Jesus: The Greater Moses

The most beautiful thing to me about reading the Old Testament is seeing Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment God’s covenant with his people Israel.  This morning as I read Numbers 11, this couldn’t have been more clear.

The people of Israel are complaining that they do not have any meat to eat. They want to go back to Egypt again. It’s so bad, they are weeping. So Moses turns to the LORD and says,

“Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers?”

Moses, in his own way, complains to God that he is prophet over these people. Moses thinks he is a victim. But Jesus, the Greater Moses, joyfully welcomed this “burden” of loving God’s people.

In Luke 13:34, Jesus cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”  And in Matthew 11:28-29, he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus says, “I will carry you like a nurse carries a nursing child. I will love you, even when you are unlovable. I will care for you. I will have compassion on you. I will give you mercy.”  He has done perfectly what Moses could not do — and at times did not want to do. O what a Savior he is!


Does God Repent?

In Exodus 32, God gets angry at the Israelites for making the golden calf. So angry, in fact, that he wants to wipe them off the face of the earth. We know he doesn’t do it, but verse 14 seems to say that God made a mistake because he “relented” (or “repented”) of the threat to kill his people. But what does this really mean? Does God really feel sorry for how he feels? Does God feel sorry for his actions, judgments, and thoughts on sin?

Here’s the story: The Israelites are tired of Moses being on Mount Sinai. So they decide to tell Aaron to make a statue so they can worship it. Aaron says, “Okay, give me your jewelry and we’ll see what happens.” God says to Moses, while still on the mountain, “Look at what your people are doing. They are worshiping an idol instead of me. My anger is burning. I’m going to kill them.” Moses pleads with the Lord, “Why are you angry? Don’t you remember your promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to multiply their offspring? Please relent of your anger!” Verse 14 says, “And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”

What really happened here? Did God really say he would do something and then essentially say, “Yeah, Moses, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that”? Does God repent? Does he feel bad for what he says, thinks, and feels?
Numbers 23:19 gives us the answer: “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. He has said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” The New American Standard Bible says it this way: “God is not a man…that he should repent.” Repentance means we change our mind. It means we change our path of direction. Numbers (which was written by Moses, the same person who wrote Exodus) plainly says that God does not repent. The Bible cannot contradict itself. If it could, it would not be the infallible word of God. So what can Exodus 32 mean?

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: God does not change. If God could change, there is no promise that he will not turn into an angry, demonic, crazy judge and throw all of his covenant people into hell. Hebrews 1:12 says that the world will change and pass away, “But you [God] are the same, and your years will have no end.” More than that, how could a mere man, Moses, change God’s mind? One theologian wrote, “Indeed, if man is capable of changing the mind of God, then it might be argued that man knows more about governing this world than God.”

So what did Moses do on Sinai that terrible day? Indeed, we can say that Moses was changed, not God. We can say that God used the awful situation of the golden calf to test Moses. How can we know this? Well, Moses prayed and he used God’s word in prayer. It says, “Moses implored the Lord” (v. 11). Moses remembers God’s deliverance of the Israelites in Egypt (v. 12). Moses begs the Lord to remember the promise of covenant with Israel (v. 13). God’s promises are good and true and perfect. They are unchangeable. If they weren’t, they would not have been promises in the first place. God had spoken to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God knew his covenant to Israel since eternity past. His covenant was not going to end, and this flub-up by the Israelites was not going to change that. This awful moment in the history of Israel caused Moses to trust in the promises of God. It caused Moses to seek the face of the Lord and go before God and plead for his people. God tested Moses and, by the grace of God, Moses passed the test because he remembered and believed in God’s promises.

Let us remember God’s promises as well. Let us never think that God should sin and repent like a man. God tests us, yes, but he never makes mistakes. As we look to God’s promises, let us remember that every promise “finds their Yes in Jesus” (2 Cor. 1:20). We have a rock solid hope that God will never change, because we have Jesus, the perfect image of God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

Life Theology

Idolatry and Grumbling Are More Closely Related Than You Might Think

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warns his Christian readers to not be idolaters (v. 7) and not to grumble (v. 10) in the same breath.  At first glance, these probably don’t seem like related sins.  But if we zoom in on the context, Paul is clear: you grumble because you are an idolater.

The story of the Israelites, Paul says, was written for us as an example (vv. 6, 11).  The Israelites did little right as they made their way through the wilderness.  Their perspective was limited.  Their hearts were not inclined toward God.  They constantly looked to creation instead of Creator — which is, in essence, idolatry.  Instead of looking to their future Messiah, they participated in pagan festivals (Ex. 32:6).  Instead of seeking pleasure in God, they sought pleasure in sexual relationships with Gentile women (Num. 25:1, 9).  Instead of looking to Christ as their sustenance, they complained about the manna and lack of water (Num. 21:5).  Instead of praising God for being delivered from slavery, they grumbled about wandering around in the desert (Num. 14:2).

Created things were never meant to satisfy our hearts and longings.  Created things, from the beginning, were meant to point us toward the Creator, who gives us life, breath, and everything (Acts 17:25).  If we worship idols (anything other than God), we will always grumble because they will always let us down.  Whether that idol is a sexual partner, food or drink, the American dream, or anything else you can think of, it will let you down.  And when you get let down, you will grumble.  I see it in my life — even in the smallest details.  When I put my hope in people, I get let down.  When I put my hope in organization or situations running smoothly, I get let down.  When I put my hope in my own merits and talents, I get let down.  When I put my hope in anything other than the person and work of Jesus, I am disappointed.  But praise be to God that Jesus will never let us be disappointed (Rom. 10:11).

Let’s look to Jesus.  If we do, our perspective will change.  We will be able to honestly rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thes. 5:16-18).  If we seek Christ, our hearts will find true satisfaction.  Creation was never meant to provide that.

Truly our hearts are restless until they rest in You.
– Augustine