The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
Day 15: Our Awesome God
Then He said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."
The God of the Bible is an awesome God. His presence fills people’s hearts with respect bordering on fear, which is probably a good definition of awe. If they weren’t immediately as awe-struck as quickly as they should have been, He helped them a bit: "Take off your shoes, Moses! This is holy ground." The old man quickly complied, not knowing what the consequences of disobedience might be, but not willing to test the Lord and find out.
Today we sing songs about standing on holy ground, and of how awesome God is, but we have very little concept of what we’re talking about. It’s good, of course, to be intimate with God—that’s one of the great privileges of the New Covenant—but there is a difference between intimacy and over-familiarity, or irreverence. If we were really as close to God as we sometimes think, we’d have a little more awe, a little more wholesome fear of the Maker and Sustainer of the entire Universe, the One who holds the destiny of everything in His mighty hands. We stand in awe of the ocean, a mountain peak, a bull elephant, or a famous man or woman—shouldn’t we be in awe of the One who made all these and everything else?
Intimacy and familiarity are not the same. I had a very good relationship with my earthly father; I loved him, and I was quite secure in his love for me. I shared my heart with him, and I believe he often did with me. But one day, when I was a teenager, as I walked in the house and saw him sitting on his favorite chair, I cheerfully walked over and pretended to polish his bald head. I can’t remember exactly what he said—or if he said anything—but I immediately knew I’d made a serious mistake. I do remember feeling terribly ashamed, blushing, and leaving the room quickly, choking back the tears. I had crossed the line between intimacy and familiarity. I had acted disrespectfully, without the proper awe a son should have towards his father.
Like Moses, we ought to take our shoes off before the Lord, figuratively speaking. There should always be a deep sense of awe when we talk with God. Intimacy, yes. "Abba Father," by all means. But not the same kind of familiarity we have with our peers. God is not our peer; we are not on the same level as He. As far as the heavens are above the earth, so is the Lord above His creation. He is "holy" and that word means high above and separate from everything else, fearfully and painfully unapproachable to mere mortals.
Thank God that through Jesus Christ we may now enter boldly into His presence. But boldly doesn’t mean irreverently; we must still be humble before Him; our words should be few, as Solomon pointed out; we should always be aware of the great privilege it is to talk to Him at all. And we shouldn’t drag the dirt of this world, of unclean hearts and lips, sinful motives and ambitions, into His holy presence. We should take our shoes off when we stand upon holy ground.
Day 16: God’s Personal Name
Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?"
Moses was quite bold with God here in Exodus chapter three. As he stood before the burning bush he had the audacity to ask the name of the God that was speaking to him! But his boldness paid off. God answered, "I AM WHO I AM... thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’" God has a name. It’s not God—that’s a generic name; there are false gods and there is a true God; to call Him God is like calling someone, "Hello, Human." His name isn’t Lord, either—that’s a title like "Mister" or "Doctor" or "King."
God’s name is YHWH. Nobody is completely certain how to pronounce it anymore, as the Jews quit pronouncing it out loud hundreds of years before Christ, but Yahweh is probably pretty close. The anceint Hebrews felt that their lips were too unclean to pronounce God’s holy name, so they stopped saying it—and we lost the pronunciation! When they read the Bible aloud they would say Adonai, the word for Lord, every time they came across YHWH. Somewhere along the way somebody combined the vowels from Adonai with the consonants of YHWH and came up with Jahowah or in English, Jehovah.
"Yahweh" is very close to the Hebrew words translated "I AM" here in Exodus 3:14. Basically, it means "the one who is," but it is more than that. It means He exists in a way that no other person or thing does. It means He exists in an underived sense—He didn’t come from anybody or anyplace. He just is, all by Himself. In essence, He said, "I AM because I AM." Not because somebody gave birth to Him or because a big bang produced the seed of life in Him in ages past—He is because He is! He is because He is God!
The word also has the suggestion that He is the Creator of everything else. He is not only the self-derived One, He is the Deriver of everything and everybody else. He is the cause of His own existence and He is the cause of all other existence in the Universe. And of course the Bible stresses this again and again. In Genesis He created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them. In the New Testament we read that He gives life and breath to all things. He is the cause behind all of creation.
Yes, God has a name, a proper personal name just like you and I have. But His name means something, unlike many of our names which are picked out just because they have a nice sound to them. God’s name tells who He is and what He’s done, and also our relationship to Him, that of the created thing to the Creator. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. Maybe we should call Him by name more often.
Day 17: The Karen of Burma
This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
When we think of pagan people in faraway lands we usually picture people who have no concept of the true God, people who worship spirits of the rocks and trees and harvest, and who hire witch-doctors to perform spooky rituals to try to cure diseases. And of course, this is very often the case, but the amazing thing is that there is often a vague remembrance of the true God even in some of the most isolated tribes. God "has not left Himself without a witness" among them, (Acts 14:17).
Don Richardson, in his book "Eternity In Their Hearts," tells the story of the Karen tribe of Burma. They had an ancient tradition of a supreme God and Creator of the world. There were many songs or hymns extolling His virtues, and a remarkably accurate account of the Garden of Eden, and the fall of the first man and woman, who listened to the voice of the tempter and ate the "fruit of testing." Their name for the great Creator God was Y’wa, which is obviously very close to the name of the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh. But that’s not the best of the story.
It seems the Karen also had a tradition of a lost book that told about Y’wa, and they believed that one day a "white brother" would come with that book and explain it to them, and set them free from their oppressors. The Lord had apparently gone to great lengths to set the stage for the preaching of the Gospel. There had been no Jewish or Christian contact with this nation of some 800,000 people—their knowledge of the true God dated all the way back to the book of Genesis and the common root of all people in Noah and Adam.
In 1828 George Boardman, a Baptist missionary from America, visited the Karen people with the Gospel, and of course, he carried a big black leather Bible under his arm. He was amazed at the fruit he saw. In a couple of decades over 100,000 Karens gave their lives to Jesus, producing one of the greatest missionary success stories in history!
Today there are still thousands of unreached peoples in the world. Some are relatively small tribal groups, separated from the rest of the world by language and culture and mountain peaks. Some are very large, like the Muslim peoples of central Asia, and the various unreached peoples still in India and China. Perhaps the true God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who identified Himself as the self-existent Yahweh to Moses—has left Himself a witness, a testimony, among the other unreached peoples, as He did with the Karens. Perhaps you or I could be the blessed missionary that just happens to walk in and find the key to evangelizing thousands of otherwise lost souls. The time is shorter than ever, so let’s get out and be about our Father Yahweh’s business.
Day 18: The Curse of Canaan
I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.
When God looked for a land to settle the Israeli slaves in after their deliverance from Egypt it didn’t take Him long to find one. Actually, He had led Abraham to the land of Canaan some 500 years earlier, and promised to give his descendants the land of the Canaanite tribes, so the issue was settled long before Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. But why Canaan’s land? Why not someplace else, someplace less populated, where they wouldn’t have to war against well-established people in order to take possession?
The answer lies back in Genesis chapter nine. Ham the son of Noah happened upon his drunken father lying naked in the tent, and was apparently very disrespectful, perhaps even perverse about it. He literally ran out and told the whole world of Noah’s shame—for the whole world at that time was this one family. When Noah found out about what his youngest son had done, he came out and cursed Ham’s youngest son, Canaan, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants He shall be to his brothers," (Gen.9:25). Now Canaan’s sons, and Ham’s grandsons, were the very ones listed here and elsewhere in Exodus: the Hittite, the Jebusite, the Hivite, etc. The curse of Noah carries on from generation to generation, and the Canaanites multiply into many thousands of people, until Moses is instructed to go in and possess the land occupied by them.
There’s as much we don’t know about curses as we do know, but we do know that there’s a principle here that shows up again and again in the Bible, where the sons are punished for the sins of their fathers. The main reason is because the sons continue in the sins of their fathers. The fathers have certain traits, actions and attitudes, and the children naturally pick up on these and act the same way when they grow up and have families of their own. Most child abusers were child abuse victims, for example. Alcoholism also tends to be passed along like that. The sins of the fathers become the sins of the sons. But it’s not just behavioral; there’s considerable evidence in the Bible that suggest that sins and curses are actually passed on through the bloodline, or by inheritance—for example, aren’t we all sinners under God’s curse of physical death because of Adam’s transgression?
One thing we do know is how to break curses! Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We all need to be washed in the blood that is stronger than any other bloodline. We need to be born again into a new family, the blessed family of God instead of the old cursed family. And we need to be baptized in a power that is strong enough to break the bondage of our upbringing and all the automatic behavior we learned from watching and imitating sinful parents all our lives. We may even need to verbally break curses that have landed upon us. Whatever the need, and however powerful the curse, complete deliverance is available through faith in Jesus Christ.
Day 19: The Three Signs of Moses
Then Moses answered and said, "What if they will not believe me, or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’"
Moses had a legitimate concern when he asked the Lord to give him some proof of his visitation to share with the sons of Israel. The last time he had tried to deliver them, in a much smaller way, he had been rejected, and he didn’t want that to happen again.
The Lord agreed immediately, and gave him three signs to show them. When Moses threw his staff on the ground it would turn into a snake, and then when he took it by the tail it would become a normal wooden staff again. When he put his hand into his robe it would become leprous, and when he put it in a second time it would be cleansed. And if he poured water from the River Nile on the ground it would turn to blood.
These would be attesting signs to the children of Israel, but there is more than that involved here. There is great significance in these miracles. These three things are fairly common types, or symbols, in the Scripture, and each of them is connected with the subject of sin. The serpent is, of course, symbolic of the devil: his craftiness and wisdom, and his deadly bite for all those who listen to him. Satan can take an otherwise harmless and ordinary thing like the staff and turn it into a venomous beast. But Moses (through the message he brought) had the power to take Satan and make him and his works harmless.
Leprosy is a type of the effects of sin. It’s highly contagious and lepers were kept outside the camp of Israel in a little camp of their own, so as not to spread the disease. Sin also spreads like a plague and infects everybody it comes into contact with. And sinners are kept outside the camp of God, away from his presence and his holy city (see Rev.21:27). But the gospel of Jesus Christ, prefigured here in the ministry of Moses, has the power to wash us clean from sin, so we may enter into the presence of God.
The third miracle is the key to the other two—the water from the Nile that turned into blood. It is an obvious reference to the blood of Jesus Christ, the agent of cleansing, that which conquers both the snake and the leprosy. When the Son of Man poured out His lifeblood on the cross the way was opened for all men and women everywhere to take the snake by the tail, be free from the power of sin, and walk in righteousness and eternal life.
When we call this series of messages the "Gospel According To Moses," we are not just throwing words around. The Good News is right in the Law, just as it is in the New Testament. The Law prefigured and looked forward to Christ; today we look back to His finished work, but either way the message is the same—Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of all who follow Him, Old Testament or New.
Day 20: In Our Weakness he is Strong
Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." 11 And the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." 13 But he said, "Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever Thou wilt." 14 Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses...
The first time Moses protested—"What if they don’t believe me, Lord?"—it might have been a genuine concern, for God immediately answered him with three signs. The second time he points to his own inabilities—but I’m not real good with words, Lord, and again the Lord speaks comfortingly, "Don’t worry, I’ll give you the words to speak." But the third time Moses just lets it out, "Listen, Lord, just send someone else, please..." And then God gets mad.
It’s a great privilege to be called to do a job for the Lord, whether large or small, and there is no place for fear, complaining, laziness, or false humility.
Moses may have been a little timid because of his age. An eighty year old man doesn’t easily take on a whole new career after just five minutes’ conversation. He was healthy and strong, but probably had enough little aches and pains to make him feel his age sometimes, too. A man just doesn’t leave everything, travel hundreds of miles, and go starting up insurrections against the world’s greatest super-power at the age of eighty.
He had little confidence in His own abilities to move people through eloquent speech. Stephen later declares (in Acts 7) that he "was a man of power in words and deeds," but he didn’t have that kind of confidence in himself. He might have been able to speak alright at one time—though not very good even then, as he points out—but now he had no confidence at all... he wasn’t as quick on his feet as he used to be, he tended to stumble over his words, think more slowly, maybe say his sentences backwards sometimes when you pushed him too hard. No, Lord, I’m not the guy you want to stand before the people of Israel, much less the court of Pharaoh.
But God said He would take care of these things. We’re not to go in our own ability anyway, but we’re to trust in the Lord. Of course, Moses didn’t have the book of Romans to read back then, so he had to be one of the first to learn this truth about trusting in God’s righteousness, God’s strength, God’s abilities. He never read 2 Corinthians—"when I am weak, then I am strong," and Lord’s "strength is perfected in weakness"—he had to learn it by experience; he knew nothing of this major principle of the Gospel. Yet God chose to call him at this age, and for one reason: so that He could take the lesser things of this world, the things that are not mighty but old and feeble, the things that are not noble but rather despised—like a Hebrew shepherd—to shake up and overthrow the things that were mighty, like Egypt. Because of this, no flesh can glory in His presence, no one can take the credit but God. The same Gospel that we have in the New Testament—not of works lest any man should boast—is illustrated right here in the life of Moses.
That’s why God got angry—Moses was rejecting His grace, and looking instead at his own inabilities to serve the Lord; he was operating in a works mentality. You can’t serve God on your own; you have to do it in His power, by faith. That’s the Gospel message, both to Moses and to us today.
Day 21: The Lord’s "Plan B"
But he said, "Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever Thou wilt." Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, "Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; and when he sees you he will be glad in his heart."
Moses had cold feet—he didn't want to go down to Egypt at his age and with his limitations, and enter into a life-and-death struggle with Pharaoh over the fate of the children of Israel. Even when the Lord said He’d put His own words in his mouth, teach him how to speak, and give him miraculous signs as confirmation still Moses balked.
And the Lord got angry, the Bible says. In response to Moses’ stubbornness he initiated "Plan B" – send both Moses and Aaron down to Egypt. If Moses had declined that, too, God no doubt had a "Plan C" as well, which probably was sending an entirely different person to do the job. Now we should underline the fact that Plans B and C are not God's perfect will. People talk about God's perfect will and God's permissive will and use it as an excuse to disobey direct commands given to them. Let their be no confusion about it: Plan A was God's will—to send Moses down to deliver Israel out of Egypt. Moses refused, disobeyed, and the Lord became angry and punished him with Plan B. Plan B was punishment for Moses, even though in the final analysis it still accomplished the same thing; the children of Israel did move out of Egypt.
Moses paid dearly for his reluctance to obey God and go down to Egypt by faith in the Lord, trusting God to work by His own power in spite of his limited speech-making abilities. As it turned out, Aaron was not much fun to work with. Oh, at first it seemed wonderful, to be able to work with his own brother... but there turned out to be a lot of tension and pain in that partnership.
It was Aaron who built the golden calf. Instead of standing his ground, being faithful to the Lord and Moses, he backed down before the people and built them an idol. Years later, he and his sister Miriam confronted Moses boldly, demanding equal time and authority around the wilderness camp. This was nothing less than mutiny. I imagine that the tension had been brewing for months and months before the actual confrontation, and Moses had sensed it, felt the stress, prayed often about it, tried to appease his siblings, hoped to see the whole thing settled amiably. When something like that finally happens it’s usually been stewing for a long time, causing untold anguish to the discerning leader.
No, Aaron was not the relief that Moses thought he would be at first—he was a first-class trial, a thorn in the side of Moses, perhaps for most of their time together in the wilderness. When you opt for Plan B, otherwise known as "God's permissive will," don't fool yourself—you’re taking the painful route, not the path of least resistance.
Moses was lucky there was a Plan B at all, though, when you think about it. What if God had gone right to the other option: "Okay, then I'll go find someone else who wants to be used in this work." It wouldn't have been the first or last time it happened.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.