Moses sought God for a continual manifestation of His presence: "That I may know thee . . ." (Exodus 33:13). And God answered him, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (verse 14).
Moses' request would be quite enough for most believers. We all want the presence of God—leading us, guiding us, empowering us, blessing us. Really, what more could any believer desire? Yet having the assurance of God's presence was not enough for Moses. He knew there was more and he cried out, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory" (verse 18).
God did show Moses His glory. But it did not appear in some luminous cloud or in an earthshaking demonstration of power. No, God expressed His glory in a simple revelation of His nature: "The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7). God's glory was a revelation of His goodness, mercy, love and compassion!
I have heard many Christians say, "Oh, how the glory of God came down in our church last night! There was such incredible praise, and people were slain by the Spirit." But that isn't proof of a manifestation of God's glory. It has nothing to do with God beyond human emotions. It doesn't include a revelation of who He is!
Some may argue, "But what about the disciples' experience on the Mount of Transfiguration? Wasn't that a manifestation of God's glory? There was an overpowering light and the miraculous appearance of Moses and Elijah."
But God's glory was not in Moses or Elijah or in the spectacular light. Rather, His glory was in Jesus: "His face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. . . . Behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:2 and 5).
God was saying, "Here is my glory personified—in Christ!" Indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of all God said He was to Moses: gracious, merciful, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression of sins. And now the Lord was saying, "Here is a living picture of My glory. It is all embodied in My Son!"