2 Corinthians 3:16-18
16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
We have all, at one time or another, seen something so terrible, so horrific, so ugly that we could not bear to look at it. We shudder and look away, we close our eyes, or we just plain avoid the place altogether. I used to be a big fan of horror movies, but even I had my limits. And it seems downright strange to me how some people are fascinated by the macabre when there are so many good things to look at.
Now can you imagine something so BEAUTIFUL, something so lovely and glorious that you couldn’t bear to look at it? Sounds crazy doesn’t it, something so gorgeous that we can’t turn our eyes to it? But that is exactly what happened to the face of Moses.
29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.
30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
Moses had spent so much time in the presence of the Lord that his face partook of the glory of God, and so the people were afraid to come near him. The glory of God is a terrible and wonderful thing. Look at all the times the Lord or His angels appeared to the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets, and nearly every time they bow and tremble before Him, afraid that He would strike them down. They revered and feared the Lord even as they loved Him and prayed for His forgiveness. However, as we read in so many other places in the Bible, there were many people who didn’t fear the Lord, and so if He wasn’t around, they were indifferent at best and rebellious at worst. And so, there in Exodus, the people saw the Lord reflected in the face of His chosen prophet, and they were rightly afraid.
But Moses was just shining out what he had taken in. He had answered the call at the burning bush, and he allowed himself to be transformed for the Lord’s work. That transformation certainly displayed itself in Moses’ changing behavior, but eventually it shone out in his physical form, too, giving him a glory so close to the image of God Himself that the people were afraid. So Moses chose to stand before the people with a veiled face because they could not face the truth of their sinfulness before God–but he always took the veil off when facing God.
Moses never wore the veil in the presence of God, so how can we believers veil ourselves when we have the Spirit of God WITHIN us? On the day Jesus died for our sins, the veil of the Temple–the curtain between the congregation and the Holy of Holies–was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51) And afterwards at Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell all believers. (Acts 2) When we turn to the Lord now, there is no veil, no curtain between us, and we experience only the unspeakable love and glory of God. When we thus turn unveiled to the Lord our God, there is liberty–liberty from sin and lawlessness. There is no need for us to turn from the Lord anymore, no need for a veil between us, because when we believe on Christ as our Savior, the Father and all the world see in us the glory of His Son.
2 Corinthians 3:7-9
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,
8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?
9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
Moses took pity on the people and veiled himself, but we bear a ministry that should not be veiled. No matter how painful or convicting it may be, the glorious ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be seen and heard and understood in all its fullness, because this is a ministry of righteousness and salvation and LIFE. When we follow Jesus and live the life He has called us to, when we respond to the call of our own burning bush–a call to evangelism and discipling to which all Christians must respond–then we are being transformed just as Moses was. The glory that shone on Moses’ face passed with him into the grave. Once he was gone, even his successor Joshua did not partake of that glory. But the glory we reflect is not temporary. It is a glory we can share with others just as Jesus shared it with us (John 17:22-23), and it just keeps getting greater and greater as we are transformed BY our Lord into the likeness OF our Lord.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
We stand now unveiled before God, no longer afraid of His glory but basking in His Spirit and allowing Him to transform us. We must also stand unveiled before men, not afraid to declare the glory of the Lord in all its fullness. We have this ministry in “jars of clay” to be lived out in mortal lives, but we DO have this ministry, and we must proclaim the gospel as we have been told to do. We cannot afford to veil it behind half-truths and soft-pedaled pseudo-gospel. Sharing the gospel is a ministry concerning sin and salvation, concerning righteousness and truth, concerning humility and mercy and love, and leading to eternal life. We must remove the veils from our lives and allow our ministry to transform all of us from glory to glory into something truly beautiful to behold: the image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Father in heaven, thank You for this glory, for this opportunity to answer the call and to shine forth unveiled before men. Thank You, too, that we have this ministry of reconciliation, that we can now look upon You and You upon us, and all that is ever beheld is the glory of the Son and the Father. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, dwelling within us, transforming us as we speak and listen and respond to the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen and amen.