Exodus 34:27-35 My Presence Will God with You: The Skin of His Face Shone
I have read on the golden calf incident in a recently published commentary on the Old Testament which downplays the significance of the idolatrous rebellion. The author admits that what happened “angered Yahweh,” but it is as if he didn’t categorize it as sin. The people were sinful and rebellious from the time Yahweh God led them out of Egypt.
Let me briefly take you from Egypt to the Wilderness:
1. Exodus 14:11-12 “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? … better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
2. Exodus 15:24 “The people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’”
3. Exodus 16:2-3 “The whole congregation…complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…’for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”
4. Exodus 16:20 “Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses.”
5. Exodus 16:26-28 “Six days you will gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none. Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?’”
6. Exodus 17:2-3 “The people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’”
7. Exodus 32:1 “And when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods, which shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’”
The people were a sinful people. They were rebellious from outset. It is only by God’s willingness to forgive the people that Israel did not die out in that wilderness. That is how Moses could be told, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”
In Exodus 34:10 Yahweh responds to Moses’ intercession as only God Almighty can: “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”
Let’s Read Our Main Text- This is the Word of God
Part 1: Writing the Words
A. God made a covenant with audible and then written WORDS
- God has revealed Himself in words and as the Word become flesh.
a. Verses 27 and 28 have caused some confusion.
1. Exodus 34:1 says that Yahweh wrote the words
2. Exodus 34:27 says that Yahweh told Moses to write the words
3. Exodus 34:28 only says “he” seemingly referring to Moses
b. So who wrote the Ten Words?
- This question is easily answered (though not on the surface) by understanding:
1. Moses wrote all that God said in Ex. 34:10-26 as commanded in v. 27
And much more as time went on according to God’s direction.
2. God Himself wrote the Ten Words on the commandments
- We understand that the “HE” in verse 28 is Yahweh when we balance this verse with other Scripture. Scripture should be the interpreter of Scripture.
c. It should be noted that Bible never calls these the “Ten Commandments.”
They are in fact the “Ten Words” from the mouth and finger of God Almighty.
B. Forty Days and Nights
a. Forty days was the length of the first trip up Sinai (Exodus 24:18)
b. This time the people did not commit an horrific event because of impatience.
c. Deuteronomy 9:18 Moses explains that he fasted this time period because of their sin.
d. Deuteronomy 9:25 Also says that Moses prostrated himself during this time.
Connective: God has made a covenant of oral and written words with the nation of Israel through His mouthpiece Moses. We know that God continued the same with the new covenant as the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The words were not for Moses, but for the entire assembly of Israel. Thus Moses comes down the mountain to take the word to the people.
Part 2: Moses came down from the Mountain v.29
A. Two Tablets
a. The two tablets were duplicates- one for Yahweh and one for Israel
b. Each stone most likely encompassed the Ten Words which would have likely covered the front and back of each stone and were written by God Himself.
B. The Skin of his face shone
a. Because he talked with God
1. The first time “Moses’ anger became hot” (Ex. 32:19)
2. The second time “the skin of his face shone” (Ex. 34:29)
3. The Hebrew, according to scholars, is best “the skin of his face sent forth rays”
or “horns of light.” This may be a play on words to contrast the calf episode.
b. Moses did not know
1. Moses did not even know what had happened but the people knew- they feared
2. That Moses did not know that his face was shining tells us that being in the presence of God and experiencing His glory are in no way painful for those whom His favor rest upon. God’s glory is terrifyingly wonderful!
Connective: I have already mentioned the people’s response, but let’s look into it further.
Part 3: The People’s Response v. 30-32
A. They were afraid to come near Moses
a. Remember that it wasn’t that long ago that God had said that if He came in their midst He would consume them. And when the descent of God’s glory was likened to a storm.
b. Moses now reflects God’s fiery aura in close proximity to the people.
B. Returning to Moses
a. Aaron and the leaders were the first to return to Moses and talk with him.
b. The people obeyed Moses urging for them to come near (maybe because of fear)
c. Moses proclaimed to them all that the LORD said.
C. Moses was the mouthpiece of God
a. It would not be the people that made their own representative (the golden calf)
b. It would be God who chose His means to reveal His Word (Moses)
c. How could anyone doubt that Moses was a prophet chosen by God when hearing the formal proclamation of God’s Words and seeing the terrifyingly radiant face of Moses?
Connective (Internal Summary): God has revealed Himself in Words and He had a written covenant with the people. It was Moses who first received the Word by God’s calling, returned with the Word in a glorious fashion, and would proclaim the Word to the people. The only significant detail left to be expounded is the veil that Moses wore and I have intentionally deferred it until last because it will be the summation of this series.
Part 4: Moses’ Veil v. 33-35
A. Moses veiled his face after he had finished speaking the words of God
- Do you remember that I said Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture?
- Providentially 2 Corinthians chapter 3 clarifies the meaning of the veil:
a. This chapter teaches us that Moses veiled his face from the people so that they would not see the glory fading from it.
b. This teaches that the Old Covenant was merely a fading glory while the new is lasting.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:7-18
a. It is not that the wrong was overtaken by the right à
It is that the old is exceeded by the new, the partial is satisfied by the completion.
The awesome thing that God promised is done.
b. 2 Corinthians 4:4 “The glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ.”
c. It is Christ Jesus that has excelled. It is He that has accomplished.
C. Unveiled before God / Veiled before Israel
a. The shining was in no way harmful therefore Moses did not need this veil for his own comfort nor did he need to protect God from God’s own reflected glory thus he took it off when with God. Moses wore the veil in an effort to not frighten the people.
b. Paul tells us that Moses did not want the people to know that it the glory from the presence of God was fading. Moses had access into the presence of God, but did not reside in it continuously.
The account of Moses’ face shining because he had been in the presence of God concludes the significant narrative section of chapters 32 through 34. Moses reviews in great detail what happened when he came off of that mountain the second time. It demonstrated in dramatic fashion that Moses had really met with God and been in His presence. It also proved to the people that God was back in their camp and would be leading them. It showed that God was authentic and influential to the point that one that spends time with Him reflects His presence. Finally, the event of Moses’ face shining after the glorious graciousness of God is imparted establishes the exceeding greatness of our Lord, Christ Jesus.
If the Father was seen as a glorious God in the face of Moses then how much greater should His glory be viewed in the face of the Son, Jesus Christ? How much more complete are His people through the ministry of the Spirit?
This same glorious God who promised His presence to a small, seemingly insignificant, rebellious nation has also promised His presence to us. Jesus told the disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Ephesians says that all of us believers are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” And 1 John 4 says, “No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us and His love is perfected in us.”