Moses, speaking as a friend to a friend, begged God to repent of His thought of destroying all Israel as punishment for their worship of a golden calf after the Exodus – and God repented! Merciful Moses “saved” a nation. But he had yet to understand God’s seeming callousness in seeking to “destroy” so many people.
God had relented and yielded to Moses’ plea to save Israel that day of the provocation with the golden calf. Moses went down the mountain with fury, power and mercy to set things straight. The whole tribe of Levi joined in his priesthood tribe, serving to join Israel to its God. The immediate crisis partially solved, Moses returned to God on the mountain to intercede once more on behalf of his Hebrews.
Again, boldly approaching the throne of grace, Moses spoke with deep and loving emotion to his Creator about His people: “Oh, Eternal One (YHVH), these people of yours have sinned a great sin – they have made themselves gods of gold. Yet now if you will only forgive their sin and if not, then kill me instead of them, even blot my out of the book of life that only you can write” (Ex. 32:31-32).
Surely the God of all love could not help but be moved by such a selfless, loving, merciful plea! This One to whom Moses spoke, who was to become the Christ: this One who by the design of Himself and His Father was yet to appear on the world scene, emptied of being God, subject to death as a human being, willing to give His life to atone for all sinners, this One whose inner thoughts would be so much like Moses’ (only on a much grander scale) when He would say, at the point of death on the stake, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”; this One who would taste death for, in the stead of, everyone; this One, the Savior of all mankind; this One, to become Jesus the Christ, the only name under heaven whereby men may be saved: this One, ever-living, all-powerful, glorious God, willing to sacrifice all to save murderous, evil, sinning, God-defying mankind; this One fully understood and sympathized completely with Moses’ desire for mercy, for grace. It was Moses who needed to understand total mercy in its total context. And YHVH was ready to teach him.
“Whoever has sinned against me will be blotted out of my book, Moses. Now you go lead the people to the place I told you about, and I will punish whom I will punish” (vs. 33-34)!
Moses: Great YHVH, you have been telling me, “Take these people to the promised land,” but you haven’t told me whom; you will send with me. You say you are my friend and that I have found grace in your eyes. Please, if this is really so, guide me clearly in the way you want me to travel so that I will understand you and walk acceptably before you. And never forget that this nation is your people!
YHVH: I myself will go with you and give you success! Moses: If you aren’t going with us, don’t send us. Don’t let us move a step from this place. If you don’t go with us, who will ever know that I and my people have found favor and grace in your eyes, and that we are different from every other people on the face of the earth?
YHVH: Yes, Moses, I will do what you have asked, for you have certainly found grace and favor with me, and you are my friend.
Moses: Oh, great and merciful God, thank you. Dare I ask one more thing? Permit me to see your glory!
YHVH: I will make my goodness, my glory, to pass before you, and I will announce the full meaning of my name: YHVH. But one thing you must understand, Moses, is that it is I, not you, who must decide when and to whom to be gracious. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. My friend Moses, your heart, your attitude, your intent, your concern, your love are all in complete harmony with my own. Your purpose is my purpose. But both the power to perform it and the time frame in which it must be done are mine, and mine alone. Don’t be impatient!
Now, you can’t see my glory face to face or it would destroy you, but you stand here on this rock beside me, and when my glory goes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed. Then I will remove my hand and you shall see my back, but not my face.
For the lesson in patience Moses learned, we must cheat a little and go to the New Testament. Peter tells us in his second epistle, chapter 3, verse 8: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slacking.”
Here is the key – the key of timing, of the schedule God has in mind. The key which unlocks the puzzle of the frustration question: “If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why has He allowed so much human suffering all these thousands of years?” Why was God not as merciful in each succeeding generation as Moses was toward his own generation?
Our time sense as human beings is very limited. God is eternal – and He can afford a patience humans find difficult, if not impossible. What’s a thousand years to God? To give it some kind of meaning to us humans, God inspired Peter to say it’s just like a day to us. But Peter sort of “stole” his idea about this God-time concept from much earlier writings: the Psalms. In Psalm 90 you will find the source of Peter’s statement in the New Testament: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday and when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (v. 4). In other words, the time factor, which is so very urgent and real to us human beings, is to God a relative thing.
Now many people assume that the Psalms were written by David – and indeed David did write the majority of them. But Psalm 90, if you will notice in your Bible, has a different author. The entire psalm deals with time and men. That famous quote about “threescore years and ten” (a 70-year average,) allotted to most men comes from that psalm. Immediately after that famous statement comes a most interesting statement (v. 10): “If by reason of strength they be fourscore years” Moses is the author. And Moses was fourscore years old when he learned from God this most important lesson about time – when Moses learned patience, when Moses learned about how and when and, most importantly, why the great God YHVH planned to exercise His mercy and grace!
The week is composed of seven days. God is the author of time, by virtue of creation. And He arbitrarily chose a seven-day week. “Six days thou shalt labor, and do all they work,” YHVH said to Moses and all Israel, “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord (YHVH) thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Deut. 5:13-14).
The meaning is clear when all the scriptures are put together. God allotted six days – six thousand years the way man reckons time - for mankind to do whatever he chose, without interference from Him, and God also allotted Satan to influence the actions of men for that time (most men, but not all). But the seventh day, one thousand years – the millennium if you please-- is reserved for God alone, a time He reserves for His work, His labor, His doing, His plan; a time when men must cease from their works and allow the completition of His great work: a time during which Satan will be bound, helpless, inaccessible to man (and that restful Sabbath is just about here!).
Paul gives us another glimpse at the plan: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer (Savior), and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel (the good news), they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election (the ultimate judgment of their eternal fate), they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:26-29).
“All Israel shall be saved”?! Could that possibly include that sinful generation God sought to “destroy” and Moses sought to “save”? Yes! “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9).
But how can dead people receive salvation? We’ve always been told by most of the Christian preachers that if you don’t get “saved” during your lifetime, you’ll go to that terrible other place forever: hell! Would you believe that the good news Jesus told Moses is better than the “gospel” preached by no many today – in His name? Those “Christian” preachers could learn a lot from Moses, the friend of God!
Who made life anyway? Who gave Adam his first breath? Who molded Adam from the dust and built Eve from Adam’s heart side? Who is the Giver of life – and can death stop Him from restoring life? If He can make a man once, can He make him again, just as he was before he died? Do we Christians believe in the resurrection? Is there only one resurrection to spiritual life – or does the Bible speak of other resurrections? Is there a physical resurrection spoken of? Yes!
And, for those who might leap to the conclusion that this is a “second chance theory,” forget it! These people never had their first chance.
Surely you have heard of the “valley of dry bones.” A Negro spiritual in America makes this a tuneful truth that most happily sing while ignoring the meaning of the words!
Ezekiel 37 tells the story: bones, sinews, flesh, skin and the breath of life – and that is a physical resurrection – are given to all the dead of the entire “house of Israel”! “They say, our bones are dried, and our hope is lost. Therefore prophecy (Ezekiel) and say unto them. Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves (is that not a resurrection?), and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves. O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you” (Ez. 37:11-14)! Read it and weep - tears of joy!
And not only Israel is included in this merciful resurrection to their one and only chance at eternal life, but all the people of every nation under the sun, from every generation that ever lived, are included! Matthew 12 and Luke 11 tell of Jesus warning the generation of His day, since long dead, that those of the generation of Jonah in Nineveh (the very antithesis of Israel) and those of the generation of the queen of the south (the queen of Sheba) would one day rise with the generation to whom He was speaking. And Jesus further warned that the chances for salvation of those others generations would be better because they did not have – and – reject the very Christ Himself living among them during their fleeting days on earth!
God is no respecter of persons. He made all mankind in His own image. He loves them all – and intends them all to have an equal chance at salvation.
“As it is written, Jacob (Israel) have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then (and this is the lesson that Moses had to learn) it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that sheweth mercy. Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it .Why hast thou made me thus” (Rom. 9:13-20)?
God is the One who is in charge. He is the One who will offer salvation to whom He wants to offer it when He chooses. Thank God He chooses to offer that same salvation to everyone sooner or later! Babylonians, Scythians, Ninevites, Africans, Romans and Christians alike! And that is really good news!
God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9) God’s will be done!
How is it that so many misinterpret what John said: ‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)? Although the law came through Moses and grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Moses was most familiar with, not only with God’s law, but also His infinite mercy and grace – and that’s the truth!
Learn the same lesson Moses learned. Don’t be impatient with God, anxious for Him to offer salvation and grace when you want Him to, to whom you choose – wait on the Lord! His arm is not shortened. Death was His enemy. But He has conquered death once and for all! His grace and truth are not limited by temporary death. Nor is His law in opposition to His grace and truth! All those who have never known His name will rise again and have their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for grace and for life eternal! And that is good news!
Blessed be the name of the Lord. But what is His name? Moses kept asking Him the same question. And God gave His friend Moses the answer: “And the Lord (YHVH) descended in the cloud, and stood with him (Moses) there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands (of generations), forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:5-7).
And that is the “name of the Lord” Moses learned from his friend God! That was almost more than Moses could endure. What a marvelous plan! What all-encompassing mercy – beyond the wildest hopes of Moses, but very much in line with Moses’ hope!
What God told Moses was that every human being would at one time have his opportunity for salvation. But the God of grace reserves the judgment of when and whom to Himself! Grace was not to be administered through Moses, but through God. Trust God – Moses did!
But what about why? Why would anybody want to be saved? Saved from what for what? Saved from Egypt? From sin? From death? But for what? Why did God make us the way He did? Mortal, subject to sin, capable of inflicting so much misery on our own kind for so many thousands of years. Why are we here? Why were we born? What is it God plans for us? What purpose is there? And once we are “saved” what will we be? That’s the “Tale of the Other Prophet” – Jesus. Moses knew – do you?
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