Tuesday, May 08, 2012

120508 - Numbers 31 - The Conclusion of Moses' Duties

Tuesday SOAP: Moses served as the Deliverer of Israel, a prophetic type of the Messiah, (Deut. 18:18), a mediator between the people and God. It was a very burdensome role which took a great toll on him. He ultimately reacted against the people and failed to sanctify God, so God appointed the limit of his service and his end. What an unsatisfying ending to this amazing life.

S: “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” (Numbers 31:2)

O: This is a reiteration of God's statement in Numbers 20:1-12, 27:12-14, that because of his actions at Meribah, he would not be allowed to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, though he would see it.

A: At first, I have to smile wryly and wonder a little if Moses may have been ready to go by this time. Certainly he was tired of the rebels. He certainly didn't resist this pronouncement from God as Hezekiah did. (Isaiah 38:1-5)

But then again, this was the entire focus of the last 40 years of his life. What a difficult sentence to face!

What application(s) can I draw for myself and my friends?

For one thing, I'm thinking that David Livingstone's well-known quote, "I am immortal till my work is accomplished," might be slightly in error -- or at least susceptible to being taken the wrong way, if he intended it only in the sense that it applied insofar as he only worked according to God's leading. I will not pretend to understand God's sovereignty over my actions, but, if I understand this properly, it may very well be that I can choose to sin in such a way that I disqualify myself from accomplishing what God's perfect will for me would be.

I don't mean to be irreverent, but I think we like stories with "poetic endings" in which people are outsmarted into doing what the wiser individual fully intended them to do as much as we are zealous to protect our conception of God's providence. So we construe it as if it was clearly God's perfect will for Moses to die in the wilderness all along.

I guess I'm not inclined to see it that way, as if, in every given situation, whatever turns out is always precisely what God preferred to have happen.

I think if I were inclined to see it that way, it might lead me to be a bit presumptuous, thinking that if I head off in the wrong direction, God is somehow obligated to use means to correct my course. Yes, I believe in the ultimate sense, I am foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified -- and that God engineers every circumstance to conform me to the image of Christ.

But in the short term, there are actions and attitudes I could adopt which would be preferable over the ones I often do. If there is a "sin unto death," for the believer, (1 John 5:16, 1 Cor. 5:5), I am not immortal, even though God has prepared good works for me to walk in. Admittedly, it's a thorny concept.

Even thornier is the interrelationship of believers to one another. No one truly sins in isolation - my sin has a ripple effect outward upon others. Moses himself sinned by not regarding God's holiness - the "way" he was shown (Exodus 33:13) - God is first merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, with mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. (Exodus 34:6-7)

Can someone else block God's will for my life? There's always a way out, according to 1 Corinthians 10:13. And yet, the rebellious Israelites made it extremely difficult for even meek Moses. This shows me that no man, no matter how great, can mediate between the people and God, nor can he accurately represent God to the people. (Ex. 4:15-16, 7:1)

It's easy to sympathize with Moses in this situation. But maybe the more pertinent and difficult question is, when a leader so misrepresents God, what is the way out for them? I think that's why the penalty for occasioning offenses is so high. (Matthew 18:6, 7; James 3:1)

P: Father, I have stumbled in so many and various ways - please give me eyes to see and ears to hear, your way of escape, your voice, along with the heart to be obedient. I do not want to cause offenses.


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