MOSES ARCHITECT OF GOD’S PROMISES
The mission or orders from heaven were to forge Israel into a theocratic nation. In a sense, Moses was the architect and engineer to implement the design and the rules that would govern the political and religious life of the Hebrews. Moses was a temporary representative of God and so was Joshua after him. Once the Israelites had settled they were to govern themselves guided by the Ten Commandments that were issued by God. The Levites were to administer the law and serve the people for ten percent of the nation’s income. It was the most cost effective system designed for human management.
Moses’ work began with Aaron at his side facing Pharaoh king of Egypt, one of the most powerful human gods at the time. It became a contest between Pharaoh and Moses representing the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses hoped for a peaceful exit by asking the king to let his people go for three days into the desert to hold a festival. Pharaoh did not fall for Moses’ scheme and denied their request. He also denied the existence of the God Moses represented and instead demanded that the slaves made more bricks from less material. The Israelites began to blame Moses for their added hardships. Moses in desperation pleaded with God, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (Ex. 5:22-23).
Moses had a contest with himself. In spite of the signs that God had given him, he still feared and he felt inadequate. And when the leader shows weakness, so do the people. God helped Moses to overcome himself once for all. The Almighty said, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. By my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country; therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them and will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord. See, I will make you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet” (Ex. 6-7). The display of the supernatural power during the ten plagues assured Israel that they were in the care of an awesome God that was on their side. It drove fear into every nation that faced Israel for a long time.
Pharaoh was not big enough to avert God’s Promises, nor will there be anyone else in the world. When God calls upon his people to leave the world in order to serve Him, they must obey. The ten plagues that culminated in the death of the first born of man and beast convinced Pharaoh to give up what belonged to God Almighty. The Lord did not tolerate slavery then, nor would He in the future. And when the king of Egypt made one final attempt to return Israel into bondage, his army was drowned in the Red Sea. With God there is no compromise and He will not share His people with any of Satan’s subjects (Ex. 7-14).
The Promises to the seed of Abraham was not an outright gift. If I, a student of this subject, created the impression that the people of Israel were automatically heirs of the covenant, then I have been misleading you the reader. Just like their fathers before them, they too had to undergo a time of testing and learning to live by faith. The Israelites had to leave behind their onions and fleshpots, and trust God for manna, quail and water from the rock. They stayed in the wilderness until they had learned to become a theocratic nation – a people where God was their king. And Israel was not permitted to enter the Land of Promise until the last of the doubters had died. Even Moses himself was not allowed to cross the river Jordan (Ex.15-18).
Israel was to be different from any other nation on earth. God alone was to be her king and the Ten Commandments were to be her guidelines. Levi’s offspring were to be priests and prophets. They were to lead at sacrifices and burnt offerings in remembrance of Israel’s delivery from slavery. The Ark of the Covenant was the visible symbol of God’s presence. At the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses built an altar, sprinkled it with blood, read the Law to the people and called upon them saying: “This is the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” And the people responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” (Ex. 19-24).
Israel was not good at keeping their part of the Promises. While Moses was receiving the Law and instructions, regarding the structure and worship for the new theocracy, the people built a golden calf and rebelled against God and His servant Moses. God interrupted His instructions to Moses and ordered him to return to the people with these words, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up out of Egypt.’ I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Ex. 32:7-10).
Moses was not a modern politician. He did not take God up on the offer to make him the recipients of the promises. Instead he argued that to do that would give God a bad image and the Egyptians would believe that God’s intentions were not good. The use of trickery was an acceptable way of getting things done. But that God could be tricked is incomprehensible to logic. Nevertheless, the writers believed that God did change his mind frequently and agreed with Moses’ logic. However, the transgressors were not pardoned and their sins were not brushed aside. They had to reap what they had sown. God put this principle into his creation when he created the world and everyone is subject to it. Sin, like any other fruit, ripens slowly. The Lord told Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin” (Ex. 32: 33-34).
From that moment on, Moses was given total command over Israel. God kept His distance for fear that He might destroy Israel (Ex. 33: 5). Please note this reference because it shows us why God keeps His distance from man. And thank Him, for otherwise His holiness would wipe us off the face of the earth. Moses’ task was enormous. With the help of Jethro, he brought structure to the theocracy. His march toward the Promised Land was halted by the concept of a slave morality. Ten out of the twelve spies depicted the natives of Canaan as giants and themselves as grasshoppers. It took forty years to overcome that defeatist inferiority complex, and then only by the death of those who ascribed to it. At that time, Israel did not act like a redeemed people, but as slaves still in bondage to fear. Physically, they were no longer under Pharaoh; but mentally, they were still in captivity. And even after Israel outgrew its slave morality concept, it never quite lived up to the noble expectations of her theocratic destiny. It replaced it with a monarchy.