December 4, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. 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 34:33–35 (NIV)
What comes to mind when you read or hear the word “veil”? For me, a bridal veil immediately comes to mind. I also think about the veil in the temple that separated the holy of holies. According to the etymology provided by Blue Letter Bible, a veil means “to cover.” This definition may seem obvious from the text and from the examples provided; however, the apostle Paul expounds upon the significance of the veil and the glory of God’s promises found in today’s passage of Scripture.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7–18, Paul makes a comparison between the Mosaic Covenant (the law) and the New Covenant (grace). Paul mentions that both covenants came with glory. He references the law when he says, “The ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory” (2 Corinthians 3:7 NIV). See Romans 3:19–25 and Romans 7 for more context on the law and what Paul means when he says, “the ministry that brought death.”
He goes on to explain the purpose of Moses’ veil:
“The Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was”—2 Corinthians 3:7 (NIV)
“We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away.”—2 Corinthians 3:13 (NIV)
Moses wore a veil because the Israelites could not steadily look upon the radiance of his face and also because that radiance would eventually fade. It was and is a transitory glory that points to an everlasting glory in the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross.
No one can find everlasting glory and righteousness through obedience to the law. We’re all born sinners and separated from God, so we’re incapable of being declared righteous by upholding the law. However, the law is good for making us aware of our sin, instructing us in righteous living, and pointing to our need for a savior. Jesus is the only one who could attain righteousness through the law and He did by fulfilling it through His sinless life.
As glorious as the Mosaic Covenant was, it’s surpassed in glory by the New Covenant established by the blood of Christ. Not only does the New Covenant surpass the old in glory, but the veil between God and man was torn: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50–51 NIV).
Paul concludes with this incredible truth: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:16–18 NIV).
Pause: Dwell upon 2 Corinthians 3:16–18.
Practice: Unveil yourself in your time with the Lord. Do not come to Him in pretense. Present even your worst parts (bitterness, hatred, envy, lust, greed, etc.) to Him and ask Him to transform you into the image of Christ.
Pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24). Amen.