Moses said to the Lord, “Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18). In effect, he asked, “Who are you, God?” God responded with these words: “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (v. 19). He promised to reveal Himself.
But no man can see God and live. That is too much for any man—sinful man in particular. God told him to stand on the rock and said, “While my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by….
Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” (vv. 22-23). Moses did well in asking God who He is rather than telling God who he wanted Him to be. Thus, God was going to reveal Himself in part to Moses. He was going to pass by, protect him with His own hand, and proclaim His own name. This meant far more than simply pronouncing the name Yahweh—“LORD” in our English translations—in Moses’ hearing. He was going to proclaim His nature:
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (34:6-7)