Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. (Exodus 33:13 HCS)
Exodus 33:12-23 has three profound requests that Moses makes of God: to know His ways, to have His presence, and to see His glory. The order of these requests, the ways that they are phrased, the precise words that are used are exact and intentional. This is a place in the Word of God where we should “get it right,” where we should read carefully and see how profoundly different the Christian faith is from all other faiths.
Steer clear of old paganism
It is often as important to know what the Bible does NOT say as to know what it does say. The old paganism that has been around for centuries merely seeks for God to help us a little bit. In paganism we set the agenda. We will advise him and tell him what we want and our best hope, in this way of thinking, is that he will simply do a few good things for us. If we are close to him he will bring success in business, luck in love, or a healthier life. He may lift a curse, or help our children, or destroy our enemies.
No doubt there are many things in our lives we do take to God in prayer – and our health, our relationships, and our financial success are three major things in our lives. The difference between Christianity and paganism is in this: that our major concern is not merely getting God to do what we want Him to do, but letting Him do in our lives what He wants to do – and that is to change our hearts, our values, and the ways we think. He sets the agenda, not us. While we can come to Him with all our concerns and ask boldly and freely of Him, we must always realize that He has greater things in store for us than we could ever imagine.
It begins with grace
Moses began his request saying, “If I have found favor in your sight.” The whole of the story of Moses’ life shows God taking the initiative. God miraculously saves his life as an infant. God provides for him an education and protection. God helps him find a home in the wilderness, and God calls to him from the burning bush and sends him back to Egypt to deliver his people. God goes before the nation in the wilderness and leads them.
Moses “found favor,” or “grace,” only by responding to what God offered. The word translated “favor” is chen in the original Hebrew, and it was used much as we use the word “grace” in English: charm, favor, grace. When we say a person is gracious or a woman has grace, we mean that there is some excellence of character and kindness, or of beauty, that is offered freely to the undeserving. Grace cannot be earned by the recipient. It may be appreciated and received, or spurned and disrespected, but never earned.
God’s grace is also never earned. He bestows it freely on us because He has purchased it through the death of Christ for our sins. We may feel that we have discovered God, but in reality we “find” His favor because He found us first. Our finding is the response of our faith and acceptance to the message of His love. The word chen in man’s relationship with God was first used for Noah: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8). Noah thought differently from others and believed God was good. He found grace by recognizing grace and respecting and appreciating God’s goodness.
Have you found the grace of God in Christ? This means to appreciate His gift – He died for our sins – and to respond genuinely and gratefully.
There is a process of learning
The next phrase is “teach me your ways.” Knowing comes through learning. Learning involves identifying, understanding, and seeing how it applies in life. Learning requires analysis (breaking it down) and synthesis (putting it all back together) and the capacity to place a value (comparing it with other things we have learned) on what we have learned. No one has ever known something without going through these stages. Some are short term and can be accomplished in a few minutes, but others, especially comparing and valuing what we have learned, take a life time.
This imbeds in the Christian message the essential step of a change of heart. We must receive God’s grace and learn His ways. Now coming to Christ is no longer just about me getting my little agenda items taken care of. Now it is God grasping my heart and teaching me to think as He thinks, to love as He loves, and to live as Christ lived. As Paul wrote: “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Phil. 3:12 NLT).
What a profound thought this is! In a spiritual sense, we in this material earthly life are like starving beggars that are excited over a bountiful feast placed before us. We respond with eating, and we must eat spiritually by faith of what God provides, but some never get beyond that first step. They simply want more and more of the One who feeds and provides for them. Others, however, see the grace that kindness provided, and wish to be like the one who gives.
This was Moses’ prayer: God, would you teach me to love like you love? God, would you show me the ways of your heart? God, if I have found favor, would you give me the grace to share your favor with others?
The only way to please God
The final phrase of his prayer is the deeper knowledge of God and the deeper expression of His favor and His pleasure on our lives: “I will know you and find favor in your eyes.” Again, there is a depth to these words that takes time and space to evaluate. The final phrase, “in your eyes,” sets the standard of all that the Christian is to do and to be. What does God think of me, of what I do, of what I think, of who I am?
Faith is the only thing we can do to please God (Heb. 11:6), and though faith can express itself through obedience, through sacrifice, through praise, and through a thousand other actions, until there is faith all of these actions are meaningless. Faith leads to knowing God. The more we know of His heart, the more we understand His ways, and the better we know Him.
We find grace at our salvation, but we continue to find grace throughout our lives. And, just as it was at our salvation, just as it was in that moment when we first trusted in Christ, it was God who first found us, so it is throughout our lives. He finds us first that we might respond to find Him also. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).