The Veil of Moses Hides a Fading Glory
"Moses used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away" (I Corinthians 3:13).
The other day Rachelle and I were eating at our favorite Italian breakfast eatery when the owner of the restaurant pulled up a chair and chatted with us. He loves the people of Emmanuel and all we do for the community and missions worldwide. He attends a small church that "celebrates the Old Covenant feasts" and worships "on the Sabbath (Saturday)." He explained that it would be impossible for his family to worship at Emmanuel until we offered a worship service consistent "with the law of God" (i.e. "Sabbath keeping"). We really enjoyed the fellowship with this local Christian businessman, and we respected his convictions, but his words got me to thinking about the common place legalism in churches that emphasize differing aspects of of the Old Covenant (i.e. "Sabbath keeping," "tithing," "patriarchy," "quiverfull theology," "kosher eating," etc...). It seems to me that the emphasis on "law keeping" by many Christians is akin to Moses hiding God's glory by the imposition of a veil. The Apostle Paul tells us that Moses "didn't wish the people to see that the glory was fading."
Initially, Moses placed the veil on his face to "help" the people. Exodus 34:30 tells us that the people "were afraid" of Moses' shining face because he had been with the Lord. The presence of God in our midst often brings discomfort, not comfort. To comfort the people, Moses put a "veil" (garment) over his face to "hide the glory." But Paul tells us that the veil ended up hiding the fact that "the glory was fading."
So it is with religious laws, traditions and rituals. They may have been instituted for benevolent, good reasons. But that which initially comforts God's people winds up hiding the fact that God's glory is gone. The only way to be sensitive to the presence of God is to resist the temptation to build a mechanism (tradition, ritual or law) intended to hide the fact that God is not present. In other words, we Christian leaders ought to do everything in our power to facilitate freedom and liberty among God's people. When people are free--truly free (i.e. the veil or the law is removed)--it's easy to see the evidence of the Spirit's power and presence.
But many of us--instead of celebrating, facilitating and enjoying this freedom that Christ brings--try to hide the absence of the glory of Christ's presence in our midst by imposing religious laws. II Corinthians 3:14 directly compares the veil of Moses to religious people attempting to impose Old Testament "laws" on Christ's people. Christian people, like Israel, often seem afraid of the power and liberty that comes from experiencing the presence of God. It scares us. We need to keep control of God's people by imposing religious laws. We need to maintain authority over our religious environment by spiritualizing our comfortable traditions, exaliting our static rituals, and demanding conformity to our personal picadillys rather than depending on God's people to simply spend time with Jesus to hear God themselves. We want all our people to give the same, dress the same, talk the same, look the same, act the same, be the same. We feel more comfortable with the law than we do the Spirit. The veil diminishes the glory of God in the individual's life.
"But where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17). II Corinthians 3 forms the foundation for Christians never needing to fear what it means for all God's people to experience the real, meaningful and full freedom that comes through abiding in Christ's presence. New Covenant believers will resist any imposition of religious laws on God's people. We will view all religious "laws" as a veil used to hide the brilliance of Christ's glory in our lives.
When a person, a family, a Christian group or a church begins to experience the surpassing glory of Christ, things begin to happen that can only be explained by the power of His presence. I hope to share a few narratives in the month of January that illustrate the glory of New Covenant living as compared to Old Covenant Christianity.
In His Grace,