Exodus 34:34–35 (HCSB)
34 But whenever Moses went before the Lord to speak with Him, he would remove the veil until he came out. After he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 and the Israelites would see that Moses’ face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil over his face again until he went to speak with the Lord.
This shorter passage is all about the effect God’s presence has upon Moses’ appearance, specifically his face, and how the Israelites react. At first it would seem it’s a straightforward account, and might be intended to simply take literally, but I think there is something more to be gleaned.
- The presence of God has a lasting impact. Moses was in the presence of God, as close and personal as any man has ever been, and the impact was long lasting. Note that Moses was not in any pain, there was nothing wrong with him. But it was clear that he had been close to God. Shouldn’t it be clear and obvious to all when we are close to God? That we are in his presence?
- Those close to God glow, those separated from God fear. Although God has reestablished His covenant with the Israelites, they are still sort of the “outside” in a way. Moses alone was allowed up the mountain. Moses alone speaks directly to God. Moses alone intercedes successfully. And when Moses returns, the Israelites know the radiance is due to God being with Moses, and they are afraid! Look, there is something to be said for a healthy fear of God, it is a good thing. And it’s not necessarily bad that the Israelites transfer some of that fear to Moses due to his closeness with God. But if we are constantly afraid to come close to God, or even His people (i.e. the church?), we might want to take stock of where we are in relation to God.
- The veil continues. The Israelites have been separated from God, despite being His chosen people. Moses is their mediator, and now, as he moves closer and closer to God, there is a veil between him and the Israelites. The veil between Moses and the Israelites is sort of like the veil in the tabernacle: a separator, something that makes a distinction between the holiest of places and the outside. But we should take heart! Because, instead of simply removing himself from the presence of the Israelites, just as God continues to endure us and remain among us, Moses stays among the Israelites.
Lord, thank You for sticking with us, despite our sin and failures. Help us to not be afraid of You, but to fear You in a reverent way, constantly seeking to be closer. I pray that we would glow in the world, a light drawing your people to You. Amen.