Tag Archives: Moses

Day 21: Weak but Strong


Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight and so provoking him to anger. I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me. And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. – Deuteronomy 9:20

In the movie, the Prince of Egypt, the reverberating exhortation of Ramesses’ father, “A dynasty is only as strong as it’s weakest link” chisels the heart of the heir to the throne into the unmovable rock that will forever be synonymous with abject opposition to the ways of God. Spielberg’s imaginative spin on the forming of the stock protagonist to God’s people has teeth because this phrase has some truth to it. A congregation’s caliber of spiritual maturity will rarely surpass it’s leader’s. As you track the history of Israel’s spiritual highs and lows, there is a clear correlation with the spiritual state of the priesthood. As the priests go, so goes the people. That is why God wanted the people of Israel to view themselves as an entire kingdom of priests: for how will the nations learn righteousness if there is no one to lead the way? How will anyone know how to interact with God, if no one is showing us how it is done? And as a photocopy of a photocopy lacks the quality of the original, so it is with spiritual impartation: a corrupt priesthood begets a more corrupt people. That is why God’s final word to Israel before four hundred years of prophetic silence was a scathing rebuke of the priests for abdicating their calling (Malachi 1:6-2:9).

So, it is curious that God acts so mercifully with Israel’s first official priest who blew it on such a grand scale. Three thousand men died after Aaron, of all people, led them in the whole golden calf debacle. Have you ever wondered how he escaped judgment that day? He escaped for two reasons: he was repentant, and because someone fasted and interceded on his behalf. God not only spares this man, but validates him in the wake of Korah’s rebellion by causing Aaron’s staff alone to blossom as though it were an almond tree (Num 17). Almonds, due to their early flowering were a symbol of watchfulness and promise, not to mention that the Hebrew word for almond tree sounds like the Hebrew word for “watching”. It was not by accident that the priest and prophet Jeremiah’s first vision (Jer 1:10,11) was of an almond tree. It is also not insignificant that the menorah for the tabernacle was crafted to look like almond branches (Ex 25:33-34). Priests are the watchmen for the nation who are to stand in the counsel of the Lord and proclaim to the people what is on the heart of God, heralding the coming season before it is in full bloom. Not only does Aaron get this validation before the grumbling malcontents of the nation, his staff becomes one of only three items in the ark of the covenant at the very epicenter of the manifest glory of God (Heb 9:4). God’s endorsement of this man is staggering in light of what seems like such robust wisdom: “A dynasty is only as strong as it’s weakest link.” By answering Moses’ prayers and sparing this less-than-perfect priest, God was stating to Israel what He stated to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Cor 12:9). Repentance is a form of weakness that invites God’s power into our lives, while our weak intercession unleashes God’s power into the lives of others. Two weak links that release the very strength of God.


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Day 19: The Snake & the Seed

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. – Numbers 21:7

The above story is about the fourteenth instance of corporate complaining, disbelief, accusation or outright disobedience during Israel’s desert wanderings in spite of the fact that God had parted the Red Sea for them, destroyed their oppressive enemies, fed them manna from heaven, given them water from a rock and led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. So when the people begin to say “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” most readers are cheering that God is now sending deadly serpents against these chronic whiners. But then the questions begin to surface: God sics venomous snakes on people? Can Gods-of-love do that? Did God put the serpent in the garden? And why is God’s answer to Moses’ prayer to have him make a weird snake shrine that would eventually be destroyed by Hezekiah’s iconoclastic reforms because people were burning incense in veneration of this creepy statue (2 Kings 18:4)? Why not just zap the vipers and be done with it?

The venomous snakes were an outward manifestation of what was already going on in their hearts. Bitterness, unbelief, accusation, grumbling, complaining and disobedience all act as deadly poison to our hearts. God was allowing the people to see in the natural what was going on in the spiritual. Sin invites Satan’s deadly nipping. But why is this giant bronze snake-kabob God’s answer to Moses’ prayer? Firstly, because God desires our cooperation in the healing process. Anytime Jesus performed a miracle for someone, they were always given some act of obedience to walk out demonstrating their faith. Meeting YWHY at the pole was how the penitent activated their faith and found life. Secondly, because it foreshadowed the cross. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14). There is healing (internal, external, and eternal) to be obtained at the foot of the cross: “by his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5). The irony of Satan driving men to drive nails into Christ’s feet is that by doing so, they actually drove them straight through the head of “that serpent of old” (Rev 12:9). Just as Haman built a gallows for Mordecai and ended up in a twist of poetic justice being the one hung, so did Satan’s plans at Calvary backfire. When God prophesied to Satan that Jesus, the Seed of Eve “will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15), God had the cross in mind. As the bronze serpent was God’s answer to Moses’ prayer, so the cross is the answer to all our prayers.

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Day 17: Pleading for the Presence

And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” – Exodus 34:9

After the inauguration of the old covenant, 3,000 Jews died for the sin of venerating a lifeless piece of metal for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. After the inauguration of the new covenant with the outpouring of God’s Spirit, 3,000 Jews found new life after killing the very One who freed them from their slavery to sin and death. The contrast is a picture of the superiority of the new covenant (Heb. 8:6-13). What marked the difference? The intercession of Jesus (Is 53:12). So also was there a marked difference from the unveiling of the old covenant and the reinstituting of it as the above scene prefaces. Why the difference? The intercession of Moses. After the golden calf, God was ready to destroy the people and start over with Moses. “But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God… Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Plan B was to send only an angel to go before the Israelites, but Moses was insistent: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And God granted his request by proclaiming to Moses His name. God’s merciful and gracious character is His glory.

In view of such staggering grace and abounding goodness Moses immediately bows down in worship and then launches from there into a fervent prayer of personal identification with Israel’s sin. In the prior accounts, Moses speaks to God of them as a stiff necked people and speaks of their sin but notice now the shift in person: “We are a stiff-necked people… pardon our iniquity… take us as Your inheritance.” It’s His kindness that leads to repentance (Rom 2:4). “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:4).  True effective intercession transpires only when we see our complicity in corporate sin. Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah are prime examples of this. Even Jesus allowed himself to be “numbered with the transgressors” when he bore our iniquity (Is 53:12). God has now told Moses repeatedly that He will go with them. So why does Moses plead again here for His presence? Because he has just spent eighty days in unprecedented proximity to the epicenter of love and he aches for nothing else. One glimpse of His glory will both satisfy our deepest longings and awaken a ravenous hunger for more. Moses knows that God’s Presence is the only hope for transforming a sinful people, and also the only cure now for his lovesick heart.

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Day Sixteen: Show Me Your Way

Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight….” – Exodus 33:12,13

Moses, in this prayer, touches something of the eternal heartbeat of God. It is not enough to have God do stuff in answer to our prayers. The true treasure at the end of each rainbow arc of prayer is the intimate, experiential heart-felt knowledge of God. Jesus boiled down the essence of the life we will live forever to one defining thing: “…And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). It is not enough to do things for God or to have his name on our lips. It is not enough to be a member of a church or to have a resume that impresses. No amount of book sales will suffice. No amount of connections will cut it. The only connection that counts is the one we have with God Himself. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Mt 7:22,23) Daniel foretold of a people in the last days who would be mighty in God because they know a mighty God dwelling within them: the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (Daniel 11:32). The measure of our strength, the greatness and quantity of our exploits, will be in direct correlation to the quality of relationship with God we possess, to whether or not we truly know God and not just know about him.

Moses understood that to know God he needed to understand His way. To know the ways God has acted externally in history is one thing. To know the ways of His heart behind those actions is another. Psalm 103:7 states that “[God] made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.” So what distinguished Moses from the people? Why did he get to know God’s ways, while the rest of Israel only knew his acts? Simple: He asked. Sometimes just confessing that we don’t know the way of God is enough to receive the answer we’re looking for. To Thomas’ admission of ignorance, Jesus drew an “X” on the treasure map that Moses had been searching for: “I am the way…no one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6). Before long, followers of Jesus would simply be called those who “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2). To live the Jesus lifestyle involves belonging to Him who is the Way.

Moses engages in an interesting turn of logic in this prayer. IF I have found grace in your sight, THEN show me your way, SO THAT I may know you THAT I may find grace in your sight. Wait a minute. If he has already found grace in His sight, why is he concerned about finding grace in his sight? Perhaps for the reason Jesus exhorts us to “abide/remain” in him (Jn 15). Grace is unmerited favor. It is also God’s power to obey his commands. Paul said, “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor 15:10). No one is worthy of God’s grace: it is a free gift. But we should pray that we respond to his grace in a worthy manner (Lk 21:36; 2 Th 1:11). This is the heart behind Moses’ prayer and when God sees this heart in our prayers He will guide us with His very presence (Ex 33:14,17).

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Day Fifteen: Kamikaze intercession

Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” – Exodus 32:31, 32

Moses demonstrates an intense identification with his people in this prayer that most of us could never imagine praying. He actually requested that God damn him for all eternity for the sake of the salvation of a sinful people. This request is fresh off of the golden calf episode in which the people, who had just witnessed the most jaw-dropping demonstrations of Divine power anybody had ever seen, decided to start worshipping a statue of a cow that they had just made. They actually said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex 32:4,8). All this insane idolatry all because Moses had been out of the office for a month and ten days. And Moses wants to go to hell in their stead so that God’s name might not be tarnished. And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book….(Ex 32:33) In other words, God’s answer was categorically “Not a chance, Moses. I appreciate your sentiment, but my sense of justice is actually superior to your depraved perspective. I can only blot out those who deserve to be blotted out. And you do not meet the requirements.”

He’s not the only one recorded to have prayed such a prayer. Paul also shared this passion for the Jewish people:

 “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)

What is going on here? Are both Paul and Moses blinded with nationalist pride or just a morbid and masochistic death wish? How and why does anyone get to such a place of kamikaze  intercession? I mean, no doubt the incarnation is a baffling demonstration of humility on God’s part: Jesus, the Second Person of the Eternal Godhead chose to become human – forever. And no doubt, the cross – that bloody, naked, shameful moment of unthinkable agony but necessary atonement was a demonstration of humility on steroids: The creator of everything dwelling in the frame of the only sinless human being to ever grace the planet, taking our punishment, so that we could know eternal life. Absolutely mind-boggling. But, even Jesus didn’t request eternal damnation. So where are Moses and Paul coming from? It is their concern to see all the promises made to the Jewish people upheld (Ex 32:9-14), for Paul understood that “if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”(Rom 11:15). Though it may have been zeal without knowledge in that permission to go to hell was not granted, their pathos in prayer for the promises of God should provoke us to new levels of intercession for the lost sheep of Israel for Jesus will not come back until they invite him (Mt 23:37-39).

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Day Fourteen: Scandalous Mercy

Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”
 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD.  – Exodus 10:17,18

The above plea for prayer from Pharaoh is after the eighth plague, the vegetation-devastation of locusts. This will be Pharaoh’s fourth and final plea for prayer. With every hallow charade of contrition, Pharaoh’s credibility teeters. Most of us by now would not waste one more breath on this manipulative monarch. But Moses doesn’t take this stance. He honors the prayer request and keeps praying for this king who cried wolf.

Why does he do it? He does it because he is working in tandem with the God who would later reveal himself to Moses as “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex 34:6,7). This is the same God who would teach us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:43-45). This is the God who counsels us: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”(Lk 17:3,4) This is the God revealed in Jesus, the exact representation of the Father (Heb 1:3), the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) to whom Peter came and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21,22).

God’s extravagant mercy was extended to Pharaoh with not one but ten chances to learn righteousness, for “when [God’s] judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants (people) of the world…learn righteousness” (Is 26:9). Pharaoh never learned, because his calcified heart and beast-like character disqualified him for personhood. Pharaoh was an inhabitant of hell, a citizen of the underworld passing through as an alien on pilgrimage during his brief earthly sojourn. The Antichrist and his followers will have twenty-one chances to learn righteousness. But sadly many in that day will also refuse to repent and turn to the LORD (Rev. 9: 20, 21; 16: 9, 11).

Throughout scripture locusts are a picture of the armies of God’s judgment. The prophet Joel posed the question in the wake of a locust swarm that wreaked havoc in his day: “Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?”(Joel 1:2). It was an echo of the description of the locusts God directed at Pharaoh:  “something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now” (Ex 10:6). Many assume that the answer to Joel’s question was “No, nothing like this had ever happened.” But it had – to Pharaoh, the great oppressor of Israel. Joel’s question was to shame Israel with the realization that “we have met the enemy and he is us.” But even when God’s people become His enemies, prayer and fasting can redeem locust devastation with the mercy of a Holy Spirit invasion (Joel 2). O, the relentless & scandalous mercy of God!

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Day Thirteen: Called By His Name

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”
 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.” – Ex 9:27-29

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth…” – Revelation 8:1-7

There is an interesting correlation with the seventh plague of the Exodus account and the transition from the seventh seal to the first of the seven trumpets in the book of Revelation. Both involve thunder and hail as the answer to the prayers of God’s people. In Revelation 8 we see a glimpse of what the Exodus showdown probably looked like from heaven’s perspective.

The number seven carries the meaning of “fullness” in the Hebraic mindset. Interestingly, God warned Pharaoh that this next plague would involve His full force: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you…”(v. 14). After warning that He could’ve wiped Egypt off the map by now, God lets us peer into the sublime reality that He is the King of Kings who actually put Pharaoh in place on purpose: “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”(v. 16) Similarly in Revelation, it is Jesus, the Lamb who opens the first seal releasing the Antichrist on to the world stage. Why? For the same reason Pharaoh was raised up: “that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Daniel under Nebuchadnezzar, marveled at this name: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings…”(Daniel 2:21). That name was proclaimed in song by Moses and Miriam on the other side of the Red Sea: “The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name”(Ex 15:3). Pharaoh enlisted Moses’ prayers because he had “had enough thunder and hail” but he did not have enough humility to turn from his wicked ways. “…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:14). Confession (v. 27) without repentance is empty. And so, instead of being called by the name, Pharaoh was crushed by it.

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