Exodus 33-34: Reflections of Glory

A face is like the outside of a house, and most faces, like most houses, give us an idea of what we can expect to find inside. Loretta Young

On the verge of leaving Sinai for the Promised Land, Moses wants assurance that God plans to go with him. It’s a fair question, because God’s anger at his disobedient children threatens to boil over each time he approaches them. Moses insists that God go with them, for he realizes that without God’s presence there will be nothing to set these people apart from all the other people of the world.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:15-16

Moses’ plea gets at the heart of the believer’s purpose in life. We are to be God’s people in order to glorify God and to represent him before the world that doesn’t know him. We glorify him by reflecting back his own glory. As the moon can only reflect the sun when it lies directly in the sunlight, we can only reflect God’s glory when we are in his presence. We cannot be God’s people apart from a close and ongoing relationship with him. Moses becomes the ultimate example of this principle in the Old Testament as he enters God’s presence and comes out a changed man.

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. …  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. Exodus 34:29, 34-35

Moses’ face shines with the reflected glory of God. What made this happen? The answer tells us what we should be doing to fulfill our purpose:

  • We need to spend time with God. This includes worship time, but more importantly it means daily time in individual devotion, sometimes called meditation and sometimes called quiet time. It includes Bible reading, memorization, and meditation on the meaning of what we read.
  • We need to talk with God. Moses’ face was radiant because “he had spoken with the LORD.” We speak with God through prayer and by reading God’s word.
  • We need to obey God. Moses remained obedient to God’s will even though all the people around him went astray.

Paul understood the example Moses gave and saw it exceeded by Jesus. I think Jesus reflected God’s glory every day, but especially when he was transfigured on the mountain (Matthew 17). Paul knew that our mission was to become more and more like Jesus so that we would reflect his glory more and more brightly.

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. 2 Corinthians 3:18

What will it take for you to be a bright mirror of God’s glory?

Photo by Vanessa Gerlach on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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