Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God – Exodus 34:29
The children of Israel had messed up. Royally. Moses had been on Sinai getting the ten commandments and the law, but they decided to make a golden calf. Idol Worship at the holy mountain is a big mistake. It is so bad that God even suggests that He not go with them “lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff necked people.” (Ex. 33:6)
But Moses interceded for the people, and asked that God continue to be with them and to be their God. And so God called Moses up to Sinai again a second time, and the Commandments and Law are given again. And the people wait. They wait knowing that the last time they had to wait for Moses, they messed up drastically.
Then Moses comes down the mountain… and his face is glowing. And the people are terrified. Of course they are! The last time Moses came down the mountain there was death and destruction, and now his face is glowing. And so Moses does a kind thing. After he is done talking with them, he wears a veil. It keeps the children of Israel from getting too freaked out, too aware of their sin and shame so that they become paralyzed. It was too much glory for them to deal with.
Sinful man cannot handle even the reflection of the presence of God. It points out our sin, our lack, too clearly. Moses wore the veil so that the children of Israel could handle him being around. Likewise, the Word became flesh so that He would be able to dwell among us in a way that we could handle without fear or terror. Jesus rarely lets His glory shine forth fully – and when He does people are terrified. Instead, the True God comes to us as True Man, so that He can be with us. Even today, Jesus gives us forgiveness and life not through fear-inducing glory bombs, but through simple things. Water and His Word. Bread and Wine now Body and Blood. Things that we can handle – the wonder and majesty hidden for our good and for our sake.
Because Jesus wants to be your God, and so He will come to you in a way that you can handle, even until that day when He comes again and you are raised from the dead and can enjoy His unveiled and unbridled presence for all eternity. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.