Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of her face shone because he had been talking with God. Exodus 34:29
As Moses comes down from Mount Sinai, his face shines with the glory of God. Moses has been in God’s presence for some time, talking, arguing, and pleading with God, and as a result, his face reflects God’s glory. This is Moses’ second trip down the mountain. Earlier, upon his first trip down, he finds the Israelites worshipping a golden calf, and in anger he destroys the tablets of the law. Then, after Moses and God have had a long and serious dialogue, Moses asks God a daring thing—he asks to see God’s glory, and God agrees. Moses hides in the cleft of a rock as God’s glory passes by. God then tells Moses to make a second trip up the mountain to receive the tablets of the law, and he does, spending time with God, learning how the people are to live with God and each other. And now, after being in God’s presence, Moses descends the holy mountain with his face reflecting God’s glory.
What do we mean by the glory of God? It’s a concept that tries to express the power and majesty of God. In Hebrew, the word is kabod, literally, “to be loaded down with riches.” It refers both to God’s awesome power and to a bright, blinding aura. This aura indicates that God is near; it both reveals God’s presence, and, at the same time, conceals God’s awesomeness. Moses has been in God’s presence, and his face reflects this glory.
For Moses, and for us, to experience the presence of God is to be loaded down with riches. We have all known people who seem to have a depth of joy and abundance, a blessing of riches, because of the time they spend in God’s presence. I can imagine that we all can think of someone, some saint of God, whose face glowed because of the deep relationship that person had with God. I remember a woman in the little church I attended at a teenager. Mrs. McRoberts couldn’t get around easily so often the Women’s Prayer Circle would meet at her house. She was a substantial woman, her bunioned feet in bedroom slippers, moving slowly with the help of her walker. Her white hair was pulled back in a bun, though wisps of hair would escape from her bobby pins and float around her face. But what I remember most about her was the glow that seemed to emanate from her face. Though she was often in physical pain from arthritis, Mrs. McRoberts spent a great deal of time in God’s presence. Like Moses, she argued and pleaded with God, and she interceded for those in need of God’s mercy. I am convinced that her closeness to God transformed her face. As she looked upon God’s glory, spent time in intimate conversation with God, her face began to reflect the glory of God. She was loaded down with riches.
The light that shown from Moses’ face and the light that shines from the faces of those saints of God we know still here on earth is reflected light. It is not light that comes as a result of their own charisma; it is the light of God reflected in their faces. Those saints have uncovered their souls to God, telling God all that is in their heart, holding back nothing. Like Moses, they have contended with God; they have dared to ask to see God’s glory; they have slipped into the cleft of the rock as God has passed by. They have also listened, waiting in the silence for God to speak to them and trusting in God’s graciousness and mercy. Because they have had a deep and powerful relationship with God, their faces shine with God’s reflected glory; they are loaded down with riches.
Our faces too can shine like the faces of Moses and the saints of God. As we spend time in God’s presence, unveiling the needs of our hearts, and as we listen for God’s voice, we are transformed. God works in us God’s own will and we come to embody and radiate God’s love and grace into the world. As we trust God day by day to commune with us, we receive God’s blessing; we are loaded down with riches. Amen.