TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 3-4
Destroy. Devote to destruction “every city, men, women, and children.” War. Deeds of terror. Burn the city and everyone in it.
Many want to take all of these actions literally. And, when Moses, a man, says God did these things, most Christians accept it as literal fact.
(Another way to read these is allegorically, which virtually every one of my blog posts shows. Just go read some previous posts for how that could be done with today’s reading.)
But, if you take the Bible literally, then who does the Bible say does these actual acts of destroying, destruction, murder death, terror, etc.
Who does these things? Who says, “I destroy?”
These are simple questions. But, they are questions that many Christians refuse to acknowledge, refuse to think about when they are posed, shout down with other Old Testament scriptures, and cannot answer clearly from the teachings of Jesus.
By the way, it is Jesus, not Moses, that God says we should listen to.
“I DESTROY”: MOSES IS CONFLICTED
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses told Israel to listen the statutes and rules he was teaching them. If Israel did them, then they would live and take possession of the land that God was giving them. Moses told them not to add or take away from these statutes and rules.
Immediately after this, in Deuteronomy 4:3-4, Moses said, “Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal-peor, for the Lord your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. But, you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today.”
So, how does Moses answer the question of who says, “I destroy?” According to Moses in the verses above, the Lord says “I destroy.”
Later in the chapter in the very same speech to Israel, in Deuteronomy 4:31, Moses said, “For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that we swore to them.”
Here, Moses proclaimed that God is merciful. Now, Moses said God does not destroy.
On the one hand, Moses says that it is God who says, “I destroy.” On the other hand, Moses that God will not destroy you.
What is going on here?
Either God is a destroyer or he is not. He doesn’t change based on the circumstances. We are the one’s like to change how we respond to people based on circumstances.
MOSES SAW THROUGH A VEIL
Because he struck the rock a second time to get water, Moses was forbidden from entering the promised land. Deuteronomy 3:23-25 says, “And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do suck works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.”
Moses had just begun to see who God was during the time Israel wandered in the wilderness. He truly wanted to know more of the greatness of God. In fact, Moses pleaded with God to know him more. Moses saw that if he could get into the promised land, the land of Canaan, he would know more of who God really is.
But, Moses believed that God was angry with him and would not listen to him. And, time after time, Moses blamed the people of Israel for his not going into the promised land. I cannot find one instance were Moses took responsibility for his striking the rock the second time. In a sense, Moses refused to repent.
Symbolically, we are told why Moses could not see or present God more clearly to the people of Israel. Moses wore a veil.
Exodus 34:34-35 says, “Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”
Why did Moses wear the veil? What was he afraid of revealing to Israel?
THE LAW ONLY LEADS TO CHRIST
Moses was able to lead Israel to the promised land. But, Moses was not able to enter the promised land. Joshua was the one that led Israel into the promised land.
What is this a picture of? What do Moses, Joshua, and the promised land represent?
Throughout the Bible, Moses is a picture of the law, Joshua is a type of Jesus, and the promised land is a picture of the Spirit-filled life – receiving the fullness of Christ in us and resting from our works so that Christ can work through us.
So, the law, symbolized by Moses, cannot lead us, Israel, into the Spirit-filled life through abiding and resting in Jesus, the promised land. The law can lead, or guide, us up to the point until we receive Christ, but we can only attain the Spirit-filled life through faith in Jesus.
This is exactly what Paul said in Galatians 3:24-26, which says, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But, now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Instead of guardian, other translations say schoolmaster, tutor, and child-conductor. As the law, Moses had a limited understanding of Jesus. He could teach and train Israel to a point. But, he could not lead them into true life.
Therefore, as we saw above, Moses said he has only just begun to know the Lord and pleaded with God to enter the promised land.
JESUS REMOVES THE VEIL
We saw above that Moses wore a veil to hide something about his relationship with God from Israel. Paul addresses this very issue in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4.
In 2 Corinthians 3:12-16, Paul writes, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”
Moses wore a veil because the glory of the law was fading. He didn’t want Israel to see that what he knew of God was temporary. Not only was it temporary, but in 2 Corinthians 3:7, Paul says Moses had a “ministry of death, carved in letters on stone.” In 2 Corinthians 3:9, Paul calls it a “ministry of condemnation.”
To this very day, when Moses is read the veil remains. Therefore, even today when Moses is read we cannot see God clearly. To see God clearly, the veil must be removed. The veil is removed when we turn to Jesus. The veil is removed when we repent, which, as far as I can tell, Moses never did.
Jesus tore the veil when he died on the cross. When we turn to Jesus and see him as the crucified and risen Lord, then we can see God clearly. It is only when we read Moses, “the old covenant,” through the lens of a crucified God, a crucified Lord, Jesus, that we can see God clearly in the Old Testament. Jesus is our filter. Jesus is our translator as he showed the disciples in Luke 24.
Paul said there are those that have not turned to Christ though. For those, the gospel, the true good news of a crucified Lord, who forgives us so much that he even forgives our murder of him, is veiled. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Jesus removes the veil and let’s us see God clearly in the Old Testament. But, the god of this world, Satan, blinds those who do not believe. Specifically, Satan keeps unbelievers holding to the testimony of a man, Moses, instead of believing the testimony of God.
What is the testimony of God?
1 John 5:9-12 says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
God gives life. Jesus gives life. Jesus and God are one and the same. There is no difference between them in this. Because God and Jesus are life, they are not death. Not only are they not death, because they are not death, God and Jesus do not cause death. To say otherwise, is to make God a liar. To say otherwise is to believe the testimony of men, Moses, and not God, Jesus.
So, Moses was conflicted on who says “I destroy.” On the one hand, Moses said that God is the one who says, “I destroy.” On the other hand, Moses said God will not destroy you.
Jesus reveals the truth about who says, “I destroy.”
“I DESTROY”: JESUS CLEARLY REVEALS WHO SAYS THIS
Jesus clearly reveals who it is that says, “I destroy.”
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy.” The thief, Satan, is the one who destroys. Satan, not God and not Jesus, is responsible for destruction. It is Satan who says, “I destroy.” When we read claims of destroying and actual destruction in the Old Testament that is Satan.
Also, in John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus does not destroy. He came to give life. This is the testimony of God and Jesus that John wrote about above. This is the testimony we are to believe about Jesus and God.
In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
And, in John 14:7, 9, Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
We know what God is like through Jesus and only Jesus.
Do we ever see Jesus destroying? Do we ever see Jesus killing? Do we ever see Jesus mass murdering whole cities, men, women, and children?
No! No! No!
Jesus never does these things. And, Jesus only does what the Father does. Therefore, since Jesus did not do these things, God does not do these things.
Moses did not see God clearly. Because of this, he attributed the works of Satan, the one who says, “I destroy,” to God. Moses is the testimony of man. We are to believe the testimony of God, not men.
Paul makes it very clear that God was not the one destroying Israel or anyone else in the wilderness. In 1 Corinthians 1:9-11, Paul writes, “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
Who do serpents represent throughout the Bible? Satan!
Who does Paul say destroyed Israel when they put Christ to the test (think the water from the rock, the manna from heave, the spies going into the land, etc.) and grumble in the wilderness? Satan!
Satan is the destroyer! Not God!
Paul even says that this was written as example for our instruction. These things were written so that when Christ is revealed in our hearts and we turn to him the veil will be removed so that we can clearly distinguish between God and Jesus, who gave life, and Satan, who destroys.
In fact, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus came to destroy the destroying of Satan. John says in 1 John 3:8, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who trough fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Jesus became flesh and blood like us to destroy Satan. Satan is the one with the power of death. Not God! Not Jesus! Jesus destroyed death through death. He destroyed death through his death on the cross, through love. Jesus, God, does mighty works of love, not death and destruction.
This very work of Christ is the mighty work of God that Moses wanted to see more clearly back in Deuteronomy 3.
Jesus says in John 8 that Satan was the murderer from the beginning. God and Jesus do not murder. Satan does.
In John 14:30, Jesus says, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me.” Satan is in the world murdering and destroying. But, he has no claim on Jesus. Satan has nothing in Jesus. Jesus has nothing of Satan in him.
So, every time we read of murder, destroying, destruction, mass murder, etc. in the Old Testament we are reading about the works of Satan. Satan is the one that steals, kills and destroys. It has always been so.
Why is this so controversial? Why do those who profess Jesus as their Lord refuse to accept this?
Because their hearts are hard. Because they read Moses through a veil. Because they believe the testimony of men instead of the testimony of God, which we have received in and through Jesus Christ.
God says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Listen to Jesus, not Moses or Elijah. That is the lesson from the mount of transfiguration.
Remember, Satan is, and always has been, the one that says, “I destroy.”
Jesus has clearly revealed that. If we will only listen to him.