Online Worship for Transfiguration, Sunday February 19, 2023
Exodus 34:29-35 ESV
Jesus Has Removed the Veil of God's Glory
February 19, 2023
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
In the name of Christ, who has revealed to us His everlasting glory, dear fellow redeemed.
The history of wedding veils is an interesting one. Some experts have traced its origins back to Ancient Rome where the bride would wear a veil to ward of evil spirits as she walked down the aisle. Veils can be traced in Judaism all the way back to the origins of Judaism. When Jacob was working for Laban, he was promised Rachel as a wife. However, Laban, wanting to trick Jacob, hid Leah under the veil and not Rachel. Now, Judaism has the custom of lifting the veil of the bride so they make sure they are marrying the right bride. Nowadays, the majority of people who wear veils don't do so with much tradition behind it. One possible reason for the usage is to hide the beauty of the bride until she is up at the altar with the groom.
The veil that is talked about in our text today has a much greater significance than that of a bride's veil. This veil that Moses uses to cover his face, is to keep the glory of the Lord that was reflected on his own face, from shining too brightly on the people. The LORD proclaimed to Moses that, "But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live" (Exod. 33:20 ESV). This is why the people were not able to talk directly to God. They needed to go through Moses, their mediator. This is what the Law of Moses brings, namely a veil that hides God's glory from all those who fail to keep the Law perfectly. But our theme today shows the other side, a different way to reach God, through faith in Christ. Christ has pulled back the veil on God's glory for you.
When we see Moses, he is coming down from Mt. Sinai carrying the two tablets of stone containing the ten commandments. While Moses was up on the mountain, God descended to talk with him. Exodus 34:5, "The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD." This was a special thing for Moses to experience. The threat God made about man gazing upon His full glory is true, anyone would die. And yet, God had grace on Moses, He showed him mercy, and allowed Him to see just a small part of His glory. But the glory Moses saw was anything but small. It was so great, so pure and holy, that Moses' face shone like the sun just by looking at it.
When the people saw the face of Moses, they were afraid and rightfully so. In Exodus 19, God warned Moses not to let the people come near the mountain lest they should die, "And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish." If they could not even come near the mountain where the LORD is, how much more frightened would they be to see the reflection of His glory! This is where we are introduced to the veil.
31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
It's interesting to note that Moses did not put the veil on the first time he called the people to hear the words of the LORD. While he related to the people the covenant, including the ten commandments, the glory of the LORD was shining on his face. This reminded the people that he was the spokesman of the LORD. What he was telling them came directly from the LORD and was His will. This is what He expected the people of Israel to do. Have no other gods, take not His name in vain, remember the Sabbath day, keep celebrating the Passover and other feasts, honor father and mother, do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, lie, covet, etc. This was the Law of God. This is what they Israelites had to do to hold up their end of the covenant God made with them. They were to be perfect, for the LORD their God is perfect.
Now that is a terrifying thought. Gazing upon a reflection of God's glory would be terrifying enough, but to also be held to God's own standard of perfection!? Well, that is exactly the same standard you and I are held up to. God's standards have not changed since the beginning because His glory has never changed. Anyone who keeps the whole of God's Law is able to look upon that glory face to face without fear. Because that person is perfect. But, if that person fails to keep one letter of the Law, it does not matter how good they are, they have broken the entire Law in God's eyes. The writer of the book of James says exactly this: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (Jas. 2:10 ESV).
Now it makes sense as to why Moses covered his face with the veil. It is clear from looking throughout the Old Testament that this people were far from perfect. Just a short time ago, they were worshipping a golden calf, claiming that was the god that brough them out of Egypt. They did this while Moses was talking with God at the top of Mt. Sinai. No, they would go on to break God's Law time and time again. They certainly were in no position to be looking upon, at the very least, a reflection of God's glory.
And how are you doing with this? Are you able to look upon God's glory, or even a reflection of it? Measure yourself against the 10 commandments. Have you placed anything above God? Have you taken His name in vain through various ways? Have you always been excited to go to church, or never neglect to pursue personal growth in God's Word? Have you given honor to parents. Not felt hatred, thoughts of lust and sexual immorality, taken something that wasn't yours, gossiped about your neighbor, or Christian brother and sister, or even had the thought about desiring something you don't have? You might be able to check yes on all those points of God's Law in terms of visible actions, but remember: it is God who searches the heart. That is where all of us fail...miserably.
While we can put on a good show to those around us, it is impossible for us to keep God's Law, especially in our heart. Jesus says in Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." Before we even commit an act against God's Law, we have failed to live up to His standard of perfection because of our heart. This is why there is a veil over God's glory. No one can look upon the glory of God in this wretched sinful state and live. The Apostle Paul describes the veil as the Law and ministry of death in 2 Corinthians. He writes in 3:7, "Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,”
Yes, the Law reveals the glory of God because it shows the standard of perfection that we so often fail to live up to. And, as Paul says, it is a ministry of death because that is all the Law can bring. We cannot earn salvation by doing the works of the Law, but it reveals that we are heading for death. And so through the Law, the glory of God is hidden behind a veil, never to be gazed upon by sinful man.
So if by the Law comes death and a veil between us and God, what is our hope of salvation? There is none, save through faith in the one who did keep God's Law perfectly, Jesus. The very Creator of the Law, the one who had the glory that is shown by the Law, set that glory aside. He subjugated Himself under the Law that He created so that He could call Himself your substitute. While Jesus set aside His glory, He did not set aside His perfection. He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth, Peter says. Work through the list of the Law I mentioned earlier. You will not find a single instance where Jesus failed to keep that Law to its fullest extent, both in heart and in action.
Jesus' mission was not just to live a perfect life, but also to die the perfect death. That is what the Law demands after all. A satisfactory payment for sin must be made. And Jesus made that payment. God says in Hebrews 9:14, "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." Jesus Christ gave Himself up to God in order to purify your conscience. All the times that you and I have failed to live up to God's Law, God's forgiveness remains over you because of what Jesus has done. He has rid you of your dead works that the Law creates. He has delivered you from the delusion that you can earn your way to heaven, and has laid down the pathway to eternal life.
Paul calls this the ministry of the Spirit, or the ministry of life in 2 Corinthians 3. He sets it up in contrast to that ministry which Moses brought in our text this morning. Paul writes, "who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory" (2 Cor. 3:6-9). This ministry of the Spirit is yours through faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit has created this faith in your heart to trust in Jesus as your Savior from all sin, both past and present. He has transformed your heart from a dark dwelling place of evil, to the throne of God reigning in you.
More than that, Jesus has pulled back the veil of God's glory. You are not struck down by the Law any longer because Jesus has paid for your sins and kept the Law perfectly for you. When Jesus walked this earth and lived His perfect life, God sees it as you living that perfect life because Jesus' righteousness covers you. When Jesus suffered on the cross the punishment of our sins, God sees it as you on that cross suffering for your sins because Jesus' blood has washed your sins away. In God's eyes you are perfect because Jesus is your Mediator. He has made you a child of God, perfectly righteous in the Father's eyes.
What does that mean for you? You can, and have seen God's full glory. No, you may not see it physically until Judgment Day, but you have read and heard the Gospel message of sins forgiven through Christ. That is seeing the glory of God. And it is a greater glory than that glory which Moses' face had. The glory on Moses' face faded away and he likewise died. But the glory which you have is eternal. When Jesus cried, 'It is finished" on the cross, there were immediate effects that occurred. One such effect was in the temple. In order to divide the Holy of Holies, the place where God's presence resided that only the high priest could enter into once a year, there was a great, thick veil. This kept people out and unable to gaze upon the glory of God to their destruction. When Jesus died, this veil was torn in two. It was ripped completely apart. This signified that no longer was there to be a veil between God and His people. Through faith in Christ you can approach God face to face with confidence that you are covered by your Savior's righteousness and God will not turn you away.
The glory the people saw on Moses' face thousands of years ago must have been an incredible sight. But that glory was tied to the covenant of the Law. That has since faded away. Not the Law itself, but salvation through the Law. It has faded away because you have a more sure and greater glory: That of your Savior. You share in your Savior's glory even now; that is what it means to have faith. When the last day comes, you, me and all believers in Christ will be transformed into that glory where we will dwell with our God face to face, for eternity. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus! Amen.