Moses' second speech, Part 19
Aug 10, 2012
Israel was about to leave the hardships of the wilderness and enter the Promised Land of abundance when Moses gave his final speeches to them. He knew their inability to hear God's voice and remembered their quick acceptance of the golden calf the moment they thought he was gone (Ex. 32:1). No doubt this weighed heavily upon Moses' mind as he sought inspired words of instruction that would carry them into the Kingdom. So he told them beginning in Deut. 6:10,
(10) Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, (11) and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied, (12) then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
People tend to change when they receive sudden prosperity. I have personally witnessed this with those I have known. Sudden wealth brings out the best and the worst in people. Specifically, when the constraints of poverty are lifted, people are free to be who they really are. They now have the money to sin or to do the work of God.
If there is any hidden pride in their hearts, wealth makes them confident enough to bring that pride to the surface. Poverty makes men dependent upon others. Wealth makes men independent, and this can easily translate into no longer caring what others think of them. Hence, there is a common link between wealth and pride.
Such prideful independence toward others can also be directed at God Himself. When men are poor, they have little choice but to depend upon God for their daily bread. When men are rich, this dependence upon God is tested to see if the faith is genuine. Hopefully, the wilderness testing has taken root, so that the abundance of the Promised Land can be utilized to further the Kingdom.
(13) You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.
The admonition that they were to "swear by His name" means that Yahweh, the God of Israel (later manifested as Jesus Christ) must be the final Judge to whom all final appeals are made. Any time a man questions the decisions of the earthly court, or if there is insufficient evidence to bring justice, all are to recognize that they are to appeal only to Jesus Christ and not to other gods.
(14) You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the people who surround you, (15) for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.
Israel provides us with many examples that prove Moses' words to be correct. Every time they began to look to the gods of the other nations, God sold them into captivity to the chosen people of those false gods. At first, God put them under the wooden yoke, allowing them to serve those other nations in their land. But in the end, because Israel persisted in violating the First Commandment, God destroyed the nation at the hands of the Assyrians and cast them out among the nations under the iron yoke of Deut. 28:48.
(16) You should not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.
Jesus quoted this in Matt. 4:7 when the devil told Him to test God by throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. After all, the devil said, God promised to protect You.
Israel as a nation was tempted in the same manner. By rejecting the true God as their King and as their Supreme Court Judge, they were (in essence) casting themselves off the pinnacle of the temple, believing that they were immune to disaster. They presumed upon their calling as Israel. By contrast, Jesus did not fall for that presumption, even though He was the Messiah Himself.
Symbolically, the temple on earth represented the temple in heaven. God had given David the pattern (blueprint) for the temple (1 Chron. 28:11-19), which he had received by inspiration. It was the pattern of the heavenly spiritual temple (Rev. 15:5) translated into earth language. Even Moses received the pattern of the heavenly tabernacle while he was in the Mount, so that he could construct an earthly tabernacle (Ex. 25:9).
The point is that to cast one's self off the pinnacle of the temple was symbolic of sinning against the laws of nature. We ourselves are the earthly temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16), patterned after the heavenly temple. If we test God's word to see if He really meant what He said about destroying the nation when we violated the First Commandment, we will find ourselves cast to the ground even as the temple stones were cast down at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
Moses' reference to Massah is recorded in Ex. 17:2-7. Verse 7 says,
(7) And he named the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling] because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"
The people were being led by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Yet they questioned God's presence when they camped in a place with no water. They assumed that if God were truly leading them, they would always be led to places that had plenty of water. To them, God's presence meant that they would suffer no deprivation that might actually test their faith. This showed spiritual immaturity, for they did not understand that He wanted them to grow up and learn to see God in all things, whether one is abased or abounds.
Israel questioned God's presence because there was no water at that encampment. They would have preferred to camp at a different location. They did not understand that deprivation and danger give God opportunities to work miracles. So they quarreled with God in order to obtain water, instead of trusting that God would provide. They could have told Moses of their need without quarreling and complaining in order to have God meet their need.
At any rate, the people did receive water after Moses struck the rock. They tested God and found Him faithful. But at what expense? Their test did not reveal their faith but their doubt. Doubt loves to masquerade as faith, but it manifests as testing God as a quarrel between man's will and God's will.
I recall many years ago (1972) when I was working for a ministry, we were taught some concepts of faith that did not make sense to me. In essence, we were told to make a "leap of faith" and then expect God to save us. I saw immediately that this was a common notion of faith in the Church. I took note how some preachers might decide to build a million-dollar church building, taking a "leap of faith" that the people would support it. The result was that the people were enslaved by a million-dollar debt.
Of course, if God truly leads a church to do this, then the result will be true faith. True faith will not see this debt as a slavery but as the leading of God. But the debt itself will test the hearts of the people to see if it was faith or a temptation of the devil as in Matt. 4:7. True faith will endure the test of time; carnal ideas will fail that test.
When I look back on life, I can see clearly that God presented me with many teachings and situations in life to teach me the difference between faith, which is spiritual, and persuasion backed by positive thinking, which is carnal. The greatest lessons were learned through hardship and deprivation, for then we saw the miracles of provision.
This is the nineteenth part of a series titled "Moses' Second Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones