“And Yahweh said, ‘Behold, there is a place beside me and you will stand upon the rock. And while my glory passes over, I will set you in the crevice of the rock and I will hold protectively my hand over you until I pass by. Then I will turn aside my hand, and you will see my back, but my face will not be seen.’”
This rock that God stands Moses upon is most likely the same rock as which Elijah found shelter in when he experienced the passing over of God’s presence (1 Kings 19). In the Elijah encounter, the cleft in the rock carries with it a definite article, suggesting that this cleft was a well known cleft to God’s people; hence it is likely reference to this passage in Exodus. Note the connection, then, between Elijah and Moses. Elijah is the prophet that God raised up to prepare God’s people to go into exile—Moses had been the prophet that God used to bring God’s people into the land in the first place. Of course, God would later raise up a third great prophet—the greatest prophet (the one prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:18)—indeed, the great divine prophet, the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ. Moses had led the people into the land as a nation, Elijah would prepare the people to leave the land and to cease being a nation, and Jesus would unite his people once again as a nation, but not one whose boarders are here on earth, but a nation of priests, whose citizenships are in heaven. How it should not surprise us that when Jesus’ glory is being revealed to Peter, James, and John on the mount of transfiguration, that it is Moses and Elijah that join Jesus for a conversation about God’s redemptive work (Luke 9:30-31).
While there are some who suggest that this rock upon which Moses is placed is Christ, I think that they are in error. While it is indeed correct that one may not see the Father without being “held upon the rock of the Son,” to say that this rock is Christ would be to enter into speculation and allegory. We are told by Paul (1 Corinthians 10:4) that the rock which was struck by Moses to bring water to the people (Exodus 17:6) is Christ, but these two rocks are not the same rocks. Accordingly, we should speak of this rock in terms of refuge, not salvation.
The verb that is used in this passage for the “covering” that God does with his hand is the verb %k;f’ (sakak), which is a derivative of the verb %k;s’ (sakak), “to cover.” Most often, though, this term is used to reflect a protective covering that is placed over something. The idea, then, that is being expressed is the idea of God personally placing his hand over Moses as a protective covering, to prevent Moses from seeing his face as he passed by. Jesus would pick up on this same language when he spoke of believers being held protectively not only in his hand, but in the hand of the Father as well (John 10:28-30).
Oh, loved ones, we have a God who preserves us not only here and there, but he preserves us for all eternity. As a born again believer, he has called you and separated you from this world for himself—trust him to complete that work and bring you effectually to glory. Oh, the promise of God as revealed by Paul in Romans 8:29-30: “Those who he chose ahead of time, he also predestined to share in the likeness of the image of his son so that he should become the firstborn of many brothers. And those who he predestined he also called, and those he called he justified, and those who he justified he also glorified.” The Puritan, William Perkins, called this the golden chain—not one link can be broken for this chain was wrought and cast by God and it binds his elect wonderfully to himself. Beloved, though you may go through times where it seems the world is falling down around your ears, never forget these words, for God will preserve you to glory and he will stand beside you in all of your darkest times—even to the point of death—and beyond for all eternity!