WILDERNESS: The Two Letters That Changed Everything


May 30, 2020

Exodus 34:29-35 (NIV)

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 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, 35 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.


Did you pick up on what’s going on here in today’s text?

When Moses returned from his time on the mountain with the LORD his face radiated with the glory of God. Here’s what I love about the passage:

he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

It’s like when you spend a few hours outside in the early summer and your face gets sunburned. Often it takes someone saying, “Boy, you got a lot of sun on your face today didn’t you.” It took them saying it for you to even realize it. Moses spent time in the presence of God and as a consequence his face reflected the glory of God. To reflect means to throw back light, heat, or sound without absorbing it. A mirror reflects. Moses face was radiant, and yet it was not radiating. That’s what it’s like when a person gets sunburned. Their face is radiant with the sun and yet it is not radiating the sun. The sun would actually have to be inside of you in order for you to radiate with its radiance. And you see where this is heading. 

Watch how Paul reflects on this Old Testament passage from his New Testament point of view. 

13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 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. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:12-15)

Once Moses became aware that his face was reflecting the glory of God, he also realized it was an ever-fading reality. Moses seemed to take a certain prestige or status in the glory of his face. He did not want the Israelites to know it was fading away. He went from not being aware of it to needing to protect it. To this end, he covered his face with a veil. And this veil, in time, became a barrier between the Israelites and God.

There is a lesson here I can’t quite grasp that has something to do with the way the invulnerability of a leader creates a dangerous vulnerability for those who follow him or her. The essence of invulnerability is hiding. Moses was not hiding from God, but it seems he was trying to hide something from the people. Maybe it’s that the invulnerability of a spiritual leader dulls the spiritual senses of all who follow them. Bottom line: veils between us and God and us and each other aren’t good for the prospering of our souls. Let’s keep thinking that one through.

Perhaps the most critical difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament comes down to two letters. In the Old Testament, God is with us. In the post-Pentecost New Testament God is within us.  Two letters: From with to with-in. Watch for the two letters in the followng text.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6. 

So how does one move from God with me to God within me? Turning to the Lord Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit and beholding the glory. It’s all right here. 

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18 ESV)

This is where we move from reflecting the glory from the surface to radiating the glory from deep within. This is the miracle. It is not a sunburn but a heart on fire. And it is available to all of us all of the time. Let’s close with 2 Corinthians 3:12 and really take it to heart. 

12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 


God of the wilderness. God of the wild. Thank you for these two tiny letters that make up this one small word that makes all the difference in the universe. In. Jesus Christ in me. The Holy Spirit in me. I have lived so much of my life around the edges of this truth as though I was standing outside of a swimming pool, not jumping in because I feared the water was too cold. Thank you for the grace and courage to take the plunge and thank you for reminding me I must keep taking the plunge. This is the baptism. I want my life to radiate the goodness and glory of God. In Jesus name, Amen. 


Have you discovered the miracle of the two letters that change everything? What is your “in” story?


Monday, June 1, we will dive into our first New Testament series of 2020, with Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. We are working on a special limited edition COVID-19 edition of WILDERNESS. You may pre-order it here. Note: it will take several months to get this finally pressed into a book, printed, and shipped.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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