Ki Tisa: Face of Moses

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When Moses would come out from being in the presence of the Lord, we are told that his face shone because of having talked with Him. Why did this happen to Moses, and what lessons does it have to teach us today?

The relationship between Moses and God is one which stands out even amidst the records of the lives of the other great men and women in Scripture. Moses would enter the tent of meeting, and there God and Moses would commune with one another: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). As God taught Moses all of the commandments and instructions that he would relay to the children of Israel, Moses and God were drawing nearer to each other in relationship.

How is it that Moses was able to have such a strong connection with God? First of all, we are told that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). We see this in action when God reveals Himself to Moses and declares His Name before him: “Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. He said, ‘If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession'” (Exodus 34:8-9). Moses recognized his own sinfulness and inadequacy in comparison with the Almighty God, and this is the humility God is able to use for His purposes: “He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way” (Psalm 25:9). Moses also identified himself with the people of Israel by using the pronoun “us,” voluntarily sharing the guilt of their rebellion.

Next, we see that Moses had a genuine desire only to know God. He did not have any ulterior motive or deceit in coming to Him, but came as an empty vessel longing to be filled, without any other motive than wanting to know God as a man knows a close friend: “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight” (Exodus 33:13). The motive behind the desire is also important. In this verse we see that the reason Moses wanted to be so close to God was so that he would be able to find favor in His sight. Moses had reached the point where he was willing to do anything God told him to, and so his desire was to be as close to God as possible so that he could obey him in every way God chose.

Whenever Moses came out from meeting with God, his face would shine. This brilliant gleam was not something generated from within Moses, but was a reflection of the glory of God. “But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him” (Exodus 34:34-35). Because of the brightness of his face, the people could barely look at Moses. As God’s representative to the people, he reflected the glory of God and carried the fear of Him to the people of Israel.

Paul speaks of Moses and his experience with God in describing what life is like for believers in Yeshua (Jesus) within the new covenant: “For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory” (2 Corinthians 3:10-11). The radiance of Moses’ face would fade away as time went past, and the old covenant also is fading away with the power of Messiah. The old covenant is not the Torah, but rather is the agreement of the people to obey the Torah, which they were unable to do. When the fullness of the new covenant is upon us, everyone will know God and will be able to live out His commandments (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26-27).

As Yeshua has called each one of us to be light, we should look to Moses for an example of what this should look like. It is important to remember that we are not the source of this light. Our job is, like Moses, to reflect the light of Yeshua. This can only happen if we are open to approaching God in the same way as Moses: with a humble spirit and a desire only to be vessels used in the service of our God: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (verse 18).

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