Reflecting God’s Glory

At the end of Exodus 33, Moses asked to see God’s glory. God’s reply was something like: “I can’t do that Moses. It would kill you. I’ll tell you what. There’s a rock nearby with a cleft in it. You stand in there, and I’ll cover you with my hand as I pass by. Then I’ll move my hand and you can see my back.” (paraphrase mine).

Chapter 34 opens like this:

The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”

God had chiseled the stone tablets the first time, but now, God told Moses to do it. I have to wonder if that was to give Moses time to think about his temper that sent the first tablets crashing down the mountain.

So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.  Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. (Ex 34:4-11)

I’m not sure if Moses was in the cleft of the rock when this occurred; it really doesn’t say, but God passed in front of Moses and proclaimed Himself. In response, Moses hit his knees and worshiped God. Once again he asks God to go with them. God says He will make a covenant, or agreement, with Moses, to do incredible things for the people, and drive out the people already living in the promised land. The condition was that they had to obey God’s commands. In verses 12-26 God gives some of those commands, most of which are familiar to us, such as not worshiping other gods, not making any idols, keeping the sabbath, etc.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. (Ex 34: 27-28)

For 40 days and 40 nights, Moses was in such deep communion with God that he went without food or water. This isn’t the only record in the Bible of someone going without food for 40 days.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Matt 4:1-2)

Today, the general consensus is that a human being can go 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Yet, both Moses and Jesus went way past those limits. Obviously, God sustained them during that time.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law 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. (Ex 34 29-35)

After all that he experienced on the mountain, Moses was literally glowing. The radiant Moses frightened Aaron and the others, and they didn’t want to come near him. Moses reassured them, and then gave them the Lord’s commands. Then he covered his face with a veil. From the way this reads, I would assume that from then on, Moses kept his face covered unless he was speaking with the Lord.

I have two thoughts about this: one is that Moses covered his face because the glowing unnerved the people and they didn’t want to see it. The other is that Moses feared they might start worshiping him instead of God. Actually, there is no evidence of the second one; unless it is simply the way that people tend to behave. I think that is also why God buried Moses Himself. If the people knew where he was buried, they may have created a shrine of the tomb and, in time, began to worship Moses instead of God.

As for the first thought; Paul, in his second letter to the church at Corinth, says this:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Cor 3:7-16)

The Israelites really didn’t want to see the glory. They really didn’t want to experience the presence of God. Yes, they were frightened that such an experience might kill them, but I wonder if they weren’t more afraid of the changes that kind of experience might produce in their own lives.

Moses was reflecting the glory of God, and he had to hide his face. How sad.

Paul continues with this:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18-19).

Christians are supposed to be reflecting the glory of God too, and we aren’t supposed to cover it. We are to let it shine as it changes us daily; transforming us until we look just like Jesus.

Jesus said,

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16)

Let-Your-Light-Shine

Let it shine!

Connie

The Glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1)

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Public Domain Photo by NASA

When I started working on this post, I had no idea how broad the subject truly is. Too broad for one blog post, that’s for sure. So, we’re going to stretch it out over a few posts. Even then, I doubt we’ll cover it all. The Bible is just kind of like that isn’t it? There is always more to learn.

In addition to the New International Version (NIV) that I normally use, I will also pull some quotes from the Amplified Version (AMP), to give us a broader picture.

According to Bible Gateway, “The AMP was the first Bible project of The Lockman Foundation. Its goal was to take both word meaning and context into account to accurately translate the original text from one language into another. The AMP does this through the use of explanatory alternate readings and amplifications to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says. Multiple English word equivalents to each key Hebrew and Greek word clarify and amplify meanings that may otherwise have been concealed by the traditional translation method. The first edition was published in 1965.”

It’s a great study tool.

I don’t know about you, but every time I hear the phrase “The glory of the Lord”, I think of the Christmas story as it is told in the second chapter of Luke.

Caesar Augustus decrees that a census be taken and in order to comply, Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem. While they are there, she goes into labor, and Jesus is born. Some shepherds nearby get a special birth announcement from heaven and as Luke 2:9 records,

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Let’s look at that in the AMP.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.

See what I mean?

Many times we are told someone saw “the glory of the Lord”, without being told exactly what was seen. In Exodus 16, we are told that

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. (Ex 16:10)

And again, the AMP.

So it happened that as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared in the cloud!

Notice the words shone, flashed, and brilliance? Those words usually describe some kind of light.

Three months after the children of Israel left Egypt, they arrived at the foot of Mt Sinai. God told Moses to instruct the people to prepare themselves for a meeting. These verses don’t specifically say the glory of the Lord, but I don’t know what else you would call it.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. (Exodus 19:16-20)

Can you imagine what it would have been like to stand at the foot of Mt Sinai and watch the Lord descend in what almost sounds like the precursor to a volcanic eruption? I can’t blame them for being scared. Moses went up the mountain and the God spoke to him. When he came back, the people had something to say to Moses.

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:18-21)

God allowed the people to see His glory in order to keep them from sinning. Sadly, the fear didn’t last long, but that is for another post. The next time God descends on the mountain, the scripture says,

and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (Ex 24:16-17)

This is the second time fire is mentioned. Let’s look at the AMP.

The glory and brilliance of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day God called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. In the sight of the Israelites the appearance of the glory and brilliance of the Lord was like consuming fire on the top of the mountain.

There is that word “brilliance” again. Both versions compare what the Israelites saw to a “consuming fire”.

The next few references to the glory of the Lord are kind of interesting because they say that the glory prevents people from entering the place where the glory of the Lord was. With both references, the NIV is first and the AMP follows

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40:34-35 NIV)

Then the cloud [the Shekinah, God’s visible, dwelling presence] covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud remained on it, and the glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex 40:34-35 AMP)

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. (2 Chron 7:1-2).

When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the [Shekinah] glory and brilliance of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter the house of the Lord because the glory and brilliance of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. (2 Chron 7:1-2 AMP).

Notice that word “Shekinah”? As such, it is never used in scripture, but is a Hebrew word that refers to a physical presence of God on earth as he might appear in an object like fire or cloud. The Amplified Bible includes it thirteen times as an additional explanation. You can find an expanded explanation here

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“Light Effects” PublicDomainPictures.net

What it boils down to is this: God’s actual physical presence is too much for us, so when He finds it necessary to pay someone a physical visit, I guess you could say He cloaks Himself. In the preceding two cases, however, His presence still kept the priests out.

Wow! We still have a lot to discuss, but I think that’s enough for one day. I hope and pray you learned something you didn’t already know, and that you are encouraged to study on your own.

I’ll leave you with what was my grandfather’s favorite benediction. He often closed his services with it.


To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 1:24-25)

Connie