|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #200, 201 and 202|
17 September, 1995
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.
On our last programme we had begun the examination of a passage in Exodus 33:18-23, in which Moses had felt encouraged to ask the unprecedented favour of seeing God's glory. The request was to draw a partial but most gracious response from The Almighty, as we had begun to understand. However our time was not sufficient to conclude the comments available, and today, we are continuing to a further understanding of the passage. God had replied that "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." Explaining that "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live", God had permitted that Moses might be hidden in a cleft of the rock until God, covering Moses with His hand had passed by, so that Moses might have a glimpse in the words "thou shalt see my back parts but my face shall not be seen."
Keil and Delitzsch have several pages dealing with these matters from which I ought to quote some passages. As the notes are quite extensive, and full of detailed insights from their perspective, perhaps we might devote most of today's study to them. Keil and Delitzsch begin with Moses' prayer to "see Thy glory" thus: "What Moses desired to see, as the answer of God clearly shows, must have been something surpassing all former revelations of the glory of Jehovah (chap. xvi.7,10, xxiv. 16,17), and even going beyond Jehovah's talking with him face to face (ver. 11). When God talked with him face to face, or mouth to mouth, he merely saw a 'similitude of Jehovah' (Num. xii.8), a form which rendered the invisible being of God visible to the human eye, i.e. a manifestation of the divine glory in a certain form, and not the direct or essential glory of Jehovah, whilst the people saw this glory under the veil of a dark cloud, rendered luminous by fire, that is to say, they only saw its splendour as it shone through the cloud; and even the elders, at the time when the covenant was made, only saw the God of Israel in a certain form which hid from their eyes the essential being of God (xxiv. 10,11). What Moses desired, therefore, was a sight of the glory or essential being of God, without any figure, and without a veil.
Moses was urged to offer this prayer... by 'a desire to cross the chasm which had been made by the apostasy of the nation, that for the future he might have a firmer footing than the previous history had given him. As so great a stress had been laid upon his own person in his present task of mediation between the offended Jehovah and the apostate nation, he felt that the separation, which existed between himself and Jehovah, introduced a disturbing element into his office. For if his own personal fellowship with Jehovah was not fully established, and raised above all possibility of disturbance, there could be no eternal foundation for the perpetuity of his mediation'... As a man called by God to be His servant, he was not yet the perfect mediator; but although he was faithful in all his house, it was only as a servant, called... as a herald of the saving revelations of God, preparing the way for the coming of the perfect Mediator. Jehovah therefore granted his request, but only so far as the limit existing between the infinite and holy God and finite and sinful man allowed."
Explaining that the reason why Moses' request was granted was that "it was an act of unconditional grace and compassion on the part of God, to which no man, not even Moses, could lay any just claim" Keil and Delitzsch continue by expounding upon the words of St. Paul in Romans 9:15, used by him, as these commentators put it, "for the purpose of overthrowing the claims of self-righteous Jews to participate in the Messianic salvation." They continue: "No mortal man can see the face of God and remain alive; for not only is the holy God a consuming fire to unholy man, but a limit has been set, in and with... (the earthly and psychical body) of man, between the infinite God, the absolute Spirit, and the human spirit clothed in an earthly body, which will only be removed by the 'redemption of our body,' and our being clothed in a 'spiritual body,' and which, so long as it lasts, renders a direct sight of the glory of God impossible. As our bodily eye is dazzled, and its power of vision destroyed, by looking directly at the brightness of the sun, so would our whole nature be destroyed by an unveiled sight of the brilliancy of the glory of God. So long as we are clothed with this body, which was destined, indeed, from the very first to be transformed into the glorified state of the immortality of the spirit, but has become through the fall a prey to the corruption of death, we can only walk in faith, and only see God with the eye of faith, so far as He has revealed His glory to us in His works and His word. When we have become like God, and have been transformed into the 'divine nature' (2 Pet. i.4), then, and not till then, shall we see Him as He is; then we shall see His glory without a veil, and live before Him for ever. For this reason Moses had to content himself with the passing by of the glory of God before his face, and with the revelation of the name of Jehovah through the medium of the word, in which God discloses His inmost being, and, so to speak, His whole heart to faith."
Of "My glory", they explain "all My goodness." Reminding us that in Exodus 34:6, Jehovah is stated to have passed before the face of Moses, they comment that the Hebrew word "tub" (tov) means "goodness" and not "beauty"; "not the brilliancy which strikes the senses, but the spiritual and ethical nature of the Divine Being. for the manifestation of Jehovah, which passed before Moses, was intended unquestionably to reveal nothing else than what Jehovah expressed in the proclamation of His name."
"The manifested glory of the Lord would so surely be followed by the destruction of man, that even Moses needed to be protected before it (ver. 21,22). Whilst Jehovah, therefore, allowed him to come to a place upon the rock near Him, i.e. upon the summit of Sinai... He said that He would put him in a cleft of the rock whilst He was passing by, and cover him with His hand, i.e. with His protecting power, and only take away His hand when He had gone by, that he might see His back, because His face could not be seen. The back, as contrasted with the face, signifies the reflection of the glory of God that had just passed by. The words are transferred anthropomorphically from man to God, because human language and human thought can only conceive of the nature of the absolute Spirit according to the analogy of the human form. As the inward nature of man manifests itself in his face, and the sight of his back gives only an imperfect and outward view of him, so Moses saw only the back and not the face of Jehovah. It is impossible to put more into human words concerning this unparalleled vision, which far surpasses all human thought and comprehension. According to Chap. xxxiv.2, the place where Moses stood by the Lord was at the top (the head) of Sinai, and no more can be determined with certainty concerning it. The cleft in the rock (ver. 22) has been supposed by some to be the same place as the 'cave' in which Elijah lodged at Horeb, and where the Lord appeared to him in the still small voice (I Kings xix.9sqq.)." The comments of Keil and Delitzsch thereupon pass to a consideration of present day-claims for identification of the exact spots concerned with these episodes.
They mention that, at the time of writing, "The real summit of Jebel Musa consists of 'a small area of huge rocks, about 80 feet in diameter,' upon which there is a now a chapel that has almost fallen down, and about 40 feet to the south-west a dilapidated mosque..." Below this, they explain, there is a very small grotto. According to local tradition this is the cleft where Moses was hidden while the great event we have been describing took place.
Our time has expired for today, I shall reserve some concluding observations and thoughts on these matters for our next programme.
As only the perfection of Christ will pass judgment unscathed in the Day of Judgment, when we must face our Judge to give account, it is imperative that we be covered by the legal union of ourselves with the Hand of Christ as the Judgment proceeds to a conclusion. As sinners, Christ is our only effective shield and penalty-bearer.
May I pass along a final word for our meditation. Concerning Daniel's own people, the children of Israel, the angel of The LORD told him that at the time of the end, "the wise shall understand." May all who study these scriptures along with us be so numbered. We shall continue with these themes in our next study.
24 September, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In our ongoing series of Bible Studies, we are tracing that Great Plan of The Almighty God, which is outlined for us in The Holy Scriptures, for the reclamation of a fallen Creation to a state of desirable perfection in accordance with His own nature.
We began several years ago in Genesis 12 with the Call of Abram, and we had subsequently traced the line of descent of Abraham's progeny through Isaac and Jacob (Israel), and the sons of that Patriarch and their tribal offspring as they passed into Egypt under the care of Joseph, suffered subsequent bondage under Pharaoh in a later generation, and emerged through the miraculous signs and wonders of The Exodus under the leadership of Moses, into the new experiences of the Sinai Wilderness and their agreement to become, effectively, the national wife of Yahweh (Jehovah) the God of Israel and of all the earth.
On the last two studies, we were examining the request made of The Almighty by Moses, that He would show or reveal Himself in a very particular and special way to that notable Prophet. We had read the words recorded in Exodus 33:18-23 which explain how Moses had, in a certain measure at least, been granted this very special request by Yahweh (Jehovah). As we may have a number of new listeners who have not heard the passage to which reference is being made, perhaps it would not be out of place to read it again. It says these words:
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.
This manifest blessing was obviously not to be granted simply in order to satisfy mere curiosity on Moses' part. Far from it! In dealing with any encounter with the God of the entire Creation, personal friendship alone could not presume to such a magnificent blessing. The reason for this request lay rather in the fact that Moses was feeling the very great pressures imposed by his calling as leader of this great people, and he appears to have felt the need for every evidence which might be vouchsafed to him in order to affirm the certainty that God would not leave him and the people to move forward lacking the immense relief available in the continuing presence of Yahweh. The recently covenanted relationship between God and his national wife, Israel had not fared quite as well as either Moses, or, in retrospect, the Israelites themselves might have wished.
When we read this passage with an eye to the social stresses involved, it appears quite obvious that Moses was feeling a great need to acquire such strong evidence as would impart to him a complete assurance that the presence of The Almighty God would indeed go with him as he led the nation of Israelites up to the Promised Land. It would certainly not be unexpected to find that Moses would sense his isolation. Moses, now eighty years of age, was by this time doubtless a rather lonely individual, bearing a great weight of responsibility for so many people. He had just previously been placed in the position of having to order the execution of three thousand of the people of Israel who had sinned by worshipping the golden calf. Many thousands more were to die by a plague which was to complete the immediate punishment. Possibly Moses now feels the strain which authority imposes upon a leader who must take some drastic and unpopular step which draws anger, and forces a certain distance between a leader and those who are led.
If we see his request to The Almighty God within this setting, we can well understand why he desired to be permitted to actually see the God Whose "marching orders" he was transmitting down the chain of command to the leaders of the people.
A valued correspondent, upon hearing what I had to say on this subject in an earlier broadcast has written to express some valuable insights. He reviews the fact, mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:16, that the people saw only the fire, but no similitude, as God spoke to them, lest they create a graven image of the form of any person or creature and worship it. He continues in contrast, by drawing attention to Numbers 12:7-8 in which Moses is himself said to attain a higher blessing and "the similitude of the LORD shall he behold." A similitude is not the total reality directly presented, but through a form which can be comprehended by the viewer.
We have, on the last several programmes, read excerpts out of a number of Bible references and commentaries relating thoughts upon the matter of the vision granted to the people of Israel, so today, as I promised on the last study, I will be interjecting some thoughts of my own at this point. Why would Yahweh (Jehovah) not fully satisfy this understandable request from His friend?
Perhaps we may consider the matter from God's point of view. If The LORD looks directly upon Moses, or indeed upon any person who is a sinner, that person will die because the perfect and majestic righteousness of God will not, indeed cannot permit the impenitent impertinence of an unrighteous person, (that is to say, one who has heard God's perfect Law, and has proceeded to break it, as is the case with all of fallen mankind), to stand before him and escape immediate judgment.
Human flesh, in its frailty, cannot stand in His direct sight and immediate presence, so to speak, without the implicit rebellion of sin drawing immediate retribution. We may find some sense of the position if we consider how a parent might treat with a child who fails to measure up to an imparted responsibility of some sort. While the child may have failed, but be penitent, the parent can, to some extent "overlook" the matter of failure in expectation and hope of improvement with further practice. However the manifestation of a rebel impudence falls into a different category of sin. Such an attitude will doubtless draw a just but immediate reaction from a loving parent, who must impart an understanding of the relationship which his authority as a wise and responsible head of a large family must impose.
In like manner a sinner can not thus continue to stand un-punished in the immediate presence of God. However, if God interposes a veil of heavy tapestry as described of the curtains of the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple, or surrounds Himself in a pillar of fire and cloud, or turns his back as here described, He does not then, in a sense, have Moses in full view, or "see Moses, the sinner" at that moment, and this intervening screen is thus a gracious provision which can permit judgment to be deferred. The mercy granted in verses 21 to 23, then, legally permits Moses' request to have a glimpse of Deity without the imposition of immediate judgment descending upon him as he will only be able to see from a position of safety when God "looks away" from him.
The sense of the matter becomes more apparent if we consider it in the context of Acts 17:30-31, wherein Paul is explaining to the Athenians that God is a living God, not like the gods graven by man's device, and he then states "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead."
The translator's choice of the word "winked" is a curious one which answers to the need to express this idea, for a wink is the closing of one eye for a brief instant. It is a means of conveying an expression of friendly understanding, possibly with a further purposeful appearance of overlooking something, because of forbearance.
Here again, we find the averting of God's eyes from man's sin, in order that judgment can be deferred until the day appointed, at which time it will be the standard of Christ's perfect life by which men are judged.
As we are approaching the end of today's study, I would like to end by passing along some thoughts which emerge out of those things which we have been considering. We, today, live at a time when many people find it intellectually difficult to accept the reality of the things revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Humanism, based in part upon modern theories of origins of man and his world has been cultivated by academics and even liberal church dignitaries for more than a generation. Why do so many drift towards these theories? Why has Scripture been relegated to a mythical curiosity to be laid upon a dusty shelf of the past?
We, of the British-Israel-World Federation would answer that this has come about through the denial of the literal fact that The Almighty God has indeed fulfilled His word down through all the tapestry of time and space. When God made a blood-covenant with Abram by sacrifice, it was the literal descendants from Abram's own aged loins who were to develop into that nation and company of nations which were to manifest the numerous marks of Israel in the last days.
Centuries of blind teaching to the effect that the church had to become a substitute for a failed Israel has opened the door to humanism's appeal to reason. Our Federation maintains that the original, literal promises of The Almighty God of Creation have not failed of fulfilment. It is simply that the key has been lost by the generality of the churches. The fact is that the identity of the National Israel "Cinderella" people has been hidden while her step-sisters sought pre-eminence! Scripturally, Israel of the last days is to be found as a nation and a company of nations - a great people of the world. We offer evidence which supports our contention that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples and nations in today's world form the majority of those promised "Cinderella" descendants! Were it not so, God lied to Abram, and hence would lie concerning the way of Salvation through The Cross as well. We honour and glorify the majestic name of The Almighty in Jesus Christ by our proclamation of this simple truth, which we hold to be the key to a correct understanding of The Bible. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
1 October, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Over the last several years we have been conducting a series of Bible Studies, taking our theme Scripture passages in consecutive order, beginning essentially with Genesis Chapter 12, which deals with God's Call to Abram, and following the account onward, down through the generations of his descendants as Scripture records. On our last study, we had arrived at Exodus 34, a point at which Moses has been acting as intermediary between Yahweh, (Jehovah), The Almighty God, and his national "wife", the nation of Jacob-Israel's descendants, now, as we read the present account, camping at the foot of Mount Sinai.
I have chosen to do the study in this manner in part because The Scriptures thus recount a consecutive family history, but incidentally also because a charge has sometimes been cast at us by ill-informed individuals, who say that we, British-Israelites, "pick our scriptures out of context" and that a steady examination of the whole body of God's Word would deny us that authority which we would presume to claim for our teaching. Far from it. We are among the most ardent in adhering to God's entire Word and holding every word within its context.
This is because we have found the joy-filled excitement which is aroused when one finds a key piece of information which allows all the Word of God contained within the pages of Holy Writ to fit together like a beautiful tapestry or jig-saw puzzle when the parts or threads are traced and found to form one exactly fitted picture filled with meaning which isolated fragments alone could never hope to convey to the reader! In other words, our Scriptures yield a fruitful fullness of meaning when the key is understood. Matching one fragment with another, with that key in mind, there comes into view additional information which was missed in the cursory examination of isolated segments.
This key of which I speak is, in essence, the realisation of the identity of those great multitudes which were to form out of ancient Israel's descendants in the last days, but which to outward appearance are apparently missing from the record today, and yet must exist under other names if the honour of The Almighty is not to be thrown into question. We, of the British-Israel-World Federation have as our unique objective the attempt to search out and present the evidences which point to those descendants; the literal descendants promised by blood-covenant to Abram by The Almighty God.
It will assist newer listeners to our Bible Studies to grasp the general thrust of our work if that priority is clarified. Mainline churches have, particularly in the present generation, apparently fallen under the influence of both liberal and otherwise well-meaning evangelical theologies which have developed a different Gospel. This Gospel is one which our Federation believes will ultimately demean God, by drawing into question the literal aspects of His Promises to The Patriarchs of the Old Testament, and thus, as the same God is involved, by implication regarding the gracious work, Crucifixion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
If God can lie by distortion and hidden agenda to Abraham, how can any Scripture be trusted, for Christ quoted "Moses and the prophets" with approval (Luke 24:27)? Abram clearly understood God's promises, sworn by covenant blood-oath, to involve literal descendants of his aged loins, when speaking of a blessing which, in amplification to Isaac, and then Jacob, was to consist in essence, of "a nation and a company (or Commonwealth) of nations", and a "great people" (Genesis 48:15-19). Where are these, which are specified by unconditional promise, today? Certainly a tiny and troubled state in Palestine cannot fill up the measure of such bountiful and gracious promises. Where are the rest of those whose ancestors were deported centuries before Jesus walked the earth as the Son of man (Matthew 8:20)?
We, of the British-Israel-World Federation, set forth the evidence which supports our contention that these descendants are today, in the main, to be found among the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples and nations. Personal identification with Jesus Christ is definitely essential to an individual, for Salvation from the penalties which The Almighty God will impose upon Sin. However the matter of personal commitment is so repetitiously presented to the utter neglect and indeed disdain of the National Message contained throughout Scripture that those who do understand the existence of that national aspect feel impelled to stress it, in compensation. This does not mean a lack of either understanding of, or appreciation of the essential place of personal Salvation on the part of our membership. Both are complimentary the one to the other, and both are upheld by our Federation.
As we have recently added new areas to our coverage, I felt it necessary to provide these few words in explanation of some of the less familiar aspects of the messages we will be bringing to you week by week. Also, you may wish to tape our talks, or to obtain tapes which are made by us, and which we make available for a small consideration. You may find that having your Bible near and open to the passages as they are considered may be of benefit to you also. It is my general practice to take up consecutive passages of Scripture using main-line commentaries and other sources together with my own comments as we proceed.
We have, in recent studies, reviewed Exodus 33, and today we begin at Exodus 34:1. We will only have a few moments remaining, in which to say something, but we shall continue with the process on succeeding programmes. Exodus 34 begins with these words:
1. And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
2. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.
3. And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount.
4. And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
5. And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
6. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
The non-Biblical Book of Jasher Chapter LXXXII,21-26 contains a parallel passage to that which we have been examining recently in Exodus, and I think that, as it is consistent with Holy Scripture, I will read it because I find that sometimes a second reading of an event in slightly different words can assist in clarification or summarise in review. That source puts the story thus:
21. And on the morrow Moses said to the people, I will go up to the Lord, peradventure I may make atonement for your sins which you have sinned to the Lord.
22. And Moses again went up to the Lord, and he remained with the Lord forty days and forty nights.
23. And during the forty days did Moses intreat the Lord in behalf of the children of Israel, and the Lord hearkened to the prayer of Moses, and the Lord was intreated of him in behalf of Israel.
24. Then spake the Lord to Moses to hew two stone tablets and to bring them up to the Lord, who would write upon them the ten commandments.
25. Now Moses did so, and he came down and hewed the two tablets and went up to mount Sinai to the Lord, and the Lord wrote the ten commandments upon the tablets.
26. And Moses remained yet with the Lord forty days and forty nights, and the Lord instructed him in statutes and judgments to impart to Israel.
The Book of Jasher, though it is non-Canonical, is, nevertheless mentioned twice in the Bible as a reference. These are found in Joshua 10:13 and in II Samuel 1:18, for those who might like to check the point.
However, as the Biblical passage, taken from Exodus forms our focus of study, let us, in the few moments which remain, look at some brief points which are explained in the Companion Bible. The note to verse 4 indicates that this is the sixth and last ascent of Mount Sinai by Moses. I ought to mention that another commentator does have a variance from this. In verse 6, three words are explained. The word "long-suffering" is given as "slow to anger", "goodness" as "lovingkindness or grace, and "truth" as "faithfulness.
As we have come to the end of today's time allowance, let me leave a few meditations with you. If humanism prevails in a person's mind, and no God is acknowledged, there exists no other ultimate check upon the depravity of mankind, given circumstance and opportunity, but fear of exposure and retribution. Civilization becomes corrupted by selfishness. On the other hand, an indwelling reverence for Deity restricts the scope of that which is deemed to be permitted, and love of one's neighbour becomes an obligation which must be met. Civilization is sustained and improved through voluntary application of the principle of love. It is therefore self-destructive to destroy the mercies which a religious commitment to Biblical principles invokes. Thus revolutions will ultimately fail where they are based upon greed. How much better to work towards the sustaining of Biblical belief within the nation, and in the up-bringing of its youth. Proving the Bible to be a truthful record is thus a most honourable aspiration even in secular terms. May those who hear have understanding and wisdom in such affairs. We will continue with our studies on our next programme.
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