This week we have a short and to-the-point verse- but there is a tremendous lot of things packed around it. In fact, so that you see where we are (other than the "duh, we're in 2 Corinthians 3:16" line), I'm going to give you the lead in verses as well:
2Co 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,
2Co 3:13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.
2Co 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.
2Co 3:15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.
2Co 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Now the ESV makes it seem easy to grasp. Maybe a little harder if you use the Literal Translation ( which is a bit different yet from Youngs):
2Co 3:16 But whenever it turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
With the "it" of course being the heart. Now in studying this, I came across a few questions that I have no answers to, and I'm not really sure if it matters, but let me float them out to see what you think.
1- "not like Moses". The inference is that Moses was not bold, but that can't be what Paul means here. Moses had gone before God Himself, both on the mountain and in the tabernacle. What Paul is referencing is what happened after God gave Moses the Law on Sinai:
Exo 34:29 And it happened as Moses was going down from Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony being in Moses' hand as he went down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face had become luminous through His speaking with him.
Exo 34:30 And Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses. And, behold! The skin of his face had become luminous. And they were afraid to draw near to him.
So close was Moses to the presence of God, that God's glory literally lit Moses' face- and it scared the people. Moses was bold in going to Him; the people couldn't even handle the afterimage of it! This is a part I don't recall happening to Charlton Heston, but it's been a while.
Curiously, the commentators seem to all have one main point they make about the veil that Moses was thus forced to wear:
Concerning the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great plainness or clearness of speech. They ought not, like Moses, to put a veil upon their faces, or obscure and darken those things which they should make plain. (Matthew Henry's commentary)
Which, while a valid point, I don't know that is a valid point as far as what Moses did. To read this, you assume he covered his face in front of the Hebrews AT ALL TIMES until the glow died off. However, as I read the passage:
Exo 34:32 And afterwards all the sons of Israel drew near. And he commanded them all that which Jehovah had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.
Exo 34:33 And Moses finished speaking with them, and he put a veil on his face.
Exo 34:34 And as Moses came in before Jehovah to speak with Him, he took off the veil until he went out. And he would go out and speak to the sons of Israel that which he was commanded.
Exo 34:35 And the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face had become luminous. And Moses would put back the veil on his face until he went in to speak with Him.
You see, Moses gave them the Word of God WITH UNCOVERED FACE- only putting on the veil afterwards. And when he would go to speak with God again, he would uncover himself to God- and then go to the Sons of Israel STILL uncovered, until he had told them what God wanted them to know. They NEVER received the Word veiled from God's glory- but because of the hardness of their hearts, they never took it in.
Which brings me to two more points to ponder. HOW did their hearts get hardened? Did God do it, as he (seemingly) did to Pharaoh? Or was it as Paul would say to the Corinthians in the next chapter:
2Co 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.
2Co 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
So, did God do it, or did the Devil? Well, my opinion is that THEY had to choose whether to face the glory of God, and they chose to hide from it, so God allowed the veil to descend, and Satan used it to blind them. And us, if we hide from the glory.
Second point to ponder, what DID Moses see? Was he looking at the FACE of God?
Joh 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Exo 33:20 And He said, You cannot see My face. For there no man can see Me and live.
So what DID he see? The verses before that Exodus passage give us a clue...
Exo 33:18 And he (Moses) said, I beseech You, let me see Your glory.
Exo 33:19 And He (God) said, I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before you. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.
And at the big moment...
Exo 33:21 And the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock,
Exo 33:22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.
Exo 33:23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen."
Now note in v 19, how God mentions proclaiming His name? It was more than just a name He declared:
Exo 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
Exo 34:7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."
One last thing on this: How great is the glory of God! Think about it, here we have a people who saw an entire sea split in two for them to walk across, and shrugged it off with a, "but Egypt has fresher meat" (Exodus 16:3 for the un-Martined version), but when confronted with the afterglow from one man who got a glimpse of the back of God's hands, they cower in fear!