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“MOSES REFLECTS GOD’S GLORY”
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2020:
COMMENTARY (THE UGP CURRICULUM)
King James Version (KJV)
I. RECORDING THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT (Exodus 34:27-28)
27. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
28. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
II. GOD’S GLORY REFLECTED (Exodus 34:29-32)
29. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
30. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
31. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
32. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
III. MOSES COVERS HIS FACE (Exodus 34:33-35)
33. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a Vail on his face.
34. But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the Vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
35. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the Vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
Golden Text: “And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (Exodus 34:30).
Moses had come to know a lot about the LORD and even heard Him speak; yet he still wanted to actually see God. In response to Moses’ request to see His glory (see Exodus 33:18), God allowed him to see only a part of Him (see Exodus 33:18-20, 34:6). In this week’s lesson, we see the results of that encounter: Moses’ face radiated the brightness of God’s glory.
II. THE LESSON BACKGROUND.
At the time of this week’s lesson, Moses and the Israelites had been camped at the foot of Mount Sinai for a few months (see Exodus 19:1-2). During that time God Established The Mosaic Covenant with His people in which the Israelites agreed to obey God and keep His commandments, and if they did, God said that they would be a peculiar treasure to Him above all other people (see Exodus 19:1-8).
Moses communed with the LORD on Mount Sinai on more than one occasion (see Exodus 19:3; 24:1; 34:2). The second time that God called Moses to come to Him on the mountain (see Exodus 24:12), Moses went into the cloud of God’s glory where he would be for forty days and forty nights (see Exodus 24:15-18).
Moses was there, receiving instructions from the LORD (see Exodus 25:1-31:17), the people demanded that Aaron make them a god to go before them because Moses had been on the mount for so long and they didn’t know what had happened to him (see Exodus 32:1). Aaron did as they requested and he made a golden calf from the gold earrings he gathered from the people (see Exodus 32:2-6). When that happened, God commanded Moses to go back down to the people because they had sinned and He intended to destroy them (see Exodus 32:7-10). Since Moses had a heart for God’s people, he interceded for them asking the LORD not to destroy them, and God honored his request (see Exodus 32:11-14). When Moses came to the camp, he saw the golden calf and the people dancing in celebration. As a result of his anger, Moses threw the tablets down breaking them, and he melted the calf in the fire, ground it into powder, threw it in the water and made the people drink it when they wanted water (see Exodus 32:15-20). As a result of the people’s sin, God commanded Moses to issue a call for those who were on the LORD’S side to join him. The Levites Responded And Moses Instructed Them to go through the camp and kill everyone who was guilty of worshiping the golden calf (see Exodus 32: 25-29).
The next day Moses again went before the LORD and asked Him to forgive the people while offering his own life for theirs if God would spare them (see Exodus 32:30-32). God forgave the people, but He also told Moses to continue to lead the people to Canaan, while warning him that even though He forgave His people, at a later time He would punish them for their rebellion and he did (see Exodus 32:33-35). Then God commanded Moses to prepare to leave Mount Sinai with the people and head to Canaan and His Angel would be with them along the way (see Exodus 33:1-3). However, in the meantime, each day Moses went to the tent he had set up as a tabernacle, and whenever Moses went into the tent, the cloud of God’s presence would come down to the entrance of the tent and the LORD would speak with Moses. In this way, the Lord spoke to Moses face to face like a man speaks with his friend and then Moses would go back to the camp (see Exodus 33:7-11).
One day Moses said to the LORD that He had not told him who would be with him and the people as they journeyed to Canaan. During their conversation, Moses asked God to show him His glory (see Exodus 33:12-18). However, God told Moses that He could only be allowed to see His back parts because to see His full glory would end in Moses’ death (see Exodus 33:19-23). Then God commanded Moses to come up into the mountain again and bring two stone tablets with him (see Exodus 34:1-4). The LORD proceeded to review many of the laws and commandments He had given earlier (Exodus 34:10-26; see also Exodus chapters 20-23), while summarizing the covenant He had made with the people there (see Exodus 34:10-26; 19:1-8). This is where our lesson begins.
III. RECORDING THE WORDS OF THE COVENANT (Exodus 34:27-28)
A. God Commands Moses To Write The Words Of The Covenant (Exodus 34:27).
Our first verse says “And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.”
As noted in “The Lesson Background,” Moses was summoned by God to come up the mountain again (see Exodus 34:1-2) with the stone tablets. When “Moses” reached the presence of God on the mount, “the LORD” reviewed the commandments and laws He had given to the people when they arrived at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:1-8), and then “the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words.” By writing down “these words,” the people would become better acquainted with them, and would be better able to pass them on to future generations. And we, as believers can never be thankful enough to God for His written Word which has been passed down to us. God told “Moses” to “write” down or record all the “words” meaning all the information He had just given to him which included all the “words” of the “covenant,” all the commands given in verses 12-26, and the commandments God gave in Exodus chapters 20-23. Moses wrote these commandments and laws on some type of document and not on the stone tablets, which were reserved for the Ten Commandments as we shall see in the next verse. The reason “Moses” was to record all “these words” was because God said “for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.” The term “tenor” refers to the nature of something, and here it means “in accordance with.” In other words, God was saying “in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and Israel.” The people had broken the Mosaic Covenant when they made and worshiped the golden calf, but here God in His mercy and grace was restoring the “covenant.” This restoration of the “covenant” indicated that the LORD had forgiven His people (see Exodus 34:9-10).
Note: The Israelites broke the very first commandment; “thou shalt have no other gods before me” (see Exodus 20:3), yet after Moses interceded for them (see Exodus 32:30-35) the LORD forgave them. Knowing this should cause us as Christians to be completely confident that there is no sin or sinner that God will not forgive when we sincerely confess our sin and repent (see Matthew 9:13; II Corinthians 7:9; I John 1:9). But we have nothing to gloat about, because our sins would not be forgiven if Jesus had not died in our place (see Romans 5:7-8) and rose to be our advocate before the Father (see I Corinthians 15:16-17; Hebrews 7:25; I John 2:1-2). Yes, as believers, we have much to be grateful for!
B. The Ten Commandments Rewritten (Exodus 34:28).
This verse says “And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”
Here we are told that at this time, Moses was on Mount Sinai “with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.” This is reminiscent of the second time that God called Moses to come to Him on the mount. At that time Moses also remained with the LORD for “forty days and forty nights” (see Exodus 24:15-18), and according to Moses’ review of that incident (see Deuteronomy 9:9; see also Exodus 32:15-16) likewise, “he did neither eat bread, nor drink water.” So, the same situation was repeated here. It is true that a person can go without food for a couple of weeks, but they can only go without water for just a few days. Just as God had miraculously provided for Moses on the first occasion, He repeated that miracle again on this second occasion. During those “forty days and forty nights” while Moses was with the LORD, “he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” The pronoun “he” here refers to God, not Moses (see Exodus 34:1). Just like the first stone tablets were written by God Himself (see Exodus 32:15-16), this new set of tablets was also written by Him. We are told that “the words” that God “wrote upon the tables” or stone tablets were “the ten commandments.”
Note: For the second time, Moses was on Mount Sinai in the most intimate communion with God without interruption, for forty days and forty nights. And there is no indication that Moses was weary over that time. Very often we tend to get weary of spending just an hour or two with God and in adoration of Him. But in those times, we should remember the many days and nights that Moses spent with the LORD, and even more, the days of eternity when we will continually praise Him. During those “forty days and forty nights” again Moses didn’t eat or drink. The power of God supported him, so he didn’t need food or water. Our Creator who made our bodies can also miraculously nourish them without using ordinary means if He chooses to; but He can also nourish the body with food and water if He chooses to do so. No doubt Moses’ communion with God was enough entertainment for him so that he didn’t even think about food or water. The great satisfaction Moses had in the Word of God and in the presence of the Almighty made him forget his body and its needs. The Bible reminds us that the truest pleasure is “the kingdom of God,” for the Apostle Paul said “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (see Romans 14:17). And who among us would not sometimes eagerly trade food and drink for righteousness, peace, and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit? Think about it, the more we die to the delights of our physical senses the better prepared we will be for the pleasures of heaven.
IV. GOD’S GLORY REFLECTED (Exodus 34:29-32)
A. Moses’ Appearance Changed (Exodus 34:29).
In this verse Paul says “And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.”
The phrase “And it came to pass” refers to the forty days and nights that “Moses” had spent communing with the LORD on Mount Sinai (see verse 28). After that period of times “Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand.” He returned to the Israelite camp at the foot of the mountain carrying “the two tables of testimony” in his “hand.” This refers to the stone tablets that contained the Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 4:10-13). The commandments written on these tablets represented the Mosaic Covenant that God had made with Israel (see Exodus 19:5-8). As Moses “came down from the mount,” we are told that “Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him (God).” The words “wist not” mean “didn’t know.” So this statement can be translated as “Moses did not know that the skin of his face was shining (with an unexplainable radiance) because he had been speaking with God.” As he returned to the camp, “Moses” was not aware that “his face” was shining with the glory of “God.”
Note: This was the second time that “Moses” had spent forty days and nights in the very presence of the LORD on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 24:15-18). But in that first episode, there is no evidence that there was a physical change in his facial appearance as it was here. We can only speculate as to why “Moses’” face shone after this forty days and nights with the LORD. But the Scriptures tell us that something different happened as “Moses” communed with God on this second occasion: he asked God to show him His glory (see Exodus 33:18). God did so, but in a limited way. He only allowed Moses to see His back because seeing His face would result in “Moses’” death (see Exodus 33:19-23). Again, we can’t be sure if this experience of seeing God’s glory caused the change in Moses’ appearance, but it cannot be overlooked. One thing that can’t be denied is that Moses face reflected God’s glory!
B. The People’s Reaction To Moses Appearance (Exodus 34:30).
This verse says “And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.”
As “Moses” approached the camp carrying the “two tables of the testimony” (see verse 29) or the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, “Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone.” Although “Moses” wasn’t aware that “his face” was shining, the entire Israelite camp including Aaron could see that “the skin of his face shone.” The people were awestruck at what they saw as seen in the word “behold.” In addition to being awestruck at seeing “Moses’” face shining, the people “were afraid to come nigh him.” The sight of “Moses’” face shining reflecting the glory of God caused the people, even Aaron, to be “afraid to come near him.” This response by the people is understandable because they had never seen or even heard of anything like that happening before. The reality that “Moses’… face shone” and reflected God’s glory was seen by a multitude of witnesses who were also terrified by it. It’s likely that they wondered if this was a sign of God’s favour or His displeasure, and being conscious of their own guilt, they feared the worst, especially when they remembered what Moses found them doing the last time he came down from the mount (see Exodus 32:15-29). So they really had no idea what to expect this time.
C. Moses Repeats God’s Words To The People (Exodus 34:31-32).
1. (vs. 31). This verse says “And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.”
Undoubtedly, “Moses” sensed the fear in the people so he “called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him.” The “rulers of the congregation” refer to the leaders of the different tribes of the Israelites. Since this verse says they “returned unto him (Moses),” these “rulers” may have been the seventy elders who had earlier accompanied “Moses” to the top of Mount Sinai (see Exodus 24:9-10). Now he is calling them to come to him again, and “Moses talked with them.” We aren’t told what “Moses” said to them, but it is highly likely that he attempted to calm their fears so that they could do the same for the rest of “the congregation.”
2. (vs. 32). This verse says “And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.”
After Moses spoke with “Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation” (see verse 31), “all the children of Israel came nigh” or near Moses, undoubtedly after realizing that they had nothing to be afraid of. Then “he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.” In other words, Moses shared with them all the commandments that the LORD had again given him on the mountain.
V. MOSES COVERS HIS FACE (Exodus 34:33-35)
A. Moses’ Actions With The Vail (Exodus 34:33-34).
1. (vs. 33). This verse says “And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a Vail on his face.”
We don’t know how, but it appears that at some point while sharing the LORD’S commandment with the people, “Moses” became aware that “his face” was shining. When he realized this, after he “had done speaking with them, he put a Vail on his face.” After “Moses” finished talking with the people, he covered “his face” with “a Vail.” This hid the brilliant, blinding light that was coming from “his face.” This brilliance had earlier caused fear in the people, but now it confirmed that “Moses” was God’s mediator between Him and His people. It also revealed the special relationship he had with God while assuring the people that Moses’ words came directly from the LORD.
2. (vs. 34). This verse says “But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the Vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.”
As the previous verse says, when “Moses” spoke to the people, he covered his face with a Vail. But now we are told that “when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the Vail off, until he came out.” Earlier, “Moses” had set up a special tent called the Tabernacle of the congregation where he would meet God who would speak to Moses as a friend, face-to-face (see Exodus 33:7-11). Whenever “Moses” went to the Tabernacle of the congregation to speak with “the LORD,” he removed the Vail and kept it off “until he came out.” After speaking with “the LORD… he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel” telling them what God had “commanded.” When Moses went into the tent to speak with the LORD, he took off “the veil,” because there was no need for it. But when he came out, after he spoke to the people, he put “the Vail” back on. This appears to have become a regular procedure for Moses when he spoke to the LORD and then passed on what God said to the people. Here is a side thought. The truth is that every man or woman must appear before God unveiled or uncovered; for Hebrews 4:13 says “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” It is really foolish for anyone to think that they can conceal or disguise anything from God. Whenever we present ourselves before God we must remove every veil or covering that may hinder our communication with Him. This is especially true for a person who turns to the LORD for salvation; the veil of sin is taken away, and with an open face that person (see II Corinthians 3:16-18), like we who are already saved can behold His glory.
Note: Centuries later, in his letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul referred to “Moses’” veiling and unveiling experience. He indicated that the reason why “Moses” covered his face with the veil was because God’s glory which was reflected in his face was fading or going away. Paul used this to illustrate how the glory of the law and the old covenant was fading or going away to be replaced by the permanent glory of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant (see II Corinthians 3:6-18). The point of Paul’s illustration is that in Jesus Christ the veil has been removed so that we can enjoy an open relationship with the LORD (see Matthew 27:50-52; Mark 15:37-39).
B. The People See Moses’ Face (Exodus 34:35).
Our final verse says “And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the Vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”
Whenever “Moses” went before the LORD into the tent to get His message to share with the people, he took off “the Vail” (see verse 34). But when he came out of the tent, he kept “the Vail” off until after he had given God’s message to the people. This is when “the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone.” At all other times, “Moses” would keep his face covered with “the Vail” until he went back into the tent to speak with the LORD.
When we spend real time communing with God in prayer and the study of His Word, others will benefit from our being changed by God’s presence. In this week’s lesson, we saw that Moses’ glowing face showed that he had been with God. There are ways that people can tell that we have been with the LORD too. When we obey God’s law and love people, they will be able to see Jesus in and through us. Indeed, Christians are lights to the world and we should shine ever so brightly day by day in our dealings with one another.
PRACTICAL POINTS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. When we are in the will of God, we don’t have to worry about what He is doing or when He will do it for He works on His own time (Exodus 33:12).
2. A key to answered prayer is appealing to God’s grace (Exodus 33:13).
3. The presence of God in the believer’s life reveals that we belong to Him (Exodus 33:14-16).
4. The LORD desires that His believers learn more about Him as He reveals Himself in our lives (Exodus 33:17-18).
5. God’s goodness is seen in His sovereign grace and mercy (Exodus 33:19-20).
6. When we stand on Jesus who is our Rock, He will protect us and reveal Himself to us as He sees fit (Exodus 33:21-22; I Corinthians 10:4).
***The Sunday School Lesson, Union Gospel Press Curriculum; The Bible Expositor and Illuminator***