg You, show me Your glory!”
And God, his friend, gave him the wishes of his heart by sheltering him in the cleft of a rock and covering him with His hand, and made His glory pass by his servant Moses:
And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” –Exodus 34:5-7
This is why God is not ashamed to say that He speaks to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Moses always sought God and followed Him wholly from the heart. This is an example and a promise for us. We should seek to follow God as Moses followed God, and we will see God, if through constant struggle we cleanse our hearts to prepare a way for Him. This is what St. Paul tells us when he says that we need to be holy, for without holiness we will not see the Lord. This was what Christ our God promised us when He said “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”
Oh holy prophet and God-seer Moses, pray for us!