Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE FIRST EFFECT OF RECONCILIATION IS THE RE-WRITING OF THE LAW. Moses ascends that God may again inscribe his commandments upon the tables of stone; Jesus, that God may write them upon the fleshly tables of the heart. The sprinkling of the blood is "unto obedience." We are to be "zealous of good works."
II. THE AWFULNESS OF GOD'S HOLINESS MORE EVIDENT IN THE RESTORATION THAN IN THE FIRST GIVING OF THE LAW. Formerly Moses had been accompanied so far by the elders, and further still by Joshua. Now he must go up alone. No man is to be seen throughout the mount. Neither flocks nor herds are to feed before it. The terrors of Sinai awe the heart less than the cross of him who treads the wine-press alone.
III. THE REDEEMER'S ZEAL. "And Moses rose up early in the morning." He cannot loiter; for man's life hangs upon the issue; the world's cry rings in his ears. "For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace," etc. (Isaiah 62:1).
IV. THE MEDIATOR MUST MOULD THE HEART TO RECEIVE GOD'S LAW. "He hewed two tables of stone, like unto the first." The power of Christ's love must cut between us and sin, and give again the form man wore when he came from the hands of God. We must experience the circumcision of Christ. Christ's work may be measured by the heart's tender receptivity for the re-writing of God's law.
V. THERE MUST BE UNION BY FAITH WITH CHRIST IN HIS RISEN LIFE. He "took in his hand the two tables of stone." We pass up with Jesus into the presence of God. That the law may be written upon the heart, our life must be hid with Christ in God. - U.
Exodus 33:12-23) so far as it was possible to answer them. Supplications may be very importunate, and, therefore, so far well pleasing to God, and yet at the same time they may be faulty in two respects: first, they may ask for things which it is impossible altogether to grant; and, secondly, they may omit from the field of view, certain other things which form a necessary accompaniment of every Divine gift. In all his supplications, Moses said nothing about these broken tables; it would be too much to say that they were never in his thoughts. But whether in his thoughts or not, they assuredly had to be considered and provided for. Moses had asked for the presence of God to go with Israel; and the presence of God meant for one thing the commandments of God. Furthermore, all the elaborate furniture of the tabernacle had for the centre around which it was gathered, these very tables of stone. When Moses broke them, he broke the holiest thing in all Israel's belongings; these tables, appointed to rest within the ark, and underneath the cherubim. No word of censure indeed is uttered against Moses for having broken them; but it does not therefore follow that he is to be praised for having broken them. The action, so to speak, was one to be regarded neither with praise nor blame, but simply as an inevitable result of Moses' sudden and violent wrath. When Moses broke the tables, he was not in a mood of mind for considering anything but the monstrous transgression before his eyes. What had happened to the fragments we are not told; except this much, that they were no longer available. All that Jehovah does is simply to command from Moses the preparation of new tablets. As Moses prepares them, he may safely be left to his own thoughts. Whatever lesson he needed in respect of self-control, the opportunity was given him to learn. Opportunity was also given to learn the need of being continually on the watch for manifestations of human weakness and instability. If Moses was in so many things the type of Christ in respect of mediatorial office, it was, alas! also true that he was unlike Christ in respect of penetrating insight into human nature. Moses was not like Christ; it could not be said of him that he knew what was in man. - Y.
Exodus 6:7). The new relations are not those of perfected friendship. They are moreover, unstable. New transgressions of the people may at any moment upset them. Moses, accordingly, would not only have the covenant renewed - restored in its old completeness and integrity - the last trace of the Divine displeasure wiped away - but would have God give him a pledge of grace beyond anything he has yet received - a pledge that he will show great forbearance with the people: that he will not deal summarily with them, or cast them off, on account of backslidings which he now perceives to be inevitable (ver. 9). It was a high thing to ask: too high, Moses may have thought, for him to be able to attain to it. If he did, it could only be as the result of an earnestness, a perseverance, and a sublimity in intercesssion beyond everything of which he had yet felt himself capable. The strength he needed, however, was not to be withheld from him. He had already, though, probably, without this being present to his mind as a motive, put himself in the way of getting it, by asking for a vision of the Divine glory. From this would flow into his soul a spiritual might which would make "all things possible" to him (cf. Mark 9:23). By sheer power of prayer, he would obtain what he desired. Jehovah, on his side, was too well pleased with his servant's zeal and devotion, too willing to be entreated of him, too entirely in accord with the object of his supplication, not readily to grant him the opportunity of pressing his request.
I. JEHOVAH'S "COME UP HITHER" (vers. 1-4). 1. The command to hew out tables (ver. 1). Formerly, it was God himself who furnished the tables on which the law was written (Exodus 32:16). Now, the tables are to be provided by Moses. This may have had reference to the facts
(1) that it was Moses who had destroyed the former tables (Exodus 32:19); and
(2) that it was by the mediation of Moses that the covenant was being renewed. It was a suitable reward for his intercession, that God should give him this honour of supplying the tables on which the covenant terms were to be inscribed. View the command to hew out tables as
(1) Retrospective. God had already promised that his presence should go with Israel (Exodus 33:14). This implied, on the part of the people, return to their obedience. The law is unalterable. God can walk with men only as they are willing to walk with him in the way of his commands. The tables testified to the unchangingness of the obligation.
(2) Anticipative. It had in view the fact that, through Moses' intercession, the covenant was about to be restored.
(3) Promissory. It gave Moses encouragement to entreat for its restoration.
2. The command to ascend the mount (ver. 2). The summons to ascend the mount was,
(1) An answer to prayer - "Shew me thy glory" (Exodus 33:18).
(2) A preparation for vision.
(3) An opportunity for intercession.
3. The command to preserve the sanctity of the mount (ver. 3). This was to be done by keeping man and beast from approaching it. Moses was to ascend alone. The command - a parallel to that in Exodus 19:12-13 - has for its end the warning back of intruders from what, for the time being, is "holy ground" (cf. Exodus 3:5). Other reasons are, that there might be
(1) No interruption of communion.
(2) No distraction in intercession.
(3) No injury done by the manifestation of the Divine glory. The manifested glory of the Lord would so surely be followed by the destruction of man that even Moses needed to be protected before it (Exodus 33:21, 22).
II. THE NAME REVEALED (vers. 4-8).
(1) Jehovah "passed by before him" (ver. 5), i.e., gave him the glimpse of his glory promised in Exodus 33:22, 23.
(2) He "proclaimed his name" - i.e., made known to Moses the essence of his character. This was the higher revelation. The other is only alluded to; this is dwelt on and expanded (vers. 6, 7).
1. The name itself. Note here in regard to it -
(1) It unites mercy and justice.
(2) The merciful attributes preponderate.
(3) The word which syllables it is "Love."
Love is the union of goodness and holiness. The history of revelation has been but the spelling out of this name. Christ is the perfect embodiment of it.
2. The effects on Moses.
(1) It awed him (ver. 8).
(2) It encouraged him. It gave iron a new ground of confidence in entreaty (ver. 9).
(3) It strengthened him. Cf. the chorus of the archangels in Goethe's "Faust" -
"Though none may fathom thee - thy sight
III. THE COVENANT RESTORED (vers. 9, 27, 28).
1. The intercession. This fourth and last intercession presents us with several noteworthy features.
(1) It was very prolonged. The account here is summary; but Moses tells us in Deuteronomy (Exodus 9:25), that he "fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights as at the first," and prayed earnestly that the people might not be destroyed (cf. ver. 28).
(2) It included intercession for Aaron (Deuteronomy 9:20).
(3) It is marked by a deep perception of the root of depravity in the people's nature. Moses has no longer the same optimistic views regarding them as when he disputed with God the necessity of giving them further warning about not approaching the mount (Exodus 19:23). Note how, in the first intercession, it is the people's danger; in the second, the people's guilt; and in the last, the people's depravity, which is chiefly before the intercessor's mind. He here pleads the innate tendency as a reason why God should deal mercifully with them (ver. 9). Human nature does not improve on closer inspection. But there is weakness as well as sin in its condition. The Divine ruler may be trusted to make the requisite allowances (cf. Genesis 8:21).
(4) It is marked - and this is the outstanding circumstance in connection with it - by the degree in which Moses is now able to identify himself with the people for whom he intercedes. "Let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us .... And pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance" (ver. 9). More than ever he feels himself one with his nation. Intercession has perfected sympathy. But not intercession alone. It may be inferred that no act had more to do with this result than the supreme act of self-devotion, already considered, in which he expressed his willingness to die, and, if need be, to be blotted out of God's book, for the salvation of the people. In that amazing act, the last traces of selfishness must have perished. He has given himself for Israel, and is thenceforth one with it. Subsequent intercessions can but develop, and give clearer and fuller expression to the sense of unity with his people born within him in that supreme hour in his experience. Sinful as the people are, accordingly, Moses, in his present entreaty does not shrink from including himself among them. "Our iniquity" - "our sin." The just takes part with the unjust. He makes their sin his, and pleads for its forgiveness. The worse they show themselves, the more earnestly he holds by them, and endeavours to sustain them by his prayers. If sympathy be a qualification for the task of mediation, Moses thus possesses it. His intercession, in this respect, throws striking lights on Christ's.
2. The success. The prolonged, fervent, and sympathetic intercession of Moses did not fail of its reward. "The Lord," he tells afterward, "hearkened unto me at that time also" (Deuteronomy 9:19). Nothing was wanting to the completeness of his success. The last frown had. disappeared from the countenance of Jehovah. Covenant relations were perfectly restored. The people were reinstated in privilege. No wonder that the mediator's face "shone" as he descended from the mount! We, too, have an intercessor whom the Father "heareth always" (John 11:42). - J.O.
I. GOD'S GLORY VEILED THAT IT MAY BE REVEALED. "The Lord descended in the cloud." The glory of Jesus was veiled by his humanity. There is but one avenue through which the knowledge of God can come - the spirit; it cannot come by the senses. God reveals himself by a word, by one in whom he has put his name, and by the Spirit's unveiling of the word in the heart.
II. GOD'S NAME.
1. Faithfulness: he proclaimed "JEHOVAH." He changes not, his purpose abides, his word is fulfilled.
2. Faithfulness and might. "Jehovah, Elohim." God's power waits upon his unchanging purpose.
3. "Merciful." He will not spurn need. He is moved by, and drawn to, it.
4. "Gracious." God is not merely a just master, bestowing rewards which have been earned. There is favour to be found with him, unmerited and free.
5. "Long-suffering." He is patient with blindness and weakness and sin. He waits to be gracious. The great husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth and "hath long patience for it."
6. "Abundant in goodness and truth." The ages have been unveiling their fulness; but the story is not yet told. Eternity will never know all the length and breadth and depth and height.
7. The largeness of God's mercy
(1) toward persons. "Keeping mercy for thousands,"
(2) toward sins, "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin."
8. The severity of God.
(1) He will not always leave sin unpunished.
(2) His mercy may save men from sin, but will not acquit them in sin. "Be not deceived."
(3) The father's sins are visited upon the children. The inheritance of wrong is accompanied by an inheritance of wrath. What is punishment for the fathers may be mercy for the children.
III. THE FRUITS OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
1. Adoration. For deep and true worship the soul must know God in the reality of his existence and the glory of his nature.
2. Prayer for himself and his people. To Jesus the vision of God is intercession for his Church and the world.
(1) Prayer for God's presence. "Let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us."
(2) That God may come in mercy, not in judgment. "Pardon our iniquity."
(3) The transforming power of the presence of God. "And (so) take us for thine inheritance." - U.
I. THE CONNECTION WITH THE NAME JEHOVAH. "Proclaimed the name of Jehovah" (ver. 5). Observe -
1. The name Jehovah connotes moral attributes. The absolute being is, at the same time, the most perfect being. His excellence includes all possible perfection. This implies the possession of moral attributes. "That character," says Dean Graves, "from which the acutest reasoners have endeavoured demonstratively to deduce as from their source all the Divine attributes, is SELF-EXISTENCE. Is it not then highly remarkable that it is under this character the divinity is described, on his first manifestation to the Jewish lawgiver?"
2. Former revelations implied moral attributes. The attributes on which, in former revelations, the main stress needed to be laid, were those to be illustrated in the events of the exodus - power, freedom, supremacy, changelessness (cf. on Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:2, 3). But that moral attributes - the attributes of truth, mercy, goodness, justice, also belonged to Jehovah was shown -
(1) From the nature of his purpose.
(2) From the character of his actings.
(3) From the simple fact of his revealing himself.
3. The new revelation declares moral attributes. Formerly, the revelation was in deeds, now it is in words. Formerly, God told Moses what, as Jehovah, he would do. Now he declares what, as Jehovah, he is. The name was first spelt, then pronounced. Cf. with law of ordinary historical progress -
(2) reflection on what has been done, with generalisation of principles.
Or of scientific progress -
(1) accumulation of facts;
(2) generalisation of law.
For this announcement of the name, the renewal of the covenant furnished an appropriate historical occasion.
II. TEACHING OF THE NAME. The name exhibits the Divine character. It lays bare to us God's very heart. It reveals his essence. Learn -
1. There is justice in God. "That will by no means clear the guilty," etc. (ver. 7).
(1) This attribute is essential. Without it, God would not be God. Says the poet, "A God all mercy is a God unjust." We go further, and affirm that without justice, there would be no mercy left to exercise. See Homily on Exodus 32:10. We have defined love in God as the perfect union of goodness and holiness. Mercy we would define as a mixed feeling of pity and resentment. See this point well illustrated in the chapters on "the Law of Mercy" in "Ecce Homo."
(2) Justice cannot be laid aside. God "will by no means clear the guilty." See Homily on Exodus 23:21. But if God cannot clear the guilty, cannot, i.e. call guilt other than what it is, or refuse to punish it, he can, on the ground of his Son's atonement, which fulfils every condition of a perfect satisfaction to justice, forgive the guilty.
(3) Manifestation of justice. In his personal dealings with individuals - not clearing the guilty. In his general government of the world - "visiting the iniquity of the fathers," etc. (cf. on Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).
2. There is mercy in God. This side of the Divine character is exhibited with much greater fulness than the other. "Merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin" (vers. 6, 7).
(1) God delights in mercy; he does not delight in judgment. Judgment is "his work, his strange work" (Isaiah 28:21). The visitation of sin is viewed as extending only "unto the third and fourth generation"; mercy is kept for "thousands" (cf. Psalm 103:17).
(2) Mercy is "abundant." Cf. Isaiah 55:7 - "will abundantly pardon." A wonderful utterance this from the standpoint of the Old Testament. Anticipates Paul - "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20).
(3) Mercy qualifies judgment. It leads to forbearance with the sinner - "long-suffering" (cf. Romans 2:4). It secures pardon on repentance - "forgiving iniquity," etc.
(4) It is yet exercised in strictest harmony with the requirements of justice. The mode of the reconciliation of these two sides of the Divine character, however, remains in the Old Testament a partially unsolved problem.
3. Mercy rules in the character of God. This is a fair inference
(1) from the preponderating place assigned to the attributes of mercy, and
(2) from the fact that the attributes of mercy stand before the attributes of justice. It is but an earlier expression of the truth which the Gospel has now made a great spiritual certainty to us - "God is love" (1 John 4:16). Not simply loves, but is love. But if God is love, and love constitutes his essence, then must love dominate, wield, work through his other perfections, using all for its own purposes, transmuting all into its own nature. There cannot be discord or division in the breast of the Eternal. What God is, he must ever have been, must be at all times, through all ages, in all his works, under all forms of his manifestation. This is a conception so deep and far-reaching as to pass in its length and breadth beyond our grasp. Its lines prolong themselves to infinity. There lie in it possibilities which it is not given to man to fathom.
III. THE NAME AS REVEALED.
1. We need a revelation. It is but a dumb, inarticulate revelation of this name which we have in nature. What is revealed relates more to God's justice than to God's love. If there is much in nature which supports, there is also much which seems to discredit, belief in the entire goodness of God. Nature in. particular, has no answer to give to the questions - Can God forgive and restore sinners? Can he undo their evil? Can he turn back from its avenging course that terrible law of retribution which holds us in its grasp?
2. We may expect a revelation. If God loves men, we may expect him in some way personally to attest his love to them. "Gracious thoughts never revealed are not gracious thoughts at all. It is essential to the being of grace or love that it manifest itself. Love unrevealed is love unreal" (Dr. A. B. Bruce).
3. The revelation has been given.
(1) In deeds.
(2) In words.
(3) In the Son. - J.O.
Exodus 3:14. Then the emphasis was on the name, now it is on the character of him who bears the name. Moses, in common with the people, longed after some visible manifestation of the glory of the unseen God who spoke to him (Exodus 33:18). His desire is granted; but at the same time God turns his thoughts from the visible to the invisible. "It is not," he seems to say, "what I appear to be that man has to trust to; it is what I am." Consider -
I. THE CHARACTER REVEALED.
1. It implies intelligence in the Being who is characterised. The name Jehovah might, conceivably, be given to "a stream of tendency." Law, irresistible and impersonal, might be described as "the eternal." You cannot, however, speak of law as "merciful and gracious," etc. There must be some one who works through law. A divine heart is the mainspring whence flow all "streams of tendency," the issues of the universal life.
2. It is not such as man could have imagined. Men do create their own gods; deifying the exaggerated and distorted shadows cast by their own characters - so the mountaineer is at first awe-struck when confronted by his own gigantic shadow. Here, however, is a character which cannot he traced to such an origin; it is not man's thought about God, it is God's revelation of himself to man. Contrast the character of the shadow, man-created, god, with that of Jehovah. The one is revengeful, arbitrary, cruel, etc.; the other is merciful and gracious, etc. The man-made god is at best kindly with a weak and sentimental kindliness; with Jehovah, love is the heart-root of his nature, a love which will by no means clear the guilty. Nature "red in tooth and claw" scarcely suggests such a god as this; man could never have conceived him. The character is a revelation of himself, made here to Moses; made, yet more clearly, later, in the life of "the Word made Flesh."
II. THE CHARACTER AS EXPRESSED IN ACTION. Men are treated by some one or some thing as God says he treats them. The "stream of tendency" makes for righteousness; it is not purposeless, it must be purposed. Though experience was insufficient to suggest the character, it yet helps us to verify the revelation. Notice, specially, the stern side of love. The latter part of the revelation seems at first inconsistent with the first part; they give, however, two aspects of the same homogeneous character. True love is quite distinct from kindliness; its brain is wisdom, and justice nerves its right hand.
1. The action which love will take, must depend upon the circumstances which call for action. Our own experience shows sufficiently that love does not shrink from giving pain. The parent wilt forgive his child, and yet, at the same time, not "clear" him; he cannot pass over without notice conduct of which he disapproves. Love may wield the surgeon's knife; or the scourge, with a view to moral surgery. So long as the child keeps sound and well, physically and morally, love is all sunshine; with illness or danger, physical or moral, love - seeking the good of the beloved object - may strike and pierce like lightning. Apply the general principle and it explains: -
2. A special case. Can love visit upon children the sins of their parents? Yes, for children inherit the sinful tendencies of their parents; and it is just this visitation which may best secure them against falling into sin. Sad that the drunkard's child should be an epileptic; yet epilepsy may be a loving visitation if it guard against the confirmed drunkenness which might otherwise have mined body and soul. A warning for parents; yet consolation for the victims of their sins, when it is seen that love has inspired severity (cf. Hebrews 12:11). Conclusion. Such the God revealed to Moses, and such the God revealed in Christ. Before such a Being what attitude so fitting as that of Moses? (ver. 8; cf. Job 42:1-6). - G.
I. A COVENANT RENEWED. Mark how in connection with this there is -
(1) A new command to ascend the mount.
(2) A new command that the mount shall not be touched.
(3) A new manifestation of the Divine glory. Yet how different!
(4) A new giving of the law.
(5) A new rehearsal (in summary) of the "rights."
(6) A new fast of forty days and forty nights.
II. A COVENANT RENEWED ON THE BASIS OF INTERCESSION. We have even more than this - we have a "shadow of the Cross" (ch. 32:32). Peace made by
The bestowal of the blessing on this ground -
1. Prevented the people from looking lightly on sin, or from imagining that God looked lightly on it.
2. Conserved the Divine honour.
3. Gave a higher value to the gift.
4. Put honour upon Moses.
5. Taught that blessings can be won from God by intercession. - J.O.
I. PROMISE (vers. 10, 11). God, as on the former occasion (Exodus 23:23-30), pledges himself to drive out all their enemies. The work would be
1. Wonderful - "Before all the people will I do marvels," etc.
2. Terrible - "For it is a terrible thing which I will do with thee." Men have passed the same judgment upon it. God however, called it terrible before they did. They should remember this when they build on it an objection to the Bible. God can do terrible things.
3. Thorough. The extirpation would be complete.
II. CAUTION (vers. 12-18). The Israelites were to beware of being snared into idolatry. To this end they were -
1. To make no league with the Canaanites. "Evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
2. To destroy all signs of their idolatrous worship. No good comes of retaining in our midst that which can only be a snare to us.
3. To avoid intermarriages. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14).
III. COMMAND (vers. 18-27). The command relates to the three feasts. See former Homilies. - J.O.
I. COMMUNION WITH GOD.
1. The length of his sojourn - forty days and forty nights. Time sped unmarked in the presence and fellowship of God. The future glory an untiring joy. The redeemed serve him day and night in his temple.
2. Lower wants were forgotten: "he did neither eat bread nor drink water." The need of the body was unfelt in the satisfying of the desires of the spirit. "In thy presence is fulness of joy." To escape from temptation we have only to enter into the presence of God and to let the eye rest upon his glory.
II. MAN GLORIFIED THROUGH COMMUNION.
1. The descent of Moses, radiant with the glory of God, the type of Jesus in his coming again the second time without sin unto salvation.
2. A prophecy of the after glory of them who believe. "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
3. An example of the present glory of those who have fellowship with him who is light. We are "light in the Lord."
4. Its effect upon the worldly and the sinful. They were afraid to come nigh. It awakens conscience. It proves the reality of the Unseen. It reveals the distance between the soul and God.
III. THE VEILING OF MOSES' FACE. He was unconscious of the glory: "he wist not that his face shone." The vision of God is ever accompanied with lowly self-judgment.
2. It was not worn ostentatiously. We may not boast of our nearness to God. Vanity in the Divine life is an impossibility.
3. The glory was veiled in accordance with the dispensation which alone these men were able to receive. The whole law with its types and shadows was a veiling of the sun of righteousness, and the redemption glory. We must meet men where they are that they may be led to God. The Apostle who spoke "wisdom among them that were perfect" knew how to give milk also to babes in Christ and to speak to the carnal. - U.
I. THE PHENOMENON ITSELF. The skin of Moses' face shone. As to the precise manner of this shining, it is of course vain to speculate; but we may be tolerably certain it was not anything in the way of a mere reflection from a mirror. It must surely have been the shining out for a little while of some glorious gift which had entered, if one may say so, into the bodily constitution of Moses. There may be some connection of this glory with the miraculous sustaining of his life without the eating of bread, or the drinking of water. Thus we are led to consider what wondrous capabilities there may be in matter, capabilities beyond our present knowledge to conceive. Even with unorganised matter, man himself has been able to do much. And the God of the physical universe has shown us how many wonders, beauties, and enjoyments rise out of matter under the power of vital action. Think of all that is exquisite in form, colour, and fragrance in plant-life. Think of the refinement which distinguishes the face of a cultivated man from that of some embruted savage. Think of that best of all charms visible in the face of one who is truly good. Then think, on the other side, of the degradations of matter. Think of the physical results of sottishness and sensuality. Think of the putrescence and corruption which seem to dominate a body when its principle of life has passed away. We shall then feel how, beyond anything we can at present conceive, there may be on the one hand an exaltation of matter, and on the other a degradation of it.
II. THE UNCONSCIOUSNESS OF MOSES. He wist not that the skin of his face shone in this way. Of some change within him during the time when he was with God in the mount, he was doubtless conscious. He may have felt himself getting a clearer view of Jehovah's purposes, and a heartier fellow-feeling with respect to them. He may have felt himself conscious of a remarkable approach to inward holiness and purity; but of this outward and visible expression of it he knew nothing at all. That which was intolerable to his deeply-polluted brethren, so much alienated in heart from God, was utterly unperceived by him. Thus effectually separated from his brethren, the separation came from no pretension of his own, but from an inevitable confession made by those who once and again tried to repudiate him. He who is filled with the spirit of God becomes more glorious than he can imagine. And from those who live near to God, we may be sure there goes out an influence, which, though they themselves be utterly unconscious of it, is yet most mighty in its effect on others. As Moses came down from the mountain, he would be anxiously thinking how he could convey to the people some sense of that which he himself had been privileged to see. He may have despaired of putting into words the impression made on his mind; but now behold God has taken the matter into his own hands. When we take care to keep right Godwards, God will take care that we are kept right and powerful manwards. Our greatest impression upon men is to be made, not by that which we are labouring to achieve, but by that which we achieve unconsciously, when we become as much as possible mere instruments of the wisdom and power coming from above.
III. THE CONDUCT OF THE PEOPLE. It is not made clear as to whether the people were unable to gaze upon the splendour of Moses' face through the excess of light which radiated thence, or whether they were filled with superstitious terror because one who hitherto had looked but as themselves had become so changed in appearance. Probably the latter way of accounting for their conduct comes nearest to the truth. They were afraid of Moses, much as the disciples were of Jesus when they saw him walking on the lake and thought it was an apparition. Hence we have another instance of how men, whom God made to be so near to him, yet through their alienation from him, and constant immersion in earthly concerns, start back when there is some overwhelming manifestation of the unearthly and the divine. Presence of mind is lost just when presence of mind would be most helpful. Moses put on the veil in necessary toleration of human weakness; but we should always read of such necessities with a feeling of humiliation. In only too many things these ungodly Israelites are our representatives. God, who is our benefactor, cannot reveal himself in all his glory, because of our weakness. When God honoured and enriched the mediator Moses by putting a divine splendour into his countenance, as he came down among men with the laws of a holy and a happy life, this very splendour became a cause of abject terror rather than of confidence and gladness. Yet when the final Mediator came, full of grace and truth, men rushed to the other extreme. They could see no divinity and authority, and in their contempt and presumption, put the Mediator to death. It is very difficult for men to make a right estimate of the outward shows of things. - Y.
I. THE SHINING OF MOSES' FACE (vers. 29, 30).
(1) A result of personal communion.
(2) A symbol of the glory of his dispensation (2 Corinthians 3:7).
(3) A foreshadowing of the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8).
(4) Partly a consequence of inward mental exaltation (cf. Acts 6:15). Communion with God, vision of Jesus, the joy of salvation, fulness of spiritual life, make both face and character to shine (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18).
II. THE FEAR OF THE PEOPLE (ver. 30). The beauty of the glory had something of terror in it. Symbol of the dispensation - "a ministration of death" (2 Corinthians 3:7). See sermon by Dr. John Ker on Moses and Stephen - "The Old Testament and the New" (" Sermons," p. 170).
III. THE VEIL (vers. 31-33). The notable fact is that Moses did not veil his face during the time when veiling might seem to be most required, viz., while speaking to the people. The commandments were delivered with the face unveiled. When he had "done" speaking, Moses put this screen before it. The act, therefore, must be taken as symbolic. A symbol -
1. Of the veiled character of the dispensation - types, carnal ordinances, "broken lights," etc. Its "end" was not manifest.
2. Of the veiled hearts of the people. This kept them from perceiving even what might have been seen (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). The Gospel, in contrast with the law, is an unveiled system (2 Corinthians 3:14). Preachers of the gospel, bearing this in mind, should use" great plain-hess of speech" (vers. 11, 12). The later system provides further for the removal of the veil from the heart (vers. 16, 17). It ministers "the Spirit."
IV. THE VEIL TAKEN OFF ON ENTERING THE SANCTUARY (vers. 34, 35). "When Moses went in before the Lord," etc. Again symbolic -
1. Of what is necessary for the removal of the veil from the heart. It must "turn to the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:16). The instant it does so the veil will be taken away (ver. 16).
2. Of the privilege of Christian believers. They are admitted to gaze "with unveiled face" on the "glory of the Lord" (ver. 18).
V. RESEMBLANCES AND CONTRASTS. Compare and contrast the privilege of Moses with that now enjoyed by believers in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
(1) Both have a vision of the divine glory.
(2) Both are admitted to gaze upon it with face "unveiled."
(3) On both the vision exercises a transforming influence.
(4) Both must "go in" to the divine presence in order to obtain it.
(1) It is a higher glory which is revealed in Christ.
(2) That, the privilege of one man; this, the privilege of all - "we all."
(3) That, an external transfiguration; this, spiritual.
(4) That, a transitory glory; this, permanent and progressive. "From glory to glory." - J.O.
irradiated, became radiant. Notice:
I. THE CAUSE OF THE PHENOMENON. "Talked with him." Self