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No. 113: Crisis Time: Patriarchal Prologue, Part 5

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 113
Copyright (c) 1999 Biblical Horizons
January, 1999

Moses and Jesus

The gift of the Father is a son, but we must be ready to give our sons back to Him when it is time. The gift of the Brother is an estate, but we must be ready to give our estates back to Him when it is time. The gift of the Spirit is glory-influence, but we must be ready to give our glory back to Him when it is time.

The crisis at Mount Sinai involved all three of these equally, in the sense that this was a Great Crisis of the entire Patriarchal era. As such, it compares to the Great Crisis of the crucifixion.

As we have seen, the larger Tree of Life revelation for Joseph consisted of the stories of Adam, Abel, Noah, Babel, Abraham, and Jacob. This "Bible" was his initiating Tree of Life. In the same way, the larger crisis did not come in his own life, but later at the time of the Exodus. It was when the Hebrews came out of Egypt that God met them on the way and wrestled with them at Sinai.

Seed, land, and glory-influence. Seed for Abraham; land for Jacob; glory for Joseph. All three of these are in focus in the Exodus.

First: seed. We see this in the death-threat against the firstborn sons of Israel. When Moses entered Egypt after his sojourn in the wilderness, God met him and tried to kill his firstborn son, and this was only averted because Zipporah faithfully saw through the crisis and circumcised him. This event anticipated the threat against the firstborn in the tenth plague, when only those who saw through the crisis and obeyed God by displaying blood were saved.

(We may note that this event also recapitulates Jacob’s foot-wound at Peniel of Genesis 32. God wrestles with Moses’ family as they re-enter the community of the circumcised nation; blood is smeared on the son’s leg.)

The sons must be given to God, and the firstborn sons who were saved at Passover were dedicated to God as His priests, though the Levites were substituted for them. Many Israelites, however, did not see all the way through the crisis, and focussed on the threat of the desert and the threat of the Canaanites against their children. Seeking to preserve their children for themselves, they refused to run the risk of entering the land, and wanted to go back to Egypt.

Second: land. We see this in that the first three plagues struck all of Egypt, including the land of Goshen. The Israelites were called upon to give up this land, the best land in Egypt, and go into the wilderness on the promise of a better land. Those who saw through the crisis did so; but then most turned back, not seeing all the way through the crisis. They wanted to preserve their estates by going back to the land of Goshen.

Third: glory and influence. Since the Israelites were skilled artisans in Egypt, they certainly were involved in Egypt’s glory, but for a full picture of their influence we have to include the story of Joseph as part of the background. The crisis called on them to give all that up, and take on a new role as a nation of priestly witnesses to all the nations. Those who saw through the crisis endured the new sufferings that Moses and Aaron provoked the Egyptians to place upon them; but then, again, most turned back when confronted with suffering in the wilderness.

The whole purpose of Israel, according to Yahweh at Mount Sinai, was to be a nation of priests on behalf of the other nations. The Law was given to Israel as a light to all nations — not as something they should copy word for word, but as something they would study and from which they would gain wisdom. The relationship of Israel to the nations was one of wisdom, as we have already seen in the story of Joseph. It was a great sin whenever Israel rejected this missionary calling and regarded priesthood and law as something to possess on its own — and we see the fullest manifestation of this sin in the days of Jesus among the Jews.

The crisis in the wilderness amounted to this: God commanded the Israelites to take the promised land, not for themselves primarily, but to form a staging area for world influence. Those who considered the land only as a comfortable possession looked at the giants and decided that Edenic Goshen had been more comfortable (Genesis 13:10). Only those who saw through the crisis, like Joshua and Caleb, understood the purpose of God and were willing to obey Him. (For Caleb this was especially clear, since he was of a converted Gentile people himself — not a Hebrew but a Kenizzite.)

As always, the Tree of Judgment crisis is a crisis of death. God came and threatened death, killing the Israelites over and over again. Those who refused to see through the crisis, and did not want to enter the land, wanted to preserve their seed ("for the children’s sake!") and their estates; they lost both as they themselves died in the wilderness. But for the sake of the faithful, the seed and the flocks were preserved, and the faithful were given seed and a land of comfort because they were willing to be priests to the nations.

Thus, the question involved in this third crisis, the Moses-Sinai crisis, is this: WILL YOU GIVE UP EVERYTHING AND EM-BRACE SUFFERING TO BE MY SERVANT?

Moses had gone through the same crisis before Israel did, as their head and captain. First, he had given up the glory of being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a noble of the court, for the sake of identifying with his own people; and had been exiled for his pains. Second, during his forty years with Jethro, he had acquired sons (like Abraham), an estate of flocks (like Jacob), and influence with an important sheikh (like Joseph with Potiphar). The crisis came when God appeared to him in the burning bush. Moses did not want to go, but he saw through the crisis and left it all behind to suffer as a witness in Egypt (Exodus 18:2-5). As a result, Moses became father not only of two sons, but of a whole nation. His estate became the entire people of Israel. His glory and influence extended over the world and down through history.

The Greatest Crisis came in the days of Jesus. Jesus encapsulated and fulfilled the entire history of the world. God came to Him at the beginning, at His baptism, and called Him His Son. Immediately, not years later, Jesus was attacked in the wilderness and challenged along the lines of the three promises of God: seed, land, and glory.

Satan challenged Him to turn stones into bread, which has to do with matter and persons. Jesus later said that God could make sons of Abraham from stones. Satan was challenging Jesus to make sons, but Jesus refused. The sons would come when God was ready.

Satan challenged Jesus to receive all the kingdoms of the world from his hand. The kingdoms have to do with space, with land. But Jesus refused. God would give Him the Holy Land (the entire world) when God was ready.

Satan challenged Jesus to cast Himself down from the Temple’s pinnacle, thus doing a marvelous work and acquiring glory-influence (for the Temple was the center of Jewish world influence as a nation of priests). Jesus refused. God would give Him influence and glory when God was ready to do so.

The crisis was postponed, but only briefly. Over the next three years, Jesus acquired an estate from the Father. He acquired sons, the disciples. He acquired the land, being heralded as King on Palm Sunday. He acquired world influence, as Gentiles came to hear Him, and glory, as men acclaimed Him Messiah. But on the cross, all these were taken from Him. God wrestled with Him, and He was willing to give it all away. The disciples fled. The nation rejected Him. His cloak and garments, symbol of the world and of world influence, were parted among four soldiers, symbolic of the four corners of the world. But because Jesus saw through the crisis, despising the shame for the glory set before Him, He received it all back a billion-fold in a new and more glorious way.

Like Moses, Jesus had been willing to embrace suffering and death for the sake of the glory of God, setting aside everything that was his. The specific crisis, when Jesus wrestled with the Father over this, came in the Garden of the Olive Press (Gethsemane). There Jesus, the Great Olive, was squeezed so that the oil of the Spirit might flow from Him to all men.

Now the crisis was applied. God’s people were called to follow Jesus into the new kingdom, and this is the crisis of the years ad 30-70. The crisis for God’s people parallels the crisis of the Exodus from Egypt. Would the people leave everything behind and go into the promised land, and move into sabbath? Many who started on the journey refused to finish it. The Judaizers turned back to the old ways. The great apostasy, predicted all over the "New Testament" writings, meant a return to the Sodom-Egypt of Babylon-Jerusalem.

But the faithful, led by the apostles and particularly by Paul, saw through the crisis. They gave up their estates in Jerusalem, selling their property and giving it to the Church, because they knew they could not hold on to it. For the sake of world influence and world mission, they left everything behind and embraced suffering, trusting that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. And at the climax, God found that the Bride had made herself ready, and the great Marriage Feast of history began in ad 70 (Revelation 19 & 21).

The test is in terms of death and suffering, as always. Abraham suffered to think he had to kill his son. Jacob suffered at the hands of Isaac, Esau, and Laban. But both men suffered knowing that God had appeared to them and made promises to them. The suffering to which Joseph was called was more acute, the suffering caused by apparently being abandoned by God. Joseph had no special revelation, and it seemed that God had forgotten him (Genesis 40:14-15, 23). There was no special word from God to Mordecai, and he thought it was all in his hands to scheme a way to influence. There was no special word from God to the Jews of the Maccabean era, and they chose either to rebel or to close in upon themselves. Jesus did have a special word from the Father, but on the cross He felt abandoned. The Apostolic Church, suffering at the hands of Jews, Judaizers, full apostates, and Gentiles, was also tempted to feel abandoned. Thus, the death-test of the Tree of Knowledge, as it came to these people, was the test of maintaining faith in a context of external suffering and internal abandonment. The Spirit is the Comforter, and so the death-test is to be without any sense of being comforted.

And so the test comes to us. If you give up to God your only son, whom you love and whom God has given you, you will receive him back from the dead (as it were) and be given more sons, as Abraham had six more afterwards. If you give up your estate, which God has given you, to God, you will receive it back and much more besides. If you give up your God-given glory and embrace suffering when called to do so, you will receive it back and much more. If you give up your life, which God has given you, undergoing the total loneliness of abandonment by everyone including God Himself, you will receive it all back along with influence over many more people.