EXODUS: GOD PROVIDES Moses’ Radiant Face Exodus 34:29-35

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EXODUS: GOD PROVIDESMoses’ Radiant FaceExodus 34:29-35I didn’t realize how appropriate the title, “God Provides,” was until I began studyingExodus in preparation for sermons each week this summer. Back in April 4-5 members of ourstaff team met over lunch to do some planning for this series. I brought some initial ideas ofthemes for each week and I had called the week we were looking at Exodus chapter 16 whereGod sent manna and quail for the Israelites, “God Provides.” As we started to wrestle with atitle for the series, our Kids Pastor Dave Truitt suggested we use, “God Provides” for our title. Itseemed a good idea to us and so we went with it. Tru, THANKS for your suggestion of a greattitle for our series!God provides is the story-line that runs through the Book of Exodus. God provided theIsraelites with a deliverer named Moses. God provided 10 Plagues which compelled Pharaoh tolet the Israelites leave Egypt. God provided a dry path through the Red Sea, when Pharaoh ledhis army in pursuit of God’s people. God provided manna, quail and water for his people in thedesert. God provided his people with the 10 Commandments, the Law and the Covenant. AndGod provided mercy, love and forgiveness when his people repeatedly messed up and strayedaway from Him. Throughout Exodus God definitely lived up to his name, “Jehovah Jireh” whichmeans, God is my provider.Last week as we looked at Exodus chapter 33, we focused on the truth that God’sgreatest provision for us is his Presence. His blessings are wonderful, but our desperate needis for Him, not for stuff from Him. God’s blessings and provisions are great, but they can numbus to our awareness of the need of his Presence. Jesus spoke to our need of God’s Presence andour tendency to “try and make it ourselves” in John’s Gospel chapter 15 when He said, “I amthe vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;apart from me you can do nothing.”Today we’re going to look at the last 7 verses of Exodus chapter 34. These verses buildon the theme of God’s Presence, but before I read these verses I want to make some1

connections for us between the significant events that occurred in chapters 32-34. Thesechapters are extremely strategic in the Exodus account. In these 3 chapters Moses received the 10 Commandments and the Law from God on Mt. Sinai. Aaron and the Israelites fashioned a golden calf and worshiped before it. When Moses saw the people worshiping the golden calf he shattered the 10Commandments. God threatened to annihilate the Israelites and start a new nation through Moses, butMoses interceded for the people. God told Moses and the Israelites He would deliver them into the Promised Land, but Hewouldn’t go with them. Moses issued an ultimatum, telling God, “If you don’t go with us, we’re not going.” God agreed to accompany the Israelites into the Promised Land. God called Moses back up to Mt. Sinai to receive a replacement set of tablets with the 10Commandments written on them.All of that took place in just 3 chapters—chapters that were pivotal in God’s ongoingprocess of shaping and molding the Israelites into the people of God. Several times during thisseries you’ve heard John or me make a statement to the effect, “It was easier to take theIsraelites out of Egypt than it was to take Egypt out of the Israelites.” The building of theGolden Calf was classic, “Egyptian thinking”—an attempt to make the divine tangible. God wastrying to communicate to his people that his Presence was enough. They didn’t need idols assymbols of God’s power and presence. This was so important that the first 2 commandmentsGod gave his people address the issue of their worship: “You shall have no other gods beforeme.” And, “You shall not make for yourself and idol.”The Israelites were a lot like us, it was easy for them to lose contact with God. Moses,when he was present was that point of contact—the Israelites’ representative before God, theirintercessor who stood in the gap between them and God. But when Moses was up on Mt. Sinaifor 40 days, the people said to Aaron, “Come make us gods who will go before us. As for thisfellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”2

Exodus 32:1 The Israelites convinced Aaron to help them construct the golden calf as a tangibleconnection point with the divine.In his commentary on Exodus Peter Enns points out that the Israelites probably weren’tcompletely dismissing what God had done for them and claiming that the calf idol had actuallydelivered them from Pharaoh, they were just looking for something to see and to hold on to asa point of connection with God in Moses’ absence. They refused to be satisfied with God’sprovision of Moses as their leader and the 10 Commandments, the Law and the Covenant toguide them. They wanted more and so they took matters into their own hands and did whatwas familiar. They made an image like the nations around them worshiped.God in his patience and persistence continued to try and get through to them with themessage that it was his Presence, not tangible representations that they truly needed.(Interestingly, the Israelites fell prey to the same thinking several generations later when theygrew discontent with God’s arrangement of priests and prophets and demanded a king like allof the nations around them had.) In the passage we’re looking at today, Moses returned to thepeople with the replacement set of 10 Commandments for the ones he broke and Godcontinued to try and help the Israelites understand the reality that God’s Presence couldn’t becontained, managed and controlled. I’ll start reading at chapter 34 verse 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he wasnot aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all theIsraelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called tothem; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke tothem. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD hadgiven him on Mount Sinai.When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the LORD’spresence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told theIsraelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put theveil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.It’s hard for us to fully appreciate what’s going on in these verses, because many of ushave an inadequate sense of God’s holiness and what it means for us to be reverent beforeHim. Jesus’ coming into the world tore down the barrier that separated us from God—andthat’s a good thing—but we seem to have lost the awareness of God’s holiness—the fact that3

He is set apart from us. Through Jesus the way to God has been opened and we can walk inrelationship with our Heavenly Father, but God is still a holy God.The Israelites had constant, tangible reminders of God’s holiness. They had strict dietarylaws and rules and practices which reminded them that as God’s people they were different—set apart—and they couldn’t blindly follow the practices and rituals of the nations aroundthem. God’s Presence was always with them in the form of a pillar of fire that moved whenthey were supposed to move and stopped when they were to set up camp. And when peopleignored God’s holiness and violated his laws there were immediate consequences in the formof plagues and death. Those were harsh conditions that don’t seem desirable to any of us, butour freedom in Christ makes it easy for us to ignore the implications of God’s holiness.In the verses we just read we’re told that Moses’ face was radiant—it glowed fromhaving been in God’s Presence. Moses’ radiant face serves a symbol for us of our need of timein God’s Presence. Our radiance fades when we’re disconnected from Jesus—the source of lifeand hope. God was continuing to try and help his people understand the reality of his Presencewith them. Aaron and the Israelites were afraid to approach Moses because they glimpsedGod’s holiness in Moses. After Moses called the people to him they came and he spoke withthem. And then we read that he placed a veil over his face—apparently so that the Israelitescouldn’t see the radiance of God fading as time went on. When Moses would go back into thetent of meeting to meet with God he removed the veil. When he came out he allowed thepeople to see the glow and then he would use the veil to cover his face until he returned tomeet with the Lord.It seems odd to picture Moses walking around with a veil over his face and a mysteriousglow emanating from beneath the veil. The radiance of Moses’ face was another reminder ofGod’s Presence. Moses’ glowing face was a tangible symbol that Moses had been with God andthat he carried God’s authority. Throughout the Israelites’ journey through the desert they notonly frequently complained to and rebelled against God, they regularly questioned Moses—God’s representative. When the glow began to fade, people’s skepticism of Moses and hisleadership would increase and so Moses would cover his face with a veil.4

Moses’ radiant face and his use of the veil is kind of a strange and obscure, butthankfully, in his 2nd letter to the 1st Century Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul referencesMoses’ radiant face and the veil to help his readers understand the blessing we have of thePresence of God with us in the person of Jesus and his Holy Spirit who lives in followers ofChrist. It’s always helpful when the New Testament does interpretation work on the OldTestament for us. Paul’s commentary gives us a clearer picture of the significance of theradiance of Moses’ face. I encourage you to follow along as I read 2 Corinthians 3 verses 7-18:Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so thatthe Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, willnot the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, howmuch more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now incomparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greateris the glory of that which lasts!In these verses the Apostle Paul contrasts the Old Testament reality of the people of Israel withour reality after Jesus. And in the verses that follow, Paul explains the implications this has forus Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veilover his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their mindswere made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not beenremoved, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers theirhearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, andwhere the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’sglory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord,who is the Spirit.Paul’s argument is this: Jesus’ entry into our world and the gift of the Holy Spirit meansthat his Presence is always with us—in fact, his Presence lives inside of us. Through the Law,God showed us what sin was. But in Jesus, God gave us the remedy for sin. In Christ, we canexperience the freedom that comes with victory over sin. Jesus’ death and his blood shed for usmeans that you and I can be righteous before a holy God. Listen again as I read verses 17 & 18:“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, whowith unveiled faces all reflect he Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with everincreasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 & 18As followers of Jesus, you and I reflect God’s glory—our faces glow with radiance just asMoses’ did. Admittedly, our faces don’t literally glow like Moses’ face did. I’ve seen people in5

whom I detect God’s light, but I’ve never had to hide my face because someone glowed thatmuch. And I haven’t experienced people being afraid and hiding from me after I’ve spent timewith God. But as followers of Jesus, you and I are being transformed by God’s glory through theSpirit of Jesus living in and working through us.We conclude this week’s message at essentially the same place we ended lastweek Our desperate need of God’s Presence. You and I need God’s Presence more than weneed his blessings. It’s great when we experience God’s provisions and blessings in our lives—Iwouldn’t want to live without them—but my deepest need and your deepest need is for God’sPresence with us and in us. It is his Presence that truly meets every need, every longing that wehave. And when life is hard and we experience spiritual, emotional, physical and relationalheartache, it’s great to pray and see God meet those needs, but we understand that what weultimately need most is God’s Presence.And God’s Presence isn’t just meant to bless us and meet our needs. God’s heart ofcompassion from early on in Genesis through the Bible to its ending in Revelation is that hisPresence in the lives of his people will result in blessing for others—that other people mightknow Him and experience his provision in their lives. As Paul points out in 2 Corinthians chapter5, “We are Christ’s ambassadors God is making his appeal to others through us.”As we close out our series on Exodus today I invite you to recommit yourself to theunderstanding that God is your provider. His greatest provision is the gift of his Presence whichHe made available to each of us through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. And,Jesus’ Presence living in us and working through us is the means He chooses to draw those whodon’t know Him into a relationship with Him.6

Exodus 34:29-35 I didn’t realize how appropriate the title, “God Provides,” was until I began studying Exodus in preparation for sermons each week this summer. Back in April 4-5 members of our staff team met over lunch to do some

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