I could tell you, but then ...

One passage in the Bible that always mystified me growing up was the passage in Exodus where Moses requests to see God. God responds by telling Moses to hide in the cleft of a rock while He would pass by. Not knowing God well, I always thought this was some kind of CIA, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you" super secret reserved only for God's favorites or those worthy of the knowledge -- a sublime mystery God was afraid would get out, maybe. I know now how ridiculous that was, but nonetheless, I thought it.


Fast forward a few decades, and I'm sitting on the sofa in my living room one morning studying the book of Romans, specifically chapters 9-11, in some Bibles entitled "God's redemptive plan" or something like that. The three chapters trace what God has done since the inception of time, and Paul, at the end of the chapter, breaks out in praise, so blown away was he just recounting God's wisdom. Meditating on what God has done, how perfect His plan for the Jews and Gentiles has been, I, like Paul, was dumbstruck, amazed. My heart began beating quickly, my breath came in short gasps, and I could do nothing but collapse on the floor weeping at the sheer and manifold wisdom of God.

And in that instant, I knew one other thing about God -- that He spoke truly when He said, "No man can see my face and live." Not that it was motivated by pride or wrath on God's part (far from it!), but that, in His mercy, He knows that our mortal bodies cannot suffer the exposure to His holiness. It would kill us instantly. If I -- comprehending only a portion of God's wisdom, and that, only one facet of His perfectly rounded character -- could scarcely recover, what would happen if confronted, in my flesh, with His entire glory? Would my heart beat so fast that it exploded in awe of my Creator, or would it stop beating altogether in utter terror at the realization of my humanity? Would all the blood, rushing at lightning speed through my arties, cause them to burst? Or would my brain, in one fatal epileptic fit, misfire, and would all the muscles in my body tense up at once? Or would my lungs struggle to draw enough oxygen, which would surely vanish in His fiery presence? Yes, yes, and yes, to all of the above, I believe. Truly, as He said, "no man can live". He is just too glorious, too all-consuming, too holy, too...God.