Have You Heard God?
In my last blog I talked about seeing God and the theological concept of theophany – a physical appearance or personal manifestation of God to a man or woman. Interestingly enough, theophanies are crucial to our hearing God. Let me explain. (I am indebted to Dr. Bruce Waltke in his book Old Testament Theology for the thoughts in this post.)
In Number 12, a controversy erupted between Moses and his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam. On the surface, they were upset about Moses being married to a Cushite woman, Zipporah, who was not a descendant of Abraham. I believe this was not the real issue. It appears the real issue was jealousy of their brother. Since they were prophet and prophetess, they felt that God spoke equally to them as He did to Moses. To their way of thinking their instructions to the people of Israel were just as valid as those of Moses.
Numbers 12:2 (NLT) – “They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?’ But the Lord heard them.”
Because the Lord heard them, God responded with a very enlightening answer.
Numbers 12:6–8 (NLT) – “And the Lord said to them, ‘Now listen to what I say: If there were prophets among you, I, the Lord, would reveal myself in visions. I would speak to them in dreams. 7 But not with my servant Moses. Of all my house, he is the one I trust. 8 I speak to him face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the Lord as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?’”
In Exodus 33:11 we read: “Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” In other words, God spoke to Moses through a theophany. You find this idea throughout the narratives in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. What that means is that God spoke to Moses directly and clearly. There was no need to try and interpret what God had said to Moses.
That was not so with God’s revelation to the prophets. To them God spoke using dreams and visions. Dreams and visions would be individualized communication known only to the one receiving it. To communicate the truth of the vision, one would be required to interpret it to others. Such communication is a step back from the direct word of the Lord that Moses received. Hence God speaks of such visions as “riddles” in Numbers 12:8. Note the contrast God is making between the direct and clear word that Moses received, and the words given to the prophets. For this reason, in Jewish life in the centuries to come, the Law was always the greater word, the clearer word. It was a direct and immediate word from God.
This does not negate the inspiration of God’s communication to the prophets, but it does give greater weight to the word of God to Moses. Thus, communication through a theophany was clearer and more direct than that communicated through visions and dreams. This thought challenges us in how we read and interpret various portions of the Scripture. Let’s be honest – we rarely struggle to understand the stated will of God in the Law of Moses. But when we get to the prophets – Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah and so forth – we often scratch our heads and wonder what is being said.
Notice also that God told Aaron and Miriam that of all in His house, Moses was the one He trusted. That is a major endorsement and gives great superiority to the words that Moses passed on the followers of God over the centuries.
Enter, though, a “more sure word” that we need to pay attention to. (see. 2 Peter 1:19). The revelation to Moses trumps the visions of the prophets, but there is a greater word than even Moses. That is the Word of God spoken through Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1–2a (NLT) – “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”
I think the writer of Hebrews must have had these same thoughts in mind as He wrote his letter. He is pointing to the superiority of Christ to everything – even to Moses and the word revealed through Moses.
Hebrews 3:1b–5 (NLT) – “. . . think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest. 2 For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house. 3 But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4 For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. 5 Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later.”
Moses was a servant in the house of God; Jesus was the son over the house. Therefore, the word through Moses is inferior to the word from the Son. Jesus Christ, and His word through His apostles, is the final authority – the final word from God – greater than the visions and dreams of the prophets and greater than the word received by Moses through a theophany. Not a vision, not a temporary appearance by God in human form, but God in the flesh – the Word of God made flesh. As the writer of Hebrews states, we would do well to give heed to His message!
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