Christians Reflect the Glory of Jehovah
“Happy are your eyes because they behold, and your ears because they hear.”—MATTHEW 13:16.
1. What question comes to mind concerning the Israelites’ reaction to Moses at Mount Sinai?
THE Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai had every reason to draw close to Jehovah. After all, he had delivered them from Egypt with a mighty hand. He cared for their needs, providing food and water in the wilderness. Next, he gave them victory over an attacking Amalekite army. (Exodus 14:26-31; 16:2–17:13) As they camped in the wilderness before Mount Sinai, the people were so frightened by thunders and lightnings that they trembled. Later, they saw Moses descend from Mount Sinai, his face reflecting the glory of Jehovah. Yet, instead of responding with wonderment and appreciation, they withdrew. “They grew afraid of coming near to [Moses].” (Exodus 19:10-19; 34:30) Why were they fearful of beholding a reflection of the glory of Jehovah, the one who had done so much for them?
2. Why might the Israelites have been fearful at seeing the glory of God that Moses reflected?
2 Likely, much of the Israelites’ fear on this occasion had to do with what had happened earlier. When they deliberately disobeyed Jehovah by making a golden calf, he disciplined them. (Exodus 32:4, 35) Did they learn from Jehovah’s discipline and appreciate it? No, most did not. Toward the end of his life, Moses recalled the incident of the golden calf along with other instances of Israelite disobedience. He said to the people: “You behaved rebelliously against the order of Jehovah your God, and you did not exercise faith toward him and did not listen to his voice. You have proved yourselves rebellious in behavior with Jehovah from the day of my knowing you.”—Deuteronomy 9:15-24.
3. What did Moses do as to veiling his face?
3 Consider how Moses reacted to the fear shown by the Israelites. The account reads: “When Moses would finish speaking with them, he would put a veil over his face. But when Moses would go in [to the tabernacle] before Jehovah to speak with him, he would take away the veil until his going out. And he went out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he would be commanded. And the sons of Israel saw Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face emitted rays; and Moses put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with [Jehovah].” (Exodus 34:33-35) Why did Moses veil his face at times? What can we learn from this? The answers to these questions can help us to evaluate our own relationship with Jehovah.
4. What meaning did the apostle Paul reveal about Moses’ wearing of the veil?
4 The apostle Paul explained that Moses’ wearing of the veil had to do with the minds and the heart condition of the Israelites themselves. Paul wrote: “The sons of Israel could not gaze intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face . . . Their mental powers were dulled.” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 14) What a sad situation! The Israelites were Jehovah’s chosen people, and he wanted them to draw close to him. (Exodus 19:4-6) Yet, they were reluctant to gaze intently on the reflection of God’s glory. Instead of turning their hearts and minds toward Jehovah in loving devotion, they in a sense turned away from him.
5, 6. (a) What first-century parallel was there to the Israelites of Moses’ day? (b) What contrast was there between those who listened to Jesus and those who did not?
5 In this, we find a parallel in the first century C.E. By the time of Paul’s conversion to Christianity, the Law covenant had been replaced by the new covenant, mediated by Jesus Christ, the Greater Moses. In both word and deed, Jesus perfectly reflected the glory of Jehovah. Paul wrote concerning the resurrected Jesus: “He is the reflection of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being.” (Hebrews 1:3) What a magnificent opportunity the Jews had! They could listen to the sayings of everlasting life from the Son of God himself! Sadly, most of those to whom Jesus preached did not listen. Concerning them, Jesus quoted Jehovah’s prophecy through Isaiah: “The heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.”—Matthew 13:15; Isaiah 6:9, 10.
6 There was a sharp contrast between the Jews and Jesus’ disciples, of whom Jesus said: “Happy are your eyes because they behold, and your ears because they hear.” (Matthew 13:16) True Christians yearn to know and serve Jehovah. They delight to carry out his will, as it is revealed in the pages of the Bible. In turn, anointed Christians reflect Jehovah’s glory in their ministry of the new covenant, and those of the other sheep do similarly.—2 Corinthians 3:6, 18.
Why the Good News Is Veiled
7. Why is it not surprising that most reject the good news?
7 As we have seen, both in Jesus’ day and in Moses’ day, most Israelites rejected the unique opportunity open to them. It is similar in our time. Most people reject the good news that we preach. This does not surprise us. Paul wrote: “If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) In addition to Satan’s efforts to conceal the good news, many people veil their own faces because they do not want to see.
8. In what way are many blinded by ignorance, and how can we avoid being similarly affected?
8 The figurative eyes of many are blinded by ignorance. The Bible speaks of the nations as being “in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them.” (Ephesians 4:18) Before he became a Christian, Paul, a man versed in the Law, was so blinded by ignorance that he persecuted the congregation of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9) Yet, Jehovah revealed the truth to him. Explains Paul: “The reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long-suffering for a sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.” (1 Timothy 1:16) Like Paul, many who once opposed God’s truth are now serving Him. This is a good reason for continuing to bear witness even to those who oppose us. Meanwhile, by regularly studying God’s Word and getting the sense of it, we are protected from acting in ignorance in a way that brings Jehovah’s displeasure.
9, 10. (a) How did first-century Jews show themselves unteachable and rigid in their views? (b) Is there a parallel in Christendom today? Explain.
9 For many, spiritual vision is obstructed because they are unteachable and rigid in their views. Many Jews rejected Jesus and his teachings because they doggedly clung to the Mosaic Law. There were, of course, exceptions. For example, after Jesus was resurrected, “a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) Nevertheless, concerning the majority of the Jews, Paul wrote: “Down till today whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:15) Paul likely knew what Jesus had previously said to the Jewish religious leaders: “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39) The Scriptures they so carefully searched should have helped them discern that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the Jews had their own ideas, and not even the miracle-working Son of God could persuade them otherwise.
10 The same is true of many in Christendom today. Like the first-century Jews, “they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Romans 10:2) Though some study the Bible, they do not want to believe what it says. They refuse to accept that Jehovah teaches his people through his faithful and discreet slave class of anointed Christians. (Matthew 24:45) We, though, understand that Jehovah is teaching his people and that the understanding of divine truth has always been progressive. (Proverbs 4:18) By allowing ourselves to be taught by Jehovah, we are blessed with the knowledge of his will and purpose.
11. What role has wishful thinking played in hiding the truth?
11 Others are blinded by wishful thinking. It was foretold that some would ridicule God’s people and the message they proclaim concerning Jesus’ presence. The apostle Peter wrote: “According to their wish, this fact escapes their notice,” namely that God brought a deluge upon the world of Noah’s time. (2 Peter 3:3-6) Similarly, many professed Christians readily acknowledge that Jehovah displays mercy, kindness, and forgiveness; yet they ignore or reject the fact that he does not give exemption from punishment. (Exodus 34:6, 7) True Christians take care to understand what the Bible really teaches.
12. How have people been blinded by tradition?
12 Many churchgoers are blinded by tradition. To religious leaders in his day, Jesus said: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6) The Jews zealously restored pure worship after returning from exile in Babylon, yet the priests themselves became proud and self-righteous. Religious festivals became formalistic, devoid of genuine reverence for God. (Malachi 1:6-8) By Jesus’ time, the scribes and the Pharisees had added countless traditions to the Mosaic Law. Jesus exposed those men as hypocrites because they had lost sight of the righteous principles on which the Law was based. (Matthew 23:23, 24) True Christians must take care not to allow man-made religious traditions to sidetrack them from pure worship.
“Seeing the One Who Is Invisible”
13. In what two ways did Moses behold some of God’s glory?
13 Moses asked to see God’s glory in the mountain, and he did see the afterglow of Jehovah’s glory. When he went into the tabernacle, he did not wear a veil. Moses was a man of deep faith who desired to do God’s will. Though he was blessed with seeing some of Jehovah’s glory in vision, in a sense he had already beheld God with eyes of faith. The Bible says that Moses “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27; Exodus 34:5-7) And he reflected God’s glory not merely by those rays that emanated from his face for a time but also through his efforts to assist the Israelites to come to know and serve Jehovah.
14. How did Jesus behold God’s glory, and in what did he delight?
14 In heaven, Jesus directly beheld the glory of God for untold ages, even since before the universe was created. (Proverbs 8:22, 30) During all that time, a deeply loving and affectionate relationship developed. Jehovah God expressed the most tender love and affection for this firstborn of all creation. Jesus reciprocated in expressing his deep love and affection for his divine Life-Giver. (John 14:31; 17:24) Theirs was a perfect love between Father and Son. Jesus, like Moses, delighted in reflecting Jehovah’s glory in the things he taught.
15. In what way do Christians contemplate God’s glory?
15 Like Moses and Jesus, God’s present-day Witnesses on earth are eager to contemplate Jehovah’s glory. They have not turned away from the glorious good news. The apostle Paul wrote: “When there is a turning to Jehovah [to do his will], the veil is taken away.” (2 Corinthians 3:16) We study the Scriptures because we want to do God’s will. We admire the glory reflected in the face of Jehovah’s Son and anointed King, Jesus Christ, and we imitate his example. Like Moses and like Jesus, we have been blessed with a ministry, teaching others about the glorious God whom we worship.
16. Why are we blessed to know the truth?
16 Jesus prayed: “I publicly praise you, Father, . . . because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25) Jehovah gives an understanding of his purposes and personality to those who are sincere and humble in heart. (1 Corinthians 1:26-28) We have come under his protective care, and he teaches us to benefit ourselves—to get the most out of life. May we take advantage of every opportunity to draw close to Jehovah, appreciating his many provisions to come to know him more intimately.
17. How do we come to know Jehovah’s qualities more fully?
17 Paul wrote to anointed Christians: “We with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah [and] are transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, the more we come to know Jehovah—his qualities and personality as revealed in the Bible—the more we become like him. If we appreciatively contemplate the life, the ministry, and the teachings of Jesus Christ, we will reflect Jehovah’s qualities more fully. What a joy to know that we bring praise to our God, whose glory we seek to reflect!
Do You Remember?
• Why were the Israelites afraid to behold the glory of God that Moses reflected?
• In what ways was the good news “veiled” in the first century? in our day?
• How do we reflect God’s glory?
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The Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face
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Like Paul, many who once opposed God’s truth are now serving Him
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Jehovah’s servants delight to reflect God’s glory