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4.  Moses and Joshua

Chapter 4: MOSES
4-1-1 Moses Our Example

It cannot be too often or too highly stressed that Moses was and is seen in the Jewish world as a larger than life figure. Theologically, Judaism has placed Moses greater even than Messiah. We have shown that it was the purpose of John's Gospel to correct this (1). The idea that ordinary believers can in any sense be equal to or even greater than Moses was (and is) absolute anathema to the Jewish mind. And yet through allusion and almost explicit statement, the Lord Jesus and the New Testament writers invite us to see ourselves as equal to or greater than Moses, on account of the spiritual riches made available to us in Christ. How radical this was to the first century mind is extremely hard for us to enter into. The point is, God intellectually stretches us to an extent which may be almost unacceptable to us; as with our first century brethren, we too are challenged to radically turn against many of the concepts and attitudes which are fundamental to our upbringing. If we can really grasp the reality of the fact that we are called to behold the glory of God. Moses seems to have struggled to believe that he really had been invited to such an experience (Ex. 33:16; 34:9,34). 

Moses: Our Example

In this light, consider the following invitations to be like Moses:

- The very name 'Moses' meaning 'drawn out' suggests he is the prototype for every saint- a called out one.

- We'll sing Moses' song; as if his victory was ours (Rev. 15:3)

- We'll all be like Moses was at the end, in essence; we'll share his finest hours. Our names will not be blotted out of the book of life (Rev. 3:5), as Moses' wasn't (Ex. 32:32).

- At the day of judgment, we will all go through the Moses experience; hiding in the rock in the presence of God's glory (Is. 2:10 cp. Ex. 33:22). And our vision of that glory in the face of the Lord Jesus even now should have the same humbling effect.

- “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham…” (Mt. 22:31) quotes the words God spoke to Moses as having been spoken personally to us.

- When we read that God will not place too great a burden upon us, but will provide a way of escape so that we are able to bear the burden (1 Cor. 10:13), the allusion is clearly to Num. 11:17 LXX, where Moses is provided with helpers so that he will be able to bear the burden of the people.

- In the same way as Moses spoke to the Angel without a veil on his face, and thereby came to reflect the glory which shone from the Angel's face (Ex. 34:33-35), so we are bidden look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus, to consider his character, and be changed into that same glory by reflecting his character in our lives. By simply beholding the glory of Christ's righteousness, truly appreciating it, we will be changed (2 Cor. 3:15-18 RV). Paul seems to be arguing that whenever a Jew turns to the Lord Jesus and fellowships with Him, then he is living out the pattern of Moses. And further, 2 Cor. 4:3 speaks of our Gospel being 'veiled' to those who are lost- as if we are as Moses, the Gospel we preach being as the glory of God which shone from Moses' face. Let's keep remembering how huge and radical was the challenge of this to a first century Jewish readership for whom Moses was an almost untouchable hero.

- We must not cast away our confidence, which has great recompense of reward- and the writer uses these words about Moses, bidding us follow his example (Heb. 10:35; 11:26).

- John's Gospel contains several references to the fact that Christ 'shows' the Father to those who believe in him, and that it is possible to " see the Father" and his glory through seeing or accurately believing in him as the Son of the Father (Jn. 11:40; 12:45; 14:9; 16:25). Moses earnestly wished to see the Father fully, but was unable to do so. The height which Moses reached as he cowered in that rock cleft and heard God's Name declared is hard to plumb. But we have been enabled to see the Father, through our appreciation of the Lord Jesus. But does an appropriate sense of wonder fill us? Do we really make time to know the Son of God? Or do we see words like " glory" as just cold theology?

- The Lord Jesus in John’s Gospel describes Himself in terms of the “I am…” formula. Each time, He was referring back to the burning bush revelation of Yahweh as the “I am”; and by implication, the Lord’s audience are thereby placed in the position of Moses, intended to rise up in response as he did.

- Our eyes shall “behold the land that is very far off” (Is. 33:17) just as Moses had been given the vision of the promised land far off.

- The man Moses was made very meek, until he was the meekest man alive on earth (Num. 12:3 Heb.). “A stuttering shepherd, shy of leadership and haunted by his crime of passion” in slaying the Egyptian…these things developed this in him. Remember that Moses himself wrote this. It's an autobiographical comment, reflecting of course the Spirit of Him who knows every heart, and could make such a statement. And yet he writes it in recording how God had rebuked Aaron and Miriam for criticizing him, and how He had told them that He spoke with Moses alone face to face. We can imagine Moses blushing, with hung head. And then he makes the comment, that he was made the most humble man… Appreciating the honour of seeing so much of God, when he himself was a sinner, was part of that humbling process. All Israel will ultimately go through this when they face up to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: " Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Is. 2:10,11). This certainly reads like an allusion to Moses' cowering in the rock, humbling himself in the dust, before the glory of Yahweh. Our glimpses of the wonder of the Father's character should have the same effect upon us, just beholding the glory of God, i.e. the manifestation of His perfect character is Christ, should change us into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18- another invitation to see ourselves as Moses). And yet I see little evidence of this in my own life, or those of my brethren and sisters. We have perhaps become all too familiar with the knowledge of the glory of God. The awesomeness of His holiness as manifest in Christ seems far, far from our appreciation. Despite God's evident pleasure with Moses, manifest in the revelation He gave him, Moses still fumbled around in his recognition of his own humanity: " If now I have found grace in thy sight...pardon our iniquity and our sin" (Ex. 34:9). This is surely homework for us; to grow in our appreciation and marvel at God's holiness, at the moral beauty of His character. For this is how we too will be changed into the same image, and how we will come to truly love God. For we cannot love what we do not appreciate or understand. But note that God’s comment on Moses was also: “the man Moses was very great” (Ex. 11:3). Yet it is also written that “the man Moses was very meek” (Num. 12:3). Putting the two passages together we have the clear lesson that he who humbles himself is made great; and in this, Moses was not only a type of Christ but also a pattern for all who would go through the pattern which the Lord Jesus set before us: of humbling ourselves now that we might be made great in due time. Moses our example is really a challenge in this.

- Moses desired that God’s glory would “appear… upon / unto” the children of God’s servants (Ps. 90:16). He wanted all God’s children to have the same experience of glory appearing to them as he had had. And according to 2 Cor. 3:18, this desire is fulfilled every time a man turns to the Lord Jesus, and like Moses, with unveiled face, beholds that same glory.

- The prayerfulness of Moses and his changing of God's mind about His people clearly inspired many in later Biblical history, who saw in Moses a real pattern for themselves. Asaph speaks of how in his nightly prayers "My hand was stretched out... and slacked not" (Ps. 77:2 RV). This is clearly the language of Moses praying with upheld hands for victory over Amalek.

- God spoke to Moses " mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Yahweh shall he behold" (Num. 12:8) is the basis of 1 Cor. 13:12: " Now (in the period of the Spirit gifts) we see through a glass darkly; but then (in the dispensation of the completed word) face to face: now I know in part (from the ministry of the gifts); but then shall I know, even as also I am known" . The point of this connection is simply this: The close relationship between God and Moses is now available to us through the word. But do we feel God speaking to us face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11)? For this is how close God and Moses came through the word. Yet it is possible. An urgent devotion to the word is needed by us as a community. This is what we really need exhortation about.

- In the same way as Moses was called up into the mount to receive his Divine commission, so the Lord Jesus called up to the mount His disciples- implying that they, who represent all of us, were now a new Moses (Mk. 3:13). Moses was thus an example that challenged those from a Jewish background especially.

- Wherever an ordinary Israelite offered sacrifice, “I will come unto thee [‘you’ singular] and bless thee” (Ex. 20:23). This is the very language of God coming unto Moses on the top of Sinai (Ex. 19:20 RV)- as if to imply that the very pinnacle of Moses’ relationship with God, meeting Him on the top of the mount, is just as attainable for each of God’s people who truly sacrifices to Him.

- When Eliphaz says that the righteous “Will die at the height of your powers, and be gathered like ripened grain” (Job 5:26, Stephen Mitchell’s translation), there is an evident connection with the account of Moses being gathered at his death, and dying with his natural faculties undiminished. Moses is presented as the epitome of the righteous believer.

- The way Moses pleaded with God to change His mind and not destroy Israel for the sake of what the surrounding nations would say is indeed inspirational to us all. It surely inspired David to pray likewise- for “wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now there God?” (Ps. 115:2).

- " I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say" (Ex. 4:12) is almost quoted in Mt. 10:19,20 and Mk. 13:11 concerning how we too will be taught what to say when we come before the rulers of our world. In such moments of crisis, Moses, even in weakness as he was at this time, really is our living example.

- Joshua was encouraged that " As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Josh. 1:5). But these very words are quoted in Heb. 13:5 as the grounds of our matchless confidence that the Lord God will be with us too! As He was with Moses- not just in power, but in wondrous patience and gentleness- so He will be with us too. Not only did God encourage Joshua to see himself as in Moses' shoes; He inspired Jeremiah likewise (Jer. 21:8 = Dt. 30:15,19), and Ezekiel (Ez. 2:3 = Dt. 31:27; Neh. 9:17; Num. 17:10); and He wishes us to also see Moses' God as our God. But if Moses' God is to be ours in truth in the daily round of life, we must rise up to the dedication of Moses; as he was a faithful steward, thoroughly dedicated to God's ecclesia (Heb. 3:5), so we are invited follow his example (1 Cor. 4:2; Mt. 24:45). Note that the promise of Moses that God would not fail nor forsake Joshua, but would be with him (Dt. 31:8) was similar to the very promise given to Moses which he had earlier doubted (Ex. 3:12; 4:12,15). Such exhortation is so much the stronger from someone who has themselves doubted and then come to believe.

In addition to all this, Moses is set up as example and representative of his people Israel. Israel is likened in Ez. 16:5 to a child rejected at birth, but miraculously found and cared for, and brought up with every pampered blessing. Just as Moses was. Stephen described the ‘putting out’ of Moses with the same word used in the LXX for what happened to Israel in Ezekiel 16 (Acts 7:21; Ex. 2:3 LXX).

Moses, Gideon And Us

Gideon was bidden rise up to the example of Moses- for there were many similarities between his call by the Angel, and the Angelic calling which Moses received at the burning bush. Thus Gideon was called to follow the Angel in faith, "because Ehyeh is with you" (Jud. 6:16)- a direct quotation from the Angelic manifestation to Moses in Ex. 3:12. And yet he responds: "Alas! For I have seen Yahweh's envoy face to face!" (Jud. 6:22). Gideon knew full well that Moses had seen the Angel "face to face" (Dt. 34:10). Gideon's fear is therefore rooted in a sense that "No! I'm simply not Moses!". And it's the same with us. We can read of all these reasons to believe that Moses is really our pattern, and respond that "No! This ain't me...". But there, in the record of Gideon and his success, lies our challenge to rise up to the spirit of Moses.