Tuesday, May 27, 2014

God Tells Moses How He Will Affirm Him -- Exodus 19:9

And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I shall come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever.”  Then Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.
Most commentators seem to avoid this verse, especially the last phrase God speaks in it. I found that rather interesting.  So let us take a closer look at it.  Moses has just gone up the mountain to report to God that the people had agreed to do all that He (God) had asked them to do.  And God simply informs Moses of what He is planning to do next and why.
To begin with, God tells Moses He will come “to you” in a thick cloud.  The ‘you’ is plural as Moses is one of the Children of Israel. God’s presence would be evidenced in the appearance of a thick veil of cloud in the heavens.  God wants them to know He is there but not to see His face or His throne.  Matthew Henry suggests the “thick cloud was to prohibit curious enquiries into things secret, and to command an awful adoration of that which was revealed.”
God’s purpose for coming down was also intended to place “honor” upon Moses.  God wants the people to be able to “hear when I speak with you, Moses” in order that they may believe you, Moses, forever.”  As God comes closer to the people in this thick cloud, they would be able to hear His voice as He speaks to Moses, and in so doing, they would know (believe) that what Moses tells them is of God.  Henry writes, “first (there is a physical) appearance of the divine glory, which was afterwards . . . carried on more silently by the ministry of Moses.”  Henry likens it to the appearance of the Holy Ghost when He descended visibly upon Christ at his baptism, “and all that were present heard God speak (of) Him (Christ), that afterwards, without the repetition of such visible tokens, they might believe Him (Christ).”  Another example Henry cites is the Spirit descending in cloven tongues upon the apostles at Pentecost that they may be believed.
What could be a greater testimony of spiritual leadership in a person than to have God make His presence visible to the leader’s followers so they know when He is speaking to the leader, and then by that, allow them to believe that leader?  That is how God works but it is not for every man (or woman) to seek that endorsement.  Only God chooses to whom He gives it.  Pursuing it for the sake of getting it, as political candidates go after the endorsement of famous, rich, and/or influential individuals, would prove disastrous.  Our job as leaders is to get close to God for the sole purpose of knowing Him better, and keep on doing His will.  Henry and Richard Blackaby’s book, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People On To God’s Agenda is an excellent resource for this subject.
Notice also when this happened.  What God said He would do in this verse, occurred only after the people had declared their willingness to obey God’s voice.  When they made a sincere promise to obey the Word of God, then God promised they would hear His voice.  You may well argue, “But that was then, for the people of Israel in the wilderness.  Surely, it is not that simple for us here and now.”  I understand how you would feel that way, but I am more convinced by what the New Testament says about it.  In John 7:17, we read Jesus’ words, “If anyone is willing to do His (God’s) will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”  There is no greater assurance that we need.  If we sincerely desire to do the will of God, His way, in His timing, and in accordance with His plan, we will hear the voice of God – through prayer, through the study of His Word, through the confirmation of the saints – and others will know it as well.
Finally, I want to deal with the last phrase of the words God spoke to Moses, namely,  “believe in you (Moses) forever.”  Let us first of all keep in mind that God was here speaking specifically to Moses, promising him that the people of Israel would indeed believe in him forever.  And that is exactly what happened through the ages.  The Children of Israel, today’s Jews who indeed worship God, have reserved a very high honor for Moses.  Wikipedia sums it up nicely when it states, “To Orthodox Jews, Moses is called Moshe Rabbenu, `Eved HaShem, Avi haNeviim zya"a. He is defined ‘Our Leader Moshe’, ‘Servant of God’, and ‘Father of all the Prophets’. In their view, Moses received not only the Torah, but also the revealed (written and oral) and the hidden (the `hokhmat nistar teachings, which gave Judaism the Zohar of the Rashbi, the Torah of the Ari haQadosh and all that is discussed in the Heavenly Yeshiva between the Ramhal and his masters). He is also considered the greatest prophet.”
I also know that God does not make any mistakes.  So, if He bestows upon a leader such an honor, then that leader may well be believed forever.  The concern is not with God as to whether or not He makes errors.  The issue is with our ability, because of our own failure to walk closely with God, to discern any honor God has or has not placed on a leader.  We have that responsibility.  And there are four possible outcomes to that discernment:
First: If we discern correctly and God has given a leader such an honor, then we would do well to follow him or her.
Second: If we discern correctly that God has not given a leader any such honor, we would do well to carefully examine how that leader may or may not still be led of God and to what extent.  We need to examine carefully for ourselves the direction the leader may be taking us and whether that direction aligns itself with Scripture and God’s will, to the best of our ability to determine as we continue in prayer and supplication for our own direction.
Third: If we discern incorrectly, assuming God has not confirmed a person’s leadership being of God when in fact it is, we stand to lose much in not following him or her, for God would be clearly working there and we will not be part of it.
Fourth: If we discern incorrectly, assuming God confirmed a person when He in fact did not, then we would labor in vain with that individual.
My prayer is that God will grant each of us the wisdom we need and the desire to seek Him and His will for ourselves in these cases of leadership.  Look for evidence of God’s presence.  Hear His voice in unison as He speaks to the leader involved.  And only then, follow.
The 9th verse of the 19th chapter of Exodus then ends with Moses telling the words of the people to the Lord.  This is a repeat of what verse 8 had recorded.  Is this unnecessary duplication?  Is it an error in translation?  Neither.  I believe it is the continuation of a conversation between God and Moses.  Moses reported to God what the people had said and promised (verse 8).  God then told him what He would do in exchange (main party of verse 9).  Finally, Moses reconfirms the people’s willingness to do as God said and assures God of their sincerity.  In today’s experience, it is like saying, “You will not regret this, God, because of what the people said they would do.”  But ah, how often we give God reason to regret His actions because we do not keep our promises.

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