“And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)
The desire of Moses (Exodus 33:12-23)
Having successfully pleaded with God to forgive the Israelites after the incident of the golden calf, Moses was emboldened to ask for an even greater privilege for himself: a vision of God in all His glory. But his request was firmly refused. “You cannot see My face, for no-one may see Me and live.” (verse 20) No human being would be able to bear the sight of the fullness of God’s glory – not even Moses.
The transformation of Moses (Exodus 34:29-35)
And yet something strange happened to Moses while he was in God’s presence. During the time he had spent with God, some of God’s glory had ‘rubbed off’ on him! He was completely unaware of it (for close proximity to God makes us humble), but it was obvious to everybody else! The radiance on his face faded with the passage of time, but was renewed briefly whenever he spent time with God.
Because even the mere reflection of God’s glory on Moses’ face was a terrifying sight for the people, he wore a veil from then on in order to hide it. The veil hid the glory – but it also disguised the fact that his transformation was temporary (II Corinthians 3:14).
The Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36)
This very odd experience, while Jesus was engaged in private prayer, was something that made a profound impression on those who witnessed it (II Peter 1:16-18). For a few minutes, a veil was drawn back and they caught a glimpse of Christ’s deity. His face shone – not, like Moses’ face, with the reflection of God’s glory, but with His own glory, coming from within. And whereas Moses was able to conceal his reflected glory with a veil, Jesus’ glory penetrated and transformed even His clothes.
Many years later, the apostle John (one of those who was there on the mountaintop with Jesus) wrote: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
The transformation of the Christian (II Corinthians 3:18)
Unlike Moses, Christian believers are constantly in the presence of God; we contemplate His glory “with unveiled faces.” And that cannot fail to have an effect on us, just as it did on Moses. As we spend time with Christ and expose our hearts and minds to His love, the Holy Spirit works in us to restore in us the original image of God that was distorted by sin. And so we begin not only to see Christ’s glory revealed in the Gospel (II Corinthians 4:4-6) but also to reflect it through our own lives, making it visible to others.
Like Moses, we will be totally unaware of this; but we should not underestimate the effect that it can have on other people (e.g. Acts 6:15).
The earth full of God’s glory (Habakkuk 2:14)
And this is only the beginning. The final, complete revelation of God’s glory on earth is still to come – and if we belong to Jesus, we shall see it with our own eyes. At the same time, our own transformation into the likeness of Christ will be completed. “When Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2).