Summary: When we turn to the Lord, the veil will be lifted.
Women in Afghanistan have to wear a veil whenever they leave their homes. This veil is called a burqa, and it’s a fairly heavy garment that goes from the top of their heads all the way to the ground. They have a patch of net or some gauzy material that covers their eyes so they can see out, but the rest of their bodies is entirely hidden from view. These veils are hot and heavy and restrictive. The women who have to wear them feel like they’re smothering.
In many parts of the world, and in America depending on what state you’re in, when a convicted criminal is executed, a veil or hood is put over the face. This is so they can’t see what’s about to happen, and also so the people watching the execution won’t be upset by any facial contortions that might happen at the time of death.
It used to be traditional for a bride to wear a veil over her face as she walked down the aisle to meet her intended. When she reached the front of the church, the veil was lifted, and she and the groom could look into each other’s faces.
Veils are used for different things and for different reasons. In the case of the bride, the veil is looked on as a beautiful, meaningful part of a wedding service. In the case of the condemned criminal, it’s to keep people from looking into the face of death. In the case of the women of Afghanistan, it’s to control and oppress.
All these different veils are basically used for the same purpose - to separate. Veils come in different sizes and are made from different materials, but they still separate. They separate people from other people; people from things; people from places.
There was a veil in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. It’s sometimes called a curtain, so we know it had to be rather large. It separated the people from an area within the temple called the Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies was basically a room within a room within a room. This is where the ark of the covenant was kept, and since God was generally believed to dwell in the ark, the Holy of Holies was where God lived.
Since no one could look upon God and live, no one was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies except the high priest, and he only once a year on the day of atonement, when he went in to ask forgiveness for all the sins the people had committed during the past year.
In today’s Scripture, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth about the new covenant in Christ. In this letter, he makes reference to Moses and his veil.
In Exodus 34, verses 29 through 35, we read the story of Moses and his radiant face. "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.
When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out.
And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord."
So Moses had gone up on the mountain, God had given him the Ten Commandments and had spoken directly to him. And this made Moses’ face glow.
After he spent time with God, Moses’ face was radiant and the people could clearly see God’s presence in him. They were afraid, so Moses covered his face with a veil to keep the people from being scared of him.
But Paul takes a little poetic license here, and he says that the reason Moses put a veil over his face was so the people wouldn’t be able to see that the radiance was fading away. It doesn’t say that in the account we read in Exodus.
I guess Paul is doing this to make a point. He’s using the veil to illustrate the fading of the old system and the veiling of the people’s minds and understanding by their pride, hardness of heart, and refusal to repent.