Why was it that Moses, when in touch with the people, was on the death side, the condemnation side, the judgment side, and everything was death?
On the other hand, why was it that he could turn and go into the Lord's presence, taking away the veil, and live in the very presence of that glory which to the people was death?
It is a very impressive thing. Here is the glory, this tremendous glory, and yet that glory on the one side ministered death.
But this man could just turn about, and without a veil go right into that glory and live.
The answer is found, of course, in an altar.
You will notice that, when Moses went up into the mount, the glory of the Lord was displayed, terrible glory, and he built an altar at the foot of the mount.
He went up by way of the altar, and there was always an altar between the gate of the court, where the people assembled, and the Most Holy Place, where the LORD was.
That altar made it possible for death to be changed to life.
The glory which had ministered judgment, and condemnation, had become the glory of a blessed communion.
So we ask, What does this altar mean?
We look at the sacrifice and we look at the blood: we find the offering and the blood perfect, without spot, without blemish, something that can pass the Divine scrutiny, can abide, can stand before the eye of GOD.
When that is provided there is righteousness.
If you can turn and take that with you, that is, go before GOD in the value and the virtue of that, then you turn death into life, judgment into fellowship.
The Apostle, then, here speaks of "ministration of condemnation." There was a glory associated with it simply because it was the glory of GOD; it was GOD Who was in view.
Whatever the effect of GOD is, GOD is always glorious.
The effect depends upon where we are, upon which side of the altar we stand; whether we stand apart from the present values of that altar, or whether we stand right in the good of those values by faith.
It is clear that these people were in a state of unbelief, although called the LORD'S people.
At this time their whole history through the wilderness was one of unbelief.
They perished through unbelief, and the inference here is that even in the presence of all this provision, in type and symbol, their hearts were still unbelieving hearts...
Their hearts were hardened, so that they were not really in the good of all this by faith.
The effect for them was not what it might have been, namely, one of deliverance, of salvation;
It was one of judgment, of condemnation.
They had the sacrifices, they had all the means of grace, but in heart were not really living in the good of those things.
That is why the thing was transcient. It had to go.
GOD never builds upon a foundation like that of mere external rites, performances; GOD builds upon an inner state.
Read again from chapter 24: to chapter 34 of the book of Exodus, and mark the two movements there.
You will notice that in the beginning Moses went up into the mount and received the pattern of everything.
He was forty days in the mount. He received the law, the pattern of things complete, and then came down and found the people worshipping the golden calf, and there had to be this terrible judgment amongst them.
Then Moses went up a second time, and the LORD gave him the law again on fresh tables, and he came down with the glory.
What we see is that, when Moses turned toward the people, there was a state there which was without faith, without heart relationship to the LORD, and the things which the LORD had provided.
The glory was therefore an occasion of judgment and death to them, but Moses himself was on other ground.
Moses was not on their ground; he was a mediator, he turned toward them; but he could also turn toward the LORD.
He was a mediator, and had other ground, the ground of a heart relationship with the LORD, and heart appreciation of the meaning of the altar and the blood;
So that he needed no veil for himself. The veil was because of the people.
He himself could go in without a veil and live in the presence of the glory.
There are two sides, the "ministration of condemnation" and the "ministration of righteousness".
The ministration of condemnation was because of the absence of faith in all that which GOD had provided; the offering, the blood, the altar.
~T. Austin Sparks~