2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Greetings, everyone! Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of EDiBS, and thanks for being here today as we take time to open our Bibles. Not only are we here together, but most important of all, the Lord is here with us as we come to His Word and seek His face! I’m glad to have you along; let’s pray and ask God’s blessing on our study time over these next few minutes.
Lord Jesus, thank you for this time to be quiet and to focus on you and your Word. We ask that by it you would teach us and transform us, and that through it you would also encourage and sustain us. We so need you in our lives, and we are truly grateful for your presence with us right now. May your name be glorified in all things, dear Savior. In your precious name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, we have continuing instruction from Paul regarding the glory of the New Covenant. Our focus: the veil has been taken away.
2 Corinthians 3:12-18
12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14But 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. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Mrs. Wessel was my bus driver in 6th grade. I’ve mentioned her to you before. She was scary. We feared her. You didn’t mess with Mrs. Wessel.
Mrs. Wessel’s distinguishing feature was her glasses. They were dark, thick as coke bottles, and they hid her facial features so that if anything, she looked extra frightening. We called her Mrs. Weasel behind her back, but woe to the child who was ever caught uttering that moniker within earshot of her; rumors were that such children were never seen or heard from again. But back to Mrs. Wessel’s glasses. She had to wear them, and why? Because as a young child she had tried to look at a solar eclipse with her eyes unprotected. They had been severely burned and permanently damaged as a result. Due to one unthinking moment in her childhood when she had gazed upon the brightness of the sun unshielded, she suffered its aftereffects for the rest of her life. We knew this because she told us…and though as sixth graders some of us snickered at her serious message, for many of us it stuck, and I was one of them. I still remember her words today.
As Paul speaks in today’s passage about the glory of the New Covenant being superior to that of the Old, he couches it in the imagery of radiance: specifically the blazing, holy light of the Lord’s glory reflected on the face of Moses. In doing so, he marks a distinction between what was once hidden but is now revealed. Moses, we remember from the book of Exodus, hid his face when speaking with the people. By necessity, it was veiled. In marked contrast to Moses, however, Paul and his ministry companions joyously and boldly reflect the glory of God in all that they do and teach. What a powerful proclamation Paul is making here about the glorious hope we have as God’s people — and because of that hope, the great boldness and confidence we can have as well. Think of it: with the New Covenant, we bask in the light of God’s glory, reflect the light of God’s glory, and revel, celebrate and give thanks for the light of God’s glory! It’s a marked contrast to that which was in place under the Old Covenant.
Some of you may remember a song by Graham Kendrick, written many years ago now, called “Shine, Jesus Shine,” In it, he writes in what I think is an incredibly beautiful way about what it means to be brought from the darkness and into the light through the blood of the New Covenant. Here are a couple of the verses:
Lord I come to your awesome presence,
From the shadows into your radiance,
By the blood I may enter your brightness,
Search me, try me, consume all my darkness,
Shine on me, shine on me!
As we gaze on your kingly brightness.
So our faces display your likeness.
Ever changing from glory to glory,
Mirrored here may our lives tell your story.
Shine on me, shine on me!
In many ways that’s almost a poetic rendering of today’s text; it describes precisely those things which Paul says bring such a glorious hope and courageous boldness into our lives. It’s the impact of the New Covenant.
And yet, Paul says, when you look at the Old Covenant, there is no freedom or joy or celebration in it, because it can only bring death. While the New Covenant brings us to God and enables us to come boldly before Him, the Old Covenant is restrictive and separates man from God. Paul makes that clear as he uses the veil over Moses’ face as an object lesson. Just as the veil hid the glory of the Lord, fading though it was, from the eyes of the people, today there is a veil over peoples’ hearts. In the specific case of the Jews, if the veil were lifted they would see that the glory of Moses’ ministry has faded and they should now look to Jesus. But since the same veil that hid Moses’ face now lies on their hearts, they still mistakenly believe that there’s something superior in the ministry of Moses. We Gentiles also have “veils” that cover our hearts, and though they may be any number of things, the bottom line is that it is only in turning to Christ that those veils will be lifted and that we’ll see things as they are rightly to be seen. It is in the Lord Jesus Christ and in beholding Him in the fullness of His finished work for us at Calvary that we will begin that amazing process of being transformed. God in Christ will change our lives from the inside out…and that’s something that the Old Covenant with its written code could never do.
Wrapping up for the day, at the risk of coming off on the schlocky side (which is easy to do when quoting verse), I’d like to share a bit more of “Shine, Jesus Shine” and as I do, I’m hoping that as you hear these words, they’ll become for you a prayer; a prayer from your heart as one who, with an unveiled face, reflects the Lord's glory…as one who is being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow, River, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your Word, Lord
And let there be light!
Let there be light indeed, in your life and mine, as Jesus shines!
Take care, everyone – have a great day, rejoice in the Lord for He is near, and God-willing, I’ll see you again next time!