Moses glows. Not like someone on his or her wedding day. Not like someone who just won America’s Got Talent. But like someone who has just been with the All-Powerful Master of the Universe. Moses’ physical appearance has taken on some of the holiness and glory of God, just for having been close to God.
Then Moses places a veil over his face.
Why the veil? There has been a lot of speculation about that. Perhaps Moses is simply trying to calm people’s nerves. (The text says people “were afraid to come near him.”) Or, as some have suggested, maybe the veil signals when Moses is offering his own perspective rather than quoting God.
I fear that if I were Moses, I would ditch the veil and enjoy the glow. I’m afraid I would want to show off my religious credentials.
Moses’ shining countenance gives us a visual representation of the change that happens within us when we are in close proximity to God. God’s holiness and righteousness rub off on us. We face the temptation to show off our glow when we do God’s work. The danger is that we morph God’s holiness within us into a holier-than-thou posture and God’s righteousness into self-righteousness.
Perhaps Moses wears a veil to remind himself that his authority is not his own. So what can we do as we seek to serve others out of God’s blessings? We can pray that we stay focused on displaying God’s glory. We can be honest about our frailties. We can serve through anonymous acts so that we break the hold on our human desire for recognition.
God, I confess that I seek recognition as I work for you. Help me to tame my ego as you transform me to act for your glory. Amen.
God’s glory is always revealed, even if never completely. When Moses encounters God on the mountain, his face undergoes a physical transformation as a reflection of God’s greater glory. The psalmist reminds us of how great God is and how even Moses and Aaron bow before God’s throne. Paul refers to the story of Moses, but because of Christ, God’s glory is now more openly revealed. There is no need to wear a covering as Moses did, for Christ reflects openly the divine radiance. Luke recounts the Transfiguration, when the face of Jesus, like that of Moses, begins to shine. God’s voice reinforces the revelation of the Transfiguration, declaring Jesus to be God’s Son and the revelation of God’s glory.
Read Exodus 34:29-35. Consider the ways you provide evidence of your faith. Do you display it for your glory or for God’s?
Read Psalm 99. How do you seek a healthy balance of awe and intimacy in your relationship with God?
Read 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2. What “veil” separates you from God—a sense of unworthiness, a hardened heart, a lack of understanding?
Read Luke 9:28-43a. Jesus shines with God’s glory, but then he gets back to his work of healing. Consider how God might transform you to do better the work you are already doing for God.
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