The Israelites were about to be offered a new identity from slavery to become a nation that belonged to God – a God they did not know. The “I Am that I Am” revealed himself to Moses and gave him a mission, “I have come down to bring my people up, therefore you go into Egypt and bring them out.”
The mission of transforming His people from slaves in captivity, to sons and daughters under his rule and protection, had just begun. Plagues, escape from a rabid army, a miracle through raging waters and finally, they “passed over” with their God – into a wilderness. This was a barren place that had nothing they wanted and everything the needed – His Presence. Despite His presence and provision available to them every day, grumbling, disobedience and ungratefulness were the mark of this multitude of ex-slaves.
God, frustrated and broken hearted over the recalcitrance of his covenant people, relegated them to death, a whole generation left in the wilderness to die, denied the land of promise. Memories of “the way it was,” and the bleakness of wilderness living, blinded them from embracing Him. He was not enough for them, nor did he measure up to their self-serving expectations.
They couldn’t accept Him or see Him for who He truly was, nor could they see he had only good intentions for them. They would not be transformed nor would they look to Him and receive their new identity. Moses, their beleaguered leader, however, was of a different spirit.
11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Ex 33:11.
34 But whenever he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he would remove the veil until he came out again. Then he would give the people whatever instructions the Lord had given him, 35 and the people of Israel would see the radiant glow of his face. Ex 34:34–35.
Moses, also in the desert, was enjoying fellowship and instruction straight from the mouth of God. He had to be both a veiled man to his people and an unveiled man to his God. From this time until Jesus’ burst on the scene, their blindness had led them into captivity. In Babylon, they just wanted to go back to the way things had been. Under Roman captivity, Israel not only never had the veil removed, but they also thought only of being liberated from Roman rule and being freed to “self rule” once again.
They thought that being the “people” of God was a matter of keeping the law revealed in the Jewish scriptures. For centuries they sought to follow Yahweh, but in fact. their hearts remained veiled, a stubbornness that kept them enslaved to the nations around them. Jesus confirmed this myopia,
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. Jn. 5:39,40.
Jesus expresses his disappointment in Philip, his disciple:
“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! Jn 14:9.
Like the Jews, enslaved to an ethnocentric worldview, the church today is being invited out of a religious mindset into a reset of the magnificent Kingdom of God. We, the people of God can’t see our blindness. Only the Spirit of God opens eyes, removes the veil and exposes non-Jesus religious assumptions. God is still in the business of opening the eyes of hungry hearts. Like the invitation to Thomas, Father is saying to us today, “know me” and “see me.”
Now, we see in the Gospels that the disciples, the new “tribal leaders’’” own hearts were veiled from being “face to face” with Jesus. This veil produced a lack of recognition of the true nature of Jesus, the Messiah. He then introduces them to the secret of being unveiled and not falling into the spiritual slavery of the Jewish leaders.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. Jn 14:16–17.
Now Jesus lays his plan out to remove the veil from the disciples’ eyes. He would restore the “face to face” relationship between God and Man by sending the Holy Spirit.
16 …when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor. 2:16-17
Despite all of their theological and religious knowledge, Israel was still beholden to a belief system which kept them resistant to Jesus and firmly entrenched in slavery. Knowledge trumped relationship. For them freedom was external and political. For the new community, it was the freedom that came from the Spirit of the Lord. This Holy Spirit is now our birthright and demands that we break from belief systems and dependence on political freedom into a lifestyle of being guided by his presence in every aspect of our lives.
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (“metamorphoomai”) into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Co 3:18.
The Old and New Testament narrative describes the transformation process as being rooted in seeing, having open eyes, and being face to face with our incredible God. Because of Jesus we can stand “face to face” with our God as Moses did and behold (see) his true nature. Sounds wonderful? It is a wrecking ball to human blindness.
As a young pastor, I began to have many questions about the way we “do church.” The Father challenged me to ask the question, “where did this practice or belief get it’s origin?” I soon realized that that metaphorical “wrecking ball” was swinging in my direction. Should I duck, or let it hit full frontal. Because God never deconstructs without a plan for reconstruction, I began to invite (and still do) the weight of understanding and revelation regarding His church blueprint to obliterate my traditions and opinions about the nature of His family and plan.
Enter the Holy Spirit. He is the one that convicts us of the origins of our thoughts and practices. He is the one that requires us to lay it all down to receive the “mystery of the household order.” Paul’s whole focus was to proclaim a Gospel of the Kingdom that would, “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Eph 3:9,10
We are surrounded by this mystery as seek the unveiling of this “hidden plan.” Mysteries take revelation and revelation is only the purview of the Holy Spirit. No one can truly know a mystery until the mystery holder releases it to his faithful sons and daughters. Much of the church today is built according to human knowledge, “hand me down ideas” and assumptions which, surprisingly, still bring blessings from God (like Ishmael’s blessing). But only the church built on the revelation of the apostle and prophets by the power of the Spirit (like Isaac), will build the house that brings New Creation to the earth. We don’t know what we don’t know until the Spirit turns the lights on. Ask Father for a spiritual CAT scan, crawl into that “tube” – the results will be scary and wonderful!