Exo. 34:29-35 “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”
Why was it that the people were afraid of Moses? Moses had been speaking with God on the mount. He had received from God’s finger the commandments and, as a result of that meeting, his face brilliantly reflected God’s glory. All good things, even though Moses was unaware his face shone. If all these are good things, why did they fear him so much that they prevailed on him to place a veil over his face?
The answer is quite simple. As Jesus said in John 3:20, “…everyone who does wicked things hates the light”. Darkness cannot overcome light. Wherever light penetrates the darkness is defeated, put to shame. Its weakness is exposed along with the shameful deeds done therein. The people were afraid of the light because they were darkness. God’s glory outmatched their wickedness to the point that whenever Moses returned from the mount, they required that he put the veil over his face.
This interesting passage is expounded upon by the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 3 and 4. He also serves us up the antitype of the curious passage in Exodus. I find these chapters to be illuminating when I ponder the typical reception Jesus receives even today from those who are in the world.
In chapter 3, Paul admits that the Old Law had its own, certain glory although, as the ministry of death, it is outdone by the life-giving blaze of the new. Still, Paul says that the two have some things in common that teach us a bit about the difficulties worldly people have in seeing God’s glory as revealed in the face of His chosen mediator, Jesus Christ.
2 Cor. 3:27 lets us know that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom from what? The veil that covers the reading of the Old Law obscured the Jews’ understanding because the veil is lifted in Christ. To me, this is saying that the deeper meaning of the Mosaical Law is only properly understood as it relates to Christ, the Light and Life. People do not understand because they will not allow the veil to be lifted so that they might. Also, I do not think it a stretch to submit that that veil is in place for all people in the world who do not have Christ as their savior. This, Paul states in 4:3, is exactly the case. The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing.
The knowledge of the glory of God is today revealed in the face of Jesus, as it once was in the face of Moses, but in a vastly superior way. As Moses came down from the mount with the law and a countenance reflecting God’s glory, so did Jesus—He just happened to be coming down from a much loftier, heavenly peak with a perfected law and, since He is the express image of God’s person, His glory and God’s are one. The people of today who reject His gospel do not want His light and do not care to perceive. “Their minds [are] blinded”, as 2 Cor. 3:14 says.
But all is not lost. As 4:6 reminds us, God calls the light to shine out of the darkness. He calls all if us to repentance, through knowledge of Him via His Son, and will lift the veil from anyone’s heart who seeks Him vehemently.