Straight to the heart of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy)

Today I can share with you by kind permission of Monarch the first chapter of my friend Phil Moore’s new book Straight to the heart of Moses.. Tomorrow I will share another, and the third will be made available to those who subscribe to my email newsletter.

INTRODUCTION: GOD WANTS TO BE SEEN THROUGH HIS PEOPLE

“Then the Lord said: ‘I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.” (Exodus 34:10)

God is invisible. That’s a problem. It was a problem in ancient Egypt and it’s still a problem today. In a world where people tend to worship what they can see and feel and taste and touch, an invisible God is all too easy to ignore.

Take, for example, John Lennon’s boast to a reporter in March 1966 that “We’re more popular than Jesus now”. Although many Christians found his tactless comment quite offensive, it was difficult for them to deny the raw facts behind his claim. The Beatles had just held the largest music concert in human history, filling a New York City stadium with 55,000 screaming fans. In the nine days since the release of their new album they had sold 1.2 million copies in America alone. In contrast five weeks later, ‘Time Magazine’ ran a cover story which asked the provocative question “Is God Dead?” Quoting from a spoof obituary, it speculated from the shrinking congregations of most Western churches that: “God, creator of the universe, principal deity of the world’s Jews, ultimate reality of Christians and most eminent of all divinities, died late yesterday during major surgery undertaken to correct a massive diminishing influence.”[1] That’s the basic problem: Even a visible human can draw more worship than an invisible God.

Got that? Then you are ready for the books which Moses wrote in the desert.[2] The Pentateuch (the word is simply Greek for five-volumed story[3]) recounts the invisible God’s master plan to make himself seen. More glorious than the gods of Egypt; more powerful than the gods of Canaan; more satisfying than the gods of the twenty-first-century Western world – the invisible God would be seen through his People.

Another book in this series covers volume one of the Pentateuch, Genesis, in which the Lord began to make himself visible. Paul reflects on those early chapters in Romans 1: “What may be known about God is plain to [all people], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Yet because humans sin and close their eyes to this revelation, the Lord executes a plan which makes him impossible to ignore. He chooses Abraham and his family to make the rulers of the nations exclaim that “God is with you in everything you do”, and “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?”[4] The great finale of Genesis sees him moving the seventy members of Abraham’s family to Egypt with a missionary calling to make him visible to greatest superpower nation of their day.[5] Sure enough, many Egyptians are saved through Israel’s God, and the curtain falls for a three-hundred-year-long interval before the start of volume two.[6]

Exodus chapter one therefore comes as a colossal disappointment. The Egyptians are still worshipping their idols as before, and have so oppressed Abraham’s family that their faith in Yahweh starts to fail. The distant promises of Israel’s patriarchal past are so at odds with the painful realities of the present that the Hebrews are either worshipping their invisible God in private or else giving up on him entirely to serve the bold, brash and visible gods of the Egyptians they were sent to save.[7] By the time Moses challenges Pharaoh to let God’s People go, the Lord has become so invisible that Pharaoh sneers, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”[8] The scene is set for the greatest showdown of the Old Testament. The invisible God is about to be seen through his People.

In Exodus 1 to 18 the Lord displays that he is God the Saviour, laughing at the overwhelming odds to free his down-and-out Hebrews from the stranglehold of slavery. In Exodus 19 to 40 he reveals that he did this because he is God the Indweller, who brought them to Mount Sinai in order to camp among them in his Tabernacle home. This leads into the message of Leviticus that he is God the Holy One who wants to be seen through his Holy People and, when they refuse to live up to this calling in Numbers, into the revelation that he is God the Faithful One as he leads and protects them for forty years in the hostile desert. In Deuteronomy he displays that he is God the Covenant-Keeper, who remains true to the promises he made to their fathers even when they fail him and provoke him to anger. The Lord wants to be seen through his People, and Moses tells us that nothing can thwart him in his plan.

I have written this book because God still pursues the same strategy with us as he did in the pages of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In a world where ‘The Beatles’ are still Googled more often than ‘Jesus’, God wants to be seen through his People.[9] In a world which still echoes with the cry of Psalm 42 – “My foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” – God wants to be seen through his People. In a world which largely ignores the true yet invisible God, we must not skim read these books as if they were written for somebody other than ourselves.

I want to bring the pages of the Pentateuch to life for you, so that you can be like the Hebrews who “saw the great power the Lord displayed … and put their trust in him.”[10] I want to help you reveal the invisible God to those around you, so that they exclaim like the foreigners in the Pentateuch that “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods”.[11]

So let’s journey through the pages of the Pentateuch together, learning how the Lord wants to use us to capture the attention of the world. The same invisible God who was seen through the Israelites has not changed his strategy today. It is three and a half thousand years since Moses wrote the Pentateuch, but God still wants to be seen through his People.

 

 


[1] ‘Time Magazine’ ran this cover story on 8th April 1966, only five weeks after John Lennon made his boast in an interview with the London ‘Evening Standard’.

[2] Although a few scholars question whether Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, they make too much of a late editorial insertions and ignore the united testimony of the Pentateuch, Jesus, both Old and New Testaments, and 3000 years of Judaeo-Christian consensus. See Exodus 17:14, 24:4 & 34:27, Deuteronomy 1:5, 31:9 & 31:24, Joshua 8:31, 1 Kings 2:3, Mark 7:10, 10:3-5 & 12:26, Luke 2:22-23, John 4:46-47, and Acts 7:37-38.

[3] The Pentateuch was originally one book on one scroll, and was probably divided into five by the translators of the Greek Septuagint in the third century BC.

[4] Genesis 21:22 & 41:38.

[5] The Septuagint adds the children of Ephraim and Manasseh to make 75 in Genesis 46:27 & Exodus 1:5 (as quoted in Acts 7:14). However, it leaves the total as 70 in Deuteronomy 10:22.

[6] The Hebrews spent 430 years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40). Joseph died after 70 years and Moses was born 80 years before their end (Genesis 41:46, 45:6 & 50:26 and Exodus 7:7).

[7] Joshua 24:14 & Ezekiel 20:7-8.

[8] Exodus 5:2.

[9] The British ‘Daily Telegraph’ reported this on 21st September 2009 under the headline “The Beatles ‘bigger than Jesus’ on Google”.

[10] Exodus 14:31.

[11] Jethro, a Midianite worshipper of the Lord, says this in Exodus 18:11. The ‘êreb – Hebrew for a mixed-race crowd – come to a similar conclusion in 12:38 and turn their backs on Egypt to follow Israel’s God.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, a writer, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he serves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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