“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the LORD.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:5-8)
Abraham believed God. (Genesis 15:6) Enoch walked with God. (Genesis 5:24) The prophets heard the Word of the Lord. Moses saw the form of the Lord, and spoke with Him face to face. Do you understand how big this is? If I am not mistaken, no one else in the entirety of scripture gets even an indirect reference of being called God’s friend until Jesus calls his disciples friends at the last supper.
But now I am getting ahead of myself again. The point is that Moses had a level of intimacy with God that few men in history have had. If anyone can model for us the walk of faith, surely Moses can. So let us look at Moses for a minute. It won’t take long. I promise.
Moses was born at a rough time, but, even at his birth, God was with him. Pharaoh was trying to reduce the strength of the Hebrew population. He feared they were getting too numerous to be controlled, so he gave the following order to the Hebrew midwives:
“When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” (Exodus 1:16)
Even so, Moses was born, and lived. His mother hid him for three months, then placed him in a basket and set him in the river.
5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. (Exodus 2:5)
Moses should have been killed at birth. Instead, he was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. The story is familiar. But this is the same sovereign election that Paul speaks of in Romans 9. Paul is speaking in reference to Jacob and Esau, but the principle is the same.
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9:10-16)
You see, God is not surprised by the events and circumstances of your life, just as He was not surprised by the circumstances of Moses’ birth. God already knew what he was going to do. He already knew the plans He had for Moses. He already knows the plans He has for you.
Moses was not raised within the Hebrew culture. He was raised in the household of Pharaoh. As such, it is possible that, as a child growing up, he never learned about God. The God of the Hebrews was of little interest to the Egyptians. One might think that He also held little interest for Moses. That is, until he killed a man and fled to Midian.
Moses killed a man in defense of one of his fellow Hebrews. So we may presume that he did know his origins, and feel some sense of kinship to his people. But now he was on the run from Pharaoh. And he ran straight to Midian. Right into the house of Reuel, better known as Jethro, priest of Midian. Does God have His hands all over this one, or what?
So now things should start happening, right? Moses is now the son in law of Jethro the priest. He must have come to know God at some point in here. He has seen the oppression of his people. Let’s go! It’s time to get to work! So what happens next? Moses spends the next forty years as a shepherd in Midian. The book of Acts tells us that Moses was forty years old when he killed the Egyptian. (Acts 7:23) The passage goes on to say that:
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. (Acts 7:30)
Forty years. Forty years in complete obscurity before the angel of the Lord appeared. Are some of you still waiting? Be patient.
We have come to the burning bush, the part of the story where God calls Moses to go and lead His people out of Egypt. This is where things really start to happen. This is where the story becomes exciting. Moses goes into Egypt, and confronts Pharaoh. God performs mighty miracles, and Pharaoh lets the Hebrews go. God parts the Red Sea. Moses gets water from a rock. They arrive at Mount Sinai. Moses receives the ten commandments. Aaron makes a golden calf. Moses smashes the ten commandments and has to go back for a second copy. They move on to the border of the promised land. The spies go in to check it out. And they are afraid to go in and take possession of the land.
After everything else that just happened, they don’t trust God enough to enter into the promised land. The Hebrew people lack faith.
And what of Moses? God had used him so mightily in the previous paragraph. What would the man of God do now? He would take up babysitting. Sounds exciting, no? You see, all of those amazing events surrounding the confrontation with Pharaoh, the Exodus from Egypt, and the receiving of the ten commandments constitute only the smallest portion of Moses’ life. Fifteen minutes of fame preceded by forty years of obscurity, and followed by forty years of frustration. That is the story of Moses’ life.
Moses spent the next forty years quelling rebellions, mediating disputes, leading the children of Israel through good times and bad. He watched his brother and sister die. And, at the end of it all, he was not allowed to enter the promised land.
When you look at it that way, it seems kind of bleak. It almost sounds like Moses got a pretty raw deal. And I can assure you that Moses life was not an easy one. His calling had its moments, but, in the day to day, it was anything but glamorous. But Moses was faithful. He trusted God. And, despite his rather exalted position as leader of the Israelites, and the man who brought down Pharaoh, Moses was humble.
(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) (Numbers 12:3)
More humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. Wow. The Bible says that God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)
Still, even the most humble man on the face of the earth can get himself into trouble. There is a reason why Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land.
1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Numbers 20:1-11)
Can you feel the weight of this moment? Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, has just died. The people have no water for themselves or their livestock. And the people of Israel had a lot of livestock. So they gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. Again. Moses had faced grumbling and opposition from these people since before they left Egypt. Now, here they are, many years and many miles later, but the situation hasn’t changed. You can kind of understand why Moses lost his temper.
He didn’t speak to the rock. He struck it. Moses did not obey the command that God had given him. He did something else. God still honored Moses by giving him the water that the people needed, but God sees into the hearts of men. He knew that it wasn’t frustration that caused Moses to disobey. It was lack of faith.
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:12)
So many miles, so many years of faithful service, and Moses is faced with a crisis of faith. He did not trust God enough. It seems almost impossible. But there it is. Have you been there?
The bad news is that now Moses and Aaron would not enter the promised land. The good news is that history and the rest of scripture confirm the fact that God did not turn His back on them. Not even when they disobeyed after all that time. Not even after they didn’t trust Him.
Their actions did have consequences. Bad choices always do. But the God who chose Moses before he was born did not abandon him at the end. Moses was still God’s friend.
This is perhaps the best news of all. Because centuries later, Jesus said this to His disciples:
14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14-15)
God spoke with Moses face to face as with a friend. As Christians today we can have an even more intimate relationship with God. If we do what He commands, we can have God the Son as our friend, God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, and God the Father as our own heavenly Father, as we are in Christ just as Christ is in the Father. (John 17:20-23) Just remember that Being God’s friend and walking in faith does not mean that things will be easy, or that you will be recognized, or hold an important position. It may be that most of your life in Christ will be spent in relative obscurity. Your road may be laden with hardship and frustration. When that happens, remember that you are in good company. And remember what Paul said to the Corinthians:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)