Cleft of the rock

Cleft of the rock

J.N. Manokaran

“And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “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. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and 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. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.””  (Exodus 33:17-23)

The desire to see and experience the glory of God is a heartfelt desire of all people of God.  Moses though he experienced God’s presence, power and grace; wanted to see His glory too.  That was a difficult but marvelous thing to ask for.  Yet, Moses had the courage to put forth this strange request.  God was gracious to answer his prayers and grant his petition.  However, there was one condition; Moses had to go and stand in a particular place, the cleft of the rock.  Then he could see the glory of God by witnessing the back of God, while God shadowed Moses with his mighty hand.

There are times, when God asks his children to go the cleft of the rock.  In my life too I have experienced such situations.  God orders us to be present in the cleft of the rock so that he could work and grant us our heart’s desires.  The stay in the cleft could be very short or could stretch for days and weeks.  The time in the cleft could seem to be perplexing, puzzling and purposeless hours.

Place of obedience

The cleft is the place of obedience.  Moses had to come to that particular, or specific place in absolute obedience.  Moses cannot choose a comfortable place for himself and expect God to come and show His Glory.  The choice is always God’s as he knows the best, safe and strategic place for us.  There are no second or third options provided by God.  Moses was willing to be in the cleft to behold the Glory of God.  In the place of God’s choice there is protection as God said to Moses: “I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”   Only in the place of obedience is the coverage of his hand as our protection.

Place of surrender

A cleft is a narrow place, where a person cannot move around or even lay down and relax.  Hence, it is a place of total surrender.  When Moses obeyed, he was willing to surrender his choices, ambitions and priorities.  There only one ambition to see the glory of God.  Apart from being in His presence to behold him, there is no other item on Moses  priority list.

Place of worship

Moses was left in the cleft all alone. Even Joshua who used to hang around is not permitted to come.  Only possible thing he could do was to connect and communicate with God.  That is to pray, praise, ponder and worship.  There were no human contacts to get in touch with.  Cleft is beyond the reach of Whatsapp, Facebook and emails.  It is a lonely place, but a place for sweet fellowship with God alone.  In the awe of his glory and majesty, only human response is worship.  One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord     and to inquire in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)

Place of darkness

Cleft of the rock is often dark, beyond the reach of sunshine.  In the midst of darkness, light shines forth with a greater intensity.  There may be physical darkness but there is spiritual perception and enlightenment. Light of Lord Jesus Christ shines in our hearts and minds even in the darkest hours.  Spiritual darkness could be overwhelming as it was for Lord Jesus Christ when he suffered on the cross or when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Nevertheless, there is no darkness that the light of God and His gospel cannot penetrate.

Place of danger

Cleft of a rock could be precarious with lurching danger.  Insects like scorpions, centipedes and spiders occupy such places.  Going into a cleft is dangerous, disastrous and sometimes inviting death.  Snakes also live in such clefts and do not take it kindly for any intrusion from human species.  These insects and reptiles guard their turf with ferocious vengeance.  Psalmist David calls such place as the Valley of Death.  However, there is God’s protecting hand that keeps us from any harm touching us.

Place of Alertness

While staying in the cleft of the rock a person has to be on high alert.  Hold on to the edges of rocks, so that the person does not slip and fall.  In the cleft of the rock, we have to be awake always.  Not a comfortable  place for slumber or sleep.  We are there for a purpose, not for picnic.  Hence, it is wise to be awake and behold His Glory alone.  Agility is another requirement there.  Quick response is needed when God speaks or commands or calls.


Moses could only see the back after God had revealed his Glory. Until that time his hand was upon him.  In life, we go through times of crisis, chaos, confusion, darkness, destruction and even death.  We may fail to see and sense God’s awesome loving presence.  But, on retrospection we understand God’s glory and see only his back, as he completes His glorious purpose in our life.   When he is at work, we are unable to see or perceive.  Later we realize how gracious, loving, kind, caring, generous is our Lord.


About J.N. Manokaran

Preacher, Teacher and Writer. Serving Lord Jesus Christ through Community Bible Study
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