Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]
Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. [Numbers 12:3 ESV]
What is the first thing which pops into your mind when you think of Moses? Do you start reciting some of the Ten Commandments? Do visualize bloody sacrifices required by the Law of Moses? Do you remember watching the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses as he calls down the plagues upon the head of Pharaoh played by Yul Brynner? Do you see a flannel graph from Sunday School with Moses leading the people of God out of Egypt? Then wandering in the desert for forty years? How many think about Jesus debating the Pharisees and teachers of the Law? Most often when Moses is mentioned in the New Testament it is in reference to a law or the Law.
Hebrews 11 includes Moses in the “roll call of faith.” When he is first mentioned it is his parents faith illustrated, specifically his mother. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” [Hebrews 11:23 ESV]. Pharaoh (not Yul Brynner) decreed all Hebrew baby boys were to be thrown into the Nile. After he was three months old his mother put him in a basket and placed him in the Nile.
He was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted the boy and raised him in Pharaoh’s court. At no time is God’s will frustrated by the actions of anyone He has created. God turned the will of man upside down, forcing Pharaoh to do His will against his will. Moses knew he was a despised Hebrew even though he grew up among royalty. Remember, he killed a soldier, was discovered, and ran for his life. Yet, this is not how Hebrews presents the story.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. [Hebrews 11:24-27 ESV]
One of the startling recorded exchanges in Scripture, taught over and over in most Sunday Schools, is the argument Moses had with God about going back to lead God’s people out of Egypt. God spoke to Moses from within a burning bush giving him the charge to return to Egypt and lead God’s people out. Moses blatantly refused. God talked to Moses with distinct, understandable words and Moses refused to do what he was told. He did finally obey when his older brother, Aaron, whom he had probably not seen for 40 years, arrived. Did God send Aaron, compelling him to find his brother in the desert, knowing Moses would argue with Him? This story isn’t found in the epistle to the Hebrews. Nor is there mention of the plagues except for the last one. “By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them” [Hebrews 11:28 ESV].
While the first 80 years of Moses’ life show how God trained him for the last 40 years, the latter part of Moses’ life is characterized by deep faith. His middle and later life is characterized by hardship and suffering while leading obstinate and stiff-necked people. God used Moses’ entire life to train him, from the courts of Pharaoh to the sheep on the mountainside, for the task of leading millions of stubborn people out of Egypt. They wanted to disobey God and not go. They obeyed God and went. “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned” [Hebrews 11:29 ESV] The weak went with the strong and all were said to have faith.
Faith is not an autonomous activity. An individual’s faith is strengthened in a community of faith. Where an individual may falter in obeying the object of faith’s commands a community may strengthen each individual. Where a community may rebel against God an individual leader who trust God may lead them rightly.
In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam complain against their brother because he had been chosen by God for a specific purpose, to be close to God. Moses is called “meek“, more than anyone else on the earth. “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” [Numbers 12:3 ESV]. Since Moses is viewed as the author of this statement should we look at his words as boasting? Though he is old he is strong. He has grown close to God. Since God inspired the Scripture we will view this statement not as a boast but an honest report of his place before God and in front of the people God gave him to lead. His meekness has come from total dependence upon God in dangerous circumstances and through experiences of suffering. Moses’ faith is mature but not complete.
Moses’ relinquished his will to God’s. God worked in him, God’s strength in him under God’s control. Notice the outcome of this relationship. Jesus states “blessed are the meek, for the will inherit the earth.” Moses, while not inheriting the earth as the world would think, inherited such control over the earth the Jews spoke of him synonymously with the Law and the whole history of Israel. We still talk about, teach and preach about, Moses. He was, perhaps, the greatest leader who has ever lived.