What to do with a Shining Face?
Having read the latter portion of Exodus 34, you know Moses received a shine to his face, which his people found disturbing and hurt their eyes. Do we know the origin of this phenomenon? Torah does not explain how this occurred; however, the rabbis share with us the change came to him through his having chiseled the second set of tablets personally, thus imbuing his whole body with godly righteousness. Another explanation might be found in Moses’ having been in the presence of the Shekinah, the Holiness of Yahweh. As a result, Moses wore a veil over his face, only when in the presence of his people.
Another incident of the ‘shining face’ occurred during the time of Rav Sha’ul and his ministry to Corinth. Let’s revisit this incident, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:5,7 – Every man who prays or prophesies wearing something down over his head brings shame to his head. . . . For a man indeed should not have his head veiled, because he is the image and glory of God. I recognize many translations, beginning with the King James version, use the word ‘covered’, rather than veiled; however, the original Greek of 1 Corinthians 11:7 uses the phrase, katakaluptesthai, which translates as “to be being down covered” or covering the entire head, including the face. This, of course, means veiled. But why would they do this?
There are three important rules regarding the reading of Scripture: context, context, context. Our first task, then, in gaining an insight as to Paul’s meaning of 1 Corinthians 11, is to understand the context of his letter. Corinth, as Paul alludes to in other letters, was a very difficult city for Messianic Believers; the city was a hub for pagan worship. Temples to numerous Greek gods filled the spaces designated for religious observance; the one synagogue we know of (Acts 18), where the believers met on Shabbat, was probably very close to these pagan spaces. By the time Paul arrived in Corinth, many of the city’s Jews had been expelled from the city, by Tacitus Claudius, between 41 and 46 CE, due to their protests against a spreading of Messianic belief amongst the Greek and Roman inhabitants. Most, if not all, the worshipers Paul was addressing then, had only a surface understanding of Torah. However, the remaining Jews in the city confronted Paul (Acts 18), as they though he was teaching against Torah, a claim against which he aggressively fought.
Corinth was also a very wealthy city. Due to its position on the Isthmus of Corinth, half-way between Sparta and Athens, the city became a trading hub. It also was a favourite holiday and retirement centre for senior Roman legionnaires. To say the least, as Corinth grew in wealth and importance, its citizens began to display their status and beauty to the world. Many in the believing community also engaged in immoral practices, as we learn through extra-biblical sources, (Josephus, for one, and other writers referenced in the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906) and through the writings of Rav Sha’ul, in 1 Corinthians. Prime example may be found in 1 Corinthians 5:1 and in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. But what message may we draw from all of this for us today?
Beloved, there are many within the believing community who figuratively have their heads covered with veils, to shield others from their ‘holy righteousness’. In other words, they are afflicted with self-righteousness and self-aggrandisement, as if Yahweh had appointed them to be the Moses of their generation. Some of these have amassed immense wealth, money and possessions; others have garnered huge crowds who desire to be taught and still others have formed cults which revolve around them in secluded locations, teaching a perverted gospel. Unfortunately, there are many among us who act as if they have the truth, through some spirit other than Ruach HaKadosh, the Blessed Holy Spirit, and have decided that those who disagree with them are apostate. These are whom I refer to as ‘the shining faces’, the self-righteous, self-indulgent. They broadcast their perversions throughout social media, tickling the ears of the many who only want to hear what they want to hear and decry the Truth, which comes only from Yahweh’s Word, in the Hebrew and the Apostolic Scriptures.
The big question, then: How do we recognize false prophets and teachers? Thankfully, Scripture provides us with the signs to recognize these charlatans.
2 Peter 1:3 – God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to his own glory and goodness. Listen carefully to the message of the false teacher. You will be able to assert deception, if the Gospel message is not reflected in the invented story. A illustration of this may be found in the ‘prosperity gospel’.
2 Peter 1:16 – For when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Adonai Yeshua the Messiah, we did not rely on cunningly contrived myths. False prophets and teachers invent stories which test our interest and tempt our desires. These myths cannot be authenticated in Scripture.
2 Peter 2:9,10 – So Adonai knows how to rescue the godly from trials and how to hold the wicked until the Day of Judgment while continuing to punish them, 10 especially those who follow their old natures in lust for filth and who despise authority. False prophets and teachers do not recognize any authority but their own and despise those who would correct them. They are driven by their sinful lusts and worldly desires
2 Peter 2:17 – Waterless springs they are, mists driven by a gust of wind; for them has been reserved the blackest darkness. Clearly, all teachers are known by their fruit. False teachers will always promise more than they can possibly deliver and, when they fail to do so, there is always a ready excuse, an almost plausible reason.
2 Peter 2:18 – Mouthing grandiosities of nothingness, they play on the desires of the old nature, in order to seduce with debaucheries people who have just begun to escape from those whose way of life is wrong. False teachers give people what they want to hear; in that they are playing to the lustful desires of the sinful, who are driven by thoughts of wealth and power. Especially, they do not teach Yahweh’s Word of rebuke to those who wander off His narrow path.
2 Peter 2:19 – They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for a person is slave to whatever has defeated him. Clearly, the false teacher is corrupted by the world – desire for wealth, status, power or any other corrupting temptation.
2 Peter 2:1 – Under false pretenses they will introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and thus bring on themselves swift destruction. This is the most disturbing outcome of following false teachers, in our day and age. Unfortunately, many will discover too late the path of the false teacher/prophet and receive a consequence which will reward their naivete and worldly desires.