Summary: Reflect on the Two Phases of God’s Glory - In Moses’ face a fading glory; in Jesus’ face a surpassing glory.
The glory of Edmonton. What is it? The Oilers? The Eskimos? The Legislative Building? Whyte Ave.? How about West Edmonton Mall? Before Sarah and I moved to this area the one thing we heard the most about was West Ed. After all, it’s supposedly the largest mall in the world! If West Ed is the glory of Edmonton which phase of the mall do you think is most glorious? The phase with the skating rink? The one with the aquarium? How about the phase with the new movie theatres, or the one with the water park? I imagine that as the mall was being built each new phase was designed to outshine the one before it.
If the glory of Edmonton is West Ed, what do you think the glory of God is? Through our Old Testament and Gospel lessons we’ll discover that the glory of God is often portrayed with a dazzling display of light. We’ll also learn that, like West Ed, God’s dazzling glory has distinct phases. Today we’ll reflect on two phases of God’s glory by gazing at Moses’ face on Mt. Sinai, and at Jesus’ face on the Mt. of Transfiguration.
When someone is in a good mood their face glows doesn’t it? Not literally of course, but their smile and the sparkle in their eyes reflect a sunny disposition towards life. Similarly when someone is angry their face will burn – again not literally but as the blood rushes to their head their face will get red. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai clutching the Ten Commandments his face was radiant - literally. The Hebrew text tells us that his skin was shooting out rays of light. That sounds like a sight you might want to see but Aaron and the rest of the Israelites didn’t think so. They ran when they saw Moses!
In order to understand their reaction it’s necessary to review what had all happened at Mt. Sinai. You see this wasn’t the first time that Moses had descended the mountain clutching a set of commandments. The last time he came down from the mountain he ended up smashing a similar set of stone tablets because the Israelites had smashed God’s commands by making and worshipping a golden calf. Moses proceeded to grind up the golden calf, mix it with water, and make the people drink their idol. While that was happening the Levites went through the camp putting to death those who had worshipped the calf, killing 3,000 in all. Now you can understand why the Israelites were leery of Moses, especially now that his face was shining! What did it mean? No one knew and no one wanted to stick around to find out!
The fact that Moses’ face was radiant had nothing to do with his emotions. It had nothing to do with Moses at all. Moses’ face was shining because he had been talking with God, not in prayer as you and I do, but face to face. Because Moses stood face to face with God his face began to reflect the dazzling glory that was God’s. The Israelites had seen that glory in the pillar of fire that led them by night, and the fire and smoke that had descended on Mt. Sinai when God spoke. By allowing Moses’ face to reflect his glory God wanted the people to respect Moses and to pay close attention to the words that he would share with them.
Whenever Moses was done sharing God’s word, however, he covered his face with a veil. When you read the Old Testament account you get the impression that Moses did this so that the people wouldn’t be frightened to look at him. But that can’t be the case because when Moses shared God’s word with the people he spoke without the veil. The Apostle Paul tells us that Moses wore a veil because he wanted to cover the fact that the glory he reflected was a fading glory (2 Cor. 3). You see Moses’ face was like one of those glow in the dark toys. As soon as he left God’s presence the brightness in his face gradually faded away until the next time he stood before God. Moses didn’t want the people to see that fading glory because he wanted them to continue to take his words seriously.
Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul also tells us that Moses’ fading glory symbolized the fading glory of the words that he shared with the Israelites. The words that Moses spoke to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai make up the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was a two-way agreement between God and the Children of Israel. It basically stated that if the Israelites would keep God’s commands things would go well for them in the Promised Land. This covenant was a fading covenant, however, because it was not God’s final word. It did not show the Israelites how to be saved but how they couldn’t keep God’s requirements and how they needed a Saviour from their sins.