Friday, February 10, 2012

A Humble Autobiography? Numbers 12

Numbers 12 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? oHas he not spoken through us also?” And pthe Lordheard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And qthe Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him rin a vision; I speak with him sin a dream. Not so with tmy servant Moses. uHe is faithful in all my house. With him I speak vmouth to mouth, clearly, and not in wriddles, and he beholds xthe form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.

We come to a very interesting verse/slight problem in verse 3 in Numbers 12.

'Moses was very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth.'

The issue is that we teach Mosaic authorship of the pentateuch and here is a comment, written by the author himself, praising his humility.

There are some in the camp of scriptural criticism who point to this and press their view of the multiple authorship of these books, often referred as the JEDP theory.

But...OH.. we have to be so careful here.

There is a fine line between our theories, based on human presuppositions, and confident teaching on the subject.

I truly believe that rampant liberalism has done more harm to the true Christian faith than any heresy of rival religion.

It is so important for any Christian in the field of Biblical research or advanced studies to be well acquainted with the classic book, Christianity and Liberalism, written by J. Gresham Machen in the 1920's as a clear distinction between orthodox Biblical faith and empty liberal ritual. Sadly, it is the area of higher learning that much of the compromise takes place.

Machen said it clearly in his last chapter:
The Church, it is now apparently supposed, has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away and the doctrine of the Cross of Christ can be relegated to the limbo of discarded subtleties.
I have a past post on this book- but the best thing you could do is take about 4 weeks and devour that book. Read it and re-read it. Outline it- mark it up- re-write his arguments. It is extremely important to not get lost in liberal, ear twitching, man adulating philosophy. My post can be accessed by clicking here: Machen's Christianity and Liberalism.

Now back to our issue:

No doubt some editing could take place in the final compilation of the Mosaic books. After all, the death of Moses is written about in Deuteronomy 32. And that is what we could have here in verse 3- as the language is being updated to a more royal Hebrew, the editor places a truthful note that clarifies the text. We trust in God's sovereignty to protect the truth of His word in faithful transmission.

But there could be another idea: What if he wrote it that way, under God's direction, and speaking truth?

In Acts chapter 20, we have another bold statement, declared by Paul and written as Scripture:

 26 Therefore hI (Paul) testify to you this day that iI am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for jI did not shrink from declaring to you kthe whole counsel of God.

No doubt, there are differences here ( who is recording it, etc) but the Bible is a very transparent Book- it doesn't gloss over sin, but it also is willing to speak the truth about men and their virtue as well.

One thing is clear: Moses was meek.

Meekness is often confused with weakness- but it is not the case. And, I believe, there is a slight shade of variation of meekness and humility. It has been sad researching the modern definitions of these terms- not many would label meek as a virtue. It is seen as spineless and without courage.

Biblically, though, it is a supreme virtue. It is one with power or right who doesn't claim that right or withholds power for the sake of another. The supreme example is the Lord Jesus who willingly let go of His heavenly station to be found in flesh (Phil 2). We also see it when He does not call out for legions of angels to rescue Him from the cross.

The evidence for Moses' meekness is found in chapter 11.

In a very unusual passage, God takes some of the Spirit that is in Moses and allows it to be transferred  to 70 elders to help share the burden of the people. Two men, Eldad and Medad, remain in the camp and they prophesy after the Spirit has rested on them.

This causes a rise in Joshua, Moses right hand man since his youth, and he speaks up. "Moses, my lord, stop them."

Instead, Moses rebukes Joshua- "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and the Lord would put His Spirit on them!"

Even though Moses may be 'down' here, I truly believe this is evidence of his meekness. He is not threatened by a rival and longs more for God's glory that his own, even if his circumstances are tough.

How does God get a man to this point? Often, these are men who have suffered humility and still learned to press into their relationship with God.

Think of Moses, tending the sheep for 40 years in the wilderness as God is preparing him to lead a different type of flock called the Exodus.

A similar spirit is actually shown by David in his account with Shimei in II Samuel 16. As this bitter little man is hurling stones and David's protectors are ready to take him out, David prohibits them by saying:

“Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me,1 and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” 
These men of God, in full view of their sinful nature and the grace of their God. is able to bear with and willingly give up any self defense for the sake of others. They trust God to do any defending that needs to be done- but have no expectations for Him to do so.

It is also interesting that this type of meekness can be mis-understood by good people. They think that this means apathy or laziness or softness- but in these cases... it is not so. Yes, it could be 'hyper-calvinism', or cowardice, or inappropriate pacifism - but a key component is that these men aren't hindered by what others think- their zeal is for the Lord first and truth is more importan than popularity or human approval.


In all of these situations, God steps in to validate, authenticate, and he ruthlessly vindicates.

Look what he says about David:

I Kings 14: 7 Go, tell Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:“Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over my people Israel 8 and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, and yet you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes9 but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back, 

Think about what an awesome statement this is! This is AFTER David's sin and is how God evaluates David's life.

He does the same with Moses:

And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him rin a vision; I speak with him sin a dream. Not so with tmy servant Moses. uHe is faithful in all my house. With him I speak vmouth to mouth, clearly, and not in wriddles, and he beholds xthe form of the Lord.

And the penalty for speaking against God's special servant? Miriam is struck with leprosy.

And the meek Moses prays for her- and likely spares her, in that her penalty only lasts 7 days.

What are some applications for this passage:

1) Be careful when you speak ill of anyone- you may be heaping judgement upon yourself.

2) Press hard into God and ask him to develop in you a heart for Him. Think how much it means to Him to find a man who runs toward Him in these ways.

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." II Chronicles 16:9 

3) Be willing to trust God enough to defend you. Learn to trust in His ways and His timing.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. " I Peter 5:6

I truly believe that the Lord heard Moses' cry of depression in Numbers 11 and He used these circumstances to support Him. I said it before, I feel a little sorry for Miriam because she took a hit because of Moses' need more than her sin- but God's punishment is not unjust.

How good might we feel one day to see God knock the Accuser to the ground as he defends us on judgement day.

"This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased."

"Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Embrace the gospel today and watch His Spirit do the work!

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