Saturday, May 17, 2008
Unknown (after Kane)
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Friday, May 16, 2008
And Then, My Jaw Hit The Floor
At any rate, we joked that we could sell the tongues program to Christian publishers who could then grind out "books in tongues" by the truck loads. Needless to say, my friend and I did not have a very high view of public tongues. We were both in a place where the veracity of our faith was being called into question because we lacked the gift, and we were watching a number of otherwise completely reasonable people being being swept up in a mania of prophetic utterance that had become silly (e.g. - "I got a word that I need to go to the bathroom.")
With this background in mind, I actually took seriously MMI's link to this post about someone that blogs in tongues. Frankly, I always thought it inevitable that some durn fool would do that.
All was going well for Heinburger until the time came for him to actually make his first post.That is written so authentically and so in line with my expectations that I bought it, hook, line, and sinker. Well that is, until I tried to find the actual blog discussed - a missing link is always a clue. A search of the "tongues phrase" cited yields only the MMI post and the underlying post. I was at once relieved and saddened. Relieved because the blog did not exist. Saddened by my expectations that is did.
"I sat in front of a blank screen for several hours" stated Heinburger. "I just didn't know where to begin. As a Christian I wanted to say something important and useful but I've never been much of a writer."
As the time passed Heinburger started a number of different posts only to become frustrated, erase them and start over again. This situation went on for several days until finally, late one night Heinburger claims he received a "revelation."
"I just sat in front of the computer and suddenly the most amazing thing happened" said Heinburger. "I just started typing, just anything, just whatever came to my mind. It just kept coming and coming without stopping. I didn't know what was happening to me."
When it was over Heinburger realized that had typed a rather lengthy post, but with one major distinguishing factor; it was all in "tongues." He quickly posted his words and went to sleep. He awoke the next morning and received quite a surprise.
"I woke up and checked my email to see that I had almost 50 comments on my first post" he said. "I checked my stats and over 2000 people have visited my site in just the day. All of these people were visiting my site and posting their interpretations of what I had written in tongues."
The essential question in the little tale I have just told concerns whether my cynicism lies at the heart of my gullibility, or is my gullibility a natural and reasonable result of how many charismatics abuse their gift and all that surrounds it. The answer, I think, is a little of both, plus some more.
The discussion surrounding tongues seems to be such an either/or based discussion - "You are not a full, true Christian if you do not speak in tongues, at least once." "Tongues died with the apostles." Where is the middle ground in all this? Such polarization invites lunacy, and creates my expectation thereof. My gullibility is not strictly about abuse of the gift of tongues, but it is about the extremism that so deeply marks the discussion - on both sides.
I long for a church marked by reason, not extremes.
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Employer: "I'm sorry, we already have enough consultants."
Applicant: "That's ok, with my experience, I can be an advisor."
Employer: "More than we can use already."
Applicant: As he is getting desperate, "I'm not proud, I can do paperwork, I'll be a clerk, If you have too many, I'll start as a janitor."
Employer: "It just doesn't seem that we have any openings for person with your qualifications."
Applicant: As he stands up and angrily yells, "To work for you I'd have to be a low life, belly crawling, double dealing jerk!"
Employer: "Well, you didn't say you were an attorney, have a seat, we may have an opening."
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Thursday, May 15, 2008
In an age of idolatry,Two:
not to be an iconoclast is to be an idolater.
"In popular culture, even the Second Coming would be just another barren thrill to be watched on television till Milton Berle came on."What both have in common is the theme that Christians will look very different than society at large. And yet, in my experience, we seem to end up looking just like society and we end up looking very much like each other.
We seem to be driven by two very compelling, and related, urges. It is the urge to be attractive, hence the lack of differentiation from the world, and to be a part of community, hence the sameness. What I find truly fascinating is that we cannot seem to understand that the ultimate expression of those urges lies in being wholly devoted to God in such a way that we are startlingly different from the world and each other.
How could finally and fully realizing the image of God in us not be attractive and what could be more communal than being bound together in our differences? The problem is we keep looking to each other instead of looking at our Lord. I love the chorus of the hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,The key is very much where we look. If we look upon Christ we have a very iconoclastic example upon which we concentrate, which gives us the freedom to accept the other in a fashion that builds community without conformity.
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
There is a danger in this discussion; however. Many confuse the iconoclastic personality with being alone. If that is the case, then it is being done wrong. A true Christian iconoclast will live in the context of a larger community and will be bonded strongly to that community.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It is no secret the ground under and around Leadville is a honeycomb of mining tunnels, and anyone with common sense would know that such an area would have the potential for mining related catastrophes. So, when the NYTimes writes of the potential for a flood from some of the tunnels, I find this reaction startling:
“They should get us out of here,” she said. “They need to do something before it’s too late.”Who is "they" and why is this lady's problem "their" responsibility? The potential flood is not the mining companies' responsibility, they left things in good shape. Natural occurrences since the closure have created the potentially hazardous situation.
I live on an earthquake fault that I can just about guarantee you will result in the destruction of my home at some future date, that is if my home is not torn down before the quake, which could be decades from now. If I am as worried about it as this woman sounds, I'll move on.
Of course, in the Leadville case, the hazard has been deemed so imminent that her property is likely worthless, but you know what - she took a calculated risk when she bought the place, and she has lost. I am sympathetic to her dilemma, but am stunned by her reliance on someone else to solve it.
You know, that is the beauty of a life with the Lord - He supplies. It is not always in the fashion that we desire or expect, but He always supplies what we most need. In this case, the flood may or may not come, but if it does, it will come at the time and in the fashion that will provide maximal benefit to those involved - even if they do not recognize it. God is the only 100% reliable "they" I can think of.
In legal situations like this there is much talk of due diligence. Legally, in determining liability for any loss this woman might suffer, the question would be did she do sufficient "due diligence," that is to say research into the situation, to know her risks. If she did the problem is hers, if not, or the information was unavailable - particularly purposefully so, then the problem is someone else's.
From my perspective, the best due diligence is looking to the Lord and learning to rely on Him. It may or may not not prevent disaster, but He will bring the best possible outcome from the situation regardless.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
- Are you growing together in love?
- Are you growing up in Christ?
- Are you growing out through ministry?
- Are you growing more through conversion?
Simply, this means, are you discovering what you’re really good at and focusing outward toward those who are not a part of your church’s ministry at this moment? Outward focus is essential. You cannot say you’re growing without it. Just loving being together with the same people week after week, month after month, year after year does not count as growth. Are you growing outward?This is a very different vision for what it means to be a pastor than the one I have. Nelson's Bible dictionary defines the word this way:
The feeder, protector, and guide, or shepherd, of a flock of God's people in New Testament times. In speaking of spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul wrote that Christ "gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers" [Eph 4:11]. The term pastor by this time in church history had not yet become an official title. The term implied the nourishing of and caring for God's people.Seems to me a a shepherd hangs around with the same sheep almost everyday - also seems to me that it is the sheep that make the new sheep, not the shepherd (Please - spare me the artificial insemination discussion, like the apostolic church could begin to conceive of such a thing).
The Greek word translated pastors in [Eph 4:11] is used elsewhere in the New Testament of sheepherders, literally or symbolically [Matt 25:32]; of Jesus, the Good Shepherd [John 10]; and of "shepherds," or leaders, of the church [Eph 4:11]. The NKJV uses the word pastor only in this verse. Also compare Jeremiah23: 1-2 (KJV).
Ask yourself this - if point 3 is to be a part of point 4, how can one, only one, out-reaching pastor bring about that many conversions? Re phrase the question, how can a shepherd add that many sheep to his flock, by himself? His only option is to purchase the sheep from someone else - does that qualify as analogous to growth by conversion?
I don't think so, see, a pastor that raises healthy sheep just sits back and watches the sheep make other sheep, often many at a time, since virtually every ewe is busy.
If you are called to reach outward and convert, then you are called to evangelism, not being a pastor. Time to look for a new job.
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Monday, May 12, 2008
Overreaching Science Metaphors
By smashing pieces of matter together, creating energies and temperatures not seen since the universe's earliest moments, the LHC could reveal the particles and forces that wrote the rules for everything that followed. It could help answer one of the most basic questions for any sentient being in our universe: What is this place?I find this fascinating - I have never met Leon Lederman, but I have met a lot of physicists that get the same sort of "kick" out of treading on religious toes.
There's one puzzle piece in particular that physicists hope to pick out of the debris from the LHC's high-energy collisions. Some call it the God particle.
The first thing you learn when you ask scientists about the God particle is that it's bad form to call it that. The particle was named a few years back by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, who has a knack for turning a phrase. Naturally the moniker took root among journalists, who know a good name for a particle when they hear one (it beats the heck out of the muon or the Z-boson).
See, there is nothing whatsoever god-like about a frigging boson, and once we do find the thing, there will be another question - "Where did it come from?" and off we will go chasing that question. Science, by its nature, is limited to the material and eventually it will reach a limit, for it can never explain how something comes from nothing, because science cannot examine nothing.
So why the insistence on calling this something like "the God Particle." Note that key passage in there about "journalists, who know a good name for a particle when they hear one" - I think therein lies a big hint. Big science needs big money, big money only comes for governments, which means big science needs public exposure, so, if the journalists like it....
And the religious community kind of likes the "competition" because the more press the "debate" gets the more donations they receive as well.
So, what's the beef? The whole thing is a distraction, that's the problem. Instead of doing science, or doing religion, they are doing PR and distorting both science and religion in the process.
Now, the whole thing is probably unavoidable, but it is a crying shame. And of course, the whole thing is probably overlaid with all sorts of psychological complications. Every physicist like Lederman that I have ever met, if you could get that far enough into their psyche, had some story somewhere where some religious person had been truly ugly to them. Likewise, most religious people that I know that deride science as "The Great Satan," or some such, likely failed science, embarrassingly so, in school. Thus neither side is able to puncture the appearance of true believership they have built up around themselves, because it is an essential part of their self-image.
This is why I always come back to the fact that Jesus Christ transforms and transcends. Only the supernatural could come into this hopeless mess and bring about real change. All we as the church has to do, is figure out how to be genuine channels of the supernatural.
Tough challenge - are you up to it?
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Sunday, May 11, 2008
Sermons and Lessons
William Goodell Frost, President of Berea College 1893-1920; born LeRoy, NY, July 2, 1854; entered Beloit College, 1872; graduated from Oberlin, 1876; studied at Wooster and Harvard universities, also at Gottingen University, Germany; graduated in theology Oberlin, 1879; received tile degree of Ph.D. from Wooster, 1891; D.D. from Oberlin, 1893, and Harvard, 1907; author of “Inductive Studies in Oratory,’’ ‘‘Greek Primer,” etc.
‘‘And there arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.“ - Deut. 34:10.
Moses was the ideal national hero of the Hebrew race. his story was learned by heart by every Hebrew child. His precepts and examples were the law in every Israelitish home. So far as the Jews surpassed the Philistines, and the Egyptians, and the nations round about, in character and spiritual ideals, it was largely through the influence of this ideal character of Moses.
And in the larger Israel of which we are a part, this same man Moses is an inspirer still, not as a national hero merely, but as one of the great spiritual leaders of the human race. Even those who may doubt the historical accuracy of some portions of the ancient record, can not fail to find in the ideal Moses an object-lesson of abiding power.
Moses was a lawgiver like Lycurgus; a scientist, learned in all the learning of the Egyptians, like Pythagoras; a statesman like Solon; a warrior like Pericles. But all these distinctions are passed over by the inspired historian, who names the one great character of the man in our text: “There arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”
The word prophet means a spokesman - one who speaks not for himself but for God. The prophet is not merely one who foretells future events - he is one who tells us the great principles of the universe, the laws of wellbeing and destruction, of right and wrong; one who gives us the mind of God.
There should be a prophetic element in every Christian man or woman. In enumerating spiritual gifts, Paul refers to the gift of prophesy as the most choice. The gift of healing is wonderful. The gift of tongues is wonderful. “I would,’’ says the apostle, “that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy.” Every spirit-born soul should have some insight into the things of God which would enable him to speak with authority. And it is this speaking for God that is needed in every age, every nation, every community. We are all called to be prophets, and if we study Moses we shall be studying one who stands near the head of our profession, one who exemplifies in large outlines and on a sublime scale that prophetic mission which belongs to all who are truly born of God. What Moses was to his age and people, that in our measure you and I should be in our own homes, and among our own neighbors.
We can summarize the career of this great prophet in a few words: he was born in adversity, educated in solitude, arid called into public service against his will. He worked against all human probabilities; he was rejected by those he benefited; and he brought others to a land of plenty which he himself was forbidden to enter. All these are types of things in the experience of every true Christian.
He was born in adversity. How many millions of children have had their little hearts thrilled by the story of the childhood of Moses! There was the mother, the slave-mother, in her humble home. She was wondering whether her new-born babe should be a girl to share her slavery, or a boy to be put to death by the cruelty of Pharaoh. It was a boy, and she hid him through three anxious months. Then with loving hands she made the little ark, the floating cradle, and laid it in the reeds of the river, and set her daughter to watch it. And now when she has done her utmost and her best, divine Providence comes in. The daughter of Pharaoh comes down to the river. She sees the ark and sends her maid to fetch it. The princess and her maids are gathered around the strange cradle and the weeping child when his sister timidly approaches. Then said his sister unto Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” And the maid went and called the child’s mother!
However wise and great Moses may become, he can never forget the story of his childhood. And the world can never forget it. The poorest and the rudest of all the people who hear about Moses will not be altogether awed by his greatness, or chilled by the distance between him and themselves. Yes, this greatest of prophets was the child of a slave-mother - he was once a foundling on the banks of the Nile.
And he was educated in solitude. Solitude is a university where all of us may take courses if we will. Solitude means reflection. It means studying over the experiences of life. It means quiet listening to the voices of one’s own spirit, and to the voice of God. Moses had his preparatory course at the court of Pharaoh. He learned all of man’s wisdom as it was at that time developed by the foremost nation of the world. But after that preparatory course, he was banished to the wilderness. For forty years he was a shep¬herd in the mountains. He learned lessons from the wild-flowers and the brooks. He watched the shy gazelles and the soaring eagles. He traced out the constellations of the stars. He thought over all he had learned in Egypt, and new ideas which were not of Egypt were born in his soul. When a man is listening, and when human teachers are silent, then God teaches. And so it came to pass that Moses, all unconsciously, was educated for his high career, and led at last to the burning bush where God gave him his great commission.
He was called against his will. Moses had no desire to be a ruler. Place and power had no attractions for him. He had seen the vanity of all that years before when he was living at the court, and called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
There are many high places in this world which have to be filled. And there is always a crowd of’ applicants and aspirants and candidates, men who have little idea of the work and service for which the public offices exist, but whose heads are turned by the glamour and distinction of publicity.
A public office is a public service, and as a rule the higher the office the more severe the service. One who truly realizes the severity of public service, and has a high ideal of that service, can never be an eager candidate.
Moses was fully aware of his own deficiencies, and had very high notions of the kind of man who ought to be God’s representative in bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt. And the Lord said, “Come now, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” And Moses said unto God, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
And God said, “Certainly I will be with thee.” And Moses answered and said, “But, behold, they will not believe me; for they will say, ‘The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.’ “ Then the Lord gave him the power of working miracles with his rod and with his hand. But Moses said unto the Lord, “0 my Lord, I am not eloquent, but am of a slow tongue.” And the Lord said, “I will be with thy mouth; and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Then this modesty of Moses became a fault. He could mention no other objections, but he said, “0 my Lord, send I pray thee by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.” That meant, send some one else, not me. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses. And he said, “I will send Aaron with thee.” So Moses was persuaded with reluctance to enter upon his great mission. lie went from a sense of duty. He acted to please God, and to save his nation. And so he moved forward with that irresistible power which belongs to one who is not fighting for himself but for others.
Moses worked against human probabilities. He undertook something which was not likely to succeed. The chances were against him humanly speaking, there was no prospect that Pharaoh would let the people go, or that the people would prove worthy of the efforts put forth in their behalf.
This is the very essence of heroism. The hero risks defeat. He sees something which ought to be done. It never has been done. A thousand selfish obstacles stand in the way of its being done. A thousand wise men say it never can be done. But the hero sees it ought to be done. He fixes his attention upon that one point—it ought to be done, it ought to be done. Gradually there rises within him the faith that what ought to be done can be done. He does not know that it can be done, but he believes that it can be done. Really his faith is in a God who stands for all that ought to be done, and who has the power to do things which are from a human standpoint impossible. The hero changes the old motto as Lincoln did, and says, Right makes might.
So Moses became a hero before he ever left his mountain home. He became ready at God’s command to attempt the impossible. And so he started out with his brother who was a weakling, and his simple shepherd’s rod, to cope with the wisdom and the power of Egypt, and the folly and weakness of his own people.
We too often think of a great leader as he appears on the day of triumph, and forget the toils which brought that triumph to pass. Let us think of Moses waiting through anxious hours and days in the court of Pharaoh’s palace. Let us remember how he had to plan the march, the camp, the order, the security, the sustenance of the great moving nation. The early dawn brought suitors to his tent. There were quarrels to settle, disputes to arbitrate, mistakes to be corrected. Each hour of the day brought its new and unexpected perplexities. Moses must know how the advance-guard is moving, and he must know how the rear-guard is following. He must see to it that none stray off and are lost in the desert. And when night falls and other men have sunk into repose, the wearied leader must make the last rounds of the encampment, he must see that the fires are covered, and the guards posted, and the flocks and herds secure. And then he must snatch the uninterrupted hours of night to plan for the morrow. A million thoughtless, thankless people are happy and secure because of the night watches of that faithful leader.
He was rejected by those he sought to benefit. It began in Egypt. The first result of his appeal to Pharaoh was to make the bondage of the Hebrews more bitter, and like thoughtless children they turned against their friend. And they said unto Moses, “You have brought evil upon us, and put a sword into the hands of our enemies to slay us.”
And again at the Red Sea, when the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and “behold the Egyptians marched after them,” they were sore afraid, and they said unto Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die here.” But the patient leader said, ‘‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
And again a little further on the people forgot this great deliverance, and complained for lack of food, saying, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” But the prophet answered, “The Lord heareth your murmurings; for what are we, that ye murmur against us?” And the quails and the manna were sent them for food.
And again at Rephidim, the children of Israel did chide with Moses, and said, “Wherefore is it that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” And Moses cried unto the Lord saying, “What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone mp.” And the Lord said unto Moses, “Take thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river,…. and smite the rock, and there shall come water Out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place… Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
And a little later in the history we see the difference between the true leader and the false one. Aaron was the brother of Moses, but he was by no means of the same temper. Moses desired to lead the people for their good. Aaron desired to lead them merely to be a leader, not caring which way they went. The time came when Moses was withdrawn. For many days he was with God, in the mount, out of their sight. “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down,… the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods which shall go be¬fore us; as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land Egypt, we know not what has become of him.” There was Aaron’s opportunity. had he been a true leader he would have turned the people in the right direction. But he was weak and afraid. He was not man enough to lead them, and so he let them lead him. He said, yes, if you desire to do this wicked, foolish thing, I will show you how. If you will put me at the head of the procession I will go anywhere you say. And so Aaron takes their golden ornaments, and makes the golden calf, and plans for them a feast of idolatry and sin. There is the base leader, the man who loves a conspicuous position, but who does not use that position for the people’s good. He does not watch by night for the people’s welfare. He brings no message from Jehovah. He has no influence, no authority for good. He is ready to march at the head of the procession in any foolish, wicked enterprise the people may wish to take up.
Moses returns, and who shall describe his heart. “The Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiff-necked people; now, therefore, let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them, that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God and said, ‘Why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people?’ “There is the great leader and prophet as an intercessor. He pleads for those who have wronged him and his God. He thinks not of their perversity, but of their danger, and their need. He has the same temper as a shepherd for his foolish flock, as a mother for her silly child. He loves them in their weakness and even in their sins, and such generous and loving intercescession prevails - the Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people.
We can take but one more of these instances in which the prophet was rejected by those he sought to benefit. In these cases it was their lack of faith - they could not believe that God could deliver them, and give them food and drink - and their quick forgetfulness when Moses was out of their sight. There is still another way in which a true prophet or leader is sure to be rejected. The time came when they grew jealous of his power, and other people desired to take his place.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram, with two hundred and fifty men of renown in the congregation, “gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, ‘Ye take too much upon you; wherefore lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?’ “Moses was the meekest man that ever lived, but that did not prevent him from being accused of pride and ambition. None of these two hundred and fifty men of renown had received any revelation from the Lord, none of them had any plan for the benefit of their country. But they desired to occupy Moses’ position. The prophet gave a wise answer. He put forth no claim for himself. He simply said, “The Lord shall show whom he hath chosen.” And the Lord did show. The two hundred and fifty men of renown were swallowed up, and Moses was permitted to lead on the procession toward the promised land.
And so at last we see this man Moses bringing the others into the land of promise which he was not himself permitted to enter. Pha¬raoh and his Egyptians are sunk in the Red Sea. Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, have been overcome. Midian has been punished and conquered. The long wilderness road has been traversed at last. “The promised land” is before us! That is the land to which Abraham came. It is the land whereon Isaac and Jacob and the patriarchs pitched their tents and fed their flocks. For four hundred years every Hebrew mother has sung to her children of this wonderful promised land—the land of vines and pomegranates, the land of wine, and milk, and honey. And now it is no longer a song and a tradition only, but a reality. Yesterday we saw a distant mountain top which they told us was in that promised land. Today it is in plain sight, just across the river, and that is it - the promised land! We are each of us to have a home there, a part of the great pasture where Abraham and Isaac and Jacob used to encamp, where Isaac met Rebecca, where Jacob saw the wonderful ladder, and wrestled with the angel~ We are all to have an inheritance there - in a few days we shall go over and take possession.
But we shall go over without our great leader. Moses is forbidden to enter this promised land. It must always be told as a part of his story that he sinned. And sin must be punished, even the sin of a good man. Back there at the rock of Meribah, even when he was working the great miracle that brought the water for the thirsty thousands, Moses sinned. He spake unadvisedly with his lips; he failed that one time in not giving God the glory. He was impatient and willful.
“And Moses went up from the plains of Moab into the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manassah, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him, ‘This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed. I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor; but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day. And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab forty days.” “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”
And now, beloved, what has Moses to do with us? We wonder at his courage, we ad. mire his wisdom and patience, we weep at hh death. He is a sublime spectacle, as we gaze upon him. Can we come nearer to him, and find enough in his experience which is like that which is in our experience, so that he can be to us an example?
We can certainly learn from the example of Moses that a humble birth is no bar to great¬ness. Being born in adversity does not in¬sure a man’s greatness, but neither does it hinder it. None of us can say, “I would be better if I had been born in a palace, if I had been cradled in luxury.” Do not believe it. There are too many great men whose origin was lowly. Beginning with Moses in his ark of bulrushes in the river, we may find a long line of the children of poverty and adversity who have been raised up to greatness of spirit and of service. Let every child of the cottage, every son of toil, every daughter of obscurity, take courage. God calls such as you to be his prophets—his spokesmen.
And we may learn something from the education of Moses in the mountain solitudes. Doubtless one mind may be much more capable than another, but all minds are alike in this; they are strengthened and enlightened by reflection. When the mind is still and quiet, and yet awake, it gathers strength, and balance, it receives impressions that come from some mysterious source outside its own consciousness. The man or woman who is never alone, who lives in an unceasing round of activity, amusement, company, excitement, never grows wise or great. Our very studies fail to profit us unless we take time to reflect upon them. Here is the great opportunity for all whose lot is east in solitary places. They need not sleep, they need not stagnate, they need not pass the days without improvement. Here is the great use and value of the Sabbath - its voice summons a crazy world to reflection. Let us all find time to spend as Moses on the mountain tops, with thought, reflection, and worship.
And we may learn something from Moses about public life, and public duties. He was slow to accept a public office, because he realized the burden of it, and was not dazzled by the outside show. It is a great responsibility to guide my own steps aright; how much greater if another is to follow me. The fool says, “Make me an officer, a captain, a governor; I want to wear the badge and the title, and to ride at the head of the pro¬cession.” The wise man says, “how do I know that I am the best man to lead the army or to rule the state?” It would have been bet¬ter for Braddock and for the world, if he had never been general. It would have been better for many a man if he had never won the office in which he afterward disgraced himself. When we undertake any responsi¬bility let us be sure that the Lord calls us, and that He is ready to go with us, and guide and sustain and instruct us.
But on the other hand when God does call us, we can go forward in confidence and courage. “I will be with thy mouth,” saith the Lord. He will qualify you for every task He sets before you.
And there is another great thought here. Moses was not a king, or president, but a prophet, and that is a more important office. The great world is being slowly pushed toward righteousness not so much by its conspicuous office-holders as by its prophets in obscure places - the teachers, mothers, preachers, who speak for God in remote homes and churches. When all these are bold and faithful, we have a public sentiment which will control our governors and legislatures whether they be good or bad.
You or I may not be called to speak as Moses did, to an entire nation, but we are called to speak for God each in his own circle. This speaking for God is not a self-assertion, and it is not done with the desire to override others but to do them good. To this prophetic life every one of us is certainly called. God wishes in solitude to teach us His will and way, and then to have us boldly and lovingly proclaim that will and way of God to our neighbors. So each one of us will lead some fellow mortal into the promised land.
Moses was rejected by those he sought to benefit. So it will be with us. Let no one set out to be a prophet expecting to receive his main reward in this present life, at the hands of those he benefits. It is very important to understand this principle at the outset. If the people were all prophets they would not need a Moses. He comes to them precisely because they are blind and need a guide. The very business of a prophet is to contend against unbelief and ingratitude. He should not be angry at the unbelief and ingratitude he is sent to cure any more than a doctor should be angry at finding his patients maimed or diseased. It is his business to deal with those who are defective. A prophet must study the symptoms and conditions of the unbelieving multitude, and learn how to cure that unbelief, He must expect to find people unbelieving and unappreciative, but if he can not change them he must simply conclude that he is an unskillful prophet!
And finally Moses brought others to a land of plenty which he was not permitted himself to enter. This, too, is the common experience of those who are leaders of men. It takes a lifetime to transform a community, and when the community is transformed the man or woman who has done it passes to a higher reward than any this earth can give. It is not always so, but this is the rule.. William of Orange secured the freedom of his country, but he was struck down by an assassin before he himself knew that his work had been a success. Abraham Lincoln restored the Union, but he was not permitted to live out his days in the country he had saved. And so many a teacher and many a parent dies without being permitted to see the pupil or the son whom they have started in the path of honor - they are not permitted to live to see him win his highest attainments.
These things are said in order that none of us may set our hearts upon that which may disappoint us. Do not be a prophet for the sake of being adored by the people you benefit, and do not be a prophet for the sake of the enjoyment of bringing people into the promised land. It will be enough, and more than enough, if you can see that promised land, even by faith, afar off. Be a prophet because God calls you, and because in that high calling you are brought near to him.
The glory and the greatness of Moses lay in the fact that he was one who spoke for God, and one whom the Lord knew face to face. This high commission of spokesman for the Almighty, and this intimacy of being known by the Lord, is not confined to the few and the great. The mother of Moses, whose very name has been forgotten, also spoke for God when she ordered the hiding of the child, and the Lord knew her in her, humility and her affliction. The rulers of hundreds, and the rulers of fifties, and the rulers of tens, who were appointed to share the burdens of Moses, all these became spokesmen for God in their several places, and the Lord knew them also.
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