TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 11-13
What does it mean to be meek?
- Enduring injury with patience and without resentment
- Deficient in spirit and courage
- Not violent or strong
- Not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive
- Reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference of submission
- A. ranking low in hierarchy or scale; B. not costly or luxurious
MOSES: OUR MODEL FOR MEEKNESS?
Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
The Hebrew word translated meek is anaw. It literally means bowed. Therefore, anaw also can be translated humble.
When you read the actual definitions of meek and humble, and then you read with the help of the Holy Spirit what Moses did, can you truly consider Moses to be our model of meekness?
We should carefully read what Numbers 12:3 says. I believe the scripture that Moses was very meek. However, this statement is qualified. Moses was very meek relative to all the other people on the face of earth. When we look into Moses’ life, then what does this say about all the other people? What does this say about us?
Saying that Moses is meeker than all other people is nothing like saying Moses is meek or Moses is humble. I think many, perhaps the vast majority, of Christians have read Numbers 12:3 as if it said Moses is meek and Moses is humble. Therefore, Christians have patterned their meekness and humility after Moses.
Let’s look at just a little of Moses’ life to see how meek and humble he was. Then, let’s look at someone meeker than Moses that is here that many of us refuse to listen to him.
MOSES WAS VIOLENT
Exodus 2:12 says that Moses killed an Egyptian. We know Moses committed premeditated murder because “he looked this way and that” before striking the Egyptian.
Now, Moses fled and spent 40 years on the back side of the mountain tending sheep. Certainly, God dealt with Moses’ character during this time, which is why Numbers 12:3 can say that Moses was more meek than all other people. Moses may have been very meek, but one who is meek does no violence.
So, was Moses’ violence completely cleansed from his character by God?
Moses’ writing sure doesn’t show that. He was all for stoning to death the unclean. Moses was all for cutting the unclean off from Israel. And, Moses attributed that to God. But, did Moses accurately portray God? I wrote about this in Discerning the Voice of Jesus from that Other Voice and Moses Puts the Unclean Out of the Camp, Jesus Says “Come to Me”.
MOSES WAS PROUD, EXALTING HIMSELF
In Numbers 12, Moses wrote that God heard the complaint against Moses by Miriam and Aaron. So, God called the three of them to the tent of meeting. After the Lord came down and spoke to Miriam and Aaron, Moses wrote in Exodus 12:9, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.” According to Moses, God came down, told Miriam and Aaron off, and bailed.
When God departed, Miriam was leprous. In Exodus 12:11, Aaron said to Moses, not God by the way, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned.” In verse 13, “Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God, please heal her – please.'” So, Aaron thought Moses was in control of the punishment. And, Moses made it seem so when he begged God to heal Miriam. God got angry, made Miriam leprous, and left, but Moses is the one pleading for Miriam’s healing in forgiveness of her complaint against him? Sure seems like a bit of pride on Moses’ part.
Or, consider what God said to Miriam and Aaron about how he spoke to Moses. In Exodus 12:8, God said “with him I speak mouth to mouth.” After the altar of the tabernacle was dedicated, Numbers 7:89 says, “And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.” To me, this sounds like God speaking to Moses mouth to mouth. Moses could hear God’s voice, and Moses could speak back to God.
But, did God always speak to Moses this way?
No he did not. Exodus 33:11 says, “The the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Perhaps, the context of this statement will tell us why God no longer spoke to Moses face to face.
Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp, far off from the camp. So, whenever Moses went out to the tent to talk with God, all Israel would stand up and watch Moses as he walked through the camp to meet with God. Then, Israel would see the pillar of cloud descend on the tent when Moses entered it. Any chance that there was some part of Moses putting on a show for Israel? Any chance that Moses was proud as he walked through the camp to meet God with everyone watching?
There’s even a subtle statement at the end of Exodus 33:11 that might allude to Moses’ pride. “When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” Moses would make a show for the people and come back. Joshua stayed in the tent to talk with God.
MOSES DID NOT ENDURE INJURY WITH PATIENCE AND WITHOUT RESENTMENT
In Deuteronomy 27:1, Moses and the elders of Israel, not God, commanded the people, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.” Then, Moses separated the people on to two mounts. To the group that did not obey what he commanded, Moses told the Levites to pronounce 12 curses on the people. Moses, not God, pronounced those curses.
In the next chapter, Moses makes it seem like this is God. He tells the people that if they do not obey God then all the curses he had the Levites pronounce in chapter 27 would come upon them. In chapter 28, from verses 15 to 68, Moses goes on a tirade of horrific acts that he states God will to do Israel.
Was God saying these curses or was Moses? I think Moses because Your View of God Is a Reflection of You.
In Numbers 11, Moses got tired of the people complaining to him about the food they had to eat in the wilderness. In Numbers 11:11-15, Moses complained to God, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I have 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? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”
Was Moses enduring the complaints of the people with patience and without resentment? Hardly. He told God to kill him, otherwise his wretchedness, literally his evil or wickedness, would be seen. If God didn’t take Moses, then that old man of violence, that old man of murder, was going to come back.
Moses was more meek than all the other people on the face of the earth. But, it’s pretty clear that Moses was not the definition of meek or humble. Therefore, we need to stop looking to Moses as a model for us on how to be meek or humble. Moses is the not the image we should be conformed to.
Therefore, let’s look at someone meeker than Moses that is here – Jesus. Instead of refusing to listen to him, let’s heed God’s words through Moses, fulfilled on the mount of transfiguration, that God would raise up a prophet – “it is to him you shall listen.”
JESUS IS MEEK
Moses constantly drove away those that were unclean. But, in Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus says, “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 fill find rest for your souls.”
The word gentle above is the Greek word praus, which means gentle, meek humble. In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament used in Jesus’ day, praus is the Greek used to say that Moses was very meek. So, Jesus could have said, “For I am meek and lowly in heart.”
Since the name of God is I Am, I always find it very interesting when Jesus says, “I am…” I am is a statement of fact. It is a fact that Jesus is meek.
As the image of the invisible God, Jesus is the model we should use on how to be meek.
JESUS DID NO VIOLENCE
Unlike Moses, Jesus met the definition of meek that is not violent or strong. Isaiah 53 is one the clearest, most important, prophecies of the Messiah, the suffering servant, in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:9 says that the Messiah “had done no violence.” That’s no violence – as in none, zero, zilch, nada.
Moses murdered a man, but Jesus never did. In fact, Jesus identified Satan as a murderer from the beginning in John 8:44. In John 14:30, Jesus says that the ruler of this world, Satan, is coming and that Satan has nothing in him. In other words, there is nothing of murder in Jesus.
Indeed, when Jesus himself was murdered on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them.”
JESUS HUMBLED HIMSELF AND GOD EXALTED HIM
We saw above that Moses dealt with an issue of pride. More than once, Moses made it seem as though he was more merciful, more gracious, and more forgiving than God. Not so with Jesus. Unlike Moses, Jesus met the definition of meek, or humble, that is nor proud or haughty.
Philippians 2:5-9 says, “Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps his greatest miracle, he gave the credit to God. In John 11:41-42, Jesus said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus could have raised Lazarus without saying those words. But, he specifically said those words so that all would know that the Father deserved the glory and not himself. Jesus came to glorify the Father not himself.
JESUS ENDURED INJURY WITH PATIENCE AND WITHOUT RESENTMENT
Moses heaped curses on those that disobeyed his commands. Jesus never did that. Unlike Moses, Jesus met the definition of meek that is to endure injury with patience and without resentment.
In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Moses cursed those that disobeyed. Jesus blessed those that persecuted him. Blessings and cursings are not to come out of the same mouth according to James. But, both came out of Moses’ mouth.
In Numbers 11, we read of Moses frustration with God when the people complained about what they had to eat in the wilderness. Moses asked why “you lay the burden of all this people on me.” But, Jesus bore the burdens of all of our sins in his body on the tree.
Moses asked why God told him to “carry them [Israel] in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child.” But, Jesus says in Matthew 23:37, “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 were not willing!”
Moses asked God where he was to get meat to feed the people. Jesus gave us his body, his flesh, as the true bread from heaven that would satiate our hunger.
Moses said he was not able to carry the people alone and that the burden was too heavy for him. But, on the cross, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus bore our sins alone.
Moses defiantly told God that if you are going to treat me like this then kill me now. In the garden, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Instead of a defiant declaration asking God to kill him, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the Father and laid down his life for us. Jesus laid his life down. No one took it from him.
Moses may have been very meek, more meek than all the people of the earth.
But, Jesus is meek!
Jesus is the one far more meek than Moses that is here.
Let us listen to him.