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Why didn't Moses' face shine the first time?


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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 12:30 PM

The first time Moses went up Mt. Sinai with God, he was surrounded by God's glory and spent a great while with him. However, when he came down, we do not hear about his face shining. We only hear about that the second time he went up, and on succeeding meetings with the Lord. Why didn't his face shine the first time?

Brad

#2 Moses Anthony

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 02:04 AM

If one takes into account that Holy Tradition comes from God, I would have to say that the answer to your question -although quizzical- is of little import in the matter of godly living. All the questions about such living should be the first each of needs to answer. The other questions we ask can be answered, after we're well on the way to obeying what we already know God asks of us.

At least that is the way I see it!

the sinful and unworthy servant,

#3 Brad D.

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Posted 12 September 2012 - 01:55 PM

If one takes into account that Holy Tradition comes from God, I would have to say that the answer to your question -although quizzical- is of little import in the matter of godly living. All the questions about such living should be the first each of needs to answer. The other questions we ask can be answered, after we're well on the way to obeying what we already know God asks of us.

At least that is the way I see it!

the sinful and unworthy servant,


Thank you for your somewhat cryptic reply! However, I would say that the value of this question in relation to godly living is certainly subjective.

BD

#4 Antonios

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 01:21 AM

When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai the first time, weren't the children of Israel busy in debauchery and worshipping a golden calf? I think this was the time that God had written on the stone tablets Himself the Commandments, if I am not mistaken. Perhaps the people were not worthy to behold such light? I don't know, but I do find it fascinating that the first time Moses went up, God had written on the tablets Himself, and those are the same tablets which Moses threw on the ground and broke because the people were not worthy. The second time Moses received the Commandment, he instead wrote them down, and when he came down from the mountain his face shown like the sun. Surely this is a deep mystery, and perhaps an instructive one at that.

#5 Brad D.

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 02:06 AM

Surely this is a deep mystery, and perhaps an instructive one at that.


yes, definitely there is...and I agree, it must have to do with the sin of the people, as well as the nature of Moses' encounter...very interesting.

#6 Georgianna

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 11:55 AM

Perhaps this small excerpt from The Life of Moses might be helpful:

215. For perhaps it is possible, as we are led by these events, to come to some perception of the divine concern for us. For if the divine Apostle speaks the truth when he calls the tables “hearts”,[1] that is, the foremost part of the soul (and certainly he who ‘by the Spirit … reaches … the depths of God’[2] does speak the truth), then it is possible to learn from this that human nature at its beginning was unbroken and immortal. Since human nature was fashioned by the divine hands and beautified with the unwritten characters of the Law, the intention of the Law lay in our nature in turning us away from evil and in honoring the divine.

216. When the sound of sin struck our ears, that sound which the first book of Scripture calls the “voice of the serpent”,[3] but the history concerning the tables calls the “voice of drunken singing”,[4] the tables fell to the earth and were broken. But again the true Lawgiver, of whom Moses as a type, cut the tables of human nature for himself from our earth. It was not marriage which produced for him his “God-receiving” flesh, but he became the stonecutter of his own flesh, which was carved by the divine finger, for ‘the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.’[5] When this took place, our nature regained its unbroken character, becoming immortal through the letters written by his finger. The Holy Spirit is called “finger” in many places by Scripture.[6]

217. Moses was transformed to such a degree of glory that the mortal eye could not behold him.[7] Certainly he who has been instructed in the divine mystery of our faith knows how the contemplation of the spiritual sense agrees with the literal account. For when the restorer of our broken nature (you no doubt perceive in him the one who healed our brokenness) had restored the broken table of our nature to its original beauty – doing this by the finger of God, as I said – the eyes of the unworthy could no longer behold him. In his surpassing glory he becomes inaccessible to these who would look upon him.

218. For in truth, as the Gospel says, ‘when he shall come in his glory escorted by all the angels,[8] he is scarcely bearable and visible to the righteous. He who is impious and follows [Arianism] remains without a share in that vision, for let the impious be removed, as Isaiah says, and ‘he shall not see the glory of the Lord.[9]

- St Gregory of Nyssa, 110-111


[1] 2 Cor 3:3.
[2] 1 Cor 2:10 modified.
[3] Gen 3:4.
[4] Exod. 32:18f, LXX.
[5] Luke 1:35 modified.
[6] Luke 11:20 and Matt 12:28 (cf Exod 8:19 and Deut 9:10).
[7] Exod 34:29ff.
[8] Matt 25:31.
[9] Exod 34:29ff.



#7 Antonios

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Posted 13 September 2012 - 04:31 PM

Thank you Georgianna for the excerpt from 'The Life of Moses', one of my favorite books by St. Gregory! Brad, you should definitely read this book. :)

The actions leading to the presentation of God's laws has revealed several things. First, that He loves us and His is an active and leading love, guiding us and lighting the way through the dark deserts in our life. And in this same love, He granted us the Law to abide in, written by Himself, words in creation drawn by His very finger, so that they would be seen in this world perfectly in the writings of God Himself. That God Himself might be known in the words and seen written on stone tablets, the very finger marks of the Almighty God!

But because of our sinful fallen nature, and due to ignorance, lust and forgetfulness of God, the people of Israel at the foot of the mountain worshipped idols instead. So fickle and little was their faith, that they insisted and required to see God with their very own eyes in order believe. They insisted on defining God as they saw fit and created idols and material gods to worship, because the works of the unseen God were not enough; they insisted on beholding His face in their desired time and in their desired manner, even if it meant designing and creating their own god.

So if these people, who had just witnessed the awesome power of God in their escape from Egypt and the Pharaoh's armies, could abandon God and turn to idols, what could then stop them from turning the tablets of stone into becoming idols? What if they worshipped the stone tablets as God Himself or the words of the law as God in order to find salvation? Would that lead them to the Promised Land? Would that be enough to be saved from their sins?

Indeed, no. For as was demonstrated at the foot of Mt. Sinai, our fallen nature was not mature enough, trustworthy enough, faithful enough, or obedient enough to be given the responsibility of holding the words of God wisely. Indeed, they showed themselves unworthy. For our fallen nature was incapable of understanding Who God is and in joining in true communion with Him just by our own efforts or even the writings of the words of God. Instead, it required the Word of God to become incarnate, one like us in every way except sin, so that we might know God in Truth and through Him find complete and utter salvation.

And Moses knew the people weren't yet worthy, and he smashed the stone tablets on the floor in a rage when he saw the weakness of the people, so as to protect and keep undefiled that which was holy from them unworthy, disobedient and idol worshipping people. Indeed, their hearts were not worthy or prepared to receive such divine truths.

The next time Moses went up to Mount Sinai, things were different. The people were prepared and repentant. This time God commanded Moses instead to write down the Law, a very important and symbolic act. For in this way God has confirmed and blessed the work of man (in this case Moses) to act as transmitter and messenger of His will. Our struggle to know God would not be forsaken because of our sinful nature and casted down and shattered into pieces, but would be revealed in the works of faithful and obedient men as well as from wonders in the sky and atop mountains.


And after Moses wrote them down, like a good and obedient servant to the King, his face shined like the noonday sun, and God revealed to mankind for evermore, that he who does the will of God, who remains faithful, humble and obedient to God will become vessels for the Word of God, and bearers of the Light of God.

We see in this example of the life of Moses how God reveals Himself in His saints by the life and works of men, using such men and women as blessed and good means of experiential knowledge of God to those with repentant hearts.


Edited by Antonios, 13 September 2012 - 04:58 PM.


#8 Moses Anthony

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 12:49 AM

Forgive me for seeming cryptic; but, here I go again.

The "first" encounter of Moses with God was at the burning bush, where God called Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian slavery. Moses talked with God numerous times in the 'land of bondage' before Pharaoh let the 'people of God' go. The river is crossed and the nation is at the Holy Mountain, where again at His own instigation and by His authority, Moses meets with God to receive God's Law. While he is "in conference" with God, the people Moses has lead indulge in the rebellion of sin. In anger the tablets written by the finger of God are broken, and up the Holy Mount Moses goes again. So what is the big difference in the appearance of Moses at the end of this meeting.

The difference is the bold and daring challenge Moses puts to God. "Now therefore if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee..." God answers Moses; then Moses said "I pray Thee show me Thy glory!" Moses in the cleft of the rock on The Holy Mountain, and causes His glory to pass by, allowing Moses to see his back. The tablets are replaced, the covenant is renewed, and Moses descends to the people, and the entire nation sees Moses' face shining.

The answer to your question, as to why the difference in Moses' face is there! Moses asked for and was allowed to see the glory of God! Note: Moses talked with God numerous times without the illumination of God's glory reflecting in his face, but when he saw God's glory "the game changed" So now even with the Apostle Paul who ministers under the new Blood Covenant, we say, "...but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be from God and not from ourselves...."

I do not intend to be cryptic; it's just that I believe that 'words mean things', and therefore prayerfully use the ones I intend.


the sinful and unworthy servant

#9 Antonios

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 05:31 AM

I do not intend to be cryptic; it's just that I believe that 'words mean things'.


Your post is not cryptic at all! You have brought up a very important understanding of what occurred! Thank you for posting it Moses Anthony.

I do think there may be more however to all this. Of course, if God wills the face of Moses to shine after revealing to him His glory, then it is so. The question which arises for me then is: 'for what purpose'? Naturally it is not Moses who is generating such light but the Holy Spirit of God. Is this because Moses reached deification by his experience of God's glory? Probably so, yet even so, it is God in him which causes this luminary change to his face.

I remember the three disciples of Christ who witnessed His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. They are not recorded as having their faces shine like the noonday sun for many days after beholding Christ in Uncreated Glory. In fact, they 'told no man in those days any of the things which they had seen.' (Luke 9:36).

It seems to me that the purpose of Moses' face shining so was to reveal the power of God and the witness of His power to the people of Israel through His 'earthen vessel' Moses. Moses was ordained in Light with authority by God. This same man who now God substituted to do the important work of transcribing the Commandments, of announcing the Law, of initiating the Priesthood, of constructing the Ark of the Covenant. A great early example of God reaching down to save His people Israel through the toil and obedience of his saints.

And later when Moses struck the rock to obtain water the second time in anger and disobedience to God, God again used His beloved and faithful servant as an example to Israel and all people thereafter. Because of Moses' disobedience and attempt at forcing the will of God (bringing water from the rock) by his efforts alone (striking it a second time in direct disobedience to God), He did not allow Moses to enter into the Promised Land. Moses would get close enough to see it, but not enter it. For as holy and faithful and obedient as Moses was, as graced as he was by God, he was still but a man and prone to sin. For there was still yet to come the only One Who could go the distance that Moses could not. And by doing so, bring His faithful servant Moses (and all His faithful servants) to not only see the Promised Land and the Glory of God, but to enter into it in the Kindgom of Heaven.

Edited by Antonios, 19 September 2012 - 05:56 AM.


#10 Moses Anthony

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 01:11 AM

A Southern Baptist preacher once said of Charismatics that, "People are so busy looking for God in the supernatural, that they totally miss it when God acts in the natural."

For no other reason than that as Moses re-stated God's word "If I have found favor in Thy sight....", did God grant the request, which resulted in the God-seers face shining. It is the exact same(redundant) thing as Fr.Sophrony recounts in the story of St.Silouan's vision of Our Lord Jesus. To those whom He loves, who have "found favor", the mercy of God grants unbelievable things.

As I learned years ago; even as a Protestant, God can, and often does say a multitude of things to different people in the same teaching, vision, etc., etc., etc.. All the while there may be only one interpretation according to what the Church teaches. A preacher may give a multitude of homilies, but have only one message. Moses, prophet and God-seer of Israel, St.Silouan: A face shines, and another sees a vision of our Resurrected Lord, but God loves them both. None of us are any different whether our asceticism be high or low!

An interesting note to me is this: In the troparia of the Transfiguration it is sung that Jesus revealed His glory "...to Thy disciples in proportion as they could bear it." Even though God literally expressed favor to him, a shining face was all Moses could bear. And look at me, so full of sin: Moses is my name saint!


the sinful and unworthy servant

#11 Father Stephanos

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 05:24 AM

An interesting note to me is this: In the troparia of the Transfiguration it is sung that Jesus revealed His glory "...to Thy disciples in proportion as they could bear it." Even though God literally expressed favor to him, a shining face was all Moses could bear. And look at me, so full of sin: Moses is my name saint!

the sinful and unworthy servant

The radiating face of the Holy glorious Prophet Moses the God-Seer was all the Israelites were able to and/or could bear to see.

I hope this helps!

With agape in our Lord Jesus Christ,
+ Father Stephanos

#12 Moses Anthony

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 01:06 AM

It does Fr.

#13 Antonios

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 05:52 AM

The radiating face of the Holy glorious Prophet Moses the God-Seer was all the Israelites were able to and/or could bear to see.


Indeed, Moses did not even know his face was shining until he came down the mountain and the people told him!

I wonder how his own face appeared to him looking down into a still pool of water, for you have to believe he did just that after he was told that his face was aflame.

Yes, I know. I probably wonder too much! :P




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