Behold the glory

Photo by zirconicusso. Courtesy of
Photo by zirconicusso. Courtesy of

N. T. Wright tells the story of a woman who was perturbed by all the attention being given to an upcoming solar eclipse. Dire warnings were issued by the media — Don’t look straight at the sun! — and people were buying up special glasses to watch the event safely. Puzzled, she wrote to a major newspaper: “If eclipses are so dangerous, why are we having one?”

(Maybe it’s just a matter of getting the right people on the right committee, and then we could avoid all this hassle?)

As we’ve seen in previous posts, Paul refers back to the story of Moses to teach the Corinthians about the glorious nature of the new covenant. Moses spoke with God directly, and the reflected glory of God shone in his face — so much so that he had to wear a veil to protect God’s heard-hearted people (2 Cor 3:13-15). For Paul, the veil becomes a symbol of the continuing closed-mindedness of his fellow Jews to the gospel; he may even have been thinking of his experiences of rejection in the Corinthian synagogue (Acts 18:4-6). Only in Christ is the veil removed (2 Cor 3:14b); only when the veil is removed can the true glory of even the old covenant be understood.

But Paul is an apostle of a new covenant, which he claims to preach with boldness and directness (2 Cor 3:12). People may accuse him of deception and double-meaning, but that’s because their hearts are veiled. And the good news is this: “But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed” (vs. 16, CEB).

The implied image is of Moses removing the veil as he spoke to God directly. But “turning” is a consistent biblical metaphor for repentance. This is not simply a matter of being convinced by rational argument, any more than the stubbornness of God’s people was merely an intellectual issue. When we turn to God in repentance, God removes the veil.

The implication, of course, is that when this happens, not only are our minds opened and our hearts softened, but like Moses, we begin to reflect the glory of God.

Who, me?

Yes. More on that in the next post.