A Long Distance Call
My manual is in the mail and I am strategically planning what tools I need. The project is a Ford 8n that will come in mighty handy as I build my arena. It hasn’t run for 2 years, but even when in weekly use, it wasn’t the greatest of machines. My mechanical expertise being limited, I’m fairly confidant that diagnosing, repairing, and rebuilding the tractor is something I can accomplish for two reasons: (1) I will have a manual in hand; (2) my uncle has fixed anything and everything that has an engine and a cell phone.
There is nothing like having an expert on the other end of the line.
If there was one statement that characterized Moses ministry as the leader of the Israelites (other than Numbers 12.3) would be Exodus 33.11: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” David had a heart after God, Abraham’s feet followed the Lord, Job had a covenant with his eyes, but Moses spoke with God like a friend, ‘face to face’.
Steps should be taken at this point to ensure that a proper view of God is maintained, for as of late, the idea that ‘God is love’ or ‘God is compassionate’ has made God out to be a weakened and soft being, who is to be befriended instead of feared. Don’t get me wrong, God is love and He is gracious, but He is also holy and just. Like the kids in Narnia who asked to pet Aslan were told, “He is not a tame lion.” There the metaphor was Jesus, but how often do we do the same with God.
This particular scene takes place at the Tent of Meeting. Set up just outside the camp, the tent was where people would go to inquire of God. I find it interesting that the Old Testament people who inquired of God were nearly universally answered. The exception was Saul, who two times did not receive an answer from the Lord. (1 Samuel 14, 28) When an inquiry was brought to God an answer followed. The responses came from priests, prophets, Urim, and dreams; each a method which God used to communicate with his people.
What is more clear than God’s answering, is the negative outcome when the Lord’s guidance is not consulted. In Deuteronomy 7, God explicitly commands the Israelites not to make treaties with the people of the land (7.2). As Joshua and the Israelites marched throughout the land, the fame and news of conquest spread (Josh 6.27). Word eventually fell upon the ears of the Gibeonites (Josh 9.3). They devised a plan; they put on worn out clothes, packed moldy bread, old wine skins and worn out sacks. They claimed to have traveled from a great distance and begged for amnesty amongst the Israelites. The men of Israel had their doubts about the origins of these people (Joshua 9.7) but heard their story.
The Israelites took note of their supplies but “did not inquire of the Lord” (Joshua 9.14) and made a treaty with them. The priests carried the written law of Deuteronomy (Deut 31.9) with them and they knew the importance of the words of the law and the song:
“Moses said: ‘Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life…’” (Deut 32.46-47)
It is a fairly simple equation in the Old Testament. When the Lord is inquired of, He answer’s and obedience follows. And when the Lord is forgotten, disobedience ensues. The same pattern can be seen through my walk. Though I have not hired a priest, used Urim or Thummim, or tried to interpret dreams…how often have I ignored scripture, just as the community of Israel did with Deuteronomy. When decisions arise, scripture is always present but seldom consulted.
Moses set the standard in his relationship with the Lord. His discussions and inquiries (Ex. 33); his relationship and intimacy (Deut 34.10) are things that I once envied, until I realized that instead of meeting with God as though ‘face to face’, I have the Spirit of God living inside of me, speaking with me daily, and interacting actively on my behalf. It is strange to think that Moses would envy me, for even Moses’ call was longer distance than mine.