Good is good, right? If we could chose to have more and more of anything, we would pick something good over something bad every time, wouldn’t we? The answer should be obvious, but can we have too much of a good thing? Can we even receive too much good from God? Don’t think it’s possible? The next time you see Moses, ask him.
As the young Israelite nation approached their designated land which was already populated with fortified armies, they were terrified. Understandably, Moses was desperate for assurance that the presence of God would go with them. His state of extreme desperation prompted him to ask God to see His glory.
And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:19-22)
Out of His grace, God placed Moses in a crevice of the mountain, where he was hemmed in from all sides in order to protect him. In one of the most amazing displays of God’s accommodation of man, God reached out His hand to prohibit Moses from being utterly destroyed by His glory. Moses sought to find favor with God, but doing as he intensely desired would have killed him. In His compassion for Moses, because He knew him by name, God cornered Moses in a rock covering him with His hand to keep him from devastation.
Not only did God’s glory pass by Moses, but also all of His goodness passed by him, as well. Take a moment to ponder how it is that God’s goodness could annihilate us. It must be unbelievably powerful; so much so, that we could not withstand all of it. As often as we ask for His kindness to be shown to us, we might not fully understand what we request. He constantly shows us compassion and we regularly receive mercy when we deserve much less, yet He decides to whom He shows favor and when He will be good to us.
That may sound cruel, but this interaction between God and Moses provides us with a glimpse into God’s pure force—as benevolent as it may be for us. Moses was protected by the absolute power of God only by the equivalent strength of God’s love for him. That same power and love works for us too, although we don’t always understand, nor appreciate it.
God’s power is defined by the love He has chosen to show us. Sometimes He must hold back because all of His goodness would not actually be good for us. As Paul reminds us, He always works for our good, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Although it may not always seem like it.
Feel like you’ve painted yourself in a corner? Everyone feels this way at times. Even if we’ve arrived at our desperate location due to sin—our own or that of others—we are still right where we need to be… at least for the moment. It doesn’t mean we will stay in that place long, but then again… it might. Even so, He knew where we were going and He prepared the way for us. We can trust in this: His love could have stopped us from arriving at this place. Yet, we also know that His love will never leave us. His grace gently corners us until the appropriate time when He nudges us to move.
At times like these, we may feel like we’d be better off on our own, but we are forced to respond like the confused disciples did when Jesus warned them of His imminent death. They replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Our wisdom peaks at those times we realize that God forces us to chose the only valid option before us, which means we cling to His eternal promises, even when it looks like they may sting us terribly. It doesn’t make God harsh even when we don’t see the wisdom in it. It just makes Him God. No matter where we find ourselves today, He has us right where we need to be: in middle of His grace. We are cornered by His grace and by His love. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)