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…whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. (Exodus 34:29-35, NIV)
The Countenance of Moses Displayed the Radiance of God
Contemplate this for a moment. The transcendent God of Heaven entered into regular and personal conversations with a spiritual leader who was flawed just like the rest of us. Being in the presence of the Great “I AM” caused Moses to bear in his countenance the radiated glory of Almighty God for days and perhaps weeks on end.
This residual effect of deep intimacy with a holy and righteous God was something that struck awe and fear in God’s people. For their sake, Moses wore a veil to lessen the intensity of the heavenly glory that emanated from his face. Each encounter with God renewed the radiance, so this became a regular pattern for Moses and the Israelites as God revealed His word through a sanctified leader.
The Countenance of Jesus Revealed the Glory of God
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:1-2, NIV)
God the Father met with his eternal Son Jesus face to face. The encounter caused his countenance to shine with unparalleled glory, as bright as the sun. For a moment in time, the veil of his humanity was lowered and the three future leaders who witnessed his transfiguration saw the pure, unparalleled glory of God. This glory was not radiated as in the experience of Moses. No, it emanated from within Jesus, a heavenly glory generated from his deity as God the Son. In like response to the nation of Israel under Moses, this tangible encounter with the glory of God struck awe and fear in the three disciples who bore witness. Again, God revealed His word to His people: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
The Faces of Believers in Jesus Christ Reflect the Countenance of God
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18, NIV)
Another sanctified leader, the Apostle Paul, who himself encountered the blinding and destiny-shifting glory of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, enlightens the global church to a spiritual reality. The shekinah glory of God is present and active in our daily lives.It is a transforming and ever-increasing glory. The Holy Spirit is fashioning us into the image of Jesus Christ as we pursue intimacy with God and contemplate His glory.
Often when I am out in a public setting like a supermarket or a coffee shop, I whisper the following prayer: “Father, may my face bear the countenance of Christ.” It is a simple one sentence prayer. Yet behind it is a deep desire to capture such intimacy with God that my face radiates His glory, giving people a glimpse of who He is through one of his beloved children. I want my countenance to openly display the love, mercy, kindness and approving smile of God toward people he masterfully created. When I pray this prayer, I have a heightened sense of awareness of others. A smile brightens my face and I feel empowered by the Holy Spirit. I find myself praying for people who seem downcast, lonely or stressed. Might this be an example of what Paul had in mind when he mentioned the ongoing, transforming work of the Holy Spirit in believers which causes us to shine with ever-increasing glory? What about you, sanctified follower of Jesus Christ? Would you join me in this simple prayer? Let us together bear the countenance of God with ever-increasing glory!
Keith West is the founding President of Latitude GLC, a non-profit ministry in Rockwall, Texas. Keith believes his calling is to be a "Barnabas" to the next generation of spiritual leaders.