PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 34:28-35; The Fading Glory of the Old Covenant

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121014_exodus34_28-35.mp3

10/14 Exodus 34:28-35 The Fading Glory of the Old Covenant

28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 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.

Let’s find our place in the story. The people had sinned. They had broken God’s covenant while Moses was up on the mountain receiving the written terms of the covenant. God was ready to destroy them, but Moses interceded, asking God to show mercy to his people. God relented from his intention to consume them all, but when Moses came down the mountain and saw with his own eyes what had happened, he did what he could to clean up the mess and purge the evil from the camp. About 3,000 men of the people were killed. The LORD announced a disastrous word, that he would no longer go with the people. They would enter the promised land, but without his presence. God is holy and he would be provoked to destroy this persistently rebellious people. The people mourned and took off their ornaments and waited to see what God would do with them. Moses went outside the camp to a temporary tent of meeting, where God met with him. Moses begged that God restore the people to their privileged position and restore his presence to the people. God agreed, and invited Moses up on the mountain to remake the covenant and reveal himself to Moses. According to our text, Moses has now been on the mountain another 40 days, a repeat of the first time, when Israel under Aaron’s leadership made a golden bull idol and held a feast to it and gave their worship to it. But this time, the people are not celebrating the works of their hands; they are mourning, repentant, waiting to hear what God would do with them. We have been in on what has gone on at the top of the mountain, that God revealed his character as a God gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and covenant faithfulness, eager to forgive all kinds of sin. But the people have not heard this yet. They await Moses’ return.

Horns of Moses

Last time Moses returned, his authority was undermined, there was a coup in the camp; the people had broken loose. He brought down two stone tablets, publicly shattered them, ordered the cleansing of the camp, pulverized their idol and made them drink it. This time he is coming down the mountain carrying new tablets, but this time something bizarre is happening. Everyone is terrified and all keep their distance. Something is happening with the skin of Moses’ face. Most of our English translations use words like ‘shining’ or ‘radiant’ to describe what the Israelites saw. The word translated ‘shone’ in verses 29, 30 and 35 is a word that only shows up one other time in the Old Testament; in Psalm 69 it is a verbal noun that means ‘horns’.

Psalm 69:31 This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (completed around AD 400) translated this as ‘his face was horned’. Because of this, much of the Medieval and Renaissance artwork portrayed Moses with horns.

This word seems to be the root of the word commonly translated as ‘horns’. Horns in biblical times represented strength, power or authority. So whatever the actual physical or visual phenomena, the word used to describe it carried the idea of authority, God restoring his authority to his mediator Moses. Habakkuk uses the related word for horns in what seems to be a very figurative way.

Habakkuk 3:3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Selah 4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.

(AV Habakkuk 3:4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power)

Whatever this looked like, it was God’s way of displaying ‘this is my servant Moses – listen to him. He is my chosen mediator. He carries my authority’. They were terrified.

True Humility

A very interesting note is that Moses had no idea what was going on. Everyone is freaking out because of what’s going on with Moses’ face, and he is totally unaware that his appearance is altered.

29 …Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses had spent 40 days in the presence of God. He was changed. He didn’t eat or drink in 40 days. But he didn’t come down the mountain saying ‘look at me! Isn’t this cool? Do you notice something different about me? I’ve been in the presence of God!’ Moses is so fixated on the glory of God, on seeing and knowing God for who he is, that he’s lost sight of himself. This is true greatness. This is true humility. Not drawing attention to the evidence of God’s work in my life, and not drawing negative attention to how low and miserable and humble I am. True humility is simply not putting self on display at all. Self-awareness is lost as God takes center stage. This is the freedom that comes from focusing on God, enjoying God, being in awe of God so much that although I am being changed in the process, I am blissfully unaware of myself at all.

Good News

The people are mourning and afraid, waiting to find out what God will do with them, and their mediator comes down the mountain with a terrifying appearance. Moses has to call Aaron and the leaders of Israel to come back to him so he can talk with them, and they have to convince the people that it is safe to come near Moses. Once they are finally gathered, he can communicate what God had told him on the mountain

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.

This would include the re-iteration of God’s ten words. This would include God’s self revelation:

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

This would include God’s promise:

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

Finally, the people hear God’s answer to their question. Could they be forgiven? Would God abandon them? This was a repeat in miniature of the terror they had experienced when the mountain was on fire and God thundered out his expectations to them. Now Moses’ face was on fire and they were terrified with overflowing joy as he repeated the words of God’s covenant with them.

Transfigured

It is interesting that Moses shows up again centuries later on another mountain with another mediator whose appearance was altered after spending time with God. Jesus, who

Isaiah 53:2 …he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

This Jesus

Luke 9:28 … took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [exodus], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”––not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. (cf. Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-9)

The skin of Moses’ face shone because he had been talking with God. But John said of Jesus:

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Moses reflected the glory of God. Jesus revealed the glory of God, because Jesus is God. When Peter suggested that they make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, He was silenced by the voice “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Moses and Elijah and James and John and Peter were all there to see Jesus, to testify to Jesus. Jesus is the one who Moses and all the prophets were pointing to. Jesus said:

Luke 24:44 … that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Moses, Elijah, the entire Old Testament was written about Jesus. Jesus said:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The author of Hebrews points how Jesus is superior in every way to angels, to Moses, to the law, the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, Jesus is the reality of which everything else was foreshadow and type.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Moses reflected the glory of God. This was only a dim foretaste of what would be seen in Jesus. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature.

The Glory Fades

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.

According to the text, Moses would veil his face after he spoke to the people. He would remove the veil when he went into the presence of the LORD. He would deliver the message to the people so that they could see the skin of his face shining. Then he would cover himself with the veil until he went again into the presence of the LORD. Paul in 2 Corinthians points to the veiling of Moses’ shining face, and draws a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New. Paul says

2 Corinthians 3:5 …our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent 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. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, 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.

Paul points out that Moses veiled his face because the glory of the Old Covenant, as brilliant as that was, was a fading glory. It did not last. He draws a number of contrasts between the Old Covenant and the New:

Old Covenant / New Covenant

Of The Letter / Of The Spirit

Kills / Gives Life

Ministry of Death Ministry of Spirit

Carved in Stone / Written in Hearts

Fading Glory / Surpassing Glory

Hidden / Revealed

Ministry of Condemnation / Ministry of Righteousness

Ending / Permanent

Minds Hardened / Veil Removed Through Christ

We look at what happened to Moses and are intrigued. Wouldn’t that be cool if we all left church each Sunday with radiating faces? But Paul’s point is that what Moses experienced under the Old Covenant was as nothing compared to what what we now have in the New Covenant. Moses, a man, was their mediator. Jesus, the God-man is our one mediator. Moses was the only one invited in to God’s presence. We all have the opportunity to behold the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We get to look, not at Moses, but at Jesus, God the Son, and we get to look with unveiled faces. We are not hid in a cleft of the rock and covered with his hand, able to see only his back side. We experience the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transformed by Beholding

We, like Moses are altered from the experience. But for Moses it faded away. For us it is permanent. Are you hungry for lasting transformation in you life? In your character? In your relationships? In your attitudes? In your thoughts and desires? Here is the answer for permanent transformation. It is not something we do; transformation is something that is done to us; we are ‘being transformed’. What is the mechanism of transformation? How does it happen? ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord’, we look, we gaze, we see, and we are being transformed. We turn to the Lord, the veil is removed, and we take in who Jesus is. We enjoy him in all his glory, full of grace and truth. As we look God transforms us. We may not be aware that anything is happening. We can lose ourselves in the glory of his majesty. But those around us will know. They will see it in our lives.

Exodus 34:10 …And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

They will recognize that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 14, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: