This Torah portion puts us square in the middle of the Tabernacle passages. This section describes in detail that symbol of God's ultimate purpose in us—that He might dwell among us. Yet, in the midst of all of this, something terrible happens. Panic sets in. The people break loose. An idol is set up to lead the way into the carnal ways of the flesh.
The great tragedy of idolatry (indeed, all sin) is that it separates us from God. It obscures His very nature. We make Him like us--finite, carnal, broken. Why? So that we can revel in the desires of our flesh. So, that we don't have to be afraid. Remember the voice that spoke from the mountain, the terrible voice of a Consuming Fire. "Take it away!" we cried. "We cannot stand to hear God's voice any longer, lest we die." So, God conceals Himself. He appoints prophets on His behalf. He withdraws His presence so as not to consume His people. Even Moses had to veil His face because just the reflection of God's glory through him was too much for us.
Paul tells us that the veil of Moses was present in the reading of the Old Covenant. He compares the ministry of the letter to the ministry of the Spirit. The original set of tablets for the Ten Commandments was carved by God Himself. But, after Israel's idolatry, those tablets were broken. The second set was not the same. Moses had to carve them himself. They were no longer the pure work of God. Or to stretch the analogy a bit further--originally the Torah was supposed to be written upon our hearts, but because of our hardness of heart God found softer material in the rocks of Sinai. The glory of God remained concealed to us because we could not accept it. We loved the pleasures of life too much.
Yet, this is not the end of the story. God had a plan. In order to reach us, He put on garments of earth. He dwelt among sinful men. Like a trojan horse, He came in under concealment, so that He might reveal the Father: "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known" (John 1:18). Indeed, the Scripture says of God "No man may see my face and live," yet through Messiah we beheld His glory (Heb. 1:3)! For this Messiah came into the world that we might find eternal life, and "this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God" (John 17:3).
After the golden calf incident, Moses made a daring request of God, "Show me your glory." What did God do? He made His name to pass before him: "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation" (Exo. 34:6-7). At this, Moses bowed his head and worshipped. This is what Messiah reveals to us--the character and essence of the Father. His love and mercy for us poured out on the road to Calvary. His judgment against sin and death and injustice displayed on a cross for all to see. In Messiah, the flesh is put to death, the idols of this world are tossed away, so that we might see the Truth. The veil is removed. Only God remains. Truly, He bears the Name of the Father to us.