Exodus 34: Unveiled
February 13, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Two new tablets of stone are to be made, and on them God will write his commandments once again as before (34:1-4). It is a repeat, though this time God, in answer to Moses’ prayer, shows Moses his glory. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (34:5-7).
In other words, God is both loving and holy, and both “sides” of his character, his holiness and his compassion, are true representations of who God is. How can these two aspects of God’s “personality” be reconciled? How can God both be holy and demand punishment for sin according to what is right and fair, and yet at the same time be a God of mercy who forgives sinners? It is a conundrum, a mystery, one that is only finally solved at the cross—where love and justice, truth and mercy mingle. Though our sins condemn us, Jesus died instead, and there is full forgiveness in the blood he shed.
God promises to do marvels among his people, to give them the land he has promised, to drive out the sinning people from the land, and to give God’s people great victories (34:10-11, 24). But this promise comes with a warning (34:12-17), a warning that is ever needed to be heard by God’s people in every age. They are not to adopt the ways of the people that they drive out; they are not become like “the world” even though they are to live “in the world.” We are to be those who reach out to the people around us with the gospel of Christ, and if we are faithful to his Word, he will grant us great victories, but we must not become like the people we are trying to reach. We must fish, not become fish; we must be close enough to the pond that our fishing is within reach of the fish, but not dive into the water and try to become fish ourselves! In the world, but not of the world. How ironic it is that God’s people are tempted to become like the people that God gives them victory over. Yet ‘twas ever thus.
The commandments are once more given to Moses (34:17-27), and Moses descends after his extraordinary fast (one that Christ fulfilled), and Moses’ face “shone” because he had been talking with God (34:28-29). So bright, so awesome, was Moses’ physical appearance after his encounter with God that he actually wore a “veil” so that God’s people would not be too afraid to come near him (34:30-35). Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians 3 that in the new covenant this “veil” is removed, we have access to God through faith in Jesus, and we ourselves behold the glory of God in the face of Christ:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.… And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:12-13, 18).
What glory is this! That we this day can behold Christ by faith, and in such vision of him we are “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”! Fix your eyes on Jesus, and your life will be transformed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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