“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.” (Exodus 34:29–35 ESV)
God instructs Moses to cut two stone tablets (like the first ones that he broke) and to bring them up the mountain (Exodus 34:1) for their second face to face meeting. The people feared God and appointed Moses as their mediator (Exodus 20:19). Once Moses had climbed the mountain, the Lord descended from heaven and passed before him and revealed his majesty and glory to Moses (34:5-7). The result? Moses bowed his head and interceded on behalf of himself and the people (v8-9). Moses worshiped and pled for mercy. Being in the presence of the Almighty always brings a sense of awe, reverence and personal smallness.
Interestingly, when Moses descended from the mountain with the tablets, he was glowing. His face literally shone with the glory of God. It caused the people to be fearful so he wore a veil over his face. He would remove the veil when he met with God and he would replace it when he met with the people. The glory of the Lord was too much for them. Moses had been marked by the Almighty. His experience with God marked him – spiritually, emotionally & physically.
Being in the presence of the sovereign God of the universe always marks us – it leaves us changed, transformed. Think about Isaiah’s experience with God in Isaiah 6. Think about Psalm 73 where the psalmist wrestles with the prosperity & blessing of the wicked. He wrestled with what he saw, “but when he thought how to understand this, it seemed to him a wearisome task, until he went into the sanctuary of God; then he discerned their end” (Psalms 73:16–17 ESV). Though the psalmist wrestled with real world questions, he was marked by meeting God in His sanctuary and, as a result, his perspective changed. David is another example. In psalm 51:1-12, David is wrestling with his sin and being laid bare before a perfectly holy God. Something interesting happens in verse 13, though – David is so marked by the forgiveness that he has received that he vows to “teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalms 51:13 ESV). David had been so marked by the forgiveness of God that it changed him to the core. When Job encountered the Almighty face to face, he proclaimed “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” Job 42:5.
The same was true of Peter and John when they were gathered before the elders in Jerusalem. Luke tells us, “now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 ESV). They were filled with the Spirit (4:8) and His presence marked them, transformed them and empowered them.
Let us goto out bibles intent on seeing God. Let us not search for trite formulas to make our lives work better in order to cope with living in this fallen world; let us not primarily focus on what we must do until we have spent plenty of time focusing on who He is and what He has done to forgive us, save us and adopt us into His family. Let us seek to see Him and beg him to show us His glory. We far too often approach the bible as a way to fix our problems, rather than a story that reveals a powerful, just, merciful God that redeems a rebellious people. How we read our bibles matters. Lord, help us to see you and savor you as supreme. Help us to believe that “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11 ESV).