Moses is one of my favourite Old Testament characters. I even named my car after him: Moses Mazda!
From his rescue as an infant from the banks of the Nile to his growing up as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, from his exile in Egypt as a wanted man to his settlement in Midian as shepherd, Moses’ life was already one full of facing problems.
In the desert when he encountered God at the Burning Bush he met his ultimate challenge. His response to the call to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery was reluctant to say the least; his subsequent experience of convincing Pharaoh to let the people go was a series of frustrations.
Finally allowed to leave their bonds of slavery, the Hebrews were to meet with many trials along the way, most of which they blamed on Moses. He in his turn spoke with God on a regular basis, alternatively complaining about the people and pleading for forgiveness on their behalf.
Moses had developed a close relationship with God that gave him the strength to continue on the journey, in spite of all the difficulties. The final insult occurs while he is on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments: the people commit the ultimate sacrilege by making an idol to worship instead of God. This time, God threatens to abandon the people, and Moses once again pleads their case, reminding God of his promise to be with the people, his chosen nation, always. Moses confesses that they are not capable of going forward without God.
Moses is not above holding up his own faithfulness as a bargaining chip. God relents and Moses pushes his advantage, expressing his desire to see God in all his glory. God refuses to be fully visible but offers a compromise: God will shelter Moses until God has passed by so he will only get to see God’s back. In that way, Moses will know God’s presence in the past and in the future. It is an acknowledgement of Moses’ faithfulness and dedicated service to God’s people. It is the closest thing to actually seeing God, and an affirmation that God has been with him through all the trials and tribulations, and will be in the future.
What does this Scripture have to say to us in our lives? When we trace the ups and downs of the exodus of the Israelites we can perhaps see a similar pattern in our own history, in our times of prosperity and recession, in seasons of health and now, so much sickness, as we battle covid-19. Looking at the life of Moses, we might see similar swings as we look back in our own lives, good times and bad, the rough and the smooth. Through all of it, we can give thanks in knowing God has been with us every step of the way, and will be forever.
And sometimes we might not recognize God’s presence-until we see his back!