Longing for the Divine

Happy, Shining Faces

like to imagine what it would have been like to have stood with Moses on the mountain as he met with God. The voice from heaven spoke, and Moses moved closer to experience the dazzling presence of the divine and to receive God’s revelation of His character. You can read about the revelation of God’s goodness, grace, compassion, and love in Exodus. It was a rapturous experience so intense that Moses’ face began to shine with rays of brilliant light (Exodus 34:5–7). However, the people cowering at the base of the mountain feared not only God’s voice but also the radiating divine light coming from Moses’ face. He placed a veil over his face because of this blinding light (Exodus 24:29–30).

This detail in the story led to an interpretation presented in 2 Corinthians 3:12–16:

Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Moses was not trying to prevent the radiance from fading away lest he lose the people’s respect. He covered his face only because the people were afraid, though this act effectively concealed whose glory was radiating. We read that Moses uncovered his face every time he spoke to God face to face and whenever speaking God’s words to the people (Numbers 12:8). As long as Moses was speaking God’s words, the veil was removed, allowing people to see the glow on his face (Exodus 34:34–35).

The veil came to represent the people’s inability to understand the purpose of the words spoken to them and failure to recognize the goal. The goal was the revelation of Jesus (Romans 10:4). He is the end not in the sense of terminating the law but in the sense that He is the end goal of the law. The goal of the law is to show us Jesus in its words. God speaks plainly and clearly in Jesus, who is the embodiment of all that God has spoken. Jesus is the living word of God (John 1:14). In Jesus, God reveals who He is. Failing to see God in Jesus amounts to missing the goal.

Fast-forward to Jesus standing on another mountain, His face shining like the sun, with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1–2). The onlooking disciples heard the voice of God speaking from the cloud once again, but they did not understand what was going on. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5). When the disciples heard this, they were afraid, but Jesus told them not to fear.

Unlike Moses, the disciples did not understand what was going on. Luke 24:44–45 tells us that Jesus had to open their minds so they could understand. Second Corinthians tells us the same veil remains when the Old Testament is read today, but Moses removed it whenever he spoke God’s words. Only in Jesus is the veil taken away. Moses saw the attractive beauty of Jesus in the words that were spoken to him. This required that Christ reveal the meaning of these words.

When we read the Old Testament, we often fail to see what God really said. You have probably heard Christians spewing a stream of Bible verses to condemn those with whom they disagree without understanding the divine revelation. Instead of recognizing the story of God’s covenant revelation, we may take away a perversion that is devastatingly awful because the veil blinds us to God’s glory. We need a new revelation unlike this perversion. We need the faith of Jesus. We must read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus’ attractive beauty and captivating love.

The question I ask myself is “Am I hearing the voice of Jesus today?” The purpose of the transfiguration event was to recapitulate the Exodus experience. Am I seeking a revelation of God’s love to liberate, restore, and uplift humanity? The good news is about saving the world from its brokenness and restoring humanity to union with God, not about saving it from an angry and vindictive God. The transfiguration was meant to revolutionize our picture of God. If our interpretations and opinions of the Old Testament do not coincide with the revelation of Jesus, we are not hearing God. We need to not only hear what God is telling us but also see God in the face of Jesus.

To see the lovely face of Jesus glorified should be our unwavering hope. The gentle voice is calling us to listen to Jesus and let His radiant life of selfless love shine through the clouds of confusion that blind our eyes to the beauty of His love. Gazing upon His attractive beauty and love will transform us into the same image with ever increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Craig Ashton Jr.

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