DOWNLOAD MP3: Small Ambitions (Dave Bish, 2 Corinthians 3)
1. Glory, inaccessible (v7-11)
Paul tells us that God revealed something definitively beautiful to Moses, 3000 years ago. God had rescued his people from slavery in Egypt to that they could enter into a wonderful land where there would have abundant life and relationship with God. On the way God met with them via their leader Moses at Mount Sinai. When Moses returned from the presence of God (v7) to face the people and they were unable to look upon his face. Being with God had rubbed off on him. He had been with God and it was evident – as was noted of the first Christian martyr Stephen whose face shone as he announced the good news about Jesus before being dragged out to his death.
Moses’ face shone and the people couldn’t gaze on the glory. WHY NOT?
v13. Moses veiled his face so they couldn’t see.
Moses prevented them from seeing. Why? Because they had hardened minds toward God. They opposed God. And so they were denied the life this glory point towards.
v14-15? Same when the Books of Moses were read.
Even 1400 years later in Paul’s day there was still a veil. Not a physical barrier, but a real one.
The words of the Bible were read but with (v12) “hardened minds” they couldn’t understand the words.
Not because there was some meaning beyond the plain sense of the words on the page – but because their rebellious hearts were unable to believe.
(John 5v44-45) Same with the religious leaders.
Jesus exposed religious leaders, theological experts who knew the Bible but missed the point.
The Bible is meant to lead us to believe in Jesus, but they’d already decided that was unacceptable, so they missed what is plain to see.
And, 4v4, Satan blinds unbelievers minds.
More broadly than just the Jews, Satan has blinded the minds of all unbelievers so they can’t see the glory.
What was it that they couldn’t see? It was something glorious from God that:
• (v3) Is written in ink and carved in stone.
• (v6) That killed.
• (v9) The “ministry of condemnation”
• (v11) Was temporary: “being brought to an end”
Words that damn with faint praise, and yet even this was too glorious for them to see!!
What was it? The message of the Old Testament books of Moses. These five books, like the other 61 in the Bible are a revelation of God. They give us types and models and shadows to show us the way for people to return to relationship with God. A clearly readable signpost and yet they couldn’t see where it was pointing.
Why? Because reading the Bible takes more than the ability to string words together, a believing heart is required. And so what we find is something utterly heartbreaking – inaccessible glory. The finest art hidden in a private collection. But now, God has revealed more glory.
2. Glory, revealed (v12-18)
And this time, v12, “we are very bold” and confident to approach. The Christian is confident, having heard and believed the news about the death and resurrection of Jesus we’re not backwards in coming forward to approach God. Our hope gives us confidence – and you see that as the church gathers to sing and speak to God – very unlike the people in Moses’ day. What glory does the Christian see?
We learn that it…
• (v3) Isn’t on ink and stone but fulfils what God promised through Ezekiel and Jeremiah that he would purify the hearts of his people, that he would write on their hearts, making his home within his people by the Holy Spirit.
• (v6) This doesn’t kill it gives life!
• (v9) Doesn’t bring condemnation, but righteousness.
• (v11) Isn’t temporary but permanent.
That he would cause them to be born again, born from above and receive the Holy Spirit – God with his people, living in us!
How is it we can see this? We can see this greater absolute glory
• (v14) through to Christ
• (v16) turn to the Lord
• (v17) entering the freedom of the Spirit.
Do you want that? Walk out the door and you’re offered a million different destinations for your SATNAV, all offering to satisfy our thirst for beauty… The Holy Spirit comes to provide a new destination. Whoever you are, however you’ve lived. He invites us to turn from our feeble ambitions, and come. To come boldly:
• (v18) with unveiled face!
Unveiled we "behold" – which isn’t just understand, see, comprehend – it’s the language of awestruck , jaw-dropping worship as we : (v18) “behold the glory of the Lord”
This is the freedom the Spirit brings us into. Still, what is this glory? What is it?
• Not some abstract ‘sense’ of glory.
• No, this is something substantial and personal.
All our searching for beauty points to this glory. The lesser glory pointed to this glory. The Bible was written to reveal this glory. This glory is what unbelievers – 4v4 – cannot see, namely:
“…the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”
In the Bible we find God’s revelation. That revelation is of glory. No Bible, no revelation – no revelation, no glory. The hero of every page of the Bible is Jesus – and as Sam Storms says :
“Every syllable of every statute, every clause of every commandment that ever proceeded from the mouth of God was divinely designed to bring those who would obey into the greatest imaginable happiness of heart”SO LET US BEHOLD!
TO BE CONTINUED...