Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry of death, chiselled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!
Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
I like to walk and chat with God (or at least, try). Part of my route takes me alongside fields, and on today’s unusually clear pre-dawn morning I could see the stars. There was also a beautiful moon, and it got me thinking. (Don’t imagine I’m some super-holy prayer warrior, by-the-way. I’m writing this in January, in Britain; most folks are up before dawn.)
Moonlight is great, but it’s only reflected glory. It’s not the same as starlight. The moon, were I to visit, would seem familiar: solid surface, rocks, sunlight and shadows. A star is altogether different. Our sun is a ball of hydrogen-fuelled nuclear reactions, throwing out heat, light and all kinds of deadly radiation across millions of kilometres. It has no solid surface and its corona, an ‘atmosphere’ of plasma, is over a million degrees Celsius! It is so totally ‘other’ that I can’t get my head round it. But I can cope with the moon.
I think this is what Paul was talking about when he spoke of “seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror”. God is so utterly more than we can comprehend, and all we can cope with, for present, is a reflection.
Moses saw a glimpse of God’s glory, as did Elijah, and some of the disciples at Jesus’ transfiguration. One day, we will all see God’s full glory when we meet him face-to-face. As Paul said elsewhere, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)
But for the present, we are called to be moons to God’s sun – to reflect his glory in the world – while God works in us to change us from one degree of glory into another.
Father of majesty and mercy, Saviour of power and presence, Spirit of glory and grace; Finish, then, thy new creation. Pure and spotless let us be. Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee. Changed from glory into glory, ’til in heav’n we take our place, ’til we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
(from Charles Wesley)
Fay Rowland, graduate student of Wesley House, Cambridge, worshipping at Christ the King, Northants