Most Christians are familiar with the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6:24-26—
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace.
The roots of this benediction spring forth from our passage, as does HOLY COMMUNION.
The OLD COVENANT, specifically the TEN COMMANDMENTS and the SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM did not give anyone PEACE. In fact, this covenant made everyone feel guilty!
Chapter 9 of Hebrews states that the gifts and sacrifices being offered under the Old Covenant were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. And that peace comes from the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences.
Therefore, when Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Christ is our PEACE—In Him, we have peace with God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.
Certainly, the AARONIC BLESSING is provided in Christ. In Him, we receive peace, we are blessed, and God is gracious to us. But what about “the LORD make his face shine upon you”?
Well that is also a part of the New Covenant, which we celebrate with Holy Communion! Moreover, it is revealed in this passage from Exodus in types! Let us see how!
We begin with the Old Covenant. Exodus 34:27-28—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
I HAVE MADE A COVENANT WITH YOU AND WITH ISRAEL is significant since Israel had broken the Ten Commandments and Moses symbolically smashed them when he saw the revelry in the camp. Now Israel has become dependent upon a mediator—the position into which Moses has entered.
Notice that the intimacy of communion or fellowship with God sustains Moses. For forty days and nights, Moses did not eat bread, nor drink water. That is a miracle. Outside of supernatural intervention, any human being would die without nourishment for this length of time! This miracle was to confirm the authority of the Law, and should not be followed any more than other miracles.
A second miracle was given as confirmation of the Law. Exodus 34:29-32—
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai.
For the second time, Moses comes chugging down the mountain with the two stone tablets in his hands. The first time, his faced burned with anger; this time it radiated God’s glory. But he did NOT know it! Moses, meek and lowly in heart, is unconscious of the glory manifested through him, though others are aware of it. Such was the case with Christ’s apostles in Acts 4:13—
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Spending an extended period in the LORD’S presence had a telling effect on the apostles as well as Moses.
The Israelites could not look intently or stare at Moses’ face for too long because the reflective glory of God was too bright for them. It was similar to staring into the sun. When God showed Himself to Moses, He apparently reduced Himself to the visible attribute of light and Moses’ face in turn reflected the light of God’s glory to the people.
The original Hebrew word Nrq (karan) signifies to shine out, to dart forth, as horns on the head of an animal, or rays of light reflected from a polished surface. Jerome, when he translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate, confused the verb HE RADIATED with the noun HORN.
Moses, therefore, is represented in European medieval art wearing two horns in Michaelangelo’s magnificent statue of Moses from when we were in Rome is on the bulletin cover. Notice that the artist carved Moses with horns. Since RADIATED and HORN are of the same word, it is possible that the heavenly glory which filled the soul of Moses darted out from his face in flashes of light that resembled horns.
Moses was a terrifying sight— Aaron and all the Israelites were afraid to come near him. Why? The very glory that shone on his face searched their hearts and consciences—being they were, sinners, and unable of themselves to meet even the smallest requirement of the Covenant—guilt manifested itself in fear.
Moses encouraged the people to approach him and he delivered the Word of God to them. I can’t imagine that made them feel better! Conviction and condemnation must have filled their very being. Many people think worship should make them feel good! Often the opposite is the case. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:24—
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
According to the biblical ratio of subjects and Paul, two-thirds of sound biblical preaching will become unpopular—for it will CORRECT and REBUKE.
Ironically, ENCOURAGEMENT also may not be popular if its not what people’s itching ears want to hear.
Whenever we lift up God and worship Him in Spirit and Truth, we are subject to having the presence of sin exposed in our lives. That doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves.
It may surprise you that my goal is rarely to have the congregation walk away from worship FEELING GOOD! I want you to walk away RIGHT WITH GOD. If you walk away righteous, then you’ll feel better inside. For at the threshold of righteousness, the LORD blesses you and keeps you; the LORD makes His face shine upon you and is gracious to you; and turns His face towards you and gives you peace.
Many modern worshipers do not want to think; they want to feel something, and to take away something which will help them cope with fast-paced busy, modern life. They want their FELT NEEDS addressed, not their REAL NEEDS. Experience is in, the mind is out. But the Bible says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” Teach sound doctrine, not fluffy feelings!
People want the LORD’S face to shine upon them, yet they never experience the radiance of His communion because they seek it the wrong ways! They close their ears to the preaching of sound doctrine or avoid worship services where it is taught. Little wonder Jesus said over and over, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
That’s what Exodus 34:33-35 are all about—
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.
Moses wore a VEIL to conceal this shinning, except on two occasions: when God was speaking with him; and when he spoke God’s words to the people. So from this time forward, Moses faced visibly shinned whenever there was a communication of God’s Word—to and from Moses.
We learn here that appearance does make a difference to words, commanding greater attention and respect. Even more, it shows that Moses is not simply a speaker of the Word of God; in some sense he embodies that Word. The people do not only hear that Word being spoken; they see it standing before them. There is conveyed in Moses something of the nature of the divine communication to the community.
This should be true of every preacher who stands behind a pulpit. That’s why the NT calls for an UNCOMPROMISING LIFE for the elders of the church. WALK and TALK are to match!
The shinning gives Moses prominence as the mediator of the Word of God. There is a reflection of the radiance of the glory of God Himself in the face of Moses. There can be no doubt that Moses is speaking for God.
Moses talked to God face to face. Yet it is twice stated that God’s face cannot be seen in all its fullness, even by Moses. One might then say Moses’ shining face is the vision of the face of God which is available to the entire community of faith.
The shinning coveys something of the nature and significance of the Word of God being communicated.
The embodiment of the Word conveys that which is concrete, tangible, with distinct implications for the life of those who hear that Word.
The human response can never simply be to believe or speak; it must also mean TO DO, TO REEMBODY the Word in one’s self to let it shine forth to the world. “You are the light of the world” announced Jesus!
Moreover, the Word of God is imaged in shinning, a radiance, a brilliance, an incandescence, a fieriness. The Psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
As such, it evokes freshness, vividness, intensity, and splendor. The Word has to do with light and brightness, not with darkness and dullness of the world.
It evokes ardor, zeal, vigor, and vitality. The Word has to do with warmth and passion, not coldness and apathy. It is the Word of Life!
No reason is given in the OT for Moses putting a veil over his face. However, the veiling of his face is brimming with theological symbolism and the NT explains what this veiling pictures. Turn in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 3:6—
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.
ENGRAVED IN LETTERS ON STONE is talking about the TEN COMMANDMENTS. The Old Covenant, specifically the Ten Commandments, which Moses delivered to the Israelites does two things: It KILLS and it CONDEMNS! The Law brings knowledge of sin. It acts as a ministry of death. The Law says that you and I are guilty sinners!
Name someone who was saved by the Law? Did you know that even Moses, the Law-giver, could not be saved by the Law? Why? Because he was murderer! Also David broke the Law even though he was a man after God’s own heart. You can’t be saved by keeping the Law. The Law kills you; the Law condemns you! The Old Covenant is a ministration of death.
Yet, the LETTER OF THE LAW is glorious! It is the will of God, and it is good, even though it condemns us. There is nothing wrong with the Law. The problem is with us. It shows us that we are sinners, but can do nothing to save us!
The Old Covenant pointed to the superior New Covenant which brings righteousness, not condemnation! Paul explains the superiority of the New Covenant in Romans 3:21-25—
But now a righteousness from/of God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
Paul adds in Romans 8:1-4—
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
The righteousness of God is imputed to everyone who receives Christ and the Holy Spirit is implanted in their life. So THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE.
All born again believers possess the surpassing glory of the New Covenant. Instead of the condemnation and death of the LAW, we are partakers of the Spirit who gives life and ministers God’s righteousness through GRACE.
Although the Old is glorious, its glory fades in the light of the New. 2 Corinthians 3:11-13—
And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.
By putting the veil over his face, Moses symbolized that the Old Covenant is made up of types, pictures, symbols, and mystery. Moses communicated the glory of the Old Covenant with a certain obscurity because it is a veiled revelation of Christ, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Therefore, John 1:14 declares—
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
To add to the problem of understanding a veiled Old Testament, was the fact the Israelites throughout their history usually have been a stiff-necked people. 2 Corinthians 3:14-15 states—
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
Due to their spiritual blindness, Israel was unable to discern the deep significance of the ministry of Moses, the purpose of God behind it, that which all the types and shadows pointed forward to in Christ.
The TABERNACLE—the most comprehensive picture of Christ, salvation, and the Church in the Old Covenant—cannot be understood by the unsaved person. They hear the glorious message, and understand absolutely nothing of its spiritual realities. Their minds and hearts are made dull because of unbelief, which the VEIL pictures. Exodus 34:16-17—
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.
Without Christ the OT is unintelligible. But when a person comes to Christ, the veil is lifted and their spiritual perception is no longer impaired. They understand the Old Covenant was not given to save them, but to explain Christ and lead them to Him.
When a person receives Christ, they receive the Spirit of the Lord and everything becomes new. Born-again believers are no longer in bondage to the Law’s condemnation and death, nor Satan’s dominion, nor their old nature. Their dull mind is made sharp. They have the mind of Christ and they begin to comprehend the OT pictures of Christ. They recognize that salvation is by GRACE through FAITH, and not by WORKS of the LAW.
They are FREE! Free to understand spiritual truth. Their mind is no longer dull; there is no covering over their heart. When the Bible is read and preached, the unsaved go away dull—feeling unfed—not understanding, but the born again believer sees Christ and His glory. A metamorphosis occurs as with the caterpillar who turns into the butterfly. Verse 18—
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
AND WE—not just Moses, or prophets, apostles, and preachers, but all believers with unveiled faces. With the veil removed, we are able to behold the glory of Christ as in a mirror, there is nothing obstructing our vision of His glory. Therefore, the Bible instructs us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And God gives His Spirit to those who believe in Christ and without the Holy Spirit one is not free to see the marvelous types, shadows and symbols of Christ in the Scriptures.
When the glory faded from Moses’ face, it was restored by the LORD’S presence and the hearing of the Word of God. Being born again, we have the presence of God’s Spirit within us.
As we gaze at the LORD in the Scriptures, we are continually being transformed in Christlikeness by the Spirit. The ultimate goal of the believer is to be like Christ, and by continually focusing on Jesus, the Spirit transforms us more and more into His image from glory to glory.
There are levels of glory. The more we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the more radiant our life will be and the more His glory is reflected in us.
Moses lived in such fellowship with God that he came to reflect the glory of God. The light radiating from his face is a vivid portrayal of the transforming power of divine communion. Every Christian is to be a Moses! Our lives are to reflect the glory of the LORD!
Even the OT saint was able to experience the glory of God according to David in Psalm 34:5—
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
No believer can enjoy real fellowship with the all-glorious God without being affected thereby and that to a noticeable degree.
Holy Communion is a celebration of remembrance for all born again believers that we been set free in the New Covenant and are no longer under the condemnation of the Old Covenant. We read in Luke 22:19-20—
And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
When Jesus said THE NEW COVENANT IN MY BLOOD, what did He mean by NEW COVENANT?
The radiant face of Moses and the removing of his veil that’s what He meant! Turn to Jeremiah 31:31-34. Now look for this typical connection, as we read it—
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Did you see the connection? Not only Israel, but every unbeliever’s mind is dull and heart is covered— that’s what Moses veiled face pictures.
But the Good News is the removal of the VEIL with the NEW COVENANT—the DULLNESS OF MIND and the COVERING OVER THE HEART are taken away! Its removal begins with the forgiveness of wickedness and God remembering our sins no more. Our wretchedness has been washed away by the BLOOD OF JESUS. Once we have been cleansed from all unrighteousness, the Spirit of God takes up residence in our life.
Now we are FREE—we KNOW the LORD—we do not need someone to teach us about Him as though He were a perfect stranger. He lives in us. Now when the Scriptures are read, preached and taught, He makes Himself known to us—for we have the mind of Christ.
And as we see Christ in the Scriptures, we radiated His glory!
Now we have fellowship with Jesus and with one another. Therefore, we take the broken bread, symbolizing His body, and share it. We drink from the cup that symbolizes the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.
Hence, there is a COMMUNION RADIANCE in the celebration itself. Why?
Because Holy Communion is the most intimate time we’ll spend with the LORD and with His body—the CHURCH! It is a time to reflect the radiance of His glory and give thanks!