In our former articles in this present series of Scripture studies we have called attention to some New Testament passages from the pen of the apostle Paul, in which he quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures and places them in a New Testament context.

In these studies there were three elements that always and again became evident as necessary to the correct understanding of the Word of God.

Firstly, it became very clear that the Old Testament and the New Testament are really one. The former is the promise of things to come, the latter is the reality of God’s covenant brought nigh to both Jew and Gentile in Christ’s blood. Secondly, it became clear that the focus point of the unity of the two Covenants is none else but the Son of God in our flesh, as He suffers and dies, is buried and rises again from the dead on the third day. Thirdly, it also is very evident that there is a progressiveness of the New Testament over the Old Testament. The New Testament Scriptures reveal to us the Mysteries of salvation as “God did not make these known to the former generations of the sons of men”.

These same threefold elements also lie at the very surface of the Scripture passages of which we intend to make a comparative study in this essay. We refer to the passages written above this article, namely, Ex. 34:34 and II Cor. 3:16.

The exact wording of these respective passages is as follows: In Ex. 34:34 we read: “But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he took off the vail. . . .” The passage in II Cor. 3:16, where Paul evidently quotes and certainly alludes to this passage, we read: ‘‘Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be (is) taken away”.

When we compare these two passages, at the very surface it becomes evident, that Paul, evidently, in this quotation in II Cor. 3:16 constructs the text from Ex. 34:34 to fit with his purpose of bringing home a most important point to the Corinthian believers.

It is to the following points of similarity and yet points of difference that we would call your attention.

  1. In Exodus 34:34 as well as the entire context of that passage the term, the name “LORD” refers to the Triune God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob, who keepeth covenant truth forever. Yet, the careful reader will immediately notice, that in II Cor. 3:16 this name “Lord” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ in (His state of exaltation, having received the promise of the Spirit at God’s right hand. In the one case Lord is Jehovah, in the other Lord is the Christ.
  2. In Exodus 34:34 is spoken of Moses going into the tabernacle to speak face to face with the Lord, while in II Cor. 3:16 this turning unto the Lord is tantamount to: repentance, to actual conversion rooted in sorrow for sin. While in the former passage Moses is presented as going into the Tent, here it is a turning unto God from dead works to the service of the living God.
  3. In II Cor. 3:16 the subject is Israel who was formerly unbelieving, whose mind and heart were blinded morally and spiritually, in that Old Testament passage Moses is the subject. Not Israel turns to the Lord in Exodus 34:34 but Moses. Here in II Cor. 3:16 it is Israel that turns to the Lord.
  4. In close connection with the foregoing, finally, in the Old Testament reference we read of a literal vail and that, too, on Moses’ face; here in Paul’s writing there is not a vail on Moses’ face, but the vail is most emphatically on the heart of Israel in their reading the Scriptures, their inability to see the glory of the risen Christ.

Four points of seeming difference in the text. And we may add, points of difference, which are not merely interesting for the sake of a theological study, but differences having a great practical value. For the marvel of it is, that the more one thinks into these seeming differences the more one is convinced that Paul correctly grasped the sense of the Old Testament passage. Paul’s passage is the key, which is indispensable to the correct understanding of the Old Testament reference here in question.

That the latter is, indeed, true, we trust will be evident from the following considerations, which we here admit. Our first observation is that the name LORD i.e., Jehovah in the Old Testament, is very really, if correctly understood, the Lord, Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In both we come face to face with God as the God of our salvation.

Let us never forget that, in the Old Testament, God is our Savior. He has given His sure and immutable promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was as God Almighty that He appears to Abraham. And, in the birth of Isaac, Abraham has the clearest demonstration of this Word of promise. Now God appears to Moses as Jehovah, as the “I shall be who I shall be”. And, centrally, God is this in the Son of His good pleasure whom He will send into the world. In Him God will make His abode among, will tabernacle amongst His people.

Such is the ever-recurring theme in the Bible. All the prophets testify of the Christ and of the forgiveness, the redemption in Him. Firstly, we would call attention to the Word of God to Moses as recorded in Ex. 25:40 (compare Heb. 8:5): “And see that thou make them after the pattern, which hath been showed thee in the mount”. What was this pattern? It was none other than the heavenly tabernacle that Moses might see. And this heavenly, future reality of the tabernacle was to be the model of the earthly typical. In that heavenly and better tabernacle would be the Priest after the order of Melchizedek, the Son of God, a Priest forever. Of this the earthly tabernacle with its Levitical priesthood, its sacrifices and feast days, its temple architecture and temple furniture, the blood of goats and bullocks was an earthly picture. It was really a picture, earthly symbolism of the heavenly. Hence, the entire law that Moses gives is concerned with this temple, this tabernacle. When God, therefore, comes to Israel as Jehovah, He comes to dwell in their midst. And the tabernacle is an earthly picture of God’s tabernacle with man, in Jesus Christ. It is Jehovah who removes the sin and guilt of His people, takes their sicknesses and diseases from them and most wonderfully saves them. And this Jehovah, in the priesthood and sacrifices dwelling in the midst of Israel, is the same as God in Christ Jesus in the New Testament.

Secondly, we should notice, that this merciful redemptive work of God is testified of by all the prophets. Thus it is stated in Acts 10:43, where, Peter speaking to Cornelius and those present with him in his house in Caesarea, says: “To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins.” And Paul also states it thus in that passage in Rom. 3:21, which is as well-known as it is important, saying: “But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. . . .” Then there is also that most beautiful passage in Is. 33:24 where the prophet, speaking of our redemption, pens down the following: “For the Lord (Jehovah) is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; he will save us. . . .and the inhabitant shall not say: I am sick: the people that dwell there shall be forgiven their iniquity”. What is this latter passage but the glad tidings of the gospel in Old Testament language. We cannot refrain from also quoting yet Jer. 31:34 where we read again the beautiful words: “And they shall teach no more his neighbor and every man his brother; saying: know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”

Could it be stated in clearer and more endearing language that the Lord, Jehovah is indeed our Savior? And is, therefore, the conclusion not wholly warranted and entirely Scriptural to say: Jehovah in the Old Testament is the Lord, Jesus in the New Testament?!

Thirdly, it should be noticed that the New Testament Scriptures emphasize that God has come to dwell in our midst, that He has visited this people in these last days as this was not at all possible in the time prior to Christ’s coming in the flesh. It is “God in Christ” (II Cor. 5:19) who reconciled the world unto Himself, not imputing their iniquity to them. He who is in the bosom of the Father hath dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And it is this Son of God in our flesh, in the likeness of sinful flesh, who condemns sin in the flesh, and obtains for us righteousness, sanctification and complete redemption. And because He has so exceedingly humbled Himself even to the death of the cross, therefore God hath so highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name, that all should confess that He is Lord, unto the glory of God the Father. And in this capacity as Lord, as the glorified one, He receives the Spirit. Of Him Paul says: The Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit is there is liberty.

Forsoothe, therefore, in this mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace we meet the Lord, our Jehovah. God who called the light out of darkness, hath shined in the glorious gospel in our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ.

Turning to Jehovah is, therefore, turning to the Lord Christ of the gospel; and he who turns to the Christ in the gospel he turns to the Lord in Him! And thus it is here meant by Paul.

Our second observation touches the question of the seeming change of the subject by Paul in this quotation. The text in Exodus makes Moses the subject who turns to the Lord; here in II Cor. 3 it is Israel who turns unto the Lord, and that, too, with a turning unto Him in the sense of genuine and heartfelt repentance.

We believe that Paul here has such repentance in mind. First of all because this is the only sense that fits with the thought of the apostle in the context. Israel is represented here as being disobedient, having her mind, her heart hardened. In this state, although she reads and has the Old Testament Scriptures read to her; yes, even since Paul had preached the resurrection, the hope of Israel to her from the Scriptures, yet she is not able to see the glory of God in this Christ. There is a vail over her heart. Turning to the Lord, from the very nature of Israel’s hardness is tantamount to: Conversion. Secondly, we believe such to be the usage of the term “to turn” in the Scriptures. Thus we read in Acts 26:20: “And I proclaimed unto the Gentiles to repent and to turn unto God, performing works worthy of repentance.” Here the term “to turn” is synonymous with “to repent”. The latter, evidently, emphasizes the inward change of the mind, of the “nous”, while the former gives expression to the outward deed, the manifestation of the inward change that had been affected in repentance.