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II Corinthians 3:7-18
In this passage of scripture, the Apostle Paul recalls the incredible prophetic moment in Israel’s history in which Moses returned from Mt. Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments. Apparently, the glory of God literally caused his skin to glow radiantly. This caused the Israelites great distress and caused him to cover his face with a veil as he spoke to them concerning the words he
had been given on the mountain.
God had appeared to Moses on the mountain but would not allow him to see His face. Due to their own discomfort, sinful Israel was being denied the view of the ebbing effects of Moses time with God. Moses removed the veil when he appeared in God’s presence in the tabernacle but would replace it when he emerged to speak with the people.
In spite of the significant glory evident in the introduction of the Law and God’s self-revelation, before long the glow receded, and Israel continued to live much as they had before.
In II Corinthians 3, Paul follows up on that incident and uncovers one of the most amazing promises in the New Testament.
Chapter 3 and verse 7 of Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians, he begins to clarify the incident and expand on the “glory” on Moses’ face. Like so many other powerful Old Testament moments, this one has tremendous implications for us. He clearly brings out details linking it to a promise we now enjoy. There is no doubt that the amazing and powerful moments Moses experienced on the mountain left a huge impression on him! He spoke with God “as a man speaks with his friend”. But even he had a limit imposed on how much he was allowed to see. God’s face would remain hidden. When Moses descended the mountain Israel, cringed at even the “temporary” glory seen on his face, causing him to cover it with a veil. God’s face equates to His “presence” in scripture. There is no doubt that His convicting “presence” would cause great discomfort and intimidation to anyone living in a sinful state. The whole purpose of the Law was to illustrate the absolute impossibility of achieving holiness on our own and render the verdict that “all have sinned.” Paul states in Galatians 3:24-25; “Therefore, the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
II Corinthians 3:14 sadly reports that the Jewish people who are looking to the Law for their salvation are still unable to recognize their Savior as a result of the veil that still lies over their heart!
The next part of verse 14 declares that… “the veil is taken away in Christ.” When we receive Christ, His glory is revealed to us.
As chapter 3 comes to a close we find out that now…We are able to see God’s glory with an “unveiled face”
revealed in a crystal clear “mirror” image AND that as we gaze upon His glory we are being changed into the same image from “glory to glory!” God’s glory is perfectly revealed in Jesus and that glory is now being shared with us! The word translated as “beholding” in verse 18 implies “reflecting“ as well as “looking into”. While this implies action on our part, I believe we can probably all agree that whatever effort we might put into becoming better acquainted with the one whose face is now unveiled and
ready to receive us would be very well worth any effort we might make!
What we are learning, experiencing and seeing is not just to increase our knowledge base, it is meant to be
reflected in our lives! In effect, we are invited to grow according to the original intended plan when we were
created… “in the image of God.” Essentially, the Spirit of God is given the honor of investing in God’s glory in us (with ou permission) to “transform” us into those who bear an increasing likeness of our Father! Unlike the “external” visual glory experienced by Moses, the “glory” resting on us today is focused on our inner being or “new nature”. Old Testament experiences and worship were primarily external but now the Lord is working in our lives from the inside out!
In just one of many examples along those lines, we read in the Isaiah 53 promises of the coming Messiah, that “there is no beauty that we should desire Him” and further comments that “we hid our faces from Him.” In fact, history reveals that … “The church before Constantine pictured Jesus as repulsive in appearance physically. After Constantine, He
was portrayed as having ideal beauty.” As hard as it is to think of Jesus being repulsive to look at, “the hidden man of the heart” is the part of our nature where God’s glory is most readily seen. It was so powerful in Jesus that He turned masses of people to the
Father. Jesus’ physical appearance fails to occupy hardly any space in scripture other than the Isaiah passage and is strangely quite absent in historical accounts of the times. I think a strong point could be made here that God is and always has been very interested in the heart and the massive invitation issued here in verse 18 should captivate us all and be at the top of our list of things to pursue the rest of our lives!