Seeing God

Written by Scott Harp on . Posted in Pulpit Minster

What does God look like? Imagine being able to look into the eyes of the Most High God! A number of years ago while working as a missionary in New Zealand, the little church our family was working with were meeting in a school hall. I received a call one Friday from the school saying that over the weekend the floors in the hall were going to be redone. We were told we could use the hall, but everyone had to take their shoes off if they had hard soles; otherwise, they could keep them on when we gathered Sunday morning. So, I reached out to all the members and made them aware of the plan. It just so happened that I had a pair of dress shoes that were soft soled, and I wore them that morning. As I was standing near the door to remind those who may have forgotten, one family arrived and began removing their shoes at the door. The mother told her little five-year-old boy to take his shoes off, but he did not want to do it. A quarrel between them ensued. It was then I heard the boy make what he thought was the perfect argument. He looked at me, pointed to my shoes and said, “Well, god doesn’t have to take his shoes off!” Hmmm!

Perception! Jesus said, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18 ESV) The same idea is repeated in 1 John 4:12. You may be thinking, but what about Moses? Did he not see God, or at least part of Him? The Bible does tell about Moses and the Lord having an encounter where Moses desired to see the glory of God. (Exodus 33:18) Then, God told him he would cause His goodness to pass before him, but followed with, “But, He said, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) After this, the Bible says that Moses was put in the “cleft of the rock,” that God covered him with His hand, and as He passed, He removed His hand so Moses could see His back. (Exodus 33:21-23)

So, it appears that Moses saw the Lord—at least to some degree. Right? Or, did he? For certain, he saw something great because when he came out of the mountain, he had to be veiled. This was because the brightness of his face showed so brilliantly that the people could not look upon him. Read about that in Exodus 34:33-35. But, did he actually see the Lord?

Another passage that has always been of interest in thinking through this process is something Stephen, in the New Testament, said during his last sermon before being stoned to death. In the lesson, he spoke of Moses saying, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.” (Acts 7:38 ESV) Puzzling, for sure! The word, “angel” in the original language means “messenger.” Stephen, empowered by the Holy Spirit, revealed that Moses was with an angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai. Then he added, “and with our fathers.” The plot thickens!

It appears that Stephen was saying that “our fathers,” which would include all the patriarchs of old—Adam, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, actually interacted with an emissary, a messenger, or angel of the Lord. Did Moses actually see any part of God on the occasion of Exodus 33:21-23? Or, did God show Moses what of “His glory” (Exodus 33:18) He wanted Him to see? If you consider what Jesus said in John 1:18, it is doubtful that Moses actually saw the Lord. It appears that Stephen and John in 1 John 4:12 said the same. Does it matter, or should it really matter to us if Moses actually saw or did not actually see God? Not really!

Here is what really matters. John said in another place, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV) What really matters is if you are a child of God when He comes. Are you seeking God in your life? Have you been washed of your sins in baptism? Someday, maybe even today, the Lord will come again. For some it will not be a thing they will want to see. For others, what a day that will be! Are you ready to see God?