EXODUS: GOD PROVIDES Moses Radiant Face Exodus 34:29-35

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1 EXODUS: GOD PROVIDES Moses Radiant Face Exodus 34:29-35 I didn t realize how appropriate the title, God Provides, was until I began studying Exodus in preparation for sermons each week this summer. Back in April 4-5 members of our staff team met over lunch to do some planning for this series. I brought some initial ideas of themes for each week and I had called the week we were looking at Exodus chapter 16 where God sent manna and quail for the Israelites, God Provides. As we started to wrestle with a title for the series, our Kids Pastor Dave Truitt suggested we use, God Provides for our title. It seemed a good idea to us and so we went with it. Tru, THANKS for your suggestion of a great title for our series! God provides is the story-line that runs through the Book of Exodus. God provided the Israelites with a deliverer named Moses. God provided 10 Plagues which compelled Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. God provided a dry path through the Red Sea, when Pharaoh led his army in pursuit of God s people. God provided manna, quail and water for his people in the desert. God provided his people with the 10 Commandments, the Law and the Covenant. And God provided mercy, love and forgiveness when his people repeatedly messed up and strayed away from Him. Throughout Exodus God definitely lived up to his name, Jehovah Jireh which means, God is my provider. Last week as we looked at Exodus chapter 33, we focused on the truth that God s greatest provision for us is his Presence. His blessings are wonderful, but our desperate need is for Him, not for stuff from Him. God s blessings and provisions are great, but they can numb us to our awareness of the need of his Presence. Jesus spoke to our need of God s Presence and our tendency to try and make it ourselves in John s Gospel chapter 15 when He said, I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. Today we re going to look at the last 7 verses of Exodus chapter 34. These verses build on the theme of God s Presence, but before I read these verses I want to make some 1

2 connections for us between the significant events that occurred in chapters These chapters are extremely strategic in the Exodus account. In these 3 chapters Moses received the 10 Commandments and the Law from God on Mt. Sinai. Aaron and the Israelites fashioned a golden calf and worshiped before it. When Moses saw the people worshiping the golden calf he shattered the 10 Commandments. God threatened to annihilate the Israelites and start a new nation through Moses, but Moses interceded for the people. God told Moses and the Israelites He would deliver them into the Promised Land, but He wouldn t go with them. Moses issued an ultimatum, telling God, If you don t go with us, we re not going. God agreed to accompany the Israelites into the Promised Land. God called Moses back up to Mt. Sinai to receive a replacement set of tablets with the 10 Commandments written on them. All of that took place in just 3 chapters chapters that were pivotal in God s ongoing process of shaping and molding the Israelites into the people of God. Several times during this series you ve heard John or me make a statement to the effect, It was easier to take the Israelites out of Egypt than it was to take Egypt out of the Israelites. The building of the Golden Calf was classic, Egyptian thinking an attempt to make the divine tangible. God was trying to communicate to his people that his Presence was enough. They didn t need idols as symbols of God s power and presence. This was so important that the first 2 commandments God gave his people address the issue of their worship: You shall have no other gods before me. And, You shall not make for yourself and idol. The Israelites were a lot like us, it was easy for them to lose contact with God. Moses, when he was present was that point of contact the Israelites representative before God, their intercessor who stood in the gap between them and God. But when Moses was up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days, the people said to Aaron, Come make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don t know what has happened to him. 2

3 Exodus 32:1 The Israelites convinced Aaron to help them construct the golden calf as a tangible connection point with the divine. In his commentary on Exodus Peter Enns points out that the Israelites probably weren t completely dismissing what God had done for them and claiming that the calf idol had actually delivered them from Pharaoh, they were just looking for something to see and to hold on to as a point of connection with God in Moses absence. They refused to be satisfied with God s provision of Moses as their leader and the 10 Commandments, the Law and the Covenant to guide them. They wanted more and so they took matters into their own hands and did what was familiar. They made an image like the nations around them worshiped. God in his patience and persistence continued to try and get through to them with the message that it was his Presence, not tangible representations that they truly needed. (Interestingly, the Israelites fell prey to the same thinking several generations later when they grew discontent with God s arrangement of priests and prophets and demanded a king like all of the nations around them had.) In the passage we re looking at today, Moses returned to the people with the replacement set of 10 Commandments for the ones he broke and God continued to try and help the Israelites understand the reality that God s Presence couldn t be contained, managed and controlled. I ll start reading at chapter 34 verse 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony 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. It s hard for us to fully appreciate what s going on in these verses, because many of us have an inadequate sense of God s holiness and what it means for us to be reverent before Him. Jesus coming into the world tore down the barrier that separated us from God and that s a good thing but we seem to have lost the awareness of God s holiness the fact that 3

4 He is set apart from us. Through Jesus the way to God has been opened and we can walk in relationship with our Heavenly Father, but God is still a holy God. The Israelites had constant, tangible reminders of God s holiness. They had strict dietary laws and rules and practices which reminded them that as God s people they were different set apart and they couldn t blindly follow the practices and rituals of the nations around them. God s Presence was always with them in the form of a pillar of fire that moved when they were supposed to move and stopped when they were to set up camp. And when people ignored God s holiness and violated his laws there were immediate consequences in the form of plagues and death. Those were harsh conditions that don t seem desirable to any of us, but our freedom in Christ makes it easy for us to ignore the implications of God s holiness. In the verses we just read we re told that Moses face was radiant it glowed from having been in God s Presence. Moses radiant face serves a symbol for us of our need of time in God s Presence. Our radiance fades when we re disconnected from Jesus the source of life and hope. God was continuing to try and help his people understand the reality of his Presence with them. Aaron and the Israelites were afraid to approach Moses because they glimpsed God s holiness in Moses. After Moses called the people to him they came and he spoke with them. And then we read that he placed a veil over his face apparently so that the Israelites couldn t see the radiance of God fading as time went on. When Moses would go back into the tent of meeting to meet with God he removed the veil. When he came out he allowed the people to see the glow and then he would use the veil to cover his face until he returned to meet with the Lord. It seems odd to picture Moses walking around with a veil over his face and a mysterious glow emanating from beneath the veil. The radiance of Moses face was another reminder of God s Presence. Moses glowing face was a tangible symbol that Moses had been with God and that he carried God s authority. Throughout the Israelites journey through the desert they not only frequently complained to and rebelled against God, they regularly questioned Moses God s representative. When the glow began to fade, people s skepticism of Moses and his leadership would increase and so Moses would cover his face with a veil. 4

5 Moses radiant face and his use of the veil is kind of a strange and obscure, but thankfully, in his 2 nd letter to the 1 st Century Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul references Moses radiant face and the veil to help his readers understand the blessing we have of the Presence of God with us in the person of Jesus and his Holy Spirit who lives in followers of Christ. It s always helpful when the New Testament does interpretation work on the Old Testament for us. Paul s commentary gives us a clearer picture of the significance of the radiance of Moses face. I encourage you to follow along as I read 2 Corinthians 3 verses 7-18: 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, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is 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 fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! In these verses the Apostle Paul contrasts the Old Testament reality of the people of Israel with our reality after Jesus. And in the verses that follow, Paul explains the implications this has for us 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 keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading 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. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Paul s argument is this: Jesus entry into our world and the gift of the Holy Spirit means that his Presence is always with us in fact, his Presence lives inside of us. Through the Law, God showed us what sin was. But in Jesus, God gave us the remedy for sin. In Christ, we can experience the freedom that comes with victory over sin. Jesus death and his blood shed for us means that you and I can be righteous before a holy God. Listen again as I read verses 17 & 18: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect he Lord s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with everincreasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17 & 18 As followers of Jesus, you and I reflect God s glory our faces glow with radiance just as Moses did. Admittedly, our faces don t literally glow like Moses face did. I ve seen people in 5

6 whom I detect God s light, but I ve never had to hide my face because someone glowed that much. And I haven t experienced people being afraid and hiding from me after I ve spent time with God. But as followers of Jesus, you and I are being transformed by God s glory through the Spirit of Jesus living in and working through us. We conclude this week s message at essentially the same place we ended last week Our desperate need of God s Presence. You and I need God s Presence more than we need his blessings. It s great when we experience God s provisions and blessings in our lives I wouldn t want to live without them but my deepest need and your deepest need is for God s Presence with us and in us. It is his Presence that truly meets every need, every longing that we have. And when life is hard and we experience spiritual, emotional, physical and relational heartache, it s great to pray and see God meet those needs, but we understand that what we ultimately need most is God s Presence. And God s Presence isn t just meant to bless us and meet our needs. God s heart of compassion from early on in Genesis through the Bible to its ending in Revelation is that his Presence in the lives of his people will result in blessing for others that other people might know Him and experience his provision in their lives. As Paul points out in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, We are Christ s ambassadors God is making his appeal to others through us. As we close out our series on Exodus today I invite you to recommit yourself to the understanding that God is your provider. His greatest provision is the gift of his Presence which He made available to each of us through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. And, Jesus Presence living in us and working through us is the means He chooses to draw those who don t know Him into a relationship with Him. 6

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