There are a number of times throughout Scripture where someone has an encounter with God’s glory. As I’ve written previously, nearly every time the scene begins with abject terror, not with warm fuzzies. For sinners to stand in the presence of God is so overwhelming that the usual response is, “I think I’m about to die!”
One of these encounters stands out to me as unique—when Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai. After receiving the 10 Commandments, Moses asks to see God’s glory. God reminds Moses that if he were to meet him face-to-face, Moses would be a dead man. So he offers to hide Moses in a cleft of the rock while his glory passes by.
Most of us miss the significance of what happens next. When God’s glory and presence pass in front of Moses, it doesn’t say that Moses saw a brightness or a dazzling light. It says that he heard something—the declaration of a name:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “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.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that there is no passage of Scripture where you see more clearly what it is like to be in the presence of God. He puts us in a place of safety and declares his name to us, a name of covenant love. But for the believer, instead of putting us into a rock, God places us into the safety of Christ. And instead of just proclaiming steadfast love, he proclaims the covenant love of a Father for his sons and daughters.
A couple years ago, my wife’s wedding ring went missing. For months I saved up to surprise her with a new one on our anniversary. I even re-enacted the whole proposal. (She said yes.) Now, legally speaking, giving her a new wedding ring didn’t make her any more my wife. But it made the sense of my love for her more real. That’s what it’s like to hear God’s name declared over your life. It’s a promise of the gospel that renews your relationship with God, the Spirit washing over you saying, “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter!” (Romans 8:15).