2 Corinth. 3: “Blackouts and the Glory of God”

July 1995, Philadelphia

In July of 1995 Philadelphia was experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. I was working at my brother-in-laws family deli in South Philly. The name of the deli was literally, “The Family Deli.” So on a ridiculous summer night in July where the temperature reached 103 degrees, the incredible happened, we lost power. But it wasn’t just us who lost power, as we stepped out of the deli onto the street, as far we could see from the right or left it was completely dark.

As you looked across the street to the row houses, you could see people with flashlight walking through the house. People and employees from other shops came out to see how wide spread the power outage was. Everything stopped. There was no light. Not even the streetlights were blinking. It was the eeriest experience realizing that the cars driving by were providing the only light for the neighborhood.

Philadelphia that summer, much like other city’s on the east cost, had what was called “rolling blackouts.” Basically because the infrastructure of the city electric couldn’t handle the power usage, the city had to manually and systematically turn power off in certain grids to provide relief.

Now the amazing part of the story was a picture that came in showing a full long street with power on one side, but no power on the other. Literally the street was divided in half by power. The other amazing part of the story is the people on this particular street created dinner party’s and barbecues on nights of the blackout. So the people in the dark would walk across the street to the people with light and they would eat together.

I love this image. Think about it; people in the dark walking across the street to people in the light in order to share a meal together. If we connected this image to words of Paul, you could argue, spiritually speaking, one side of the street was covered by a veil, while the veil on the other side was removed to reflect the glory of the Lord (v. 18).

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant

Here in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul shares the difference between the old covenant written on tablets of stone, verses the new covenant written on the tablets of our hearts. This comparison is not only a comparison between covenants, but Paul also uses it to illustrate the difference between his ministry and the ministry of Moses.

Here’s a quick recap of the story of Moses’ glory in Exodus 34:29-35:

  • Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to meet with God and receive the Ten Commandments
  • When he came down his face shone the glory of God
  • People, including his brother Aaron, were afraid to talk with him
  • Moses still addressed the people, but covered his face with a veil afterward
  • He would remove the veil when speaking with the Lord in the Tent of Meeting
  • After each meeting, Moses would address the people

Paul used this story in order to explain to the Corinthian Christians that eventually for Moses, the glory faded. In fact, as we will learn later, because Moses was fearful of what people thought, he kept his face covered longer than the glory shown.

2 Corinthians 3:8-9 (NLT) Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God!

Pauls point is compelling, because of the Holy Spirit we have the opportunity to experience the unveiled, unfading glory of God. It’s because of this truth and revelation that Paul writes in verse 12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.

Are You Reflecting God’s Glory?

2 Corinthians 16-18 (NLT) 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Which side of the street are you on today? I pray we recognize the opportunity we have to see and reflect the glory of the Lord today!