Show Me Your Glory, part 3: Going Up?
“And Moses said to Yahweh, ‘See, you said to me, ‘lead this people up.’ But you did not reveal to me who you were going to send with me. And you said, ‘I have known you with a name and you have found favor in my eyes.’ And now, if I have found favor in your eyes, reveal to me your ways so that I may know you and so that I may find favor in your eyes. And understand that your people are this nation.’”
This theme of “going up” is an important theme for God’s people, particularly in the Old Testament. When going into a time of trial, the language reflects their going down (to sheol–Genesis 37:35, to Egypt–Genesis 46:4, etc…) and going up reflects the idea of going up to redeem God’s promise (either through conquest as in going up into the Promised Land or through worship as reflected in the Psalms of Ascent). God is certainly doing the leading, but as God so often does, he does so through the use of a human agent. Sometimes Arminians criticize the Calvinistic emphasis on God’s sovereignty, claiming that it leaves no room for human agency. How wrong that perception is. The scriptures never leave us any room for doubt that all that transpires in this world is a result of the work of the hand of God. Yet, what a blessing it is that God allows us to participate in that work–not for our glory, but for his own.
And do understand that Moses is the man for the job. Sometimes it is hard to connect the events of scripture to those that were going on in the rest of the world at the time. Assuming the date of 1492 for the Exodus to have begun (there is some debate in modern scholarship as to this date, but I would hold to the earlier, traditional dating of the Exodus), the world was filled with rising empires. For example, the city of Sparta would be formed two years into the Israelite wilderness wanderings. In addition, the nations of Athens (1556 BC), Troy (1546 BC), and Thebes (1493 BC) had already been founded at this point. What would later become the Olympian Games (then called the Panathenaean Games) also had its beginnings during this era (1495 BC). The Areopagus (the precurser to what would be the Greek, then Roman Senate) was established in 1504 BC, and in 1493 BC Cadmus is credited with bringing the 15 letters of the Phoenician alphabet into Greece, which gradually changed in form to become what we know as the Romans letters that are used predominantly in Europe and America today.
Though these events may not seem to bear very heavily upon the Biblical text, it is important to note that this era was a time when civilizations were being born and establishing themselves. Growing up in the Pharaoh’s household, Moses would have been aware, particularly of the politics of these (largely Greek) new nations. Who better than one trained in such legal codes to receive and teach the Law of God to God’s people? Who better to organize God’s people into a nation than one who had watched nations form? Here is the man that God chose to work through as God would lead his people up from the wilderness and to prepare them for nationhood in the promised land.
Friends, God still works the same way today. It is no accident that God gave you the experiences that you have had—they were designed by God’s almighty hand to prepare and equip you to serve him fully. Could Moses, as a young man growing up in Pharaoh’s court have understood where God would take him? Could he have understood why he felt such a tension between what he learned from his mother of his Hebrew heritage and what he was learning as the Pharaoh’s grandson? The answer to these questions is most certainly no. What he did have, though, was the discernment to use the experiences that God had given him to serve God’s people. And is that not what we are all called to do? It does not matter what happens to be our specific trade or occupation (farmer, mechanic, accountant, Postmaster, or pastor) we are all called to use the positions and the skills that God has given us to glorify his name. The question we must ask, then, is are we doing that? Are we working to God’s glory and are we using the time God has given us to build his kingdom? Oh, the questions that we must weigh upon our hearts. How better might we serve him who has served our needs so mightily?