Summary: What is amazing, as Moses came down from the mountain, is that he was unaware that his face was, literally, sending out horns of light (Exodus 24:29).
A REFLECTED GLORY
In discussing the nature of the resurrection body, the Apostle Paul comments, ‘There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon’ (1 Corinthians 15:41). In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read that Christ Jesus is ‘worthy of more glory than Moses’ (Hebrews 3:3). In our text, Moses only had a reflected glory (Exodus 34:29).
This passage (Exodus 34:29-35) is the conclusion of the Sinai covenant, which began at Exodus 19:1. Moses had been up into the mountain to receive the terms of the covenant, only to come back down again and find that the people had already broken it (Exodus 32:7-8). Ignorance is no excuse in any court of law: and if we do not obey what we do know, we shall never advance beyond the wilderness in which we are trapped by our sin.
Symbolic of the broken covenant, Moses shattered the tablets of stone on which were written the words of the LORD (Exodus 32:19). Yet he also interceded on behalf of the people, arguing that if the LORD destroyed His own people, then the Egyptians would have occasion to dishonor His great name (Exodus 32:11-12). We are thankful that the LORD does not pour out upon us the full measure of His anger; and that in our Lord Jesus Christ we have a sacrifice, and a mediator greater than Moses.
It is said that the LORD spoke to Moses ‘face to face’ (Exodus 33:11). Perhaps we should read this as a metaphor, since the LORD later says, ‘no man shall see my face and live’ (Exodus 33:20). Yet we do understand that the LORD did allow Moses to see something of His glory (Exodus 33:21-23).
Which all brings us to our present chapter, in which the LORD reveals Himself as He really is, with a recitation of some of His attributes (Exodus 34:6-7). If you want to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18), then go to the Scriptures ‘for therein shall you find eternal life, and these are they that testify of Jesus’ (John 5:39). The LORD graciously renewed His covenant, forbidding Canaanite worship (Exodus 34:14), and re-establishing the ten commandments (Exodus 34:28).
London’s great Baptist preacher of the Victorian era, Mr. C. H. Spurgeon, once commented that he could well have believed that a certain person of his acquaintance was truly holy. That is, until that person told him that it was so! What is amazing, as Moses came down from the mountain, is that he was unaware that his face was, literally, “sending out horns of light” (Exodus 34:29).
There was no doubt an echo here of the dazzling brightness of the earlier Sinai encounter, consequently causing alarm to Aaron and to all Israel with him (Exodus 34:30). How unready we are to encounter even reflected holiness when we are stricken with our own sense of guilt! So Moses calmed them, and “told them in commandment all that the LORD had told him in the mount” (Exodus 34:31-32).
The Apostle Paul goes some way to explaining the significance of the veil over Moses’ face (Exodus 34:33-35). It was because of the blindness of their eyes, and the hardness of their heart (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). Hearing the word of God with unchanged heart does no good to the hearer: in fact, it can be downright dangerous, as it calls for a responsible response.
The Gospel of John teaches us that Jesus’ glory is native to Himself: ‘We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14). When Christ returns we also will reflect this glory (1 John 3:2). It is a glory which is nurtured in the meantime when we spend time with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).