Sermon on Exodus 34:29-35 – “The Shining Glory of God”

Sermon for Sunday, February 20th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Exo 34:29-35 ESV] 29 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.

New Testament reading:

[Heb 3:1-6 ESV] 1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Gospel reading:

[Mat 17:1-8 ESV] 1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Introduction

Moses has now come down a second time from the heights of Mt. Sinai. And this time, the people are waiting for Moses. There is no golden calf! Yay! God job, people!

If on the previous return of Moses we saw a low point in Israelite history — and we surely did — now we see a high point. Indeed, it is not always and everywhere sin for the people. We must credit them with an occasional success, perhaps superior only to that proverbial broken clock that is right twice per day.

And upon Moses return his face is shining. See, this isn’t just “some guy,” some mountain man, telling the people what to do. He has been called by God and this miracle attests to the revelation that God has given to him. We see this all throughout the Scriptures: miracles are not for wow-ing the people, but are for accompanying and proving the Word of God.

In explaining something of this miracle, a commentator says, “The sight of the glory of Jehovah, though only the back or reflection of it, produced such an effect upon Moses’ face, that the skin of it shone, though without Moses observing it.”

Because of his shining face, the people were afraid. This is why Moses then puts a veil over his face whenever he talks to the people.

I. The Veil

This is the second veil of sorts that we have seen in the Exodus. The first was that curtain in the temple dividing the holy place from the most holy place; the “holy of holies.” Now we have a veil covering Moses’s face.

There is similarity in that these veils represent a dividing wall between God and Man. Not that Moses was God, but that he was reflecting the glory of God. In the tabernacle, the curtain also kept all but the high priest from seeing the Ark of the Covenant where God was especially present.

Veils, curtains, separate. They separate man from God.

And they obscure. When someone has a veil on their face (or a mask in our day) we might have some idea of what they look like, and we might hear some of the words that they are saying. But how many times lately have you been surprised when you see that same person mask-less and they say in your mind “Oh, that’s what they looked like.” They were obscured, but now you can see them clearly.

Well, we find that “[the Apostle] Paul regards this veil which covered Moses’ face as a symbol of the obscuring of the truth revealed in the Old Testament.” (KD)

What God revealed in the Old Testament was no doubt truth, but in the New Testament it is revealed more fully and more completely so that we see as it as if with a veil now removed.

Hear what Pauls in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

[2Co 3:12-18 ESV] 12 Since we have such a hope [in Jesus Christ], we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

KNOWING CHRIST WE KNOW GOD.

KNOWING CHRIST the veil has been taken away.

I like that, not only “removed” as if it could then be put back on, but “taken away.” There is victory in Christ. The harden heart is removed, the heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh.

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, including many of the Jews in Paul’s time, have a veil over them that remains unlifted.

And boy do we try to lift it! We pray for those who do not have faith in Christ. We proclaim the gospel to those who do not have faith in Christ. We help out in various ways those who do not have faith in Christ. And these are all good things. But WE CANNOT LIFT THE VEIL. Only Christ can lift the veil through the Holy Spirit giving man freedom to see the truth. It is truly the work of God so that no man can boast.

Application: Removing the veil of busyness

Though Christ has removed the veil, we sinners often build walls that seek to divide us from Christ.

The greatest veil over our face in this age, I contend, the greatest thing getting in our way and standing between us and the Word of God is something that might surprise you. It, in itself, is not sin, but becomes sin. That is, our busyness.

Who can doubt, we are just plain too busy.

This is the single greatest reason people cite for missing church.

I’ll call, text, or speak with a person who has been missing church, and Praise the Lord, I’ll find they truly have been “missing” it. They want to be here. They know the blessings, the joy, the peace from communing with one another and communing with God.

But … something got in the way.

A veil is put up in our busyness.

I sympathize greatly with your plight, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, those who have jobs that ask you to work on Sunday. Those of you with non-Christians in your family who ask for your help on the Lord’s day.

But let us remember, we have 6 days to be busy. Six days shall you labor, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord.

Let us remove that veil of busyness, not only to attend church, but to spend the whole day in worship of the Lord, resting from the affairs of the world.

Indeed, an article I read some months ago, said it so well:

“Church should be your excuse for everything else.”

“Sorry I’m busy” is what you should say to anyone who suggests you do anything else on Sunday.

And the Sabbath is not to be another item in your busy schedule. It is not a burden, but a release from your burdens. We do well to remember the words of our savior who said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

II. Called to Lead

Now I want to turn our minds to another subject from our passage, or perhaps from the Exodus more generally. I admit this is an abrupt shift, turning on a dime. An interlude in our story.

But I want to look at the fact that Moses is called to be the leader of his leader, a difficult people.

If they weren’t so difficult they might not even need a leader. If every soldier in an army was perfectly trained they might not even need a General. But, prone as they are to wander, the people need a leader. And he must lead.

The application here is first and foremost or men. Oh men, men, men, what are we to do with you? You are called to be the leader of your people, your tribe, your family. And they will be difficult people. But you are called to it anyways. Don’t forsake your responsibility. You are responsible for getting your family to church, for educating your children, for protecting your wife from the evils of the world, for supporting your family financially, spiritually, even emotionally.

We have then also a warning against men who go to far. Note that Moses didn’t know his face shone. He wasn’t taken up with himself. The glory was that of another, not his own. He wasn’t building his kingdom, he was building the Lords. In your family you are not the ruler, you are the leader. A difficult task indeed.

As Moses is the head of the nation, so you are head of the household. But you are not alone. As Moses had God with him, so you have God with you. Though there is much opposition in the world, you have the Lord on your side. So take heart; while the challenge set before you is insurmountable on your own, with the Lord nothing is impossible. Seek the Lord in all that you do, for yourself and for your family, and He will watch over your path.

And women, you have a difficult task as well. If your husband is to lead, you must follow. You are yoked together, and together you must go. Therefore support your husbands. Oh, do they need your support. Man was not meant to be alone. A helpmeet is needed. So encourage your husbands. Tell them when you recognize that they made difficult decisions wisely and justly. Yes, even use those words so hard to say “You were right.” Then, when you have to disagree with your husband’s decision, when you do not like where they are leading you and the family, then they will more likely hear you out. If you contest everything they say, they will not see that this time it IS important.

Finishing this interlude then we return to the text.

III. The Shining Glory of Christ

We’ve spoken of the veil. We need to speak then of the glory of God. His glory is emphasized in this passage.

Any glory that shone from Moses’s face was merely a reflection of God’s glory, like how the moon does produce its own light but merely reflect the light of the sun.

Thus we see how much greater is the glory of God than the glory of Moses.

And we see God’s glory with the veil removed in Jesus Christ.

In our men’s Bible study we’ve recently starting going through the book of Hebrews. And in this book we find the superiority of Christ. Christ is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, and greater than Moses.

We read from Hebrews 3:5:

[Heb 3:5-6 ESV] 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Jesus’s glory greater than that of Moses.

Jesus is not merely REFLECTING the glory of God, He IS the glory of God.

He is the “radiance of the glory of God.” (Hebrews 1:3)

He is the Light of the world.

So on the mount of transfiguration the glory of Christ shone forth and it was his natural glory, unveiled for the first time for the apostles to see. Moses’ face shone because he had been near to God, Christ’s whole body (his face and his clothing at least) shone because He is God.

And, as Christ is greater than Moses, so also is the new covenant and its benefits greater than the old.

In Christ we do not stand away from God, divided from him, but we are called, like children, to come to Jesus. “Let the little children come to me.”

For nothing will be able to separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything all creation.

Christ has come. Christ has removed the veil. Christ’s glory is to be known.

Let us pray.