30. Knowing The God Of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:26-29)Related Media
Life of Moses (30)
October 7, 2018
Dr. J. I. Packer begins his classic Knowing God ([IVP], p. 13) with a lengthy quote from a sermon that C. H. Spurgeon preached when he was only 20 years-old. The first paragraph reads:
It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.
After quoting three more paragraphs of Spurgeon’s sermon, Packer raises the possible objection that in Spurgeon’s day, people found theology interesting, but today, people think that theology is boring or irrelevant. But Dr. Packer counters (p. 14) that the study of the nature and character of God “is the most practical project anyone can engage in. Knowing about God,” he argues, “is crucially important for the living of our lives.”
As we near the end of our study of the life of Moses, I thought that it would be beneficial to look at what Moses knew about the God he served. If you’ve ever been around a godly old man, you want to absorb his spirit and find out what he knows about God. As Moses was about to die, he blesses God’s people and tells us what he knows of the eternal God. He glories in God and in the blessedness of God’s people. We learn that …
Knowing God as He has revealed Himself and making Him known should be the quest of our lives.
God gives eternal life to all who believe in Jesus (John 3:16). But what is the essence of eternal life? It’s far more than just living forever! Jesus gave us the essence of eternal life when He said (John 17:3), “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Knowing the only true God and His eternal Son, whom He sent to die to redeem us from our sins, is the heart of eternal life. From Moses’ long life as God’s leader and prophet we learn that …
1. Knowing God is a lifelong quest that requires seeking Him in every situation.
A. Knowing God begins when He opens your blind eyes to your need for the Savior and to Jesus Christ as the only all-sufficient Savior.
Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we’re all born as sinners, alienated from God (Rom. 5:12). The problem is, we don’t even realize our desperate need for God to save us from our sin because Satan has blinded our eyes to the truth (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 4:18). Most people think, “I know that I’ve done wrong things, but I’m a basically good person, not a terrible sinner. And, since God is loving, He will see my good deeds and forgive my faults so that I’ll get into heaven when I die.”
To be saved, God has to open your eyes to the truth that you are lost and you can’t do anything to save yourself. The Holy Spirit convinces you of your sin, of God’s absolute righteousness, and of the coming judgment (John 16:8-11). And then, one glorious day, God graciously opens your eyes to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). He grants you the faith to trust in Christ and His death on the cross as the full payment of your debt of sin (Acts 11:18; Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8-9). You enter into a personal relationship with the living God, which is the beginning of eternal life.
We don’t know for certain when Moses came to know God personally. As an infant, Pharaoh’s daughter took pity on him as one of the Hebrew children under her father’s sentence of death. She rescued him and raised him as her own son. We’re not told how much contact he had with his birth parents during his upbringing, but there must have been some influence there. Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
We can only know the unseen God to the extent that He reveals Himself to us. So sometime in Moses’ first 40 years, God must have revealed enough of Himself so that Moses gained some knowledge of the treasure of God’s promised redeemer, Jesus Christ. Like the man who discovered the hidden treasure in the field (Matt. 13:44), Moses gave up the riches and pleasures he could have enjoyed in Egypt to buy that field and gain that treasure.
Have you done that? Of course, the depth of your knowledge of the infinite worth of Jesus grows over time. At first, you barely know Him. All you know is, “I was blind, but now I see” (John 9:25) because Jesus opened my eyes. That’s the beginning point of a lifetime and eternity of knowing God.
B. Knowing God continues as God reveals Himself to you through His Word.
Moses didn’t have the Bible (he wrote the first five books of the Bible!), so God revealed Himself to Moses directly. We don’t know how much Moses knew of God before God revealed Himself at the burning bush, but there Moses came to know God as the Holy One (Exod. 3:5). He revealed Himself as Yahweh, the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod. 3:6). He is “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14), the eternal, self-existent One. He cares about the affliction of His people. He initiates their deliverance from slavery (Exod. 3:7-8). He is more powerful than Pharaoh, the most powerful monarch on earth at that time (Exod. 3:10, 19-20). He has the power to harden Pharaoh’s heart and to strike his land with terrible plagues, including the death of all of Egypt’s firstborn. He is the God who demands complete obedience (Exod. 4:24-27). God spoke with Moses face to face, which He did not even do with Moses’ brother, Aaron, or His sister, Miriam (Num. 12:7-8; Exod. 33:7-11; Deut. 34:10).
You may wonder, “Does God reveal Himself directly to people today?” He can do this for those without the Bible through dreams or visions, but His normal mode of revelation now is His Word that tells us about Jesus Christ (John 1:1; Heb. 1:1-3). Even if a person comes to know Jesus through direct revelation, that person will not grow to know God very well without learning God’s written Word.
Later, after God directed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to worship Him at Mount Sinai, Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountain alone with God (Exod. 24:18). God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and revealed to him many other laws for His people. After the incident with the golden calf (Exod. 32), Moses went back on the mountain, where he boldly asked (Exod. 33:18), “I pray You, show me Your glory!” God replied (Exod. 33:19-20),
“I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
Then God hid Moses in a crack in the rock and passed by, revealing His back to Moses (Exod. 33:21-23). There He proclaimed (Exod. 34:6-7), “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” That profound revelation of who God is, is repeated at least seven other times in the Old Testament (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).
Through the detailed instructions about the construction of the tabernacle (Exod. 25-30, 35-40), the role of the priests, the sacrificial offerings, and the feasts (Leviticus), God revealed more of Himself and of the Lord Jesus Christ to Moses and all Israel. Jesus rebuked some Jewish leaders who thought that they were following Moses by saying (John 5:45-46), “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.”
Yet sadly, there are many Christians today who have never read through the Bible even once. But Paul said (Rom. 15:4), “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” He told Timothy (2 Tim. 3:16-17), “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” By “all Scripture,” Paul was referring to the Old Testament.
On the Emmaus Road after His resurrection, Jesus rebuked the two disciples who did not yet understand that it was necessary for Him to suffer before He entered into His glory. Then Luke (24:27) states, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told the disciples (Luke 24:44), “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms were the three major divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus’ point was that the entire Old Testament spoke about Him and was fulfilled in Him.
The point is, if you want to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, you have to read, re-read, meditate on, and study the entire Bible, which is God’s primary means of revealing Himself to us today.
C. Knowing God deepens as you trust and obey Him in various trials in your life.
Deepening your personal knowledge of God is not an easy, pain-free process. In fact, it is often through the trials and crises in life that you come to know God in ways that you never would have known Him apart from those difficult times.
Throughout Moses’ life, we see him encountering various trials that drove him to the Lord in prayer. For example, when God directed Moses to demand that Pharaoh let Israel go, Pharaoh’s response was to make things more difficult for the Israelites by requiring that they gather the straw for making bricks and still meet their previous quotas. When they couldn’t do it, the taskmasters beat them. In turn, they angrily confronted Moses for making them odious in Pharaoh’s sight. Moses’ response was to return to the Lord and pour out his complaint (Exod. 5:22-23),
“O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”
The Lord’s response was to reveal more of Himself to Moses. He promised (Exod. 6:1) that Moses would see more of His power in dealing with Pharaoh. Then God revealed more about His past dealings with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as His promise to bring Israel out of bondage and take them for His people so that they would know that He is the Lord their God (Exod. 6:2-8). Moses faced problem after problem during the exodus and then in the wilderness as the people complained and accused him of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them and their children. Each time, Moses retreated into the Lord’s presence in prayer and then obeyed what the Lord told him to do. He often went out to the tent of meeting, where he spent time in the Lord’s presence and the Lord spoke with him face to face (Exod. 33:7-11).
The one glaring exception to Moses’ obedience was when in anger towards the complaining people, he struck the rock to bring forth water, when God had told him to speak to the rock (Num. 20:1-13). Because of that sin, God told Moses that he would not be the one to lead Israel into the Promised Land. But even through that sin, in a deeper way Moses came to know God as holy (Num. 20:12; 27:14).
Jesus told us how we can know Him more deeply (John 14:21): “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” First, we must have His commandments, which we learn in the Bible. Then as we learn to keep His commandments, He will progressively reveal Himself to us.
But, even as Moses learned more about God through his failure in striking the rock, so we can learn more about Him through our failures when we repent and seek His forgiveness. This isn’t to encourage you to sin so that you can know God more deeply! But even through your failures you can learn more about the Lord’s love, His grace, and His holiness. So, don’t give up when you fail the Lord. Turn back to Him in faith and obedience and He will graciously reveal more of Himself to you.
But so far I’ve only reviewed what we’ve already seen in our study the life of Moses. To briefly survey our text we learn:
2. A mature knowledge of God over a lifetime gives you a spiritual legacy to pass on to the next generation.
Moses did not keep his knowledge of God to himself, but made God known to Israel and to us through writing the Pentateuch (Deut. 31:9, 22) and Psalm 90. Following his example, we should make our knowledge of God known to others as He gives us opportunities. I can only briefly list these characteristics of God:
- The God of Moses is like none other. Deut. 33:26: “There is none like the God of Jeshurun.” He is the only living and true God (Exod. 15:11; Deut. 4:35; Ps. 86:8; Jer. 10:6).
- The God of Moses is the God of the upright. “Jeshurun” means “the upright one” (Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26; Isa. 44:2). God’s people must be righteous and upright to be linked to His name.
- The God of Moses has unlimited power to help His people. Deut. 33:26: He “rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty.” This points to His omnipotence (see Ps. 18:10; 68:33; Isa. 19:1).
- The God of Moses is the eternal God. Moses develops this further in Psalm 90, where he contrasts the eternality of God with the fleeting transience of humans.
- The God of Moses is a dwelling place for His people. Moses also develops this in Psalm 90. We who know Him can flee to Him in every crisis and find comfort and protection.
- The God of Moses defends and supports His people. Deut. 33:27: “underneath are the everlasting arms.” His strength in protecting us is never exhausted. No matter how low you go, His arms are still underneath, holding you up. Even when you fall, you fall into His everlasting arms.
- The God of Moses causes His people to dwell securely. Israel’s future involved fighting their enemies (v. 27), but they would dwell securely (v. 28) because of God’s presence and help (Peter Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy [Eerdmans], p. 403).
- The God of Moses saves and blesses His chosen people. Deut. 33:29: “Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty!” God chooses and saves His people for His glory and their happiness (Deut. 7:6-8).
Thus knowing God is a lifelong quest that requires seeking Him in every situation. A mature knowledge of God over a lifetime gives you a spiritual legacy to pass on to the next generation.
3. We can effectively make the knowledge of God known only to the extent that we are happy (“blessed”) in Him.
Several versions translate verse 29, “Happy are you, O Israel.” As John Piper often says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” If we are not happy and satisfied in God, we will be poor witnesses for the gospel of God’s grace. To glorify God, we must make it our first priority every day to find happiness and joy in Him and His gracious salvation. In verse 26, Moses exclaims, “There is none like the God of Jeshurun.” In verse 29, he asks rhetorically of Israel, “Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?” When we realize what the only true God graciously did in sending His only Son to save us from our sins, we should be the happiest people on earth! C. H. Spurgeon observed (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 23:348), “For Christians to be happy is one of the surest ways to set them seeking the salvation of others.” He adds that if we were serving a tyrant who made us miserable, then we should warn others to avoid him. But in our gracious God, we are supremely happy and should want others to share our happiness in Him.
Seven practical things you can do to grow to know God:
1. Trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and make knowing Him the top priority in your life.
In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul explains how he counted all of his former religious activities and accomplishments as rubbish so that he might know Christ. The aim is not just to know about Christ, but to know Him personally (see Packer, pp. 21-22).
2. Spend time with God in His Word and in prayer.
Healthy, growing relationships require time spent together. Make it your priority to meet with the Lord every day.
3. Read the entire Bible over and over.
Get a good study Bible (ESV, MacArthur, Reformation, etc.). Read consecutively so that you don’t just read your favorite parts. There are many read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans online.
4. Grow in obedience to God.
As I pointed out, Jesus said that He will reveal Himself to those who love and obey Him. Apply God’s Word on the heart or thought level, not just outwardly.
5. Read theologically sound books about God.
Packer’s Knowing God is a good place to begin. A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy [Harper & Row] is short but deep. A. W. Pink’s The Attributes of God [Baker] is also short and helpful. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology [Zondervan] is readable with an emphasis on application. If you want a challenge, try Stephen Charnock’s two-volume The Existence and Attributes of God [Baker]. Warning: It’s written in Elizabethan English! R. C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God [Tyndale] should be on every Christian’s reading list.
6. Listen to sound preachers who know God and expound His Word accurately.
The sermons of John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and many other godly men are available online. Finally,
7. Spend time with fellow believers who know God.
Meet with a small group and interact on good books that you’re all reading together. We need each other to grow in Christ!
May the Lord bless you abundantly as you seek to know Him and make Him known!
- Why is it important to read all of God’s Word and not just your favorite parts? How does this help your knowledge of God?
- How have you grown to know God better through a difficult trial or crisis in your life?
- What are the implications of the fact that God left us a written revelation of Himself? Must a person become a reader to grow in the knowledge of God?
- Does the thought of drawing near to the holy, omniscient, omnipotent Almighty One threaten you or comfort you? If it threatens you, how can you overcome this?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2018, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation