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The Veil on Moses’ Face Removed
“And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” (Exodus 34:29-35)
In this portion of Holy Scripture, God the Holy Spirit has recorded for our learning and consolation the shining and veiling of Moses’ face. The things we read here are recorded in the Book of God “for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
“And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.” (Exodus 34:29)
The tables of the law Moses carried in his hands were written by the finger of God upon tables of stone. These tables of the law, the Ten Commandments, were laid up in the ark of the covenant under the mercy seat. The picture here given is highly symbolical.
These tables of stone, upon which the Lord God wrote out the law a second time, represented the fact that the law man had broken only God himself could repair. The law could and would be fulfilled only by one who is himself God. The law would be fulfilled when Christ our Passover died for our sins and with his own blood entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. As God wrote the law upon these tables of stone, so the Spirit of the living God alone can and does write his law upon the fleshy tables of our hearts in the new birth (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Moses’ Shining Face
But what is the meaning of the shining of Moses’ face? It has been suggested by some that Moses’ face shined brilliantly because he had been in intimate communion with the triune God. Others have thought that Moses’ shining face was prophetic of his appearance with the Lord Jesus upon the Mount of Transfiguration and prophetic of the glory of God’s saints in the resurrection.
While those things may be so, I am certain that there is more to the picture before us. The shining of Moses’ face is directly connected with the revelation God gave him in the mount of his glory in the accomplishment of salvation by Christ in the death he accomplished as our Substitute at Calvary, in whose face the glory of God shines forth to chosen, redeemed sinners (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). The shining of Moses’ face indicated the enlightenment of his own heart and of ours in the new birth, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ shining in our hearts.
“And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.” (Exodus 34:30-31)
Enlightened souls always frighten those who are yet in darkness. As it is written, “The world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1). Having veiled his face because of their fear, Moses spoke to Aaron and the children of Israel about the things the Lord God showed him in Mount Sinai, those things typified and foreshadowed by the law, the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the holy days, and the priesthood — Jesus Christ and him crucified.
“And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” (Exodus 34:32-35)
Without question, the veiling of Moses’ face is very highly significant and instructive. Anything under a veil is hard to see. It indicated the obscurity of the law. The law reveals the righteousness and holiness of God but gives no hint of how it can be obtained, except by the pictures, types, and ceremonies of it. The law speaks of judgment and death but gives no hint of mercy and life. The law exposes sin but allows no forgiveness. The law demands obedience but gives no ability. The law terrifies but cannot comfort. The law threatens death to anyone who puts his hand to it but offers no grace to the needy soul.
“The law demands a weighty debt,
And not a cent will it forget;
The gospel points to Jesus’ blood,
And says He made the payment good.
The law provokes men oft to ill,
And hardened hearts makes harder still.
The gospel acts a kinder part,
And melts the rebel’s stony heart.
‘Run, Don, run, work,’ the law demands;
Yet gives me neither feet nor hands;
But sweeter news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
With these, by grace, my soul may fly,
And soar aloft, and reach the sky;
Nor faint nor falter in the race,
But look to Christ and sing of grace!”
Still, the shining of Moses’ face and the veil upon his shining face are even more significant. Many believe that Moses’ face continued to shine as long as he lived upon the earth. Whether that was the case or not, I cannot say. But it is certain that once the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ begins to shine in the heart of the heaven born soul, it never ceases but only shines more brightly.
The Veil Removed
Read verse 34 again. — “When Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out.” When Moses went in before the Lord, he took the veil off his face. Why? I would think that he would wear the veil before the Lord, if he wore it anywhere. Why, then, are we told that — “When Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out”? You will find the answer in 2nd Corinthians 3. The best commentary on Exodus 34 is the commentary given by God the Holy Ghost himself in 2nd Corinthians 3. When Moses went in before the Lord, he took the veil off his face, because he was then standing before him by whom alone all the law must and would be fulfilled.
“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-17)
Here the Spirit of God draws a comparison between the two covenants. The first was given at Mount Sinai, the law, the covenant of works, the other from Mount Zion, the gospel, the covenant of grace. The law he calls the “ministration of death,” and of “condemnation.” The gospel is called “the ministration of life.” The law is fleshy and carnal. The gospel is spirit and righteousness. The law brings bondage. The gospel brings liberty. The law was glorious in the ministration of death and condemnation. The ministration of the gospel is much more glorious in the gift of life. The glory of the law was transient. The glory of the gospel is permanent. — “Much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory!” In fact, by comparison, when compared to the gospel, the law has no glory at all, “by reason of the glory that excelleth.”
Three times the Spirit of God tells us in this 3rd chapter of 2nd Corinthians alone, that the glory of the law, the law itself, was “done away” (vv. 7, 11, 14) by the coming, the accomplishments, and the revelation of Christ. In verse 13, the very same word translated “done away” in verses 7, 11, and 14 is translated “abolished.”
That is strong language. Obviously, the Spirit of God here uses the unveiling of Moses’ face as a picture of the fact that the age, dispensation, economy, and service of the law is over in this Gospel Age! The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ. But since Christ has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:15-29; 5:1-4).
The reason the law was given was to point us to Christ, who alone obeyed its requirements and satisfied its justice as the sinner’s Substitute. It serves no other purpose. I defy anyone to find a solitary text of Scripture in the New Testament that uses the law to motivate, inspire, regulate, or even guide the believer. Believers are motivated by love, inspired by gratitude, regulated by grace, and guided by the Holy Spirit. The whole Word of God, the complete revelation of his will, is our law.
We are not ruled by the law but by grace. We are not motivated by the law, but “the love of Christ constraineth us.” We fear no condemnation by the law. We have no covenant with the law. We keep no ceremonies of the law. We have no curse from the law. We owe no debt to the law (Romans 8:33-34). When Satan raises Moses up to condemn us, the Lord Jesus stands by his redeemed and silences the devil’s accusations in our hearts, assuring the believing sinner of his righteousness in, by, and with him (Jude 9; Zechariah 3:1-5; 1 John 2:1-2).
Compassed with trouble, in distress,
What fears possess my mind!
Savior, I long to see Your face,
For grace and peace divine!
With broken heart, and waiting long,
Beneath this crushing load,
I own my sin, confess my wrong,
And stretch my hands to God.
My wretched heart, my God, I mourn;
And for my sin I weep!
With every lust obscene I burn,
And sink into the deep!
As Satan raises Moses up
And roars against my soul,
Lord Jesus, my poor cause take up
And make Your servant whole!
Arise, O Lord! Shine forth in grace!
Your precious blood apply!
Embrace my soul, dear Prince of Peace,
Blest Rock higher than I!
Speak, Savior, let me hear Your voice,
Show me, again, Your face!
Oh! Hear my inmost groans and cries. —
Revive my soul with grace!
We are not under the law, but under grace! — “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The Scriptures declare this with unmistakable clarity (Romans 6:14-15; 7:4; 8:1-4; 10:4). Truly, as Robert Hawker wrote, “It is very blessed to read Moses in Christ; and to see that Christ ‘is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.’”
The veil that is spread upon God’s Israel, the veil that is spread over God’s elect scattered among all nations, is taken away when Christ is revealed in the hearts of chosen sinners by the mighty, saving operations of God the Holy Spirit. Until they are each taught of God by the revelation of Christ in their hearts, “even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil” of spiritual ignorance, blindness, and death, the veil of self-righteousness, idolatry, and religious superstition “is upon their heart Nevertheless when it,” God’s Israel, the elect, redeemed sinner, being born of God, taught of God, and granted repentance toward God, “shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” (2 Corinthians 3:15-16). The veil is taken away by the revelation of the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, our all-glorious Savior (2 Corinthians 4:1-7; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Isaiah 12:1-6; 29:15).
Yes, there is a veil upon the hearts of all by nature, a veil that only God the Holy Ghost can take away. In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 we are reminded of the fact that as long as we are in this body of flesh, you and I can see but little of the glory of our dear God and Savior, the Lord Jesus. But, blessed be his name forever, when we drop this veil of flesh, we shall see all things clearly!
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Soon that will change! — “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15). Soon, we shall behold him face to face – forever!
Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face — What will it be? —
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ Who died for me?”