3:6 God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
So many contrasting terms. What does it mean for us?
Old Covenant vs New Covenant
Moses vs Christ
Fading Glory vs Excellent Glory
Letter vs Spirit
Death vs Life
Ministry of death vs the ministry of the Spirit
Ministry of condemnation vs the ministry of righteousness
When I was a kid a popular game to play at birthday parties etc... was a memory game. A bunch of small ordinary items like paper clips and nail clippers were placed on a tray and covered up. They would be uncovered for a minute or less and then the tray was taken away. One item was removed and the tray was brought back. You got to look for 30 more seconds and try and figure out what item was missing and write it down. This was repeated over and over until the tray was empty and then we found out who won by comparing our guesses to the order in which the items were taken away. Thirty seconds is not a lot of time to figure out and remember 20+ items. Not only that but the memory of what was there quickly got jumbled and/or began to fade as soon as it was covered again.
Moses saw God's glory, His character of mercy and long-suffering goodness. However he only saw it briefly. He just caught a glimpse. It was amazing and so unlike anything he had ever seen or expected to see. The "ten commandments" were also a glimpse but we're tainted and continue to be tainted by our preconceived ideas.
When Moses came back from seeing God's glory he was literally glowing and had to veil his face. It was symbolic of the fact the people could recognize something happened but they couldn't grasp it. My grandfather was in the war and it very obviously affected him deeply and we all knew yet we knew nothing of what he experienced. Soon the glow faded and the experience was but a memory written down but not understood.
Then came Jesus. He was the glory of God in living colour. He was the ink made flesh, the writing on stone in the form of a real actual Person.
The stones were cold and demanding. They painted an elusive picture that demanded rigid perfection. Anyone who took the words seriously was gripped by hopelessness. How could anyone be so perfect and what happens to those who fall short? It was indeed a ministry of condemnation and death. But then came Jesus and everything changed. He put a spotlight on the tablets of stone making them even more demanding. Adultery was lust in the heart. Murder was hatred in the heart. Who could reach such a standard?!! However at the same time that He lifted the standard so high He stooped to free a naked trembling woman from condemnation called for by her falling short of the letter of the law. He went to Samaria, the land of the 'half breeds' and offered living water to a woman who had been divorced five times and was living in sin.
So brightly shone the glory that the religious leaders who knew only the letter that kills wanted Him dead. They were willing to do anything to snuff out the light. It couldn't be done. Here we are almost 2000 years later still amazed by the Light, still pondering how quickly and completely Jesus turned the tables upside down. The new found light that both Judaism and the Romans tried to snuff out is now the largest faith in the world and the only one that offers life where the letter demands death.
There are laws. There is a very high standard. With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible and none of it can be understood in its beauty except through the glory of the person of Christ. Moses only got to see a fleeting glimpse. We have Jesus. No one can veil Him. He is our Righteousness. He is our Hope. He is our Life.
For God so loved us, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not be killed under the condemnation of the letters on stone, but will be given everlasting life by the Rock of Ages.