After Moses returns from being in God's presence, his appearance was different. So different it weirded people out. Why? And why is Moses' actions in response to the people important to us? Pastor Jason focuses on Exodus 34:29-35 in this series closing sermon.
This sermon is 3 of 3 in a series titled "Show me your face." Here are the links to the previous messages:
#1 Go with us
#2 Show me
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*this is not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
SHOW ME YOUR FACE
Part 3 of 3: Veiled for them
Text: Exodus 34:29-35
For years, my role in ministry was to prepare the next generation of the Church for life. My favorite method to do this was by pummeling them with dodge balls. I would throw them as hard as I could, hoping to hear the thunder of the ball into a student. In my early years, I was not as concerned about headshots. If you were not smart enough to move or protect your face, I considered it an important life lesson.
Fast forward, I am a dad now. My 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son want to play fall baseball. I was thrilled, I think it is important for kids to be involved in something. Sports is one way to do that. We got them baseball gloves, and since they had not played I knew I had to work with them on catching and throwing.
I discovered something though, when I threw the ball to my son or daughter, I would toss it gingerly. Many times, I would underthrow them. Why? Because the once youth pastor who aimed to plaster teenagers with dodgeballs did not want to black an eye, or bust a lip or nose of his own children. If that were to happen, it might cause my kids to not play because they were afraid.
Moses reacts this way in Exodus 34. The passage for this message shares Moses attempting to walk in obedience to God, sharing His law with His people all the while trying to not be their cause for not hearing.
READING OF THE TEXT
29 As Moses descended from Mount Sinai—with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain—he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face shone! They were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called out to them, so Aaron and all the leaders of the community returned to him, and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he commanded them to do everything the LORD had told him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 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 had been commanded, 35 and the Israelites would see that Moses’s face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil over his face again until he went to speak with the LORD. (CSB)
The context of this passage is important. I encourage you to read all of Exodus, but for today knowing what happened in chapter 33 is important to these verses. Chapter 33 begins with God telling Moses He will not travel with the Israelites, God’s people. This was God showing mercy to a people prone to rebellion.
Moses will not have it. God called Moses to lead God’s people, a task that cannot be done without God. Essentially, Moses tells God to take responsibility for His people. God agrees to go with them.
Following that bold request, Moses asks God for something even bolder. “Show me your face.” God tells Moses no because no human can see God’s face and live. However, God did allow Moses to see the fullness of God’s presence that the human condition could endure, the backside of God. Or the afterglow.
Chapter 34 opens with God and Moses in conversation. This was a person-to-person interaction, God’s presence chatting with Moses. And it was during this exchange that Moses makes a second set of tablets containing God’s law. Now Moses must share God’s law with God’s people.
Some of the older translations of verse 29 mistranslate the word “shone.” The original Hebrew words means, “to shoot out horns.” (Strong’s definitions) There are translations that say Moses had horns coming from his face, an image depicted by older paintings of him. Since it is referencing rays of light, there were most likely many rays streaming from Moses’ face.
Verse 29 makes clear that the change of Moses’ face was directly connected with him being in God’s presence. This was a great honor, a mark that would serve as Moses’ credentials to the people. The people could look at Moses and see the effect of God’s presence upon his face, and they would know the words the man spoke were the words of God.
How did Aaron, the community leaders, and Israelites react when they saw Moses? Verse 30 tells us, “They were afraid to come near him.” Moses’ appearance weirded and freaked them out. Why? Since Moses was close to God, the afterglow lingered on him and caused the others to see themselves in comparison. This comparison was not with Moses, but with God’s glory on Moses that revealed their own sinfulness. They were filled with guilt and shame, fearful of God’s presence. God’s presence did not make them feel shame, their own sin revealed by His presence did.
God gave Moses His law to share with His people. God’s people were afraid to come near God’s servant. Moses had a responsibility to communicate with God, but that responsibility to share with God’s people.
Moses would share what God communicates, but if the people were scared they could not respond appropriately out of that emotion. God’s presence that radiated from Moses’ face would affirm the message, but it would scare the people from responding. After sharing, Moses covered his face with a veil. This veil allowed for conversation with the people, but had to be removed when Moses talked with God.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?
Moses was transformed by the presence of God. No one can encounter God and remain the same. To experience Jesus is a life changing event, reject or accept Him. Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, in view of God’s mercies, I urge you to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Holiness transforms us through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Living in holiness means our decision is to please God. One way that we do that is in obedience to the words of Jesus, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Similar to Moses, we should by marked by the light of God’s Spirit inside us and we let our light shine by demonstrating God’s love to the world through acts of kindness, mercy, and compassion. This is why our kids sing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
There is an issue that occurs when we let our light shine, that light which is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. In the gospel of John, the writer put it this way, “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) People are living in darkness that hides all their flaws and failures so that they are not seen. Then someone walks in like a parent flicking on the lights to a sleeping teenager. It hurst their eyes from the sudden change and once their eyes adjust they see all they did not want to see.
Holiness will not be a stumbling block. Too much light blinds. When you and I shine the light of God’s presence we have to be mindful that the person we are ministering to may not be used to the light. We do not want to throw the fullness of the light on and scare them away from God, or blind them so they cannot see the truth. A truth you and I are still working to unravel, and took us time to get to where we are now.
What are we to do then? We are supposed to shine the light, but we do not want to be a stumbling block. The veil. Like Moses we must live for Christ with a veil over our heavenly citizenship. There will be moments that the Holy Spirit prompts us to lift that veil and all His light to be seen in a way that brings people to a decision.
How do we discern those moments? 1 Peter 3:15, “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have.” Being ready implies living a holy life in step with the Holy Spirit. As we do that, His light will shine from us, even though we are not flaunting it. And that light will cause those living in darkness to ask questions based on what they see. We give answers to their questions.
Questions are not always verbalized. Some questions are written on faces and experienced in this world of darkness. Why did this happen? Why am I going through this? How do I keep going? These are questions lost and broken people are asking. These are our opportunities to lift the veil and reveal the goodness of God. We reveal the knowledge to those soul aching questions with our actions and words so that they can see the light which scares them is really the God who loves them.
In Luke 22, Jesus shares a final meal with His disciples. It is the Passover meal, remembering the night God’s presence swept over Egypt and freed God’s people. As Jesus sat with the disciples, He said, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Really, Jesus is saying the next He takes part in this meal with His followers will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
As we close with communion, know this is a veiled ritual of a much greater meal to take place. Jesus one day will be at the table, in the fullness of His majesty, and we all will sit with Him unveiled. Until that day comes, we take communion to remember His sacrifice that was our invitation to the table. Also, we remember His call to lay down our lives as an invitation for others.