Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 50:7-9

7 And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

8 And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.

9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.

Yesterday we saw how Joseph petitioned Pharaoh that he might leave Egypt and return to the land of his inheritance to bury his father. This is a foreshadowing of Moses commanding a future Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave slavery and also return to the land of their inheritance.

Today we continue to see a foreshadowing of that future Exodus. A great company leaves Egypt, with all the households of Israel represented, as well as the elders of Egypt. Of course, in Moses’s time the little children will be included as well, and instead of elders of Egypt, it will be their jewels and gold, taken as a spoil. And the chariots and horsemen will not be on the side of the Israelites in that day, they will belong to the pursuing army of Pharaoh, but Israel will be delivered from them.

I’ve been struck by how many symbols and reassurances God gave to the Israelites at the start of their time in Egypt, illustrating how they would leave it in the future. As they came in, so would they depart, even though it might have seemed impossible in the depths of their coming slavery.

Solemnity and Joy- Exodus 3:2, 4-5

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

COMMENTARY

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground
Before Moses could fully approach the Lord he was instructed to remove his footwear. It was as if God was saying “this place is very delicate, so tread lightly!” Moses needed to show his respect by setting aside that which was callous and hard, and approach with caution instead.
This reminds me of times that I have opened up the most inner sections of my heart to God or another person. “This is a very delicate place we’re going to now, so please tread lightly!” In these moments a soft voice and carefully chosen words make all the difference.
Think also of how delicate God’s spirit is when we commune with it. Anything callous or hard will offend it away and we must take care to handle it gently.
Thus one definition for “solemn moments” would be times that call for being “delicate,” “gentle,” or “careful.”

Our Own Reality- Exodus 8:25, 28, 30-32

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

COMMENTARY

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Pharaoh was a man who constantly bounced between the fear of God and an insistence to have his own way. When Moses first demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites go he countered by having his own priests replicate the miracles being shown to him. Rather than accept the sovereignty of Jehovah, he was able to still rely on his own gods.
But then things began to escalate. Plagues arose that his priests could not counter nor reproduce. Having no alternative, he was forced to accept the reality that the Hebrew God was the only one who could be entreated for relief. And so he relented, in order that he could get the reprieve he desired.
But though he had come to accept a new reality in his mind, he was not converted to it in his heart. Rather he tested the Lord’s patience by recanting his promises, refusing to let the Israelites go, even after he had said that they could.
Yesterday we considered how we can be reluctant to fully embrace the reality that is staring us right in the face. Pharaoh is an excellent example of this. Like him, sometimes we try to have our cake and eat it, too. We point to God’s reality with one hand, but also hold to our own reality with the other. Of course things didn’t work out very well for Pharaoh when he tried this, and it won’t work for us either.

Our Own Reality- Moses 1:9-10, John 4:9

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

COMMENTARY

How is it that thou askest drink of me? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans
The woman at the well had an understood reality: that Jews hated the Samaritans, and would have nothing to do with them. Thus her confusion when that reality was disrupted by Christ’s willingness to converse with her.
However this was just the beginning of the new realities that she was about to become acquainted with. For as we see in the next verse, Jesus then began to open her mind to the notion of living water. This is a reality that she struggles with initially, confusing it with a literal water, and not a spiritual nourishment. Bit-by-bit Jesus has to guide her through the first steps into this strange new world.

Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed
After his encounter with the Lord, Moses found his reality disrupted as well. Each of us is by default well acquainted with the reality of earth life, in which man is the highest form of existence. And while the reality of earth life is real, it is not the only reality that is real. There is also a heaven, a God, and in that broader reality man is a very small thing indeed.
Like the woman at the well, stepping into the greater reality might be awkward at first. Like Moses, we might find that doing so requires accepting uncomfortable facts, such as our own nothingness. But the greater reality is real and it is greater. It is only to our own benefit that we make the transition.

The Need for Law- Galatians 3:19, 24

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

COMMENTARY

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.
The law of Moses was an intermediary law, one given after the ancient Israelites rejected Moses’s guidance time and time again. On one occasion Moses literally broke the tablets of stone, upon which the law God had intended for them was written. Then, later, they were denied access to the promised land, instead consigned to wander the wilderness for forty years. Thus, there were elements of Christ’s law that they might have had, but the people were deemed not ready to receive them.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.
And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
But the withholding of Christ’s law, and the giving of Moses’s law instead, was not some sort of punitive punishment. Moses’s law was a very strict law, but it was actually given for a loving purpose. It was what God knew the people of Israel needed, to train them up, until they were ready to receive the law of Christ. And though it is called the law of Moses, it was not Moses’s invention. Instead we learn that it was ordained “in the hand of a mediator,” meaning it was given by Christ. Thus it was divinely appointed as a sort of “spiritual training wheels.” It was a law of Christ, given to prepare them for the law of Christ.
And so, too, Christ may do for us. To each of us he gives customized requirements and training, helping us to come to that common destination of his full law. We receive those customized instructions through the yearning of our hearts. And so, on top of the ten commandments, and the one to love our neighbor, and all those others, it becomes a personal commandment to start eating healthily, or to call up our son and apologize, or to go back to school and finish that degree. We still have the core law of Christ, but we also have our own law as well. One that is personalized, given to be just what we need. Not given to replace Christ’s law, or to excuse us from any of its principles, but to extend upon them, and bring us into better harmony with them.

Who Am I?- Exodus 3:10-11

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

COMMENTARY

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
When God extended His calling to Moses, Moses showed surprise. “Who am I, that I should go?” he asked, believing that he wasn’t the right person for the job. His doubt is understandable, because who Moses was at that time was not the person that God was calling him to be. But then, who exactly Moses was had been a very fluid concept his whole life long.
Moses had been born a Hebrew slave. But that was not who he was meant to be. He was liberated from that position and instead given the role of an Egyptian prince. But that was not who he was meant to be either. Moses rejected the identity he had been given, and finally chose one for himself, that of a shepherd in the desert.
But that was not who he was meant to be either. In the end, Moses’s identity was not to be defined by the situation of his birth, or the titles others tried to put on him, or by the vocation he, himself had chosen. In the end, his identity was to be the one that God alone gave to him.

Active Discipleship- Matthew 4:2-4

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

COMMENTARY

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone
Yesterday I spoke of how the heroes in the scriptures are meant to be role models for us. We are supposed to push our discipleship forward with the same fervor that they did. When we do, their stories become our stories. As it turns out, there is an example of exactly this in the life of the Savior.
First, let us consider the context of the passage I have quoted. Jesus had just completed fasting for forty days and forty nights. This is quite the feat, one not often repeated in the scriptures. There is does exist another account of it, though, that of Moses in Exodus 34:28. Moses had this experience while receiving the law of the Old Testament. Similarly, Jesus had his own private fast immediately preceding his ministry, in which he delivered the law of the New Testament.
So Jesus was following the same pattern as Moses. He was stepping in the footprints of those that had gone before. Then, when he was tempted by Satan, he fittingly rebuked him with the very words spoken by Moses. The passage that Jesus quotes is what we now know as Deuteronomy 8:3. And then he does it again, two more times! When Satan tempts him a second time he rebuffs it with Deuteronomy 6:16, and after the third temptation he recalls one of the ten commandments that Moses famously delivered (Exodus 20:2-5).
Jesus was living the scriptures he was quoting. They were made new in him. This wasn’t just ancient Moses’s story anymore, it was his. But he was only able to take this ownership because we was living the life of active Christianity. He was going and doing. He was in the heat of battle. He was pushing into his great calling. Just as Moses had. Just as Abraham had. Just as all the heroes of the scriptures had.
The scriptures were not written to entertain us, or to give us wise sayings. They were given as the field guide for adventure and warfare. I have never been able to relate the scriptures to myself except for when I am chasing my personal calling as well. There are words in them that echo in my life, but only when I am pushing against the storm.

Personal Promises- Exodus 18:17-18, 21-22; Matthew 21:33-35

And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

COMMENTARY

And place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens
One of mankind’s most ingenious inventions is that of delegation. Many rulers have expressed a desire to maintain direct interaction with those that they are responsible for, but this becomes a literal impossibility once the populace grows too large. Eventually there simply are not enough hours in a day to maintain guidance for every individual.
Moses faced this exact dilemma as he sat in judgment over the people of Israel. He was instructed to put in place a hierarchy of judges, worthy individuals who could mediate over all the smaller disputes and only bring to Moses the particularly difficult cases.
This solution was both beneficial to Moses and also to the people. Everyone could receive mediation, and ideally it would be as if from the hands of Moses himself.

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard…and let it out to husbandmen…and the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
“Ideally” was the key word there. Because while delegation has its benefits, it does also have its drawbacks. It is inevitable that at some point a steward will make a different judgment than the leader would have. Some stewards will be more capable than others, while others will be misguided. And, as in the extreme case of Jesus’s parable, some stewards might even be wholly corrupted.
In short, delegation will eventually lead to outcomes that stray from the wishes of the ruler, even in extreme ways. It is still the method by which God’s imperfect, mortal, time-constrained servants try their best to care for His flock; but it simply has to be coupled with something that is more guaranteed.

Finding Our Purpose- John 18:37, Exodus 4:10-12

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.

And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

COMMENTARY

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world
And Moses said unto the Lord, I am not eloquent, I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue
I think there is a very interesting contrast here between Jesus affirming his divine calling and Moses questioning his. Jesus’s words seem so imbued with confidence, Moses’s with doubt.
I think many of us can relate better to Moses. The entire premise of this study is that each of us has a divine purpose to discover, but frankly I know many people who doubt that they do have one. “Certainly Jesus had one, and sure Paul did, too. But little old me?…”
But wouldn’t we also say that Moses unquestionably had a divine role to play? And he doubted it just as firmly as the rest of us.

Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say
I find it very meaningful that God does not coddle Moses here. He does not say to him “Now, now, Moses. You speak just fine, stop worrying about it.” Because I don’t think Moses is being falsely modest here. Moses really does have a limitation and it really does make him unfit for this calling. Or at least it would if he were fulfilling the calling alone.
And that’s the point God makes to him. Moses isn’t being asked to go and come up with speeches and miracles on his own. He could not do that. Instead he is supposed to be a mouthpiece. God will be doing the talking through Moses. “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
Many times we think we have to possess a certain level of talent before God can make use of us, but all we have to do is be a vessel for His infinite capabilities. That much Moses was able to handle and so can we.

Commandments and Personal Revelation- Exodus 20:3-4, 7-8, 12-17; Matthew 22:37, 39-40

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honour thy father and thy mother…
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet…any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

COMMENTARY

Moses’s ten commandments are far more verbose than Jesus’s two. Even after reducing the record in Exodus 20 to its most succinct form, as I have done here, it weighs in at 76 words, while the full text of Jesus’s guidance is a mere 28.
And yet Jesus states that his two commandments encapsulate the entirety of the others. And not only of these ten…

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Notice that Jesus says his two commandments are the points upon which all of the law hangs and upon which all of the teachings of the prophets depend. The ten commandments is not the entirety of the law and prophets, they are only the briefest summary of a much, much larger body!

If you read out the entirety of the five books of Moses, the Torah that forms the foundation of Jewish Law, you will find that it is overflowing with commandments. Depending on where exactly you draw the lines between where one law ends and another begins the total comes to about 613 commandments in all!

And that’s just five books of scripture. Other commandments get added all throughout the rest. And on top of those there are additional thousands of pieces of wisdom and advice, things that may not be explicitly declared as commandments but which counsel us on how to live.

Is it any wonder that Jesus felt a need to simplify such a monument of instruction? And make no mistake, it is not that he is abbreviating all of the other commandments, it is that he is explaining the reason behind all of them. Simply put, God has not given us any instruction that falls outside of the umbrella of either:

  1. Loving Him with all your heart, soul, and mind
  2. Loving your neighbor as yourself

And between those two commandments there is a single common trait, the reason behind the reasons. It is a word that we frankly tend to forget as soon as we start talking about commandments. Love.

Let’s take a look at that more with tomorrow’s post.