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“My anchor holds within the veil.” -Edward Mote (public domain)
In the Bible, Jesus calls himself many things: The Son of Man, The Bread of Life, The Chief Cornerstone, The Good Shepherd, The Light of The World. (Check out this post by HelpMeWithBibleStudy,org for a more complete list. Actually, give me a week or two and I’ll write about it myself!)
My favorite name for Jesus is one that the Bible didn’t give us, but a wise follower of Jesus did: The Anchor.
I grew up singing traditional hymns in church. (In more recent years I sang and listened to more contemporary music.) I remember singing “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” a hymn written in 1834 by Edward Mote. I sang the lines along with the rest of the congregation, and I admit that I must have sung the song fifty times before I started to wonder what the words meant.
I was struck in particular by this line.
In ev’ry rough and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the vale.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
More modern translations of the hymn, as well as the contemporary rewrite, called Cornerstone, by Hillsong Worship, have changed “vale,” which means valley to “veil,” meaning the face covering.
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on his unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
My anchor holds within the veil.
These homonyms both have beautiful meaning in the context of the songs, but the Biblical history of Jesus, our anchor within the veil is so beautiful that I want to share it with you this Holy Week.
Moses’ Fading Glory
In Exodus 19-34 we see that Moses spent time with God on Mt. Sinai, receiving the law from God in order to lead the people of Israel to become their own nation, and representatives of God. That time with God changed Moses. There was a physical change to his appearance.
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.“
Exodus 34:29-35 ESV
Why do you think Moses wore a veil? If you were shining with the glory of God, wouldn’t you want to show it off? (I would. But you sweeter, meeker, and more humble types might not, I suppose.) Many people have made wild guesses about why Moses put a veil over his face. But wild guesses aren’t necessary because the Bible tells us why.
“We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.”
2 Corinthians 3:13 NIV
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God’s presence changed Moses, but the change was temporary. Even as God traveled before the people in the Ark of the Covenant they would soon create, God’s presence was temporary! There is grieving in that! God’s glory was beautiful, but his people – even Moses – could only temporarily possess it. His presence was awesome, but he could remove himself from them. Moses wore a veil to cover the shame of the fading glory of God on his face.
But that wasn’t the end of the story!
The New Covenant & Our Eternal Glory…in Christ!
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul goes on to say that we are not like Moses:
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV
Under the old covenant, bound by the law, Moses reflected the Lord’s glory temporarily. It was fleeting. And the loss of God’s glory must have been more painful than if he had never experienced it in the first place, only for it to fade.
But God brough a new covenant through Jesus – there’s a new story now!
Jesus died on the cross, becoming sin through and through, so that by faith in him we could become righteous through and through (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s Spirit lives in us who believe, as a guarantee of our salvation. He will never loosen his grasp on us (John 10:28-30).
God’s glory shines through us and will never fade away.
Anchored Within the Veil
As the people of God built the temple according to the specifications given to them by God himself, they put up a large curtain – a veil – to block the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant, and God Himself, would reside. That veil was necessary because the all-consuming glory of God was deadly to God’s sinful people. They couldn’t be in the presence of God without being destroyed.
But when Jesus on the cross, taking our sins upon himself and in that moment making his own people clean and pure, as if they’d never sinned, something truly amazing happened:
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Matthew 27:50,51 NIV
The curtain – the veil – was torn in two from top to bottom, as though God Himself said, “There will be no more separation between me and my people.”
Jesus is the Anchor that holds us in the presence of God! We can never be lost. We can never wander away. His glory in us will never fade.