The Veil on Moses’ Face
Arnold Mattice is an Accountant retired from General Motors, Oshawa, Ontario. He engages our minds and hearts in a devotional study of a great experience in the life of Moses. Each of the five studies is complete in itself, but the greatest profit will be derived through a prayerful perusal of all.
The Veiled Fading Glory
It is recorded in Exodus 34:28-35 that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in his hand, the skin of his face shone as a result of God having talked to him, even though Moses was not aware of this fact. However, when he finished speaking with the people, he put a veil on his face. Verses 34 and 35 state that when Moses went into the presence of God again, he removed the veil; but when he came out, he put the veil on his face.
Paul gives us the explanation of Moses’ actions in 2 Corinthians 3:13 (R.V.); “We are not as Moses, who put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away.” According to this verse, Moses put the veil upon his face, not to hide the shining or glory in his face from the children of Israel, but in order that they should not see the fading of the glory in his face. As the text states, that they should not look “on the end” of that shining or glory.
Based on the veil on Moses face, 2 Corinthians 3:6-13 contrasts the ministry given to Moses (i.e the giving of the law) with the ministry given to Paul and to the Church.
Verse six tells us, “The letter (Paul’s word for the Law) killeth.” This is the ministry of the Law given to Moses; a ministry which could only kill or condemn. In Romans 7:9 Paul describes the ministry of the Law thus, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” In this statement Paul teaches that before his conversion he thought he was doing God’s will as he persecuted the people of God. But when the commandment, (in his experience the tenth commandment) was applied by the Spirit of God to his heart, he realized that he had sinned against God and that he was dead to God. Such was the ministry of the Law to him.
How different is the ministry given by the Spirit of God! Verse six states, “but the Spirit giveth life.” The ministry of the gospel brings life to the believer. Romans 8:3 declares, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” What joy should be ours to share in such a ministry and such a gospel! A further contrast is given in verses seven and eight. If the law was glorious, (or more correctly “came with glory” R.V. or “began with glory” Darby), and it was a ministration of death and was passing away, “how shall not rather the ministry of the Spirit subsist in glory” (Darby). The law was introduced with glory as the account of its coming reveals, but it was a fading glory, as seen in the fading glory in the face of its representative, Moses. But the ministration of the Spirit subsists, or continues, with glory that will never fade for it is in the face of Jesus Christ.
Notice that verses 9, 10 and 11 all commence with the conjunction “For” and give further evidence of the superiority of the gospel ministry and its abiding character. First of all notice verse 9, “For if the ministration of condemnation (i.e. the Law) be glory, much more the ministration of righteousness exceeds in glory.” Just as our being made righteous in Christ far exceeds and surpasses condemnation, so the gospel of God’s grace far exceeds and surpasses the ministry of the Law introduced by Moses. Again, verse 10 states, “For even that which was made glorious (i.e. the glory of the Law in the face of Moses) had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth” (i.e. the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ). As the stars seen so clearly at night disappear when the sun shines in its strength, so the glory of the ministry of the Law fades into oblivion in contrast to the radiancy of the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ. Once more Paul contrasts the two in verse 11, “For if that which passeth away was through glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory” (R.V.).
Thus we see that Paul makes the following contrasts between Moses’ ministry, a fading ministry as seen in the fading glory in his face, and the ministry of the Spirit as seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
The Ministry of the Law
killeth (v. 6). came with glory (v. 7). condemnation (v. 9). no glory (v. 10). done away, or passing away (v. 11).
The Ministry of the Spirit
giveth life (v. 6). subsists in glory the Spirit — a message of “the gospel (v. 8). righteousness (v. 9). glory that excelleth (v. 10). remaineth (v. 11). We have received the ministry of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:6), or as Paul speaks of it in 1 Timothy 1:11 (R.V.), “The gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” Paul loved to preach the message that we too love to preach, to talk about and to hear. Every true Christian’s heart is warmed and made to rejoice as that wonderful story of Jesus Christ’s death for vile sinners is told out.
We are living in a day when often this glorious message is so toned down that one would hardly recognize it as the gospel Paul preached. Again, possibly because there are only a few unsaved in our audience, the message of the gospel is so mixed with messages to Christians that one would hardly know at times to which class the preacher is talking. I recall an elderly evangelist telling about a gospel meeting where there was only one man in the audience, but he preached the grand old gospel message as if the place were full and the one man got saved. Surely we too have such a message and it should thrill our hearts to preach it, and thrill the hearts of the people of God to hear it.
Paul in preaching the message ever presented man’s sin and God’s remedy. See him at Antioch (Acts 13). Read what he states to the Ephesians, “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins … but God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Eph. 2:1-5).
What a glorious message we have to tell — a message that will never lose its glory and charm throughout eternal ages; a message of “The gospel of the glory of Christ.” What a privilege, what a thrill to be able to tell it to others!