I see the cloud, I step in
I want to see Your glory as Moses did
Flashes of light and rolls of thunder,
I’m not afraid
I’m not afraid
Show me Your glory, show me Your glory, my God
Something about this song makes me tremble, and it’s not just Jesus Culture’s bass heavy mix. The worrisome thing to me is the sheer audacity of the request in these lyrics; a prayer, the same as Moses’ in Exodus 33: “Show me Your glory.” Do we know what we’re asking for? God’s answer in Exodus 33:20 is: “you cannot see my face, for a man shall not see me and live.” To see God’s face is to die. And yet this song not only asks for it outright, but boldly declares: “we’re not afraid”… of the glory of God.
I don’t mean to pick on Jesus Culture here. There are tons of songs saying essentially the same thing, “I wanna see you face to face / I wanna know you more,” things like that. But the more I’ve learned about the absolute holiness of God the more songs like these make me almost cringe. God’s glory is a weighty thing (recommended reading: C.S. Lewis’ Weight of Glory), not something to be trifled with. Seeing the glory of God means you die.
Now wait a second, you say, we’re Christians! This is not “the men of Beth-shemesh” or “Uzzah and the cart,” Tricia. We live in the New Testament era–Jesus tore the vail, man! We can enter boldly into the throne room and be directly in God’s presence without fear of danger. I’ll sing it loud: “I’m not afraid! Show me Your glory God!” We get to see it and not die!
Aaah, but can we? First of all, who is worthy to ascend the hill of the LORD? “He who has clean hands and pure heart,” right? (Psalm 24:3-6). That’s Jesus. You’re right, he did tear the veil. And he is the one mediator between God and man because he lived with perfectly clean hands and a perfectly pure heart and then died as a substitute for us. He’s the only reason we aren’t struck down when we see God face to face.
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a great hight priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Secondly, why do we Christians think we can see the glory of God and not die? Yes, Jesus came in the flesh. Yes, he was the very image of God the Father. Yes, people were able to look at him and not be struck dead. But what did Jesus say about his true followers? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:24-25). And what did Paul say about “life” in Christ? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20a). Dietrich Bonhonhoeffer said rightly: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
I would still contend that everyone who sees the face of God dies. Looking upon the glory of God in Christ kills our old selves, which is why we must continue looking at him. Once again, you’re right: this is New Testament era. But that doesn’t mean we can ask to see His glory and not die. We ought still to tremble at the weight of the glory of God and say, “I am afraid, but for Christ.”
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Cor 3:18)