The Lord said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." - Exodus 33:14
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness. - 2 Corinthians 3:12
Two-year reading texts: Psalm 111; 1 Samuel 17:32-58; John 3:27-36
Today's two verses have to do with the same story. Exodus 33 tells about Moses going back up Mt. Sinai to talk with God and get the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments (after smashing the first tablets in anger at seeing the Israelites worshiping the golden calf). He asks who God will send with him to lead the people on their journey, and he asks to be shown God's ways. God's answer is that it is God's own presence who will go with them. When Moses comes back down the mountain, he has to wear a veil because his face is shining from being in the presence of God's glory.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul takes up the same story, but in a bold contrast, he says that the glory of this powerful, ancient story of Moses and the Law is nothing compared to the glory of the Gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. And he says, unlike Moses who put on the veil, those who have heard the Gospel are compelled to share it by going unveiled. The "hope" he speaks of is the promise of justification by grace, written not on stone tablets but on human hearts. And the "acting with great boldness" means taking every opportunity to reveal the truth and love behind this story of grace.
It strikes me that Moses, and Paul, and the other main players in the longer scriptures for today, the psalmist, and David, and John, are all a part of the great story of God being advanced and revealed to the world. At each stage, God is carrying the promise of "blessed to be a blessing" further along. The people who are drawn into the story wrestle with how to live out the scene they find themselves in, in their place and time. What is the story? Where are we in it? What's God's will for us? Where are we headed? And how can I faithfully be a part of the story continuing? Part of the value of reading stories like these is that we see how it can play out in our own place and time. Like people of faith who have gone before us, we are players in a particular scene, called to make the story known to other people, so that they too can play their part.
One of the things I like about this image is that it's consistent with a theme that runs through today's Bible passages. God is the one whose presence makes the difference. God leads, God provides, gives strength, makes truth known, encourages, makes possible the movement of the story. And God is faithful. My prayer is to be reminded and inspired by these stories that God has a role for each of us, and that the truth and power and success of the story are in God's hands, not ours. May we listen, and hear. May the story be written on our hearts. And may it be made known to others with boldness and courage and love.