“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand… his face shone because he had been talking with God…When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face” – Exodus 34: 29, 33 ESV
“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed… 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” – 2 Corinthians 3:16, 18 ESV
A shining face
So much can be said about these passages. They have a wealth of meaning, and truth to the Christian. However, I would like to only bring out some brief points. After Moses had been with God on Mount Sinai, the covenant between God and Israel had been renewed, following Moses’ destruction of the original tablets. Moses came down from this height, his face shining and the people of Israel were in fear from it!
From that point on, whenever Moses would come down from the mountain after talking with God he would veil his face when speaking to the people of Israel. When he would go back up he would unveil his face. Paul elaborates on this story in 2 Corinthians. Paul responds with this letter to the church at Corinth, strongly emphasizing the legitimacy of his ministry, among other things.
Not on stone tablets
Paul points to the inward life of the Corinthians to validate his own ministry, he essentially tells them, “I am the one who brought this gospel to you, and if my message was weakened, or illegitimate, then what does that say about your faith? But if your faith is genuine, and you have spiritual life, doesn’t this validate the message which I brought?” Paul goes on to talk about how his message, the gospel message, is written on the hearts of those believers, and not on stone tablets.
It is not a message of the letter (or law), but of the spirit. It was the ministry of the new covenant that was made in Christ’s blood. Paul then explains that the old covenant, of which Moses was a minister, is done away with and that the people of God no longer require this veil. Jesus is the minister of this new covenant, by which the veil is removed.
Comparing the old and the new
The God-given covenant to Moses, was one where God presented a requirement, and it was man’s responsibility to fulfill that requirement. The new covenant in Christ’s blood is one where God sets a requirement for all men, yet steps down in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and fulfills that requirement Himself – leaving man with nothing to do, but believe. This is a covenant that is all of grace.
We see from these passages that Jesus is the true and better Moses.
- Moses talked to God on a mountain; Jesus was in communion with God, his eternal Son in eternity past.
- Moses descended to the people from Sinai; Jesus descended to his people from heaven.
- Moses’ covenant was of the letter and exacted a strict requirement from the people; Jesus’ covenant was of the spirit, and fulfilled the requirement FOR His people.
- Moses’ covenant brought condemnation by exposing the people’s insufficiency; Jesus’ covenant brought full atonement for sin, and justification by demonstrating his all-sufficiency, as Savior at the cross.
- Moses’ face was veiled, the glory of God concealed so that the people could not see. With Jesus the veil is lifted, and upon looking at the beautiful face of the Lord Jesus Christ, our souls undergo a change from one degree of glory to another. He fashions us progressively unto His own likeness, until we are made completely like Himself.
A constant gaze
Aiden Wilson Tozer once penned these words, speaking of our gaze on Christ;
“Faith is not once a done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the triune God…While we are looking at [Christ] we do not see ourselves – blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”
So my dear brother, my dear sister, gaze constantly at the person and work of Christ, as shown forth in the Word of God. Jesus is in every word, every paragraph, and every page. He is the whole point of the Bible. As we look to Him in the Word, we will behold His glory, and be changed.