In the morning I preached from one of the more curious passages in Exodus, the shining face of Moses in 34:29-35. Thankfully God has given us an inspired commentary on this strange account, found in 2 Corinthians 3. So the sermon text was from Exodus but we spent just as much time looking at the 2 Corinthians passage to understand the meaning of Moses’ shining face.
When Moses came out from the Lord’s presence, “the skin of his face shone” (Exodus 34:30). This means God’s divine effulgence radiated from Moses as he spoke to the people. Not surprisingly it terrified the people (v.30). But it was only after Moses was done talking to the people that he put on a veil to hide the glory (v.35).
So Moses did not use the covering to protect the Israelites from the awful sight of God’s holy brilliance emanating from his face. Then why the veil? According to Paul, Moses veiled his face “so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end” (2 Corinthians 3:13). As he explains it, the shining face of Moses represented the old covenant. And evidently it was God’s will that Moses conceal from the Israelites the truth that the old covenant was coming to an end (that is, that it would superseded by the new covenant in Christ). Admittedly this is hard to understand, especially since everything in the old covenant pointed forward to Christ. But God, according to his sovereign wisdom and good pleasure, did not want the Israelites to “gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end” (v.13). So Moses veiled his face.
Paul’s main point, though, is very clear: the glory of the new covenant in Christ so far exceeds that of the old covenant under Moses that the latter has come to have no glory at all (v.10). But we can only see that glory when by God’s grace we “turns to the Lord” (v.16), that is, believe in Jesus Christ. Then, as we behold Jesus by faith, we see the surpassing glory of God in the face of Christ (4:6).
To see in Jesus “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” means salvation for sinners. Do you see Jesus for who he is, the incarnation of Almighty God who came into our world to save us from our sins? If we must look to Jesus for salvation, we must also continue to fix our eyes on him for sanctification. You are what you look at; the eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22). If by faith you behold God’s glory in Christ, you will be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
At the evening services we are working our way through the Heidelberg Catechism. On Sunday we looked at Lord’s Day 10 (Q & A’s 27, 28), which gives us what must be one of the grandest descriptions of God’s providence ever penned.
On Saturday several of us met to discuss the first five chapters of The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen J. Nichols. Among other topics, we talked about the need for the Reformation (then and today), Martin Luther, the Anabaptists, and John Calvin.
I’ve tentatively scheduled our next meeting for Saturday, March 18th, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. at the church. We’ll cover the second half of the book, chapter 6 to the end.
Here are some links to other resources I mentioned at the class, or that came to mind later:
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton. Luther and his times come to life in this classic biography. The writing can be dense at times.
On the Freedom of a Christian, by Martin Luther. To be honest I haven’t read much Luther. But I keep this tract on my desk because I love the way Luther writes about what it means to be a Christian. Here’s a quote: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.” Read on to see what he means.
Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, by John Calvin. This is just a small section from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, and more applicatory than purely theological, but in it you get a sense of how profoundly the sovereignty of God shaped Calvin’s thought.
5 Minutes in Church History with Stephen Nichols. The author of our book hosts a brief podcast in which he explains some event or issue in church history.
Soli Deo Gloria!