Transfiguration – Exodus 34:29-35

Click here for the reading: Exodus 34:29-35.

Moses’ transfiguration is unbearable. It sets him apart from the children of Israel and makes them afraid to speak with him face-to-face. The face-to-face way Moses speaks with God prevents his speaking face-to-face in any normal sense with his fellow Israelites. He shares flesh and blood with Israel but no longer any human interaction without the veil. Moses’ face has become a personal analog to the Holy of Holies, terrible and inaccessible to everyone else, and the curtain hangs in front so none may see.

New barriers and new rules to handle contagion are part of the weak and beggarly element of the law from Moses onward. These are not altogether Moses’ fault since he did not instill the susceptibility to sin and to superstition in man that would cause the Pharisees to tithe mint and dill and cumin but to neglect the weightier matters of the law. Moses is not to blame for the terror of Israel at what and whom has become holy through being in the presence of the Lord. Moses did not choose to be made a stranger to his brothers, who were comfortable making calves and inventing laws for themselves but not with the prophet of God and the shining that came from the Lord’s glory.

The communication between the Lord and his servant Moses is face-to-face but also in words. The Lord speaks with Moses, and when Moses leaves the presence of the Lord, he speaks the Lord’s words to Israel. Sight cannot bear holiness. It is overwhelmed. But the ear can hear and repeat the Lord’s words. The prophet whose advent Moses prophesied in Deut. 18 would speak the Lord’s words and would know God face-to-face as Moses knew the Lord but as no other Israelite from Moses to Jesus would know Him. Seeing God and hearing God were separate from Moses to Jesus, and in Jesus only are sight and hearing reunited. In Jesus we see God and we hear God speak.

There will be something unbearable about Jesus to a world that neither sees Him nor knows Him as true Prophet and true Son of God, as God incarnate, visible, and speaking. The world will be afraid of Him and will beg for His truth to be put far from them. Even those who claim Moses’ Law for a covering will find Jesus unbearable until the veil of ignorance is taken from them (2 Cor. 3-4). Truth and holiness are too much for a world of lies and pollution to bear.

Believers know the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. Knowing perfect Love, they are free of fear. Knowing perfect Holiness Himself, they are holy as He is holy. Knowing and hearing the Truth, they forsake all lies. What is unbearable to the world is wonderfully inescapable to the church. His holiness and truth and peace are contagious, and like Moses His priestly people shine with the glory they have seen – unbearable as the world may find it.