There are not many studies of the great cloud that protected the Hebrew people during the years of their desert wanderings. I think that is surprising, and for two reasons. It was a striking phenomenon. There has never been anything like it in history before or since. And not only was it striking, it’s mentioned many times in the Bible. There are fifty-eight references to it in the Bible, scattered across ten different books. It appears more often than place names like Bethlehem and Nazareth, or the names of Herod, Joseph, Mary, Cain, Abel and Satan. 

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul refers to Moses’ glowing face with a threefold illustration. First, he used it to illustrate the veiled and fading glory of the old covenant in contrast with the unveiled and abiding glory of the new covenant (vv. 7-13. Old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new. The glory of the fullness of the covenant in Jesus Christ overcomes the limited revelation in the old. 

In this revelation, when God explains more fully to Moses what His name really means, He communicates what we call His communicable attributes, that is, the attributes of God the God can communicate or share with us because He has made us in His image. These are things like compassion, grace, slowness to anger, love, and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6), as well as goodness and mercy (Ex. 33:19).

Before Moses came to his third request, he had achieved what he really wanted to achieve. As the leader of the people, he was very concerned that God go with him, and God said He would. But Moses isn’t quite satisfied. He is a remarkable man, and all the remarkable characteristics of this man come forward now. He recognized that he needed to know God, and what he had prayed for earlier, although God had promised to bless and teach him His ways, wasn’t quite enough. What Moses really wanted to see was the glory of God. 

The third way in which we use that word “know” is by experience. You can say, “I really know Philadelphia because I have lived there all my life.” You can talk about a person that way. You can say, “I really know so-and-so because we worked together for thirty years and I know how she functions.” That’s knowledge by experience, which is a far greater and far more important kind of knowledge than mere awareness. We talk about knowing God—that is certainly what we want to achieve—not merely to know there is a God or merely to be able to talk about God, however accurate we may be, but actually to know God by experience, that is, to experience God for ourselves.