When Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two Tablets of The Testimony, he didn’t know that the skin of his face glowed because he had been speaking with God. Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, saw his radiant face, and held back, afraid to get close to him.
Moses called out to them. Aaron and the leaders in the community came back and Moses talked with them. Later all the Israelites came up to him and he passed on the commands, everything that God had told him on Mount Sinai.
When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face, but when he went into the presence of God to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. When he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they would see Moses’ face, its skin glowing, and then he would again put the veil on his face until he went back in to speak with God. (Exodus 34:29-35)
I don't begin to know all of the reasons Moses covered his face with a veil after he spoke God's words to the people of Israel (there are a few hints in 2 Corinthians 3), but something deep within me really loves the fact that he did. The very worst parts of me, if I were Moses, would want the people to see the radiance as long as it lasted, so they might think more highly of me as a result. "Oh, there's the guy that talks with God face to face. Look at him! Wow, he must be pretty special. I wish I had a relationship with God like that." I mean, it wouldn't be the first time I'd used some sweet gift God had given me just to get people to think more highly of me than they ought.
The best parts of me, on the other hand, love the beauty of Moses not wanting the people to see his shining face. After all, it wasn't for them. It was something that was the direct result of the intimacy that Moses had experienced with God on the mountain. And intimacy, by its very nature, is something that is spoiled when it is broadcast. Some things just aren't meant to be shared, they are meant to be savored and cherished. That's what intimacy is all about. So Moses put a veil over his face, almost as if to say, "This radiance is not for you. It is for me. It is the sweet result of an unspeakably intimate relationship forged on the mountaintop as God and I shared indescribably beautiful moments together." I mean, God obviously had specific things he wanted Moses to share with the people of Israel when he came down from the mountain. In fact, he was carrying those things on the stone tablets in his arms. But there was also a part of the experience that was just for Moses, and Moses knew that. Therefore, he put the veil over his face when he was with the people, almost as if to savor the sweetness of the time he had spent with God.
Moses knew that God was not just a means to an end, but he was the end itself. C. S. Lewis once said that if we are approaching God as a means to and end, we are really not approaching God at all. Moses obviously knew this. He wasn't using God to further his own reputation or standing or position or ministry. He wasn't using him to gain admirers. He wasn't approaching God just so God might give him something to say that might wow all who heard. He wasn't just approaching God so that God would give him something to make an impact on the lives of those around us. That is the great temptation of ministry. He was approaching God simply because He was God, and the rest would take care of itself. I pray that I might be able to do the same.