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4-2-2 The Spiritual Growth Of Moses

It may be that some may feel that the above analysis is hard on Moses in his early years. But consider these two points:

1. Moses was encouraged that God really would work through him by his arm becoming leprous and then being cured, and by being given the power to grab hold of a snake. Snakes and leprosy were evident symbols of sin. Surely God was encouraging Moses that with His help, he really could overcome his sinfulness and achieve the work he had been given to do.

2.  In Psalm 90 Moses pleads for his rejection and that of his people to be reversed. He says that the reason for their rejection was God setting their " secret sins" in the light of His countenance (Ps. 90:8). He felt his rejection was due to his secret sins- not the one painfully public failure. The Hebrew for " secret" means 'that behind the veil'; it is from the same root as the Hebrew for 'young girl', i.e. a veiled one. He felt the sins he had committed behind the veil had been exposed in the light of the Angel's face. Remember that Moses always appeared to Israel with a vail (Ex. 34:33-35; 2 Cor. 3:16-18 RV), only removing it when he spoke face to face with the Angel, radiating the light of God's glory to him. It seems Moses is alluding to this in Ps. 90:8; he felt that he had many secret sins, hidden to Israel, but completely open to the Angel when he met with him. Likewise Israel were rejected because of the sins of their heart rather than their grosser failures (Acts 7:39; and see the reason for their condemnation given in many other passages). " Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance" (Ps. 90:8) is not Moses reproaching God; rather is it him soberly recognising why they were barred from the land. Notice " our iniquities...our sins" - Moses was completely at one with condemned Israel, he knew exactly how they felt- just as the Lord Jesus with us. 

It makes a good exercise to copy the above table with the scores in the last column blanked out, and then ask a group of Bible readers to argue out what they think the right scores are. And then draw a graph and join the dots: 

The spiritual growth of Moses was jagged. A consideration of this graph and our own likely graph reveals that we ought to be more careful how we judge the weaknesses and strengths of brethren. Their and our present situation must be seen in the context of the graph of life. In the bigger picture of Moses' life, it's clear that God was working with him according to a pattern. His 120 years of life fall into three distinct periods of 40 years. His 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness were to prepare him for 40 years of shepherding God's people in the same wilderness. The burning bush was to prepare him for the awesome meeting with God in the burning mountain- note how the unusual Hebrew word used for "bush", seneh, echoes the name of the mountain, Sinai. Everything was used by God in His personal development plan for Moses.

And so the Moses who could plead "Kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, and let me not see my own wretchedness" was the same Moses who rose to the heights of offering his place in the Kingdom for Israel. For many of us, our whole lives are characterised by Moses pattern of spiritual growth until age 80. Yet the progressive humbling of him by God really did have an effect. He went on to rise up to the very heights of appreciating God's righteousness, until finally he gathers all Israel before him at the age of 120, perhaps helped up on to a tall rock from where he could address the whole nation. Perhaps they cheered as he first stood up. And then there would have been enthralled silence as he spoke, his eyes fixing on a few random faces. He had gathered them together to say farewell, from the man who had loved them more than any other man. It would have been an awesome sight. Remember Balaam's words, " How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters" (Num. 24:5,6). And there was Moses, " an hundred and twenty years old...his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (Dt. 34:7). Perhaps there were ‘shouters’ who relayed his words to the whole assembly, so that they all heard him. Which means he would have spoken sentence by sentence, very slowly, occasionally drinking from a water bottle.  

The word of his God was in his heart, as he stood there before Israel, that people whom he loved, those for whom he wished to make atonement with his own life, even his eternal life. " Yea, he loved the people" is the Spirit's comment (Dt. 33:3- the "he" in the context seems to be Moses). It could only be the Spirit which would write so concisely. "Yea, he loved the people... they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words" . And then he pours out his heart to them, he reels off what we have as the book of Deuteronomy, written at the end point of the spiritual growth of Moses. But in reality that was the outpouring of his heart, pleading with Israel to be faithful to the covenant, encouraging them to be aware of their weakness,  encouraging them to go forward and inherit the Kingdom. In those hours as he stood there saying those words, and then he sung that song to them of Dt. 32, I think we see Moses at his finest. And then he blesses those assembled tribes, the love of that man for Israel flowing out, and then, no doubt with a lump in his throat, swallowing back the tears, he turned and walked away, up that mountain, higher and higher, with the blue mountains of Moab shimmering in the distance. Even before that, surely his voice had faltered, even broken down, when he spoke to them of the tragedy of their future apostasy, of how the gentle and sensitive woman among them would eat her own children. And how the days would come when they would awake in the morning and say ‘Would God it were evening’. As he foresaw in essence the horrors of the Nazi camps, and of so much else…he could only have said those words with tears and passion. For “he loved the people”. If ever there was an understatement… 

The pathos of the scene is wondrous. Yet in the sadness of it all, we see  a type, more than a type, a superb image, of the death of Christ for us. It was for their sakes that Moses didn't enter the land, remember. That is the emphasis the Spirit gives. As he climbed, for it would have taken a while, perhaps he thought back to those years in Egypt, the struggle of his soul in those years. You may think I'm being over emotional, but it seems to me as he climbed he would have thought back to his dear mum to whom he owed his relationship with God, the mother he'd doubtless disowned for forty years, claiming that he was the son of Pharaoh's daughter; until at age 40 he was honest with himself, he told the world who his real mother was, he refused to be called any longer the son of Pharaoh's daughter. I mean, if we had say 24 hours to live, and we were told to go for a walk before we died, I guess we'd think back to our childhood for at least a moment, wouldn't we. And he was a man, just like any of us.  

And perhaps he thought back to those weak years in Midian, to Zipporah, to the long lonely days with the animals. And then to the wonder of the Red Sea, to the nervousness of meeting the Angel, to the joy of that communion in another mountain. He knew that Angel well, they spoke face to face as men who are friends speak to each other (Ex. 33:11). How fitting that at the top, he met that Angel again. The same love, the same open-faced friendship would have been there. The Angel showed him the Kingdom, opening his eyes to see to the very boundaries of the land. And then he buried him, laying him in the grave in hope of better days, when Christ would come and raise his people, when God's people would at last be obedient. What an end. Out of weakness, such weakness, he was made strong. His temperamental faith, with its flashes of devotion, turned into a solid rock, a real ongoing relationship with a loving Father. Every one of his human relationships had failed: with his brother and sister, with his wife, with his people. But finally that lonely man found his rest in Yahweh, Israel's God, he came to know Him as his friend and saviour . No wonder he is held up, by way of allusion throughout the New Testament, as our example.