I told you back here how much my love has been growing spiritually and promised to talk more about it soon. Today is the last day of our 90 day therapeutic separation so it seems like a great time to celebrate what God has been doing. Our Bible reading plan through those first few months took us through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. (The story of Moses and the Israelites) If you’ve ever read them, you know that these books can become somewhat difficult to get through. Once you get past the first half of Exodus there isn’t a whole lot of narrative, at least not in big chunks. Instead there are seemingly endless lists of laws, regulations, instructions on how to build the tabernacle, instructions on how to divide the land, inventories of materials needed to build the tabernacle, genealogies, and other lengthy records. Meanwhile when sections of narrative do show up they can be exasperating as the people of Israel complain, argue, and disobey God time and time again. Of course, it’s Scripture, which means it’s inspired by God and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. Never has that truth been more clear to me than in these past few months as my love has devoured these words of God and found beautiful lessons each and every day in some of the most unlikely places. What a joy it is to witness the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of someone you love!
I must admit that Moses has never been one of my favorite Bible characters. What a pleasure to get a fresh perspective and gain a new appreciation for this man of God! My husband looked at me one day after coming out of a moment of deep thought and said, “Moses was a Rockstar! I want to be more like Moses…” I’ll tell you the rest of what he said and how it brought me to tears at the end. First, let me tell you some of the lessons we have learned from Moses through these 4 books of the Bible.
Exodus 4:11 – Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
When God first appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commissioned him to lead the Israelits out of their captivity in Egypt, Moses responded with a great deal of self-doubt. In fact, throughout his ministry as the leader of Israel, Moses often questioned whether he was really the right man for the job. This always kind of got under my skin. Here was the Great I AM, speaking to him from a burning bush, and Moses responds by questioning Him? It seemed so weak and cowardly. But my love saw something different. He pointed out God’s response time and time again when Moses asked, more or less, “Me God? Are you sure?”
As long as Moses was questioning himself, his own abilities or qualifications, the Lord was very patient, understanding, and reassuring. It was only when Moses went further and questioned God Himself that the anger of the Lord was stirred. It made me think about myself. Perhaps the reason Moses has annoyed me is that I am exactly the same. Because if I’m honest, when I feel God leading me to big or difficult tasks, I too often respond with questions about my own abilities. I doubt my aptitude to do what God has called me to. And maybe that’s okay, because I really can’t do anything of value apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s okay to be skeptical about myself, as long as it causes me to lean into God and rely on Him.
No one ever reads the story of Moses and thinks, “Man that guy really could have been something if he was just a better speaker!” What my love showed me through the story of Moses is that what we all DO see is the mighty power of God at work in the life of an imperfect man. Moses challenged both of us to recognize our weaknesses and to allow God’s strength to be made perfect through them as we simply follow Him in obedience. When we do, our story will be about God, not about us – just like Moses – and that is exactly what we want!
Listening and Learning
Exodus 18:24 – Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.”
Another thing we both saw as we read through these books was how well Moses listened to advice. He was not a man who believed himself too important or too wise to need help. A great example of this excellent quality was in Exodus 18. Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, the priest of Midian, had come to visit with Moses and observed how he sat as judge before the people of Israel. Jethro asked Moses why he alone carried this responsibility and suggested that this was not wise. He proposed that other godly men be chosen from the people and appointed to various positions of leadership among the tribes. This way Moses would not carry the responsibility alone and be occupied all day hearing the trite and incessant complaints of the people. Under this system, only the very difficult matters would be brought to Moses. It was a wise plan and Moses was quick to hear that wisdom and take the matter before the Lord. The Bible tells us many times the importance of seeking and listening to godly council. Moses demonstrated great leadership by being humble enough to hear the opinions of others and then take those matters before the Lord before making decisions. It is a quality we should all strive to emulate, and one that my love and I both want to learn. Lord, make us quick to listen and slow to speak!
Numbers 12:3 – Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Even though I’ve read through the Bibe a number of times, I hadn’t ever thought of Moses as a humble man. My love mentioned Moses’s great humility one day, and I said, “Moses? Humble? I don’t really see that.” He looked at me a little bewildered, “But God said that he was!” He took me to the verse, (which had been in my own reading as well) and gently put me in my place. Whether I “see it” or not, God said that he was the most humble man on the face of the earth! My love went on to explain the many incidents of great humility he had been observing in the story and my eyes were opened! How unfair I had been to God’s chosen leader! I was genuinely embarrassed for having missed it for so long!
In Exodus 33 and 34 the Bible narrates a few conversations between God and Moses. There are a few exceptional things that happen here, but what I think is easy to miss is how humble Moses is before the Lord. Here he is, one of the few men in history that God speaks to face to face, the God-appointed deliverer of the Israelite nation, and yet he says more than once, “If it is true that You look favorably on me…” Really Moses? You don’t know that God looks favorably on you? But he didn’t. He didn’t just assume the Lord’s favor. He humbly asked.
Moses may have questioned himself before the Lord, but when the people of Israel questioned his leadership over and over, you’d think he would have gotten angry, or at least defensive. Groups of leaders repeatedly believed they should have been in charge, insighted discord among the people, and attempted to usurp Moses’s role. Moses’s response? He falls on His face. Is there any physical response that more clearly communicates humility than lowering oneself to the ground, face in the dirt? In fact this was a regular practice of Moses. It was his response in almost every situation. He chose not to become defensive but instead, “He fell face down before the Lord.” How we both long for a heart like that! Lord, give us Moses-level humility!
Standing In the Gap
Numbers 16:19-22 – Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community, and the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Get away from all these people so that I may instantly destroy them!” But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground. “Oh God,” they pleaded, “You are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Must You be angry with all the people when only one man sins?”
Most of the time, when Moses found himself face down on the ground before the Lord, it was because the Israelites had done something stupid once again and ignited God’s anger. What an obstinate people Moses was tasked to lead! It was no small burden. God performed some of the most astonishing miracles in history for the Israelites, but they didn’t thank Him. Rather, they seemed to doubt and question God every chance they got. They were impulsive and rebellious. Their memories were short and their selfishness was so great that they became a nation of grumblers. I lose my patience with them after about 15 minutes of reading. I can’t even imagine wandering around the wilderness with them for 40 years!! Yet Moses was a servant leader who genuinely loved his fellow Jews. And so, he pleaded their case before the Lord again and again. The people would rebel; they would find a new way to disobey, and God’s anger would flare. God would tell Moses to get out of the way so that He could wipe them from the face of the earth and build a new nation through Moses. But Moses would stand his ground planted firmly between the people and the Lord. He would fall to the ground in humility and wisely plead with God for His people, Israel. He would remind God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He would reason with the Lord that it would reflect poorly on His Great Name if word got out that the God of Israel had wiped out His own chosen people. He would appeal to the unsurpassing love and mercy of the Great I AM. And God listened to him! He would relent, and offer redemption to those who were willing to repent and turn back to Him. Thousands upon thousands of lives were saved because Moses was a leader who was ready to stand in the gap for his people. As my love read through these books, he was overwhelmed with a longing to have such a submissive heart. To lead our family with the humility of Moses and serve each of us, even if it means standing in the gap for us when we fail.
Mistakes Have Consequences, But God’s Love Prevails
Moses was an unbelievable character, but there is one very sobering lesson from his life – No matter who we are, our mistakes have consequences. This was, perhaps, one of the most meaningful lessons for my love. He has made some huge mistakes. Mistakes that have significant consequences. Two tactics the enemy has used to try to pull him back into those sins are to:
1 – Convince him that he’s too far gone, and there’s no hope of ever getting it right – so why even try? To make him believe that God will never be pleased with him, so he might as well have some fun in the meantime.
2 – Minimize the seriousness of the issue and convince him that we can all just bounce back from this with little to no long-term damage, or even convince him that God will just erase the consequences and fix us right away. When he gets sucked into this deception it then becomes extremely discouraging when the lasting pain and distrust surface again and again – which can then send him back to scenario #1.
But the Bible is absolute Truth and there is no greater weapon against the crafty deceptions of the enemy than the living and active Word of God! As my love read about Moses and Aaron’s great failure at the waters of Meribah, and the devastating consequence that followed he found himself a little confused by God’s response. “Really?” He thought, “Moses spends his entire life faithfully serving God, responding to the Israelites in humility, and communing with God face to face. He messes up one time, and bam – he doesn’t get to go into the Promised Land? No chance to fix it? He’s been dealing with the Israelites for 40 years with only the hope of reaching the promised land to keep him going, and now he won’t even get to realize that hope? That doesn’t seem like the God I think I know!”
Then he got to the end of Deuteronomy, and everything fell into place. God took Moses up onto the mountain and showed him the promised land. Then, Moses died and God buried him! The Bible says that when he died, Moses was as strong as ever. No, Moses didn’t get to enter the Promised Land. He had sinned, and God disciplines His children. There are consequences to our sins, and that was his. But it wasn’t as if God stayed mad at him. There was so much care in that scene! Such tenderness. God had been faithful to Moses throughout his entire life. He had stayed by his side and kept him strong and healthy and fully equipped to lead His people. He was by his side all the way to the very end, and then God buried his friend. It was beautiful!
“I’ve been looking at it all wrong,” he said, “I’ve hurt you so much, and I’ve hurt our kids, and so many others. It’s not just going to go away. God will make something new out of our life, and he’ll use this mess to bring glory to Himself. But He’ll do it in spite of the pain, in spite of the mess. He’s not just going to take it away, because the pain and the mess are consequences. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love me, or that He can’t be pleased with me. It just means that there are consequences. Nothing more. I need to be humble and accept those consequences and do everything I can to help you all get through it. Moses prayed for Joshua before he died. He asked God to empower Joshua with the same strength he had given Moses. He wasn’t upset that he didn’t get to lead the people into the promised land, he was humble all the way to the end and accepted his consequence with grace.”
How He Humbled Me to Tears.
And that brings us back to the sentence I started at the beginning. As my love went on to sum up what he had learned from the story of Moses he said, “Moses was a Rockstar! I want to be more like Moses! I’ve spent my life acting like the Israelites. God has been present and active in my life for as long as I can remember. He’s done miraculous things for me over and over again and blessed me far beyond what I deserve, and I’ve squandered those blessings. Just like the Israelites, I’ve barely noticed. I’ve been rebellious and ungrateful and so selfish! Not you, though. You’re just like Moses! You’ve fallen on your face before God so many times and stood in the gap for me. You’ve pleaded with Him for me. You’ve wandered through the desert with me, refusing to give up. I want you to know that I see it and that I’m so thankful! You’re a Rockstar! I want to be like that. I want to be like Moses, and I want to be like you!”
You guys, it made me cry! Not because it was true, but because it was unexpected. In reality, it was an exaggeration. I’m not a Rockstar at all, but I serve a God who is. But for my love to see with such clarity what a difficult road I’ve been on for the past several years was such a gigantic step towards healing! For him to see something other than himself in the story, and to acknowledge my faithfulness – it was just huge. I am so SO thankful for the mighty work that God is doing in his heart! And I’m thankful for Moses. A man who’s story has never meant much to me before, but who will forever be a Rockstar in my eyes from now on! God, make us like Moses!