Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience God’s glory? Have you ever wondered how God’s glory would change you? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions (or both), then you can appreciate what happened to Moses in Exodus 34:29-35. This passage gives us a glimpse of God’s glory. He provided another glimpse of His glory in the person and ministry of Jesus.
When Moses came down from the mountain and gathered the Israelites together to share with them what God shared with him, the skin on his face shone so brightly that the people were afraid to come near him. Moses reflected the glory of God. The experience of the Holy had so transformed Moses that he wore a veil so no one could look upon him. In one sense, when we spend time communing with God, we too “shine” with His glory.
Moses’ veil obscured him from everyone around him who didn’t go up on the mountain. It made him a bit mysterious, a bit removed from them. We have similar experiences when we experience God’s glory. They are wonderful and exciting for us, but they put veils over our faces to everyone else, and if they weren’t there, or if they haven’t experienced something similar, it can become alienating or frightening.
The phrase “he was not aware that his face was radiant” points to Moses’ humility. Humble people don’t know they are humble. People who are rich in God’s grace are usually the ones who feel they lack it the most. Moses was humble. For example, he didn’t feel that he was worthy enough to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
Once Moses became aware that his face was reflecting the glory of God, he also realized that it was an ever-fading reality. Moses did not want the Israelites to know that it was fading away. He went from not being aware of it to needing to protect it. He covered his face with a veil, but in time this veil became a barrier between the Israelites and God. It was similar to the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. That veil was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross. Jesus destroyed the barrier between the people and God. We do not need a mediator to approach God. We can approach Him directly.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul interpreted the veil. He said that Moses wore the veil so that the Israelites would see that the glory of the Old Covenant that was made between God and man on Mount Sinai was fading. It would be overshadowed by Jesus. Paul compared the veil to the blindness of the Israelites. They could read the Scriptures, but they could not understand their meaning. Only Jesus could remove the veil.
It wasn’t radiance Moses found for himself. It wasn’t a glowing reward he earned by reaching the summit. Rather, it was from Moses’ direct relationship with God. Alone, we may be unable to put on radiant faces; however, God treks up every mountain with us, joins us at the summit, guides us back down, and remains with us across the valleys of our daily lives. Through our relationship with God, we reflect God’s radiant glory.
Moses’ face glowed after every encounter with the Holy One. Yet, every encounter pushed him down the mountain to bring guidance to the wayward and recalcitrant people he led. Our moments of spiritual clarity are meant to shine a light on – and give clarity to– the challenges of daily life. In seeing the light, our calling is to be the light for others – exposing falsehood and guiding with truth. When we find the perspective of the mountaintop, we can face the uncertainties of our congregations and personal lives with a sense of trust in God’s ultimate providence and care.
Before any person can go before the people and speak about God, he or she must first go before God. He or she should spend more time in prayer that he or she spends preaching in public. Spending time alone with God in prayer, reading Scripture and meditating helps us to release our fears and entrust our lives to a merciful and gracious God. We attempt to go to Scripture and bring back from our search a word that can challenge and refresh us. This work can involve a veil that blocks both our searching and our speaking. Moses put the veil on to help the people hear what he had to say, and he took it off when he wanted to speak to and listen to God. Those of us who speak the word of God often veil ourselves as we try to talk to God instead of standing before God without any veil separating the two of us. Too often we take the veil off when we try to talk to the people instead of taking the word of God so seriously that a veil would help us tell the people about that seriousness, that divine truth that should not be reduced to easily digestible pieces.
We might not be able to see how our experiences with God change us over time, and our transformation won’t be as physically apparent as Moses’ beaming face. As we spend time with God and turn our lives over to Him every day, we can reflect His love. God will draw others closer to Him as the evidence of His presence shows in and through us. When we spend time with God, we reflect His glory, His pain, the glory of the search for an answer or the ability to live with questions, the clarity of God’s presence or the luminous desire for that presence. Other people will notice, and some people may be moved by the same thing that moved us.
We long to live in the presence of God. We pray to see the face of God, to be there in His presence, to know what it is like. It’s a scary thing because we will be changed by the experience. Will other people turn away from us because they are afraid of our shining faces and the truth we speak? The more time we spend with God, the more our lives will reflect the renewing of our minds. We have to let ourselves be a conduit between God and others, just like Moses was a conduit between God and the Israelites. Moses’ shining face helped the Israelites know that God was working through Moses.
In Luke 9:28-29, Jesus also went up a mountain and prayed. While He prayed and talked with Moses and Elijah, His face changed and His clothes became dazzling white. In Christ we have everything. We have the life that He is. We are changed into His likeness from glory to glory. He is the light of the world, and in Him we are lights of the world.
The parallels between Jesus and Moses are striking because Jesus is the new Moses. Just like Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus leads us out of the slavery of sin. Moses was the mediator of God’s covenant with Israel. Moses was the mediator between the Israelites and God. The Israelites could clearly see by the radiance of Moses’ face that he was the mediator of God’s presence. They also knew that Moses was the mediator of the restored covenant as he would tell the people what God told him. Jesus mediates a new covenant with all creation. Both Jesus and Moses revealed the radiance of God in powerful ways. Moses spiritually radiated because he spent time with God. Similarly, we should be working toward the ability to radiate God in our own lives.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1761-1762)
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 2: Exodus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 348-350)
- MacArthur. J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Humility That Matters.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- A.W. Tozer, “Prayer: Long Before the Lord.” Retrieved from Biblegateway@e.Biblegateway.com
- Xochitl Dixon, “Reflecting God’s Love.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- John Nunnikhoven, “Exodus 34:29.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Wilderness: The Two Letters That Changed Everything.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- “Last Epiphany, March 2, 3019.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wade Reddy, “Exodus 34:29-35.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-Transfiguration Sunday-February 27, 2022.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2022/02/the-adventuruos-lectionary-transiguration-sunday-february-27-2022/#disqus_thread
- Mary Simpson Clark, “Exodus 34:29-35.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org