Did Moses see God face to Face, according to Exodus 33:11, when God also pronounced that physical humans could not see God and live? (Exodus 33:23). The Bible is mysterious, and not understood by ordinary people, except the called-out ones. Even the Israelites, through Jewish writings, could not understand the Bible. The religious, whether Jewish or Christian, are assumed to be astute defenders of the Holy Scriptures. However, what remains truthful is that Scriptures cannot be intruded on, to be understood by unbelievers. Perhaps, the considered most unreasonable Scripture is found in one of Jesus’ parables:
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost”(Matthew 18:12-14 NIV).
How could a shepherd be so irrational as to leave ninety-nine of his sheep at the mercy of wolves, intending to serve only one? Common sense throws this reasoning to the gutter. A reasonable person would rather protect the ninety-nine and neglect the lost one. Only the unreasonable zealots would futilely attempt to defend the indefensible when confronted by Biblical cynics.
To help the keen reader, what is most important is first to appreciate what a parable implies. Average Christians assume that Jesus was a good teacher, using parables to help ordinary listeners understand His teachings better. This is where ordinary Christians lose their mettle. The starting point is in appreciating that Jesus taught in parables to confound ordinary listeners, rather than help them understand. It was only to His inner circle that Jesus taught God’s Kingdom secrets.
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that ‘“they may be ever seeing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”(Mark 4:10-12 NIV).
Jesus quoted a Scripture in the Book of Isaiah so that no one could assume that His teachings were opposed to Jewish Scriptures. The vitally essential aspect of Christianity is that the secrets of God’s Kingdom were never intended for ordinary people of this world. The nation of Israel had been chosen to walk according to God’s statutes, but never given the secrets of God’s Kingdom. Their awkward behavior in failure to remain steadfast and committed to God’s laws was predictable, to the Most High.
As a chosen nation, the Israelites were given God’s statutes. Their unacceptable conduct was predictable, as long as expected to strictly live according to those statutes. Their conditional protection from God emanated from the promises of Abraham. The Bible shows Abraham as being the father of Christians, more than could be the father of the physical Israelites:
“Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”(Galatians 3:25-29 NIV).
Of significance is the equality of God’s Children, under Christ. In Christianity, there is no gender consideration, whatsoever. Ordinary people get thrown off, even on the structure of the significance of the above Scripture. Hence, the mission of Jesus did not grant communication to ordinary people. Class segregation, gender, racial and other considerations are matters of concern to those of this world. How, then, can one understand God’s mysteries?
The matter of saving one, at the expense of the ninety-nine, is a direct declaration that Jesus is not interested in numbers, but in quality. Why a lamb having wondered off would, even be considered as of high quality, rather than those having remained, is a subject of interest. As far as Jesus is concerned, quality is in humility more than in human consideration of prideful achievements.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”(Luke 18:10-14 NIV).
When Jesus brought up the parable of saving one lamb at the expense of the ninety-nine, He had the above consideration in mind. The ninety-nine represents those viewing themselves as acceptable to God. However, as far as Jesus is concerned, the opposite is true. Jesus is not interested in those considering themselves favourable in God’s eyes. This had fundamentally been the Pharisaic problem. Jesus was illustrating a point to those asking questions about issues of greatness in God’s Kingdom.
His followers were expected to be infantile, rather than experienced veterans. This describes the nature of humility, with which those disciples were expected to exude; for them to then be considered for entering God’s Kingdom. Jesus had been answering a question about the concern gripping those with great consideration in God’s Kingdom. To emphasise this point, before giving the parable about saving one lamb instead of the, apparently, secure nine-nine, Jesus affirmed:
“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire….See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven”(Matthew 18:5-10 NIV).
The greatest illustrative parable, concerning human salvation, is the prodigal son. That parable emphatically embraces the idea of saving the one lamb, at the expense of the ninety-nine, appearing as under the fold. The prodigal son is not considered as having been good, necessarily. But his acceptance by his loving father was anchored on his humility before his Father. That was his only key to come out of his stupidity. Now, let us consider the riddle of Moses, assumed as having seen God’s face and yet the same Moses was unaware of that reality:
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” He said, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back, but my face must not be seen”(Exodus 33:18-23 NIV).
God talks face-to-face with those in a state of humility. Such people may not even be aware of being face-to-face with God, during their condition of humility. The prodigal son became face-to-face with His father, after reducing himself to servant-hood in his father’s homestead. “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven”(Matthew 18:10 NIV).
The story of Moses reveals him as having directly been on face-to-face terms with God, yet unaware of that reality. This portrayed a different story, when Moses, in his physical condition, intending to see God, was flatly denied by God. Doing so would require renouncing his physical body. Without a willingness to renounce physical bodies, it is impossible for physical humans to ever see God.
“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, so that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code”(Romans 7:4-6 NIV).
Christians are projected as no longer of this world, as having died, although still observed, physically. Hence, Christians cannot be understood by their relatives, friends and acquaintances. True Christians can be considered as so daring, and unafraid of anything in the physical realm, including death. They would be willing to confront anything that those of this world consider petrifying.
Christians are not law-keepers, necessarily. They are God’s children, so those of this world cannot see them and live, although physically interacting with them. People interacted with Jesus but were unaware that they were interacting with God. This is, but one of the mysteries misunderstood by ordinary people. The peculiarity of God’s children is inexplicable to ordinary people. But God’s children know that they know, even though misunderstood by those of this world.
The key to understanding God’s mysteries lies in knowing that physical humans and God’s children are dichotomous. Physical humans are perishable, while God’s children are imperishable. Physical humans need space, while God’s children have unlimited space. Physical humans are sustained by food and other material substances, while God’s children are not sustained by food and material objects.
Physical humans fear death, while God’s children prefer moving out of their physical bodies, to be with Christ. Death is a loss, to those of this world, while death is a gain to God’s children. The idea of saving humanity was devised by God, after the Garden of Eden incident. The death penalty had been irrevocably pronounced on humanity, from then on. Adam lived longer on earth, but his death penalty took place immediately after having taken the wrong fruit.
That story is illustrative, showing that death implies separation from God. Both the trees of life and knowledge of Good and evil, are parabolic. What is fundamentally essential is that humanity sinned against God. The pronounced death penalty cannot be reversed, without shading blood. This is how Jesus’ story came to be. The author of sinfulness remains to be Satan, whose fate is determined already.
As for humanity, there is a window, through Jesus’ services. The Christian dispensation provides the first opportunity, designed for just a few. The second phase comes during the thousand-year reign of Jesus and His saints. The final judgment comes on the Last Great Day when the dead face the choice between life and death. That would then seal the story of humanity.
That story bears a gradient consideration. This is why Jesus, assigned as the Messiah, could not come at the beginning. The parabolic story of Israel was never intended to make them superior to other races. Similarly, the treatment of sinless Jesus, reveals God as not showing favoritism to humanity. Resultantly, Christians, privileged to be in the current dispensation, cannot expect easygoing. This portrays the acerbic condition of the sin that gripped humanity, after the Adamic incident.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those who have witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.
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