Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Man Of God

Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.
Deuteronomy 34:7
As I complete my journey through the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), it seems weighty to me that the man I have watched lead the people of Israel out of Egypt chapter by chapter and verse by verse since the book of Exodus will no longer be with them as I continue to watch the story of redemption unfold. This is the end of the road for Moses. And this is the last way that he is described: his eyes are undimmed and his vigor unabated.

Just before Isaac blesses Jacob, we read that his eyes were dimmed so that he could not see (Genesis 27:1), seemingly due to his old age. In the same way we read that when Jacob blessed his sons just before he died, his eyes "were dim with age, so that he could not see" (Genesis 48:10).

But not Moses. God made sure that Moses still had the ability to see when he died. Why? The consequence for Moses not treating God as holy in the sight of the people when he struck the rock at Meribah instead of speaking to it as the Lord commanded (Numbers 20) would be that he would be able to see the promised land but not enter it.
For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.
Deuteronomy 32:52
Imagine seeing the greatness of the land that you had been promised and had anticipated inheriting for over 40 years while at the same time knowing that you would not be able to enjoy its benefits. This was Moses upon his death. It was not a grace for him to be able to see the land. He would have been better off not seeing it. This was chastisement for his disobedience. Perhaps one lesson to be learned is that those things such as health that we are so used to seeing only as blessings God can and does sometimes use to discipline us. May we learn to pray with eyes of faith.

But the other way that Moses is described at his death is that his vigor is unabated. His passion for God is completely undiminished. Even after seeing the promised land that he has been forbidden to enter, Moses' spirit is not squashed. God's discipline of Moses is mingled with mercy because, even though He forbids Moses to enter the promised land, He does not remove the Spirit that He has placed upon Moses (Numbers 11:17). Moses is just as fired up when he dies as when he sang of God's deliverance of Israel while crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15). How many Christians die this way? I want to die this way.

I have been consecutively reading a psalm a night before going to bed and in God's providence, I read Psalm 90 the same day that I reached the end of Moses' life. Why is this significant? Because Psalm 90 is the only psalm that we know Moses to be the author of. What especially caught my eye is that the title of this psalm is: a prayer of Moses, the man of God. One chapter before Moses dies we read, in Deuteronomy 33:1, "This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death..." Though there would later be references to others in the Bible as "the man of God", this phrase is used specifically to describe Moses in other places (Joshua 14:6, 1 Chronicles 23:14, 2 Chronicles 30:16, Ezra 3:2) and Moses is the first one that is ever described in this way. What makes Moses worthy of this title?

As I look at Moses' life, I don't think that there is any other figure in the Old Testament, and possibly the entire Bible (care to debate? =) ), who is manifestly more God-centered than him. For Moses, everything necessarily exists only in that it serves to exalt the God of heaven and earth who he first encountered before a burning bush.

If you read the prayer of Psalm 90 that he authored, you will notice that there is almost nothing that he says in it that is not somehow a statement about who God is. He makes no reference to man that doesn't at the same time exalt God as the One who reigns over him.

Two times (after the Israelites had made a golden calf, Exodus 32, and after they had refused to enter the promised land, Numbers 14) God was ready to wipe out the people He had brought out of Egypt and give Moses another people that He would then gladly make great. This is a win-win situation for Moses, right? No more people who make his life miserable by their continual complaints. And God is going to make him great! But Moses' heart doesn't take delight in himself being shown to be great. His heart takes delight in God being shown to be great, even at his own loss. This is the truest test for God-centeredness. Am I eager for God to grant my desires and do me good even when it doesn't show Him and His name to be infinitely valuable? Moses could never answer yes to this question. And in the end, it's the reason he doesn't enter the promised land (because the stiff-necked Israelites put so much pressure on him that he strikes the rock against God's will with the result being that they will inherit the land but he won't).

Moses' idea of finding favor in God's sight is that God would show him His ways so that Moses would know Him more and find more favor in His sight (Exodus 33:13). Is God the end for which I seek His favor? Or some object that I want God to give me?

Moses has no desire to go anywhere where God will not be (Exodus 33:15).

The cry of Moses' heart to God is: Please show me your glory (Exodus 33:18).

Moses knows that when something is wrong, the problem is not God's faithfulness but rather his own wretchedness (Numbers 11:15).

... and much more ...

And, therefore, when God forbids Moses to enter the promised land, Moses does not grumble. Instead he prepares, encourages, and passes the torch to Joshua, who will continue to lead the people of Israel in his place. What must have gone through Moses' mind while he stood at the top of that mountain as the Lord showed him all the land that he would not enter (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)? The same man who refused to let God cut off the Israelites in order to make of him a great nation must have been inwardly rejoicing that, though he wouldn't enter, God would be glorified in demonstrating His faithfulness by bringing this people into the land He had promised.

One who would prefer to be cutoff from the inheritance instead of the collective people of God. Sound like One we know who would later come?

This is God-centeredness in deed and not just in speech. This is true greatness in the kingdom of God: He must increase. I must decrease.

Oh Lord, make me like this Moses, the man of God who points us to the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all!

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