Why We Wear Veils- 2 Corinthians 3:13-15

As we continue in our examination of 2 Corinthians 3, we find Paul returning to the concept of Moses and the “fading glory”. Moses had been in the very presence of God, and put a veil over his face, presumably to protect the Israelites from being damaged by the glory which was reflected through Moses because he was in the presence of God. What Paul actually tells us in verse 13-15 is that the reason Moses wore the veil was not really to protect Israel, but for a very different reason. Verse 13 is actually a continuation of verse 12, for what Paul actually says is that we are not like Moses, we are rather “very bold”, and do not find it necessary to wear a veil as Moses did. This gives rise to the question as to why Moses felt it necessary to wear the veil, and it is this question which Paul then answers for us in verses 13-15. Paul first tells us that the glory which shone through Moses was “fading away”. He tells us here that the reason Moses kept the veil on was not to protect Israel, but rather to protect himself. So just what is Paul getting at here, what does he want us to understand from his mention of Moses and the veil? In the situation Paul is referring to, Moses entered the very presence of God. He glowed merely because he was in God’s presence, but that glory was quickly fading away. So what happened when Moses was in God’s presence? We can presume here that he had the same response Isaiah did in Isaiah 6, in which he responded “woe is me. I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips”. (Isaiah 6:5). Paul here then expands on what he first explained in verses 7-8 in the mention of the law. We recall that the law is actually a reflection of the character of God, and what it primarily does is reveal to us our flaws and shortcomings. Moses experience in the presence of God did what the law does and more, for it served to reveal to him all of his flaws and shortcomings, just as it did for Isaiah. So what Paul tells us here is that Moses kept the veil on to hide the fact that he had flaws and shortcomings from the people of Israel. As their leader, he wanted to project a certain image to the people, and admitting his flaws and shortcomings would “damage” that image. He was very concerned about what the people thought of him, what their opinion of him was, and their opinion of him influenced his behavior, he was at some level controlled by their opinion of him. This is also why all of us wear veils or masks. We do so to hide our flaws and shortcomings from others, because we are very concerned about what they think about us, about what their opinion of us is. This then, like Moses, causes us to be controlled by the opinions of others, by what others think about us. This is why Paul says about the world in verse 14, that their “minds are made dull”, that the “veil remains when the Old Covenant is read”. The purpose of the law is to point out our flaws and shortcomings, and the law fails to achieve its purpose because the veil is not removed, because they refuse to acknowledge their flaws and shortcomings. They continue to wear the mask they use to hide their flaws and shortcomings from others, and this keeps them in bondage to the opinions of others, controlled by what others think about them, due to their need to project a certain image. There is also then here, the danger of the believer doing exactly the same thing. When we attempt to hide our flaws and shortcomings from others, we show that we are more concerned about what they think about us than by what God thinks about us. This can then cause us to be controlled by them rather than by God. This is how Moses behaved, and Paul is warning us here so that we do not fall into the same trap Moses did, so that we would remove the veil once and for all, no longer trying to project a particular image to others, but free to “with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory” (verse 18). Our next post will continue in our study of this topic in this chapter, and find Paul’s explanation of the freedom to be found in removing the veil once and for all.

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