“He said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion'” (Exodus 33:19, HCSB).
God spoke these words to Moses in response to his request that God show Himself–His glory–to Moses. Moses made this request because he was concerned that Israel’s standing with God was in question.
While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments and other instructions from God, the Israelites made an idol in the form of a golden calf and offered sacrifices to it. God wanted to destroy them and make Moses and his progeny His chosen people.
Moses interceded for Israel and God reaffirmed that Israel should set out for the promised land, but God would not be coming with them because “you are a stiff-necked people; otherwise, I might destroy you on the way” (vs. 3).
In contrast to the Tabernacle containing God’s presence that was to be situated in the middle of the Israelite camp, Moses set up a tent outside the camp where he could meet with and talk to God. Still concerned about God’s presence not being with Israel after the golden calf incident, Moses requested to see God’s glory.
God consented to pass in front of Moses and allow Moses to see His glory. In so doing, God reminded Moses that He showed His favor to whom He wanted, even to those who deserved disfavor.
In other words, God’s favor is unmerited favor! And His people are His only because He chooses to show them His grace and compassion and not because of anything they can do to deserve it (and often in spite of all they do not to deserve it)!
For those of us who are theologically-challenged or just plain hard-headed like the ancient Israelites, here’s the short version of the interpretation of this passage: GOD IS IN CHARGE!
It seems that God has to keep reiterating that message to me. I want God to do this thing or that and when He doesn’t act according to my wants or needs, then I get rebellious and decide to try to do His will my own way. (Haven’t we heard that story before, something about a golden calf?)
Let me be reminded once again that God is in charge and that I am merely a recipient of His unmerited favor.
I am chosen by God to do His will, so let me choose to do His will.
I resolve to quit complaining about knowing (or not knowing) what is God’s will when things don’t work the way I want or expect and to just keep trying to see His glory!
“The Lord reigns! He is robed in majesty!” (Psalm 93:1, HCSB).