There is this thing in the Scriptures that God does from time to time, and it's one of the more interesting things we see Him do - in both the Old Testament and in the New. It is called "passing by."
When God passes by, it is a way for a person with whom He is engaged to see more of Him without seeing the fullness of Him, to get a glimpse of something He wants to show them without it being fully revealed, lest they be blinded and condemned by having seen it. For we know that the Scriptures tell us that no man shall see God face-to-face and live.
It's interesting, then, that two of the most well-known instance of God passing someone by occur with persons who have kind of seen Him face-to-face. Or at least come the closest to it.
In other words, God uses His passing by to reveal more to those who already know the most about Him.
The first comes with Moses, back in the Exodus narrative. Moses has been meeting with God on the mountain for quite some time and begs to see and to know more of Him. He knows so much already, but he wants to know everything. He's seen so much, being wrapped in the cloud of God's glory and covered in the smoke of the presence of God, but he knows that there's something more to this God, and he begs to see it.
Here is where God comes passing by. He takes Moses and puts him in the cleft of a rock, shielded on both sides and tucked securely away so that there is no way for Moses to falter or fall upon seeing the glory of God. And then, the Lord sweeps by him in this passing by, and Moses catches sight of more than he's ever known, catching only though the backside of the Lord, but the full glory of it.
Moses, the man who has met with God and seen Him face-to-face to such a degree that his own face glows in the radiance of the glory of God, has now seen more of Him in the passing by of God Himself.
The next time this most prominently occurs, it actually doesn't. Jesus has sent the disciples ahead of Him in a boat while He held back to pray by Himself. In the middle of the night, He comes walking to them on the water, and the Scriptures tell us that He wasn't actually walking to them - He was intending to pass them by! He was intending to do the same thing to the disciples in the boat that God did to Moses on the mountain, but He was spotted before He could actually do it.
And here are these men, these twelve men who have had the privilege of not only seeing God face-to-face, but traveling with Him, talking with Him, ministering with Him, and this God that they know, in the form of Jesus, still wants to pass them by - an act that will reveal even more of Himself to them.
It really sparks the imagination, doesn't it? What more could they come to know of Him? They've watched Him eat, they've done His laundry, they've heard Him speak. Yet there is still something more of the glory of Jesus. We know because He was going to pass them by with it.
There's some interesting stuff going on here, beyond what this mere introduction has captured. And it's important interesting stuff, particularly for those of us who would call ourselves disciples. So we're going to take a few days and look at what it means that the Lord has chosen here to pass His people by. What does it mean for us?
First, of course, is that if we want to be included in the Lord's passing by, we must be a people who know Him intimately already. That much is clear from the examples above. But what else?