Excerpted from In the Cleft of the Rock: Insights into the Blood of Jesus, Resurrection Power, and Saving the Soul by Michael J. Webb
Prepare Him A Habitation
Many today in the Body of Christ yearn for a visitation from God.
Songs are written about the desire for His visitation; sermons are preached about it; and intercessors cry out for it from the depths of their hearts. What the songwriters, preachers, intercessors, and others who fervently cry out to Him all have in common is a burning desire to see God’s Glory manifest in tangible and unprecedented ways.
That same fervent desire was initially birthed in the heart of a man called Moses.
Moses had his first encounter with the God of his ancestors while tending sheep on the mountain of God known as Horeb. Scripture tells us that he “turned aside” from what he was doing in order to more closely see the burning bush which was not consumed. The Bible then goes on to say, “And when the Lord (Adonai) saw that he turned aside to see, God (Elohim) called unto him out of the midst of the bush . . .” (Exodus 3:4)
Moses had to turn aside from the things that captured his attention and focus his attention on the burning bush before the Lord spoke to him. There are some who suggest that the burning bush had been there for the entire forty years, and that God was simply waiting for Moses to focus his attention on Him. This is an important principle for all those who genuinely desire to see the Glory of God manifest. We must turn away from those things which we think are important, and which consume our time and attention, and focus on the Lord of Glory. When we do that, He begins to speak to us in unprecedented ways.
Moses was forty when he left Egypt, and he spent forty years in Midian. While tending Jethro’s sheep he certainly had a lot of time on his hands to think. Time to think about his life as Pharaoh’s adopted son, about his true heritage as an Israelite, about the murder he committed in anger. Midian means strife. Horeb means dryness, or desert. The Lord spoke to Moses once he’d left Midian, or strife, behind, even though he was in Horeb, a dry place.
This is an important truth.
Even though we are forgiven by the shed blood of Jesus, we may still find ourselves, from time to time, in a dry place. The exciting news is it doesn’t matter. Regardless of where we are in our walk, the Lord will speak to us as soon as we leave strife, or sin, behind. As soon as we turn aside from those things we are doing which are important to us and seek those things which are important to Him, He speaks to us loud and clear.
We don’t have to be in overt sin to be at enmity, or estranged, from God. We may simply have become enamored of the things of this world. Any time we put God second we are, in a sense, in strife or at enmity with Him. He is a jealous God and admonishes us in His First Commandment that we shall have no other gods before Him. (Exodus 20:3) His desire is that we keep our focus on Him, and Him alone. If we do that, He will guide our every step.
In Exodus 25:6, while Moses is on the mountain of God for forty days and nights, the Lord commands Moses to tell the people to build Him a “sanctuary” so that He may “dwell among them.” He gives Moses specific instructions on how to build His “tabernacle.” Moses does as he is commanded, and eventually the people work together to build The Tabernacle of Moses in the Wilderness.
It took nine months to complete the building of the Tabernacle, according to the pattern God showed Moses. The same length of time a human baby gestates in its mother’s womb. When the Tabernacle was finished, we are told that “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the Glory of the Lord (Adonai) filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34). The Glory was so powerful, none could stand before it.
However, this dramatic manifestation of the Glory of Adonai was not enough for Moses. Even before the Tabernacle had been completed, he had a burning desire to see the Glory of his Lord and Deliverer. In Exodus 33:18 Moses cries out to the Lord saying, “I beseech you, show me Your Glory.” God responds by telling Moses that he cannot see God’s face, because no man can look upon the face of God and survive. However, God goes on to say, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my Glory passes by that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” (v.20-23)
Several points are worth examining.
First, this was not the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The Tabernacle of Moses had not yet been constructed. This was a temporary tabernacle that Moses erected outside the camp and it was called the Tabernacle of the Congregation. (Exodus 33:7) Second, God tells Moses that he shall stand upon a rock. Mashiach, Messiah, Jesus is often referred to in Scripture as The Rock. Third, the temporary tabernacle would not have been constructed on top of a rock outcropping large enough to have a cliff. It would have been constructed on flat terrain, both for ease of construction and dismantling, as well as use. Fourth, there was no priesthood at this point in Israel’s history. Although Moses is considered in type a priest, he was not one formally in the Levitical sense. Fifth, the translation isn’t literal; it’s approximate, especially regarding the terms “back parts.” We know that God, in His pre-incarnate existence, does not have a literal hand, although the imagery is used extensively throughout what is commonly referred to as the Old Testament.
I would like to suggest something of far greater significance is happening here than first meets the eye.
Moses was on intimate terms with the Holy One of Israel, the Ancient of Days, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Moses is the only man in scripture—prior to the arrival of Jesus—that spoke “face to face” with God. (Exodus 33:11) Moses found grace in God’s sight, and God knew him by name. (Exodus 33:17) And, clearly, Moses had a burning desire to see God’s Glory, His manifest Presence.
Scripture says that Moses was allowed to stand in a “place” by God. Where does God dwell? The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For thus says the high and lofty one that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit . . .” (Isaiah 57:15) Earlier, in Isaiah 26:21, he issued a prophetic warning: “. . . behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity . . .”
What place is this?
Heaven. (1 Kings 8:30; Psalm 33:13-14)
We are also told that God would pass by Moses and reveal His “back parts” to the patriarch. According to the Harris, et. al. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “back parts” can be translated in terms of time as opposed to a physical part of God’s body. In this passage, translating the Hebrew in terms of time, instead of physical body parts, makes more sense, because there is no real suggestion that God has a physical body prior to the incarnation of Jesus. “Back parts” can easily mean “afterwards” or “later.”
What am I saying?
It’s entirely possible Moses was literally taken out of time, into eternity, to stand in a place by God. And there, standing beside God, he had the cry of his heart answered.
He saw God’s Glory.
What exactly did he see?
I believe Moses saw Mashiach, Messiah, Jesus, on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Apostle Paul writes, “For God, Who commanded the Light to shine out of the darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the knowledge of the light of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2Corinthians 4:6) (Italics mine.)
The Gospels record that Moses was with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Both Moses and Elijah were prophets known for casting down idols and coming against idol worship. Moses dealt with the golden calf, and Elijah dealt with the prophets of Baal. Both Moses and Elijah were on intimate terms with the Lord, but Moses more so. Elijah was caught up to Heaven in a whirlwind and could very easily have been with Moses shortly after he was caught up to the Lord if Moses indeed stepped out of time into Eternity.