Behind

This is the StillSpeaking meditation for today which I thought was worth sharing. It brings a new perspective to a well-known Old Testament moment.

” . . . while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” (Excerpt from Exodus 33:12-17)

Once when we were little my mother took my sisters and me for a walk. At one point, we needed to break a trail through some brambles. I remember my mother telling us all to get in a line, pull our hats down, lower our heads, and grab the shirt of the person in front of us. “OK, now forward!” she said. I remember nervously staring at the back of her shirt the whole time we pushed through those prickles. I came through without a scratch.

Traditional wisdom holds that it’s a bad idea to look God in the face because the experience would be too much for our frail mortal senses (see this devotional for more). I think that’s probably true, but I can’t help wondering whether there’s another reason God only lets Moses see his “hindparts” in this story (which, BTW, is the word that the King James Version uses, presenting an altogether richer and more evocative imaginative experience).

Many of us are powerful people, used to leading. So it’s all too easy for us to decide we know where God is going, and just charge off into the prickles. Maybe part of the reason we’re not supposed to look God in the face is that, for us to do that, we would need to be ahead of God. It would necessarily mean that we weren’t following God.

Perhaps the reason we’re supposed to focus on God’s back is that, as long as God’s back is in sight, we know we’re headed the right way.

(Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell)

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