Because of their sin, God told Moses to move the Tabernacle beyond the camp of the Israelites. He said of these descendants of Abraham “thou art a stiffnecked people” (Exodus 33:3). He could not live amongst them.
And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that [everyone] which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. (Exodus 33:7)
Of all the children of Israel, only Moses enjoyed face to face fellowship with God:
And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend… (Exodus 33:11a).
Even when the people interacted with Moses, it had to be through a veil. Because when Moses finished fellowshipping with the Lord, his face shone and the sight of it frightened the people (Exodus 34:29-30). To ease the people’s fear Moses took to the habit of wearing a veil over his face as he spoke to the people on God’s behalf:
And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. (Exodus 34:32)
And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a [veil] on his face. (Exodus 34:33)
Physical Veil, Spiritual TRUTH
And so it was throughout Moses’ ministry to the people whenever he brought them commandments from the Lord. In the New Testament Paul noted that the veil was a testament to the Israelites’ spiritual blindness, something that continued even into his day:
2 Corinthians 3:13-15
(13) And not as Moses, which put a [veil] over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
(14) But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same [veil] untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
(15) But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the [veil] is upon their heart.
The finished work of Christ changed that for all believers. The moment Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, the veil separating the holy of holies from the rest of the temple “was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mark 15:38b). This too was symbolic. What separated man from God was no more because of Jesus Christ. The veil tore from top to bottom because it was God by His grace Who tore through it, not man by his works. Now, because of Christ, we who put our faith in His finished work are more like Moses than we are the children of Israel in Moses’ day. Like Moses, we too can speak to God face to face. Yet, we’ll settle for being like those who remained in the camp, away from God, separated not by edict from God, but by the choice of our own heart.
Like Moses, we have free access to God yet we often choose to veil ourselves from Him because we don’t want to leave ourselves vulnerable and exposed to Him. Christ made Himself completely vulnerable on the cross to leave in tatters what separated us from God and then we put a veil between ourselves and Him to separate ourselves from God. Our veils consist of excuses for why we don’t fellowship with God more, or justifications for behavior that we know is not God-pleasing. We hide behind them thinking God cannot see us, when really they are nothing more than tattered veils.