Updated: Jan 30
In the Exodus reading today, you have to think of it as a serial movie or television show: “Previously on Exodus, Moses comes down from Mount Horeb and finds the children of Israel worshiping a golden calf. Angrily, he broke the two tablets given to him by the LORD. The LORD sends a plague upon the sinful Israelites.”
In episode 33, the LORD instructed Moses, saying “Go on. Take these people and give them the land of milk and honey I promised; but I will not go with them or I will get angry and kill them all, because they are a stiff-necked bunch.”
Moses then told the Israelites to strip off all their ornaments and be sad, which they did. He then went into the “tent of meeting” to talk to God.
Thus, we catch up today in that private conversation, where Moses is telling God, “You can’t leave us now. Why would the people follow me? They can’t see me as being anything special. You are the one who is special. Without you to control them, these stiff-necked people will run amok.”
We find out today that the LORD has come up with a plan. He tells Moses to go up the mountain again and stand in the “cleft on the rock” and wait for Him to pass by. Moses will be allowed to see the back of the LORD, but not His face.
Now, this last part is interesting in the sense that in chapter 33, verse 11, while Moses is in the tent of meeting chatting with God, we read, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” From that one would assume that Moses had already seen the face of God; but this new information could mean only seeing God’s back is a form of punishment …
Or, Moses really had not met the LORD face to face in a material, physical sense.
Remember, God told Moses, “For no one shall see me and live.”
Now, that too can seem like God kills people who try to look upon his face, but the reality is: Look as close as you want, but you will never see the true face of God while you are alive, in a fleshy body, on the earthly plane. You only get to face the LORD when your soul leaves that body, after death. Thus, no one shall see the LORD and still be alive in body.
This makes seeing the back of God important to understand. In one way, it is referring to hindsight, where we see all kinds of miracles unfold before our eyes, throughout our lives, but we cannot see God at work at that time when God making things happen. The Lord’s hand covers us while he is passing in front, and it is only afterwards that we know it was God at work.
Still, the point of today’s conversation was not about convincing the Israelites to follow Moses, and to always see the LORD as being with them in hindsight. Instead, the point is to show the Israelites proof that God was with Moses, while they followed him, knowing that God was with him. When they saw Moses, they saw God, but they could not see Moses’ face.
In another episode from the show Exodus, we find that Moses came down the mountain with replacement tablets, with his face aglow from the presence of the LORD upon him. Moses begins to wear a veil because the glow is so strongly emitted from him. From the glow, the people had proof that God was with them, as long as Moses is with them and aglow.
Now you can see this show Exodus like you see a television show, such as Bonanza, or M*A*S*H, or Leave it to Beaver. Those shows were all filmed long ago, with stars like Loren Greene, Harry Morgan and Hugh Beaumont since departed; but we still see them alive in reruns. Today’s reading is also a rerun. It is nothing new. We have all seen this one before.
BUT … if you look carefully at the play before your eyes, you can see some nuisances you missed before
Perhaps you see how this rerun is similar to the rerun of Elisha going to a mountain cleft, asking the LORD to take his life because things have gone so terribly wrong (worse than worshiping a golden calf). In response to that drama, the LORD told Elisha to stand outside the cave and wait for Him to pass by.
That is a similar theme, right? It is a rerun of a rerun. It is a repeating of something done before.
How about the show Matthew, where Jesus goes up a high mountain along with Peter and the brothers of Zebedee, to have the spirits of Moses and Elijah appear talking with Jesus? They were all aglow … Transfigured. Then, the LORD spoke to Peter, who was thinking of things he would like to do, saying, “Shut up and listen!”
That is the same kind of theme being repeated again. The Bible Network does that a lot. Still, we are entertained.
Now, it may be difficult to see how Jesus, when he confronted the Pharisees about taxation, is repeating this theme. There is a nuisance, which is glimpsed by knowing the character, Jesus.
Of course, from our perspective, 2,000 years after this confrontation, and as regular viewers of the Bible Network, we know Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit. Because we know that, we aren’t surprised when he turns the tables on the Pharisees’ and Herodians’ plan to trick Jesus into saying something they can use against him.
We feel like we are as smart as Jesus. We think we would have said the same thing. We laugh, and applaud Jesus making them walk away speechless; but we miss how the Pharisees and Herodians could not see what we see.
Likewise, we miss how the people of the Northern Kingdom would kill all the prophets of God (except Elisha), and then look to kill him. We miss how the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai would give up on Moses and God, to worship idols of gold. We miss how Peter would even dare to stand up and make a suggestion to holy ghosts.
The rerun … the repeating theme … is God was with Moses, Elisha, and Jesus. We know of this presence from having watched these Bible shows over and over, from the pew that substitutes as our living room sofa; but none of the supporting characters, none of the guest stars, ever see the face of the LORD on each hero’s face.
We miss how easy it is for us to play the role of Israelite, Peter, and/or Pharisee … all thinking they could tell the presence of the LORD, only to find out you only see the back of the LORD, after the fact. We are looking at the LORD now, but we cannot see Him.
The reason Jesus could not be seen as holy – with God inside him, upon him, as him – is he too wore a veil. Moses wore a veil to hide the glow. That veil hid the face of God so well that the Israelites kept forgetting God was with them, in Moses, repeatedly over the next 40 years.
We don’t read that about Elisha, although we know he was given the mantle of Elijah and was a true prophet of Israel, one who could talk to God, “face to face, as one would speak to a friend.” But, it was obvious Ahab and Jezebel could not see God in Elisha.
Peter, John and James saw Jesus as a prophet, based on what he did, more than how he looked, so Jesus didn’t appear to be the face of God to the Pharisees or the Herodians.
This is the veil all Apostles wear. You cannot go around wearing the face of the LORD for everyone to see, lest they all drop dead.
Think of how you would react if you were in the Walmart and standing next to you was Brad Pitt, or George Clooney, or some other big name idol you love to watch in movies and shows, where they pretend to be some character from a play, or book, or idea. You would probably think that person was a god and drop to your knees (figuratively) in worship and adoration. You would dance and praise their performances, putting on all sorts of ornaments of praise for their works you enjoyed so much.
If you ever act in that way, you just angered the LORD, just as had the Israelites and Peter. “Shut up! Jesus is my Son in whom I am well pleased! Listen to him!”
But do not worship him. Jesus is a man wearing a veil so you cannot see the magnificence of Jesus is actually the LORD.
In the letter of encouragement sent by Paul to the Thessalonians, he alluded to this veil all Apostles must wear, but you have to use the pause button, rewind and replay, to hear that.
We get the part where they are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, when Paul wrote, “He has chosen you, because (Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy took you the) message of the gospel (which dawned upon) you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
Paul recognized that they were no longer the people who other people saw them to be, but they were God as those normal-looking people. Paul said they “became imitators of us and the LORD.” They were not pretending to be Paul, Silvanus, or Timothy, but the Christian Apostles of Thessalonica were duplicating that model.
As others also filled with the Holy Spirit, walking about the populace looking as normal people, they would become proof for others to know that God was with them. The Apostles of Thessalonica would be “examples to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” That duplicated how the Israelites knew God was with them, in Moses, even though Moses wore a veil. It is how the disciples and others knew God was with Jesus, even though he looked like a normal Galilean to the big wigs in Jerusalem.
Paul wrote, “Every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.”
Did you catch that?
“We have no need to speak about it” is reference to the veil.
Paul then wrote how they had heard word from people they had seen, who told them, “How you turned from idols, to serve a living and true God.”
That says the Apostles of Thessalonica stopped looking for God to come up to them, in another human being or as the spirit of God … something external to them. Instead, God became a living and true God as them. People could not see them as God, but as living examples of how God would be if God were human.
It isn’t something that comes instantly, as Paul wrote, “To wait for God’s Son from heaven, whom God raised from the dead.” That means Jesus is raised within the Apostles, as God within them. It takes time to prove to God you are a worthy resting place for His Spirit. Once you prove your metal, then you can become Jesus.
But, you have to cover that face when in public. Then, you let your actions speak louder than words.
#theveilofMoses #NineteenthSundayafterPentecost2014 #MosesfacetofacewithGodinthetentofmeeting #Exodus331223 #Psalm99 #thebackofGodpassingby #TheTransfiguration #Psalm96113 #1Thessalonians1110 #Matthew221522 #HerodiansplantotrickJesus #Isaiah4517 #TwentiethSundayafterPentecost2020 #examplestoallbelievers #Proper24