And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
Exodus 34:5-8, Exodus 34:29-35
This was the transfiguration of Moses. Let us consider the narrative as a spiritual parable, and try to read in it some of the conditions and privileges of exalted communion with God. Communion with God is the highest prerogative of spiritual beings. It is the instinctive craving of human souls; it is the supreme privilege and joy of the religious life; it is the inspiration and strength of all great service. God redeems us and saves us by drawing us to Himself. By mysterious voices He solicits us; by irrepressible instincts He impels us; by subtle affinities He holds us; by ineffable satisfactions He makes us feel His nearness and fills us with rest and joy.
I. We are admitted to fellowship with God only through propitiatory sacrifice. Moses builds an altar under the hill, offers sacrifices upon it, and sprinkles the blood thereof before he ascends the holy mount to commune with God. We must seek fellowship with God through the one propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Not only is the sacrifice of Christ the medium through which the forgiving love of God becomes possible; it is the supreme expression of it.
II. We are qualified for our highest intercourse with God by the spiritual grace of our own souls; Moses was qualified for this revelation of the supreme glory of God by his peculiar magnanimity and self-sacrifice. When God admits us to intercourse with Himself, what we see will depend upon our capability of seeing. Only the pure in heart can see God.
III. We are admitted to visions of the higher glory of God only when we seek them for the uses of practical religious duty. If selfishness be a disqualification, so is mere sentiment. A man who seeks God for his own religious gratification merely may see God, but he will not see God's supreme glory. Our chief reason for desiring to know God must be that we may glorify Him in serving others.
IV. The most spiritual visions of God, the closest communion with God, are to be realised only when we seek Him alone. In our greatest emotions we seek solitude instinctively. Human presence is intolerable to the intensest moods of the soul. No man can be eminent either in holiness or service who does not often ascend to the mountain-top, that he may be alone with God and behold His glory.
V. The supreme revelation of God to which we attain through such fellowship with Him is the revelation of His grace and love. When a man sees this, the glory of God has passed before him.
VI. The revelation of God's glorious goodness transfigures the man who beholds it.
H. Allon, The Vision of God, p. 41.
Exodus 34:6-7There were thirteen names, or thirteen attributes, which went to make the names, as God showed Himself on Sinai, of which thirteen nine were mercy, two were power, two were justice, (1) The Lord. There we lay our basis. Unless we are prepared to admit the sovereignty of God, we can go no further, we shall see no more. (2) The Lord God. There we put the two names in combination. The word God in its root means kindness. We put the infinitude of His sovereignty in combination with the boundlessness of His affection, and we say, "The Lord, the Lord God." (3) We come next to the goings forth of that wonderful mystery of Godhead to man in mercy. The strict meaning of the word "mercy" is, a heart for misery. The first thought here is the Lord God stooping down to the wretched, going forth to the miserable. (4) And why merciful? Because gracious. Grace is the free flowing of undeserved favour. In two things especially God shows His grace: in the pardon of sin and the gift of the Holy Ghost. (5) "Long-suffering." We now come to a wonderful part of the character of God—patience. The end of this world is stayed because "the longsuffering of God leadeth men to repentance." This is the most marvellous part of the character of God—His patience; it contrasts so strongly with the impetuosity, the haste, the impulsiveness, of man. (6) "Abundant in goodness and truth." Abundant is enough and something over, cup so full that it mantles. He is abundant in (7) goodness and (8) truth. (9) "Keeping mercy for thousands." There are many people who do not see their mercy, for whom God is now keeping it in reserve. He is holding it till His own appointed time, till His own season comes. (10) "Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." This brings us more and more into the work of Christ. All God's attributes met that He might pardon sin. (11) "By no means clear the guilty." The word "guilty" is not in the original; it is simply "by no means clear." He will not clear any one whom He has not pardoned. God's mercy is infinite in its own bounds, but it keeps within these bounds most strictly. (12) "He visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children," etc. This is an ever-standing, visible proof and monument of God's holiness and justice. He visits sin from generation to generation. There are inherited dispensations, inherited calamities, inherited evils.
J. Vaughan, Meditations in Exodus, p. 97.
References: Exodus 34:6.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 217. Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 325; Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 3rd series, p. 173. Exodus 34:14.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 502; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 169. Exodus 34:20.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 291; W. M. Taylor, Limitations of Life, p. 219. Exodus 34:27, Exodus 34:28.—R. Lee, Sermons, p. 388. Exodus 34:28, Exodus 34:29.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 116.
Exodus 34:29"He wist not that the skin of his face shone." Few and simple as these words are, there could be none grander written to the memory of a hero. The noblest and loftiest character is assuredly that of the man who is so absorbed in the Divine nature of his calling, and so conscious of the need of those for whom he labours, that he becomes forgetful of the beauty in his character which others recognise, and almost unconscious that he is himself the worker.
I. There are many unconscious believers and workers in the world still, who may gather helpful thoughts from this fact concerning Moses. Much time and ability has been devoted to discussing the question of "Christian assurance." To say that if we do not feel that we are saved, we are not saved, is to lose sight of what salvation really means. It is nowhere stated in Scripture that an assurance of that salvation which is a gradual matter, a day-by-day struggle and deliverance, is either universal or necessary. God may think it best that some of us should not have assurance, as on that great day He kept Moses unconscious that the skin of his face shone.
II. Perhaps some of us may feel that there were moments of such bright and hopeful experience once, but they are past now, and that seems to us the saddest thought of all. Still we need not despair. We should go back as Moses did to the mount where God had spoken to him, to the source of the old enthusiasm and the former faith. If we go back and stand face to face with the crucified Christ, our life will glow anew with the radiance of His love, even though we ourselves are unconscious of it.
III. This holds good also regarding our work for God. Many a splendid silent work is done on earth, and the doer is perhaps unconscious of it, and may remain unconscious till the great day of the Lord shall reveal it.
T. Teignmouth Shore, The Life of the World to Come, p. 159.
Reference: Exodus 34:29-35.—H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 115.
Exodus 34:30(with Acts 6:15)
In reading the account of Stephen's death and of the supernatural light that flushed over his face, one is led to think of a similar scene in the life of Moses, and to put the two together for the sake of comparison. The more attentively we study the two incidents, the more we shall find that they have much in common, as both men belong to the same Divine mould, and yet much in contrast, as they belong to ages and dispensations wide apart.
I. We may compare that view of God which is reflected on the face of each of them. The vision that Moses saw was what is termed (Exodus 33:18, Exodus 33:22) "God's glory." It revealed the purity of God, but had no distinct features; it promised mercy, but the way of pardon was not made plain. The object presented to the eye of Stephen was "Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God." The purity which in the day of Moses had no distinct features has formed itself into the countenance of the Son of God, and the mysterious mercy descends from God's throne by a new and living way, in the person of the Mediator.
II. We may compare the effect of the view on the immediate witnesses. In the case of Moses the effect was mainly an external brightness; the beauty of his face had something of terror with it. The beauty of Stephen's face consisted more in Divine expression than in supernatural brightness. Its appearance did not outdazzle or overawe the beholders. The one transfiguration was bright, but formless, the shadow of the shechinah on him who sees it; the other was the beauty of the soul that has beheld Christ.
III. We may compare the crisis of life in which each of these transfigurations occurred. Moses was in the fulness of his power and success as a Divine messenger; Stephen was placed as a criminal before those who sat in Moses' seat, and was charged with breaking in pieces the law which Moses gave.
IV. We may compare the effects on the surrounding spectators. In the case of Moses the impression made soon passed away; in the case of Stephen the ashes of the martyr became the seed of the Church.
V. We may compare the permanence of the transfigurations in the subjects of them. The brightness on the face of Moses faded away as he receded from the great vision. Moses was descending the hill of God with a brightness which was continually dying; Stephen was ascending the higher mount with a glory growing to all eternity.
J. Ker, Sermons, p. 170.
And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.
And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.
And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.
And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt.
All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.
But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.
And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.
For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year.
Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.
But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.