In Exodus 33:9 we read that “Moses entered into the tabernacleand the LORD talked with Moses.” Then in verse 11 it says, “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” Does this imply that Moses “saw the face of God?” Later, in verse 18, Moses said to the Lord, “I beseech Thee, shew me Thy glory.” God’s answer to Moses in verse 20 is most revealing, for it says, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” In verse 23 we learn that God did allow Moses to see part of His glory, but not His face. It reads, “And I will take away mine hand, and thou shall see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.”

It seems clear from this account that no one can see the face of God, for the Lord stated emphatically in verse 20, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Several questions come to mind from reading this passage. It mentions God having a “face,” a “hand,” and a “back.” Does God really have a physical body? We know from John 4:24 that “God is a spirit.” A “spirit” is NOT “physical” so we must conclude that God does NOT have a physical body. So why does God use words like face, hand, and back to describe Himself to Moses? We believe they signify “degrees of glory” and the “face” would be the highest. No one can see God’s “face,” for no one can see God in all His glory and live! We saw in verse 11 that the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face.” What does that mean? Again, we don’t believe that Moses saw an actual face when God spoke to him. God is employing human language that we can understand to show that He spoke to Moses as one would speak to a friend, personally and intimately.

In Genesis 32:24-30 we have the well-known story of Jacob wrestling with a man and in the end he realized that he had actually been wrestling with God. In verse 30 we read these interesting words, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Here again we meet with those words, “face to face,” though here it is not speaking of “speaking with God,” but of “seeing God.” What did Jacob actually see? Verse 24 reads, “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.” Jacob saw a “man” and that man was “God!” Throughout the Old Testament we have examples of God appearing to men as a man or as an angel. He can assume any form that He wants, but that doesn’t change the truth we’ve been considering; no man can see God in all His glory and live.

In closing, is it not marvelous that the Son of God became a Man to reveal God to us? John 1:18 declares, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” One of the main purposes of the Incarnation was so that men could see God. Jesus said in John 14:9, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” Jesus had to veil the full glory of God with His humanity, but when men looked at Jesus Christ they were beholding God and all of His “moral glory.” John 1:14 tells us what faith enabled men to see, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Praise God that we too, by faith and through God’s word, can behold that same glory! (165.4) (DO)