Tag Archives: Moses

An Astronomer’s Kind of Vision

There was a day in the past when people–understandably, I think–believed that the earth stood at the center of the universe. In that cosmology, all of the planets, the sun, and the moon revolved around the earth. The stars inhabited a single sphere that marked the outer edge of the created realm. It was a magnificent model, however flawed.

Today, we see things far larger and far smaller. The development of telescopes and other tools for astronomical research have revealed galaxies upon galaxies, while the discoveries of chemistry and biology have shown us DNA and the staggeringly complex biochemistry necessary to keep our bodies working.

While some use these discoveries to argue for the necessity of a creator, I’d like to go a different direction. Once we assume that a creator exists, the revelations of the very large and the very small demonstrate more and more the greatness of God. If God was amazing when Ptolemy described the model above, how much greater can He be seen to be when we realize the vast complexity of the universe? How much more remarkable will God be shown when we understand still more of His creation?

I see that greatness and I claim to believe it. So why is it that I don’t behave as if I believe?

  • Why would the God who can create over 6,000 of species of toads have any trouble seeing me through life if I take the rather feeble step of tithing on my income?
  • Why would the God who designed and deployed human brains with 100 trillion synapses not be able to move upon one of those brains either to give me words to speak (Luke 12:12) or move upon my listener for persuasion (John 6:44)?
  • Why would the God who gave the Israelites food enough to come out of their nostrils (Numbers 11:19-20) have any trouble feeding a wealthy nation like the United States without us needing to pollute our land and waters so badly?

When Moses, after all he had seen, has his doubts about the ability of God to provide meat, God’s response is quick and forceful: “Is the Lord’s arm weak? Now you will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you” (Numbers 11:23).

Why do we, who supposedly believe in the limitless power of God, box Him in by living as if we thought Him limited? If God can only do so much in our world, doesn’t it stand to reason that He can only save so much? Or so many? Maybe He can only partially forgive sins.

The God who can keep the cosmos arranged and the electrons orbiting can easily handle anything that I need. That’s the truth. Now I just need to live like I believe it.

The First Artist (Hebrews 3:3)

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. (Hebrews 3:3)

I recently read G.K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission. In this volume, Beale examines the importance of the Hebrew tabernacle and temple, finding them to be symbolic representations of God’s creation and the Garden of Eden. By ministering in the temple, the priests symbolically set right what was damaged in Eden, just as Jesus would ultimately set that problem right for all who call on him.

As I read today’s verse, I’m initially mystified. Obviously the maker of a thing, a house, is greater than the thing itself. It’s part of the old “You have to have more molasses than you pour out of the jar” thought. There was more to the Israelite craftsman Belazel than he put into the Tabernacle. That much of the verse seems crystal clear, but I’m left with one simple little thing. Jesus did not build the Temple or the Tabernacle before it. And for that matter, Moses was not the same as the Tabernacle, which is what the comparison seems to suggest. If you’re hazy on this, let me do the math.

Jesus’ honor > Moses’ honor
Builder’s honor > House’s honor, and so…
Jesus = Builder and Moses = House.

Was our writer simply being sloppy, or have I missed something? I go back to Beale’s book. Jesus didn’t build the Tabernacle. No, he did far more. Jesus built the Creation that the Tabernacle symbolized. How much more honor does that deserve than what we’d give to Moses or Belazel or Stephen Spielberg or Leonardo DaVinci. Lest we forget, Jesus is, among all his other aspects, the ultimate artist, the creator of mediums, the author of canvasses and palettes alike. All we can do is paint with his colors.

 

Man’s Best Friend (Hebrews 3:2)

He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all Gods house. (Hebrews 3:2)

Cassie, our Great Pyrenees, went missing earlier today. Rarely does she wander out of sight of the house, yet this morning we could find her nowhere. Since I had seen her in the woods just down the driveway, I decided to check that spot. I still haven’t discovered what she’s been doing in that area, but she did appear behind me when I walked to the locale.

The odd thing about this is that Cassie is so dependable. She lazes around the house all day so that she can go on night patrol, barking at anything that approaches too close and keeping the livestock safe. She’s even started picking up eggs laid in out-of-the-way places, and bringing them down to the front door. What an animal!

Cassie does not take the trash out, fetch the mail, or feed the chickens. As much as I would appreciate the help, I don’t expect it. She’s a guard and herding dog. At those tasks, she’s proven completely faithful.

When the author of Hebrews mentions Moses again, I find it surprising. After all, he’s just spent two chapters differentiating Jesus from Moses and the angels, so why then compare Jesus with Moses? Then it struck me that, having shown the two to be incomparable, the writer can now praise Moses in the same way that I can praise Cassie.

You see, my dog is utterly reliable. My wife is utterly reliable. The difference is that I rely on my wife for much more, I have much loftier expectations of her, than I do of Cassie. Moses was as faithful as a human can be expected to be. Jesus is as faithful as God can be expected to be.

As much as I appreciate that dog, I’ll prefer Penny in a heartbeat. And the same goes for Christ over even the most faithful of humans.

 

Curse of the Gradebook (Hebrews 2:2)

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment (Hebrews 2:2)

I have taught English composition for almost my entire adult life. Doing so, one encounters a vast range of people with a vast range of ability and desire to do the work. Some of them complain that they don’t get to write about whatever they want. (Because professional life allows us to do whatever work we want to do, of course.) Some think it unreasonable that they have to continually write papers for a writing course. My favorites, though, are the ones I call the grade accountants.

A grade accountant comes to my office, graded paper in hand, and prepares to do battle. Or, to maintain the metaphor, to do an audit. The exchange usually begins something like this: “What is wrong with my paper?” Having counted up the red marks on the page, they attempt to convince me, the guy who has taught the class since before their births, that this collection of misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences, and other mechanical glitches does not warrant a C+. To their minds, every paper begins as a 100 with each mistake deducting points.

My point, more often than not, is that we should not be looking at “what is wrong” with the paper but “what is right.” Fairly frequently, I’ll encounter a virtually error-free essay that bores me so silly that it deserves a fairly poor grade. There’s nothing wrong with it except that there’s not enough right with it. In other words, every paper begins as a 0 with each positive move adding points.

The Law of Moses, referred to in the verse today, was a deduction system. The average person was assumed to be clean and blameless at the top of the morning. Touching a dead animal, eating the wrong thing, coveting your neighbor’s toaster oven, or any of a million other missteps could leave the person in a virtue deficit.

Frankly, I don’t want to live that way. Today’s verse is a sentence fragment, completed by the verse for next time. Today’s verse speaks of the lesser law and lesser message, the one spoken by angels. That message bound those who lived under it. The problem with it came in the grading system. A 99 out of 100 was failing grade. My grade accountants wouldn’t like that system.

I have no interest in grading in that manner, and I praise God that I don’t have to live under such a law. More on that next time.