THE EXAMPLE OF MOSES
by Doug Ward
When we pray the words, "Hallowed be your name," we are voicing our desire that everyone would come to acknowledge the God of Israel as King of the Universe. We are also praying that we would be proper representatives of God in order to play some part, if possible, in bringing about this result.
To better comprehend what it means to be our Father's representatives, it is helpful to study the life of Moses. Along with his brother Aaron, Moses appeared before the powerful Pharaoh of Egypt as an envoy of God (Exod 7:1-2). Leading the fledgling nation of Israel, he continually had to weigh the impact of his actions on public perceptions of God. There is therefore much to learn from Moses' successes-and his one major failure-in hallowing God's name.
Moses faced a major crisis just a few months after Israel's departure from Egypt. While he was receiving instruction from God on Mt. Sinai, the people quickly fell into idolatry, constructing and worshiping a golden calf (Exod 32:1-8).
At this point God offered to destroy the rebellious Israelites and begin a new nation through Moses: "Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you" (v. 10).
Moses must have been shocked and dismayed at Israel's apostasy, but he did not accept the offer. Giving highest priority to God's reputation among the nations, he begged forgiveness for his people, appealing to the Abrahamic covenant (vv. 11-14).
Here we would be misreading the text to suppose that God had lost control and Moses was forced to "calm him down." Indeed, the Torah elsewhere states that God, for the sake of his reputation, would never destroy his people (Deut 32:26-27). If God's intention had been to wipe out Israel, he would not have invited input from Moses. Instead, the offer to Moses served two purposes: (1) It emphasized the gravity of Israel's offense; and (2) it tested Moses, providing an opportunity for Israel's leader to rise to the occasion and demonstrate his strength of character. Moses passed the test with flying colors, showing his desire to further the divine plan and sanctify the name of the Lord.
A year later a second crisis erupted. After spies sent to gather information about the land of Canaan brought back a negative report, the fearful Israelites openly rebelled, threatening to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt (Num 14:1-4). God then repeated his earlier offer to Moses: "I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they" (v.12).
Israel was camped just days away from the Promised Land, and Moses was deeply disappointed that his countrymen lacked the faith to move forward and claim the blessings awaiting them there. Even so, he again thought first of God's standing in the eyes of the world (vv. 13-16). Moses continued to intercede for the Israelites, modeling the patience and mercy that he knew were essential characteristics of God's nature (vv. 17-19). Those who witnessed Moses' actions then, and those who have heard or read about them through the centuries since, have received a powerful testimony to God's goodness and steadfast love. God's name was hallowed through the selfless leadership of Moses.
Failure and Faithfulness
Israel was sentenced to wander in the wilderness for forty years (vv. 26-35). By the end of this period, Moses must have had high hopes for the new generation of Israelites that had grown to maturity during the intervening years. He had invested much effort in their training.
So it was disheartening for Moses to see the second generation begin to repeat some of the sins of their parents. The people's demands for water (Num 20:2-5) were reminiscent of complaints he had heard forty years earlier (Exod 17:1-7). "Here we go again," he may have thought. Had the older generation, including his sister Miriam (Num 20:1), died in vain?
In fact, the younger generation was different. The grain, figs and pomegranates that they craved (Num 20:5) were the fruits of the Promised Land (Num 13:23; Deut 8:8). Rather than being afraid to travel to Canaan, this generation was impatient to get there. God in this situation did not deem Israel to be worthy of severe punishment. He directed Moses to speak to a rock, from which water would then flow (v. 7).
Moses, however, delivered a harsh reprimand to the people and struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it (vv. 10-11). He failed to hallow God's name (v. 12) by (1) not giving God credit for the miracle; and (2) giving an inappropriately stern rebuke rather than the patient response God had authorized. For this failure Moses and Aaron were denied the opportunity to lead the nation into the Promised Land.
As the fortieth year progressed, Moses prayed that God would reverse his judgment, but God declined to do so (Deut 3:23-29). Moses' angry response to the younger generation's complaints may indicate a failure to connect with that generation. At age one hundred and twenty, he may have lacked the patience necessary to oversee the conquest of Canaan.1
But Moses does not seem to have spent time brooding over his failure. During the final months of his life, he conveyed to his people the rich body of instruction recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses' final discourse compellingly communicates the righteousness and wisdom of God (see Deut 4:4-8). He continued teaching until his death, causing God's name to be sanctified once again.
Although we may not be heads of state, as Moses was, our examples do make a difference. Others are watching our actions. Our good deeds can make a positive impression, and our sins can create stumbling blocks. We will fail sometimes, but it is important not to be defeated by our failures. Each day brings a new opportunity to sanctify God's name. Remember the instruction of Jesus: "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16).
translated from TEX by TTH,
On 25 Jul 2015, 10:02.