He did. Or thought he did.
He'd been up on the mountain with God's presence and with Him in his tent in the Israelite camp.
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.--Exodus 33:11
It didn't really happen that way, though. Not literally. I know this because God also said to him:
I cannot show you my face, because no one may see Me and live.--Exodus 33:20
We're not talking about the skin and bone face--the one our eyes and nose inhabit. We're talking about a metaphorical face, an entity that exhibits our emotions and helps us communicate. And we have more than one face like that. There's an old saying that a man has three faces: one he shows to the world, one he shows to those closest to him, and one no one but himself ever sees at all. So God must have faces, too. Like the one He shows without showing it--the one Moses saw on the mountain, the one that friends see. But it's not God's literal face. No man gets to see that and live.
So when Moses wanted more of God, he declared,
Now show me your glory.--Exodus 33:18
And he got it. God said,
You will see my back, but my face must not be seen.--Exodus 33:23
His back. God turned His back on Moses.
Now, as I think about that, I wonder whether that isn't the part of God I see most often, too? His back. God going away. God after He's finished doing whatever it is that He wants to do in my life. God stepping back, saying, "See--I made this."
See! I am doing a new thing!--Isaiah 43:18
It isn't easy to see what God is doing while He's doing it, you know. While God is doing something, I'm usually looking for Him somewhere else. When I'm looking for Him to heal my friend, He's increasing her faith instead. When I'm looking for Him to open the way for a new job, He's arranging a raise for my husband so I can volunteer instead. When I'm looking for Him to save my son's marriage, He's planning for a daughter-in-law who loves Him. I never see it coming. Never.
And why does this surprise me?
Eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him.--1Corinthians 2:9
What God has planned is better than what I have planned. Period.
So, if all I get to see is His back, well, that's OK. After all, how bad can it be? So what if I don't see it until it's all over? So what if He leaves me scratching my head, saying, "So THAT'S what You were doing."
So what if all we get to see is God's back? His fingerprints, His trailing, glorious echo. I'm good with that. His back is enough.