Moses has spent an incredible time with the Lord and his face clearly shows it. The people are frightened by the change in Moses.
God and Moses spent 40 days and nights together on the mountain. Moses ate and drank nothing while he was there. We aren’t told if he slept or if he even noticed the passage of time. Did God “observe” the Sabbath while with Moses? Did they work and visit straight through the time? If they did observe the Sabbath did they share stories during their down time? Did Moses get to meet any other Heavenly residents?
Whatever they did together changed Moses forever. This change was more than an inward change or even a behavioral change. Moses took on the radiance of God’s presence. We aren’t told if it faded over time but we know the relationship with God didn’t. This facial changed scared the people. I can’t say as I blame them for being scared, I probably would have been too.
Something I want to know is why didn’t that fear fade? It was probably a bit hard on the eyes to see Moses’ glow but the fact that they learned why he was glowing should have ended the issue right there. He shouldn’t have had to cover his face for the duration of the glow, however long that was.
He DIDN’T cover his face when he was in the presence of the Lord. I’m curious to know if Moses got a “recharge” in his glow each time he went to meet with God. I get a “charge in my spirit” when I meet with Him. Nothing visible like Moses, just a refreshing and comfort that had faded since I was last spending with my Father. I TREASURE that experience!
When Moses first came down from the mountain he was spotted by everyone including Aaron. I wonder if they were watching for him each day. Did they hear him coming before they saw him? Did they have a lookout on duty each day watching for him?
I want to step into the story here and see how it might have happened. I want to back up a little bit from what I have been discussing too and come into our story where Moses is preparing to leave the Lord’s presence.
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Moses and the Lord have been together on the mountain for a LONG time but to Moses it seems like only hours have passed. All the writing of the words God has shared is finished. Moses sits back and looks over the stone tablets. His tools are at rest.
“It’s time to go back down the mountain.”
“Is there trouble again Lord?”
“No. Everything is fine.”
“Then why do I need to go? Can’t I stay a bit longer?”
“No Moses. It’s time to take My words to the people. It’s time to go home.”
“Oh. You are so right. I’m sorry. I was being selfish. I was enjoying our time together so much that I didn’t want it to end.”
“It’s not really ending, it’s only changing locations and extent. I’m with you always, remember?”
“Actually I do as that was one of the main requests I brought to You earlier.”
Moses can hear a smile in the Lord’s voice as He made His last comment. As he gathers his tools and the tablets he begins to mentally prepare how he is going to share everything the Lord has given him with the people. “Will they listen? I pray they have behaved themselves while I was gone.”
Moses starts down the mountain with mixed feelings. First is a heaviness of regret at the experience he is leaving behind. Never before has he felt so close to the Lord; not even the last time he and Joshua were up here. He wishes he could keep that feeling forever. He is also experiencing an excitement related to thoughts of how Israel will respond to what he is bringing them from the Lord. There is SO MUCH to share with them!
As Moses travels on he begins to sing praises to the Lord. His heart is soaring and he can’t contain the joy flowing out of him. It is overlaid with peace too; a knowing that all is well with his world because the Lord is in control of it.
When he reaches the foothills he sees the camp. He is looking forward to spending time with Joshua and Aaron. He imagines they will have the most questions about what transpired while he was gone. He also wonders how long he was with the Lord. He noticed changes in the trees and the weather since he left camp. He looks out at the base of the mountain and sees a group of people gathered there. They appear to be waiting for his arrival.
Moses finally reaches the base of the mountain and expects the people to surround him but they have pulled back instead. As he goes to approach them they withdraw even further. He doesn’t understand their behavior. “What is going on? What’s wrong with you?” They appear to be frightened by something. He turns around to see if there is something behind him that is frightening them, but he sees nothing to account for their behavior.
“Aaron, what’s going on? Come over here.”
“Is that you Moses? Is it safe?”
“Of course it’s me. What do you mean ‘Is it safe’?”
“You are glowing Moses.”
“What? Of all the… Just come over here, you and the leaders. I will show you that I am not going to hurt you.”
Reluctantly Aaron and the leaders slowly approach Moses. They surround him but none want to get close enough to touch him. So Moses reaches out and touches Aaron on the shoulder instead. Aaron flinches at first as if expecting something to happen to him. As Moses’ hand rests on Aaron’s shoulder Aaron’s fears begin to fade. The rest of the group watches Aaron to see if there are any changes in him or in Moses. When none are observed the tension begins to leave the group.
“Moses, you really need to see your face. You are radiating light so strong that if it were night we would have no need for lamps!”
Moses smiles. “It must have something to do with being in the presence of the Lord. He let me see His glory! It was AMAZING!”
“It looks like some of it rubbed off on you. Look at your reflection in that pool over there.”
Moses walks to the pool and stares at his reflection for several long moments. “I see what you mean. Please gather the people though. I need to share with all of you what the Lord shared with me. Maybe my glowing face will make them listen better. And Aaron, could you bring me a vail so I can cover this glow after I share with the people. I don’t want to keep frightening people.”
Aaron and the leaders gather the people and bring them to the foot of the mountain. They had to reassure the people that Moses posed no danger to them in his current state. “It would be more dangerous to refuse as Moses is going to share the words the Lord has given him. Knowing His commands is VERY important to pleasing Him and having His protection over our journey.” This was an argument that none could deny and it was echoed throughout the camp.
Very little time passed before the people were all assembled in the area facing the mountain. Moses stood on a boulder at the base of the mountain so he could be seen and heard by all. “I have a lot to share with you. One of the first things I want to share is that the Lord has renewed His promise to go with us on this journey.”
Spontaneous praise breaks out throughout the group. This was one of their greatest fears and regrets weighing their hearts down. Their sin in seeking other gods had been an utter disaster and had alienated them from the ONE TRUE God. They craved His presence more than anything else. His presence ensured protection too.
Moses let the praise go on for a few minutes then he moved on to the tablets and their content. “The Lord has conditions/commandments for us to follow that will ensure His presence stays with us. If we obey Him, He will watch over us. If we forsake Him, we will bear the consequences. The FIRST of His commandments is to have NO OTHER GOD BUT HIM! This is nonnegotiable. There will NOT be a repeat of previous behavior!” Moses looks around at the crowd making sure each person grasps his meaning. Moses shared the Ten Commandments the Lord had given him with the people. He knew this was just the beginning of what the Lord had for this people but it was a starting place.
No one spoke or fidgeted the entire time Moses was speaking to the people. When Moses was done with God’s “outline” he asked for the vail Aaron had brought and he put it over his face. “There is much more the Lord wants to share with you but for now, go and meditate on what you have already received. Let it sink deep into your hearts. Let His words change you for the better.
The people left and did as Moses had commanded. Moses met up with Joshua when the group had dispersed.
“I want to go to the tent of meeting. I need to spend some time with the Lord.”
Joshua doesn’t question Moses or offer any resistance. He simply follows Moses to his favorite spot on the valley floor. Joshua is full of questions about Moses’ time with the Lord but he will hold them for now. He too will meditate on the Lord’s commands while he attends to Moses’ needs.
“On second thought Joshua, I want to get something to eat first. I’m feeling very hungry.”
Joshua smiles. “I know just the meal for you. Miriam has some amazing stew she has been working on today. I think maybe the Lord inspired her to make it so you would have something waiting when you came home.”
“That sounds delicious! Afterwards we will visit the tent of meeting. I’m sure the Lord won’t mind the delay.”
“While you eat, do you think you can share some of your experiences with me?”
“I think that would please the Lord too. I have a question for you also.”
“What is it Moses?”
“How long was I with the Lord?”
“You left us 40 days ago to go to the Lord.”
Moses’ eyes open wide and he mouths the word 40. “No wonder I’m hungry! I haven’t eaten or drank anything since leaving camp that day. Yet the Lord sustained me. Another miracle to add to His list.”
Both men laugh and walk in companionable talk on the way to Moses’ first telling of the excitement he enjoyed on the mountain and his first meal in over a month!
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Father God, I can’t imagine being so close to You that I take on Your radiance. I want to take on Your character though. I want to be like Jesus in my actions. I want to have Your love “shining” out of me. I want to have others see You in my behavior with the same certainty that the children of Israel had when they looked at Moses. I know I fall short on this more times than I care to count. Those times are a blow to my witness for You. Help me change that a little more each day until I become so much like You that my flaws disappear forever! I KNOW that is going to take a VERY LONG TIME but I’m willing to do the work that YOU provide the power for, because I CAN’T do it on my own!