BIBLE STUDY SERIES #197, 198 and 199

27 August, 1995

A MORE DISTANT GOD

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Throughout the present series of Bible Studies, we have been studying God's Great Redemptive Plan for His Creation. We began this series several years ago with the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, and we have continued through the book of Genesis and the earlier chapters of the Book of Exodus, to follow the story of the line of descent from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Israel), and Israel's descendants as they first entered Egypt to escape a famine in the land of Canaan, and later, after enduring bondage in Egypt, they were released out of their troubles by the marvellous miracles of The Exodus. The Almighty God, as promised, used great signs and wonders to effect their release, turning the very elements to His service in this display of majesty.

Emerging into the Wilderness of Sinai, new varieties of challenges have beset these Israelites, and they have been led to the foot of Mount Sinai where their leader, Moses, has been conferring with Yahweh, (Jehovah), their God.

On our last programme, we saw how, because the people had sinned in the creation of the golden calf as a god, Moses had removed the tabernacle of the congregation, the tent of meeting, far off, out of the camp, to a place where the people who sought God might go out of the camp to seek Him. This was symbolic of the later development as commended to the Christians of the latter days in Hebrews 13:13 wherein we likewise are exhorted, in seeking Jesus, to "go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." Let us now pick up today's Scripture passage, beginning to read at Exodus 33:11.

11. And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.

What must it have been like, for the man, Moses, to have talked with the LORD (Yahweh or Jehovah in Hebrew), face to face, as this scripture records? Although the record here states that it took place "face to face", it must be understood to have happened in a manner consistent with other scriptures. John 1:18 and I John 4:12 both state that "no man hath seen God at any time." At the Burning Bush of Exodus 3:4, Moses had been addressed by the LORD out of the midst of the bush which burned. Later, the Israelites were reminded by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:12 that "the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice." and in Deuteronomy 5:24 Moses further reminded them that they had said "God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth."

From the words of the previous two verses, it appears that the fullness of the glorious personage of The LORD might not be seen, lest a mortal person be destroyed by the intense radiance, so the LORD mercifully wrapped Himself in a cloud and thus separated Himself from those whom He addressed, that the radiance might be absorbed, and the words of The LORD might be heard and conversation be held without danger to the frailty of human flesh. In verse 9 we read "And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses." Thus Moses was within the tent, and this would further shield him from the radiance.

It is, of course, to be understood that the conversation would probably be held in grave but friendly tones, much as the conversation which the LORD, as one of three visitors, had previously held with Abraham in the plains of Mamre, in Genesis 18, when He promised that Sarah would have a son. Although the words were spoken as to a friend, it would probably have been a majestic and awesome experience in which to engage, unlike any normal conversation, whatever the terms by which we are to understand the manner of speech.

Let us now also consider that last statement concerning Joshua, the young man who served Moses, and who "departed not out of the tabernacle." That statement reminds me of a very uplifting thought which the Psalmist placed in Psalm 84:10, in the words "For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." As Joshua thus dwelt when Yahweh, the God of Israel spoke with Moses at that tent door in Exodus 33:11, I wonder if, in fact, the Psalmist had this historic occurrence in mind when he wrote those words into that Psalm. It is quite possible, for the next verse in Psalm 84 states "For the LORD God... (the name is Yahweh, or Jehovah-Elohim in the original) ...is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."

The thought of Yahweh, the God of Israel being a sun would equate to the description of the God Who led Israel out of Egypt in Exodus 13:21-22, for there we read that "...the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night" and the further description in Exodus 14:19-20 where it explains that when the Egyptians were about to attack the camp of Israel, the pillar of the cloud went from before the Israelites and stood behind them "And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. There we see The Almighty as a source of light and as a shield to His people, just as the Psalmist records. It was the following morning that Israel crossed the sea. The name "Joshua" in the Old Testament means "Jah saves", and equates to the name "Jesus" in the New Testament, which means "Saviour." As the aged Moses related to the Old Testament Law, Joshua, his eventual successor, may signify the succession of a Saviour to accomplish the fulfilment of the law.

Keil and Delitzsch have a useful comment which I shall quote. Pointing out that every one who sought the LORD had to go to this tent outside the camp, they continue: "There were two reasons for this: in the first place, Moses desired thereby to lead the people to a fuller recognition of their separation from their God, that their penitence might be deepened in consequence; and in the second place, he wished to provide such means of intercourse with Jehovah as would not only awaken in the minds of the people a longing for the renewal of the covenant, but render the restoration of the covenant possible. And this end was answered. Not only did every one who sought Jehovah go out to the tent, but the whole nation looked with the deepest reverence when Moses went out to the tent, and bowed in adoration before the Lord, every one in front of his tent, when they saw the pillar of cloud come down upon the tent and stand before the door. Out of this cloud Jehovah talked with Moses... face to face, as a man talks with his friend... that is to say, not from the distance of heaven, through any kind of medium whatever, but 'mouth to mouth,' as it is called in Num. xii.8, as closely and directly as friends talk to one another." Quoting Calvin, Keil and Delitzsch further point out "Although Jehovah showed Himself to Moses in some peculiar form of manifestation, He never appeared in His own essential glory, but only in such a mode as human weakness could bear. This solution contains a tacit comparison, viz. that there never was any one equal to Moses, or who had attained to the same dignity as he." The Commentary concludes "When Moses returned to the tent, his servant Joshua remained behind as guard.- This condescension on the part of Jehovah towards Moses could not fail to strengthen the people in their reliance upon their leader, as the confidant of Jehovah. And Moses himself was encouraged thereby to endeavour to effect a perfect restoration of the covenant bond that had been destroyed."

Do keep in mind as we pursue these studies that we are tracing the course of a Great Plan which is not yet complete, for God's people of ancient Israel had descendants who are living today. We, of the British-Israel-World Federation believe that we have good and sufficient evidence to point to the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples and nations among the world's peoples as manifesting all the marks which latter-day Israel was to display, even to the matter of their own general ignorance of their origins in those older generations of Israelites of Bible times! If one reads the Scriptures of the Bible keeping this in mind, many otherwise obscure prophetic pieces of a great puzzle will fall clearly into their proper setting and place, and the whole record becomes alive with potent meaning for ourselves.

As our time has gone, we shall have to leave you with this consideration. God chose the Patriarchs of ancient Israel to bring forth a nation and a company of nations which would be used as a necessary setting within which to insert into history the central act of Salvation and Redemption by Jesus Christ's Sacrifice. The national and personal aspects are complimentary, and not exclusive aspects of this continuing Great Plan, and God has not finished with us as His divine instruments under Jesus Christ. More is yet to come, and we look with the greatest anticipation for the fulfilments yet to take place. As St. Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 4:18 "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

3 September, 1995

MY PRESENCE SHALL GO WITH THEE

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In this present series of Bible Studies, we have been studying God's Great Plan for His Creation. Several years ago, we began this series with the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, and through the book of Genesis and the earlier chapters of the Book of Exodus, we have followed the story of the line of descent from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Israel), and Israel's descendants as they sought relief from famine by entering Egypt. Later, after enduring bondage in that land, they were released from Pharaoh's grip through the mighty signs and wonders of the Exodus. Their God, Yahweh (Jehovah) thus effected their release in order to serve Himself as a national "wife", to which status they had agreed at Mount Sinai. While Moses remained absent through forty days atop the mount, they sinned in the creation of a golden calf, an act which had drawn the death penalty down upon thousands of those who had been chiefly engaged in this affront to The LORD.

In our last study, we saw how Moses removed the tent of meeting afar off from the camp of Israel, that they might learn reverence, and repentance. The cloudy pillar descended and the LORD talked with Moses at this tent, while Israel in the camp bowed reverently in their tent doors. We have reached Exodus 33:12, where we now pick up the account for today's Bible Study.

12. And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.
13. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

Here the New Bible Commentary explains of the words "Shew me now thy way" that "Moses requires a fuller assurance of God's support in leading the people into the promised land. By saying 'I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight' (12), God had declared the supreme favour with which He regarded His chosen servant (cf. xxxi.2), yet had given no explicit assurance of the way in which He would show that favour (13) for the nature of the angel was left uncertain (12). Moses reminds God that He has undertaken to be responsible for this people (13), and they are to be the reflection of His glory.

14. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
15. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

The New Bible Commentary, states of these verses that "In verse 14 the words 'with thee' are not in the Heb. text. Moses seizes upon this first intimation of the continuance in some measure of God's presence, and presses his plea for the granting of this favour fully. He cannot bear the thought of moving one step with this great nation without God Himself in their midst (15). This presence was that which above all else witnessed to the world that they were the people of God (16); it was therefore to His honour in the eyes of the nations that He should go with them.

16. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
17. And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

The New Bible Commentary notes: "The humble, reverent boldness with which Moses pleads with God, and the unique favour which he receives from the Lord (17), reveal something of the relationship in which Christ, our Intercessor, stands before His Father, and of the favours He wins for us because of the favour God has towards Him. The prayers of Moses in xxxii.30-32 and xxxiii.12-16 are the most beautiful precursors in the Old Testament to the prayers of our Saviour.

The New Bible Commentary (Revised) in connection with the whole passage we are studying in Exodus 33:12-23 starts with this perceptive comment: "The tempo of intercession is now increased. Moses has asked and now he is seeking (v.13), then knocking (vv. 15, 18). God has promised to be with these people and to bring them into the promised land, but their sin, though it has not negated this promise (cf. v.2), has restricted God's grace and favour (cf. v.3). It is this attenuation of God's favour that urges Moses to pray not merely for a physical entry, but for the presence of God in glory amid the people. He does not want the land of promise without God (v.14), and the land of promise is nothing to the people without the same Presence (v.16). It is God's presence which bestows obvious favour and assurance on His people, and marks them out as His own, for His glory. Therefore Moses concludes on the basis of the covenant: God must come with us. Such praying is answered. God will accompany Moses and the people, and the rest of Canaan will be given to them (v.14). Such an answer emboldens Moses to request even more, for he is now convinced that God's favour does rest upon him and that the people have been in principle restored to full covenant favour. He prays for a sight of God's glory... He is yearning for a special disclosure of God- not Physical sight, for he knows that no man can see God and live, but for a spiritual perception of who God is and what He will be and do for him and his people. God reveals Himself by His Name, and yet He will redeclare this to Moses by making all His 'goodness', i.e. comeliness or beauty, pass before him. Moses is to hear old truths but with a new splendour. A veil will momentarily be drawn back, and God will pass by."

Of verse 17, the Commentary continues: "To find favour in God's sight is not to earn it but to have it bestowed upon one, because God 'knows' us in His election and calling (cf. Ex. 3).

Keil and Delitzsch contribute further to our understanding of the passage with these words: "Jehovah had commanded Moses to lead the people to Canaan, and promised him the guidance of an angel; but He had expressly distinguished this angel from His own personal presence (vers. 1-3). Moreover, though it has not been mentioned before, Jehovah had said to Moses, 'I have known thee by name,'- i.e. I have recognised thee as Mine, and chosen and called thee to execute My will (cf. Isa. xliii.1, xlix.1)..." They explain that the words indicate "a specifically personal relation to God, which was peculiar to Moses and therefore was associated with his name." Of the words which they translate as "and thou hast also found grace in My eyes" they interpret "inasmuch as God had granted a hearing to his former intercession."

Keil and Delitzsch comment: "Moses now reminded the Lord of this divine assurance with such courage as can only be produced by faith, which wrestles with God and will not let Him go without a blessing (Gen. xxxii.27); and upon the strength of this he presented the petition (ver. 13), 'Let me know Thy way (the way which Thou wilt take with me and with this people), that I may know Thee, in order that I may find grace in Thine eyes, and see that this people is Thy people.' The meaning is this: If I have found grace in Thy sight, and Thou hast recognised me as Thy servant, and called me to be the leader of this people, do not leave me in uncertainty as to Thine intentions concerning the people, or as to the angel whom Thou wilt give as a guide to me and the nation, that I may know Thee, that is to say, that my finding grace in Thine eyes may become a reality; and if Thou wilt lead the people up to Canaan, consider that it is Thine own people, to whom Thou must acknowledge Thyself as its God. Such boldness of undoubting faith presses to the heart of God, and brings away the blessing. Jehovah replied (ver. 14), 'My face will go, and I shall give thee rest,'- that is to say, shall bring thee and all this people into the land, where ye will find rest. (Deut. iii.20). The 'face' of Jehovah is Jehovah in His own personal presence, and is identical with the 'angel' in whom the name of Jehovah was (chap. xxiii.20,21), and who is therefore called in Isa. lxiii.9 'the angel of His face.' With this assurance on the part of God, the covenant bond was completely restored. But to make more sure of it, Moses replied (vers. 15,16), 'If Thy face is not going (with us), lead us not up hence And whereby shall it be known that I have found grace in Thine eyes, I and Thy people, if not (lit. is it not known) in Thy going with us, that we, I and Thy people, are distinguished... before every nation upon the face of the earth?'" These words do not express any doubt as to the truth of the divine assurance, Keil and Delitzsch explain, but that the assurance may not be sufficient considering the possibility that rebellion might appear again. In verse 17, Jehovah assures Moses that the requested assurance regarding this possibility also is granted to him.

There is more to this topic, but our time is drawing to a close. Let us allow this meditation to settle upon our own minds as we consider these words: By every indication of the evidence, as our British-Israel-World Federation continues to expound, we of the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred world are descendants of those Israelites concerning whom these words were uttered, and it is therefore fitting that we accept the dread responsibilities as God's people which have descended upon us in consequence of the agreements made at Sinai by our forebears. We are to serve The LORD in truth and zeal, to the ushering in of His Kingdom of heaven upon the earth, under the Kingship of The Lord Jesus Christ at the Second Advent. Are we presently preparing ourselves for this task? That is the question which we address, and prayerfully, each listener is called to answer in his or her own heart before The Almighty God of all the earth. We shall continue these studies next week.

10 September, 1995

"SHEW ME THY GLORY" - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In our ongoing series of Bible Studies, we have in view the Great Plan of The Almighty God for the reconstitution of The Creation into accord with His pre-determined condition of blessing. Several years ago we began in Genesis 12 with the Call of Abram. We followed Abraham's descendants into Egypt where they suffered subsequent bondage under Pharaoh and emerged in The Exodus under the leadership of Moses, to the new experiences of Sinai.

At Mount Sinai, the nation had made an agreement with God, received the Commandments and the manner of sacrificial substitution for sin, and promptly and impatiently fallen into the presumption of the formation of a golden calf as a focus of worship while Moses was communing with The LORD amidst the thunderous clouds atop Mount Sinai. Swift retribution had resulted upon Moses' return, and now we find our Scripture text beginning at Exodus 33:18 after Moses has brought the apostacy to a halt through a bloody imposition of righteous judgment upon the apostate portion, and then returned up the slopes of Sinai to make fervent intercession on behalf of the remaining majority of the people.

Last week we saw how Moses had been told that The Almighty would thenceforth send an angel with the Children of Israel rather than consume the sinful nation by his immediate presence, as would happen should He, Himself, accompany them as heretofore. Indeed, writing of the fact that in Exodus 33:7-10 Moses had removed the tent of the congregation apart from the Camp of Israel at this time, The New Bible Commentary (revised) makes the statement that "This reference shows how the worship of God was carried out during the interval between the time of the Exodus, or Sinai, and the completion and dedication of the Tabernacle. Moses used to take (i.e. before the apostacy)... the tent of meeting, which later gave its name to the Tabernacle, outside the camp to commune with God, who though with His people was yet apart from them. There Moses was given communion with God to a degree shared by no other; others worshipped at their tent door." By contrast, the Commentary continues of the expression "face to face" that "This expression is clearly to be understood in terms of the words that follow, as a man speaks to his friend. That is unrestricted communion in which nothing is withheld and nothing cloaked."

Now that The Almighty has provided for the immediate direction of his people, Moses proceeds to ask a favour which appears almost unimaginably bold. However, as he has been granted such unprecedented favours, it would seem most natural from a human standpoint for one so blessed thus far to venture to make the request. We begin today's reading at Exodus 33:18 as Moses speaks to The LORD.

18. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
19. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
20. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
21. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
22. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
23. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

When a scripture like this is read, either in a Bible study or to some church gathering (and indeed, truth to tell, that occurrence might be rare enough these days, in itself!) there may well be a tendency to simply assume that we are seeing a verbal picture, perhaps of Moses shielding his face from some intense light, and, having obtained "a general view of the picture", we may then pass along to some other thoughts. But might there yet be some deep and hidden gem of truth, some rare insight which it will repay us to search out and to examine? What is actually to be found within these brief words?

There are a number of questions and concepts addressed here, the explanations to which may at first sight seem somewhat obscure. What is Moses asking to see when he asks "shew me thy glory", and why is this necessary when Moses has for many days been speaking with God "face to face"? Is this observation to be by the usual natural manner of normal physical sight or some form of mental or visionary insight? What, exactly, does this scripture intend us to understand by the words "thy glory" and, in the next verse, "my goodness"? What is involved in the words "proclaim the name of the LORD", and why does The Almighty add those words "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy"? Why can no man "see me, and live", yet why will Moses not be harmed if he sees the back of his LORD? As we contemplate these questions, it may occur to us that we have more to see within these brief sentences than we at first imagined and we may not have time to complete our study today.

Of verse 18, The New Bible Commentary says "Moses, encouraged by the gracious response to his prayer thus far, is bold to request that for which no other man has dared or aspired to ask, to see God's glory." Of "my goodness" in verse 19, it goes on to explain: "God's glory is manifested to mortal minds by the evidences of His goodness, yet this revelation to Moses was to be, in some way incomprehensible by us who have not seen it, a direct vision of His goodness undimmed by the limitations of its usual manifestation through earthly forms." For a note on "The name of the Lord," the Commentary points to that associated with Exodus 34:5; a note at which we will be arriving shortly. Of the words "I will be gracious", it points out that these are "Quoted in Rom. ix.15 as an example of salvation by grace alone, apart from any merit or demerit in the saved. The late Rabbi Hertz allowed himself to say on this verse, 'God will show mercy to those who deserve it', a surprising comment." We gain some insight to that reference in Romans 9:15 if we read the context, taking it with the preceding and following verses.

Explaining God's right to select Isaac rather than Abraham's other sons, and of God's right to select Jacob while rejecting Esau before those twins were born, Paul writes "What shall we say then? is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth."

The New Bible Commentary (Revised) notes in this connection the absolute exclusion of all notion of earning or meriting the divine mercy. "God is merciful to whom He will and not to all, in the sense mentioned here." It is "sovereign election."

The Companion Bible note to verse 19 explains of the term "goodness", that "The glory could not have been endured; grace comes first, glory is reserved for the future." Of the words "I will proclaim the name..." it, like The New Bible Commentary, continues: "This is done in 34, 5 & 7" That being so, we shall need to examine those verses before we leave the matter at hand.

Of the words "My face" in verse 20, The New Bible Commentary explains "Earthly eyes cannot behold the divine essence, nor can the mortal mind and spirit bear the unveiled light of the divine glory (cf. xxiv.10n.; also Jn. i.18). Jacob's words in Gn. xxxii. 30 must be a metaphorical expression; he saw the angel of God, but not the Father's unveiled face. Cf. Mt. xi.27; 1 Jn. iii.2. Thou shalt stand upon a rock (21). An ineffable spiritual experience is described in material terms adapted to our earthly state, yet the spiritual lessons of it are plain. If we regard the rock as Christ, we see how in "Christ alone we are protected from the devouring fire of God's glory, and through Him alone we are enabled to behold that glory."

The New Bible Commentary (Revised) says "Moses is to see the afterglow which is a reliable indication of what the full splendour is to be."

Next week, we will consider these matters as they might be seen from God's point of view. Our time has gone. May I leave with you the vital question "How will you fare in that Day of Judgment and the devouring fire of God's Glory?" As long-time listeners will know, our Federation sustains the view that the majority of the present day descendants of ancient Israel are found within the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations of today. However such descent does not guarantee one's individual future. It is a question which must be pondered while we are yet alive and able to make our submissive agreement with Jesus Christ, thus joining ourselves, as part of His body, to His protection and mercy. Every person, Israelite or non-Israelite must decide. We shall continue with this theme in our next study.

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