“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.”—Exodus 34:29–32 (NIV)
What do you think about when you read the words “his face was radiant.” For me, I think about the look on a person’s face when they exit a great conversation, receive exciting news on the phone, or step out of a meeting that went well. Their eyes are wide open, their pupils expand, their eyebrows rise up, and they can’t contain the smile on their face! I also think about some specific people in my life who seem to always have the love of Christ visibly expressed on their faces. They always seem to be smiling and have a contagious joy about them.
Now imagine the face of Moses being quite literally radiant after descending from Mount Sinai with the perfect and beautiful words of God on those tablets that would guide the people in their covenant. The Hebrew word used for “radiant” also meant to shine or send out rays. Moses’ face was radiant because he spent time in the presence of God and witnessed Him writing down the covenant law. When he descended, the people were afraid to come close because of how radiant his face was.
When reading this part of the chapter, I can’t help but be full of awe at how beautiful this imagery is for us as believers. Although our faces may not always be radiant in this way, we still can experience something similar to what Moses did every time we enter the presence of God, spend time with Him, and then go into the world and engage in daily activities. This is why it says in Psalm 34:5 (NIV), “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” It wasn’t just spending time with God, but it was also speaking with the Lord that caused Moses to be so radiant. In the Old Testament, this was a privilege that only select people could have. But speaking with God is something that has been made possible for all of us through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross!
Before we finish, we must also take note of the people’s reactions to Moses’ face. They were fearful! Oftentimes, people who don’t understand or value the presence of God will be confused or possibly even afraid of someone who so clearly radiates His joy, yet that’s a reaction we can respond to by loving them and explaining where our joy comes from. Not only does the presence of God fill us up with what we need, but it allows us to overflow into the lives of others and show them the love and character of God as well! Therefore, may we take inspiration from Moses to spend more time in the presence of God, engage in conversation with Him, and never forget to unashamedly display His joy in our lives as a witness to those around us.
Pause: Have you spent quality time in the presence of God recently? If so, what was it like?
Practice: Take a moment today— right now, in the car, or later before bed—and spend time with God in solitude. Focus your mind on His character, be aware of His presence, and start a conversation with Him. You may not hear His voice audibly, but you can open His Word and let the Spirit guide you in your reading of it. Just be with Jesus and see how His joy and peace can fill your heart.
Pray: Heavenly Father, joyful Jesus, patient Spirit, thank You for loving me and filling me up with all I need. I’m sorry for the days I don’t make time for You and rush past Your hands that are waiting to embrace me as I sit before You. May You help me develop better habits of engaging with Your presence and also experience the radiance of Your heart as a result. Thank You for Your grace. Amen.