Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
I love how in these Old Testament texts we can still see foreshadowings of Christ and insights into the whole of God’s character.
We hear that having just coming from being in the presence of God, Moses’ face is shining, but he doesn’t know it. It isn’t until he meets his brother Aaron and the leaders of the people – who are afraid of him because of his shininess – that he learns that he is indeed shining. His face we are told is radiant, reflecting the light of God. And Moses adopts the practice of veiling his face after he has been in the presence of God.
How magnificent this must have been!
To a people who are naturally drawn to shiny things, this must have been very alluring. As you will recall, the people had pooled all their gold jewelry together to make a golden calf the first time Moses was gone to meet with God. So afraid were they that they had created a shiny idol for themselves.
But this time, the people hold fast while Moses meets with God. And when Moses returns, the skin on his face is shining.
What grace God shows the people here. If they had any doubt, if they needed reassurance, if they needed something shiny to make them feel secure, they got it.
And I also love that Moses does not veil his face later in order to be with God. Many future generations of Israelites would be separate from God by a veil. In fact a veil would separate the people from that innermost part of the sanctuary called the Holiest of Holies in the temple. But here, we see that Moses meets with God, unveiled. So the veil is not like the veil of the temple, meant to separate the sinful people from a holy God. Moses’ veil is not meant to provide a barrier between him and God. Rather the veil is for Moses’ interactions with the people. Perhaps it helped the people feel less afraid of him, distracted, or perhaps even blinded in his presence. We don’t exactly know. But the veil was not because of sin.
How wonderful that God met with Moses! How wonderful that this Old Testament God met with Moses. This God who was understood to be so holy and fierce, this God met with Moses and talked with him, as one would talk to a friend. What a wonderful thing!
Few other humans are known to have talked with God in such a direct fashion. No others to my knowledge returned from those talks with their faces literally shining.
Many still veil themselves before God, whether it be their own personal veil or a veil like that in the Hebrew temple. But remember that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, the veil in the Jerusalem temple was torn in two. And understanding what Christ did on that cross for us, we confess that Christ broke down the dividing wall of sin between us and God, taking the weight and stain of our sin upon himself, that we might be made clean, children of the Most High God, adopted into the family of God. In Christ that dividing wall, the veil, is torn in two! In Christ, we are invited to come boldly before the throne of grace! In Christ, we are invited to talk with God, as one would talk to a friend. In Christ, we come before God as a friend.
And here, we have Moses, the pioneer, in whose relationship with God, we have this foreshadowing of intimacy with God. Through Moses, we get a glimpse of who God is – a God who wants to be with us, to lead us, to speak with us as a friend.
And through Moses, the law comes to the people, that they might become ready, a people set apart and ready to bear Christ into the world, God’s greatest gift to creation.
We serve a magnificent God. We serve a holy and good God. We serve a God who wants to be with us. And we serve a God who made a way that this impossible desire would become reality: God made a way for us, ordinary and sinful people, to dwell with God in fellowship and wholeness.
And Christ is that way.
Christ opened our eyes.
Christ taught us what mattered most.
And Christ became that pure and holy sacrifice for our sins.
Through Christ we are might right with God.
Through Christ, we are able to abide in God and to talk with God, as we would talk to a friend.
Thanks be to God for this incredible gift!!!
May we take this gift
And spending time in the presence of the Lord,
May we too radiate the light of our God.