Summary: When Moses spent time with God, his face radiated God's glory. When we spend time with God, we too will radiate God's glory. People will notice. And the glory we radiate--unlike Moses'--will never fade.
Letting Jesus Shine Through
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At one of my previous churches, I got to the church office early one morning, to find our campus pastor there. I had some pressing business to talk to him, so I knocked on his door. When he replied, I started to open the door. And then he said, “Can this wait just a few minutes? You really don’t want to see me before I’ve had my quiet time with the Lord!” I said sure, and backed out the door.
It was a funny moment, but a true one as well. When we spend time with the Lord, we are different people. We are changed. And that’s what is going on here with Moses. Consider on your outline these truths from today’s story:
When you’ve spent time with the Lord...
1. You may be less aware than others of how you’ve changed.
Look at Moses’ story, in verse 29: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.”
This was Moses’ second extended 40-day time alone with the Lord on top of the mountain. This might be where we get that phrase, “mountain top experience.” If you’ve ever been to an ACTS retreat or some special revival or Bible study where you’ve experienced this close-knit relationship with the Lord, you know it’s changed you in some way. And yet, like in Moses’ story, other people may spot the changes in you quicker than you do.
For Moses, three times in today’s text it says his face shone. A little Medieval art trivia here: In the late 4th century the church father Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, which became the Catholic church’s official Bible of the time, called the “Vulgate.” The Hebrew verb for “radiate” is very close to the word for “horn.” Jerome might have thought of “horns of light” or “rays of light” emanating from Moses. Anyway, it was a translation error that later led to Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses depicting two horns coming out of his head! (For real; look it up!)
Radiating Moses didn’t realize how much he had changed from being in the Lord’s presence. He didn’t know anything was different about him until the people around him told him. It reminds me of Peter and the disciples in Acts. On my commute in this week, I was listening to how the Jewish authorities had arrested them for taking about Jesus. They were afraid of their popularity among the Jewish people, and so were unsure what to do with them. And as they discussed it, they marveled at fishermen who spoke with such deep theological conviction. Acts 4:13 summarizes it: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that THESE MEN HAD BEEN WITH JESUS.”
Who is taking note that you have been with Jesus? An outsider may pick up on our spiritual growth before you do. And then, please note, ...
2. Your growth may scare others.
So it was with Peter and the disciples, and so it was with Moses. Verse 30 tells us, “When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.” Your spiritual growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum; when you change, it changes the dynamic with others close to you. And sometimes your spiritual growth may threaten others. Here the people were scared of Moses.
Now the context is important. This is the second time Moses has come down off an extended Mount Sanai appointment with God, carrying two big stones with ten commandments chiseled into them. Remember what happened between the first and second time? When he came down the first time, he found Aaron and the people worshiping a golden calf. In one of the funniest and saddest copouts in the Bible, when Moses calls Aaron on his poor leadership, Aaron snaps, “What was I supposed to do? I took all the people’s gold, threw it into the fire, and out popped this golden calf!” (Exodus 32:24) Not my fault. Classic denial!
But anyway, Moses was so angry that he threw down the first set of tablets and they broke. Thousands died that day for their unbelief in God. Moses had come down holy and the people themselves had drifted farther away from God.
So now Moses is back with a fresh set of tablets from God. Moses is different. He’s glowing with God’s radiance. And the people are scared. What if more are punished? They see Moses’ glow and feel even more convicted of their own sin. They are scared, and you could say, rightfully so.