Thursday, January 2, 2014

Old Testament Lesson 1: This Is My Work and My Glory

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $100 bill. In the room of 200, he asked. "Who would like this $100 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $100 to one of you - but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the 100 dollar note up. He then asked. "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $100.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do for work or who we know in life, but by ...WHO WE ARE. You are special - don't ever forget it."
                                                  _____________________

In Moses 1 we read of 3 encounters Moses had - 2 with the Lord God Almighty and 1 with the not-so-almighty Satan. A careful reading of these three encounters will give us a better understanding of who we are.

This account could be viewed as a college course split into 3 semesters/terms. The first semester of this Life Prep 101 course is in-class tutoring on self-identity. The second semester is a field test ensuring that the study and knowledge of the first semester is truly learned. If you pass the second semester successfully you return for a 3rd semester - of more in-class tutoring that covers the purpose of creation and life.

Life Prep 101:
           Semester          Scripture                         Location                   Course Material
               1                Moses 1:1-11     "an exceeding high mountain"            Identity
               2                Moses 1:12-23           "fell unto the earth"                   Field Test
               3                Moses 1: 24-42             "in the mount"                 Purpose of Creation

Like any good student, Moses is also instructed to take notes (see v.40). As we study the Old Testament together this year, may I suggest that we also take notes. Get a book or create a blog or just start a Word document in which you write your thoughts, your questions, your discoveries. It is not only a great way to reinforce learning and find greater truths but it will stand as a witness to your family and your children in years and generations to come.

Semester 1 - Identity Moses1:1-11
If this is about who Moses is, why does it start off with who the Lord is?
What 4 points does Moses learn about who he is? 
  • "thou art my son"
  • "I have a work for thee"
  • "thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"
  • "man is nothing"
What is the difference between the first three points and the last point? 
The first three points are what the Lord teaches, the final point is Moses' conclusion from the lesson.
Could we rephrase the last point to give a clearer understanding of what Moses learned here?
Maybe, without God, man is nothing. With God, we are everything. And I wonder if this lesson is part of why the Lord began by teaching Moses of himself. Understanding that in and of ourselves we are nothing is pointless and demoralizing unless we also realize that we are not alone - and not only that but that He who is with us is dedicated to us and our growth despite being the God of all creation.

Semester 2 - Field Test Moses 1:12-23
At what point and where did Satan try to teach Moses? 
Moses is now at a lower point physically and geographically. He has descended from the mountain and is on the earth and has been weakened physically. Satan then comes calling. Likewise Satan will often try to tempt us at our lowest points: physically, emotionally and spiritually. An additional point to note is that he will also attempt to distract and tempt us when we are closest to our moments of growth and learning.
How did this differ from when and where the Lord God chose to teach Moses? 
The Lord God lifts Moses up onto "an exceedingly high mountain"and shared his glory with him to enable his learning. Likewise, the Lord God always seeks to inspire us and lift us when teaching us. The result is that under the Lord's guidance and teaching, Moses "greatly marveled"while under Satan's tutelage, Moses "began to fear" and "saw the bitterness of hell". On that recommendation, I know which instructor I would sign up for.

What 3 points does Satan try to teach Moses?
  • you are "son of man"
  • "worship me"
  • "I am the Only Begotten"
Did you notice the similarities and contrasts between the Lord God's lessons and Satan's?  
Both try to teach Moses his identity:
But one teaches Moses he is of divine origin. The other teaches Moses he is of mortal origin.

Both have an instruction for Moses:
But one teaches Moses he has a purpose and a work for him. The other teaches Moses that his only purpose is to worship Satan.

Both speak to Moses of the Only Begotten:
But one teaches Moses he is like the Only Begotten. The other teaches Moses that Satan himself is actually the Only Begotten.

In all of the Lord's teaching, Moses is uplifted and taught he is better than he thought. In all of Satan's teaching Moses is belittled and Satan instead elevates himself to be central to the message. Who would you prefer as a teacher?

I suspect that when Satan was delivering his initial message to Moses he was more enticing and likeable than he comes across in our scriptures. In our day, he would maybe sound something more like, "Moses, my friend, we are all human. It's natural to enjoy all of these fun things around you. Live a little. Enjoy life. You only live once. I'll look after you. I am the God of this world. I have untold power to protect you. Worship me and we will have fun together."

Now this Semester was titled the Field Test. If this is a test, what was Moses' test and how did he answer the questions asked of him? The test was to simply see if he had learned and believed in what he had been taught and would be obedient to this knowledge. When Satan comes teaching an opposite view Moses answers Satan's proposals with the knowledge he has learned:
  1. I'm not just mortal - "I am a son of God in the similitude of the Only Begotten"
  2. God is glorified - He glorified and changed me and created the whole world and everything in it and there is no other God. What have you done? You, Satan, do nothing for me. "Where is thy glory?"
  3. There is more to learn  - "I have other things to inquire of him"
Satan's answer to Moses' knowledge is, as Jeffrey Holland calls it, "both pathetic and frightening". Claiming he is the Only Begotten, Satan tries to display his power with ranting and shouting in a hope that the noise and special effects will distract and shake Moses from his sure foundation of knowledge. For a moment is seems to work, as Moses "began to fear exceedingly". But this is where we see the real test and the real answer. You see repeating knowledge will only get us so far. When the tides and the temptations of the world are raging against us and our knowledge is tested (even our very knowledge of who the Saviour really is), when our mortal limits are reached - what do we do? We call upon God and in doing so, like Moses, we will be strengthened against whatever temptation is besetting us. Satan cannot withstand the power of a consistent prayer from a sincere heart. He can stand toe to toe with you and argue facts and twist knowledge but he cannot withstand the power that comes through prayer.
And the result of Moses prayer has to be one of the greatest tantrums on record. "Satan cried with a loud voice, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth." What a performance! This guy's ambition and pride and desperation are ridiculous - he really, really wanted to be the Chosen One! (cf Moses 4:1 "I will be they Son"). It's so tragic and sad, it's pitiful.
But one other thing of note is to be learned from this 2nd semester field test. After Moses' prayer and after Satan's tantrum something happened that is very relevant to us: Satan "departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not".
We all know the things that tempt us, individually. Imagine your life without just one of those temptations. One of the hardest things in this life is having to face a constant barrage of these things. Whether it be greed, word of wisdom, law of chastity, gambling - whatever the temptation is, the lesson we learn from Moses is that through prayer we can banish these temptations so that we "behold them not". Half the battle is having those things in front of you all the time and yet with simple sincere prayer we can receive the strength to banish them from our presence so that we behold them not. 
From personal experience I know this to be true. Despite whatever desire or determination we may have individually, prayer allows us to tap into divine powers that we just do not have if acting alone.

Semester 3 - Purpose of Creation Moses 1:24-42
Notice at the beginning of this semester Moses is given a refresher on what he learned in the first semester. Whether it is that he has had time to study, or his field test gave him greater understanding, or the refresher helped him see things differently, but Moses uses this refresher to ask two questions.
What are the two questions Moses asks at the beginning of this semester? (v.30)
Why do these worlds and we people exist?
How did you make them?
How does the Lord answer Moses' questions?
The simple answers are that he created them by "the word of my power" which he then defines as Christ. He also declares the reason in verse 39. A verse that is quoted verbatim by many Saints every week in lessons and sacrament meetings: "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man".

When Moses asks his questions did you notice the change in teaching style and location. At first, when he starts the semester off, he is being taught by vision and a voice (v.25-27). But as soon as he asks his questions it becomes personalized tutoring again (v.31): he is brought into the presence of God and is now, once more, talking with God "face to face". I'm not sure if there is a deeper relevance but it just demonstrates for me so effectively how much God loves us. I'm sure he has many methods of teaching us, from angels, and symbols and visions and the spirit and I'm sure with all his worlds and creations there is a lot to do and yet he takes the time to visit with Moses personally on this. And in so doing re-emphasizes the answer to Moses question. Why does this all exist? Because YOU are my existence! This is my work and my glory - my purpose, my raison d'etre, - to bring to pass your growth. My whole purpose is YOU!
It's not a great comparison but it reminds me so much of a child wanting to get the attention of their dad and the great satisfaction they get when their dad picks them up, looks them in the eye and says "I love you". Aside from the doctrinal learning here, underlying it all I just feel this great big "I love you" when I read these verses.

The reality is these verses are just the start of his third semester and in the coming weeks we will study more of what Moses learned from his Life Prep 101 course with the rest of the books of Moses. But there is no doubt that front and centre to all that is to come, Moses, Adam, the children of Israel, you and me, each one of us individually are His work and His glory. To me this beginning of scripture is an overwhelming testimony to the love God has for us. There is great doctrinal depth to be learned as you study these verses but if you are to gain nothing more than a testimony of His love for you personally and your worth to Him personally, you will be richer than most people alive today.

Additional study points:
  • v.22 and v.41 I imagine of all the scripture that exists this chapter is one of the most damaging to Satan and his cause. Not only does it clearly contrast his character with God's but it clearly shows his battle plan against the Saints. And it shows how to defeat him. AND it shows him in his true non-divine like character: a sulking, desperate egotist who is unwilling to accept truth and who takes defeat really badly. Is it any wonder that he worked so hard to remove and hide these verses from the world?
  • Comparing v.6 with v.25, I sense that these are parallel verses. They teach the very same thing in different ways with one exception. The same thing they teach in principle is that Moses is special: "my son" and "blessed". They teach that he is like the Saviour: "in similitude of mine Only Begotten" and "thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command". They teach that there is only one God: "there is no God beside me" and "as if thou wert God"(implying he is not actually God - as there is only one God). But I sense one difference. In v.6 the Lord God tells him "I have a work for thee". It is an invitation to Moses. However in v.25 we see a change "I, the Almighty, have chosen thee and thou shalt be..."This is no longer an invitation. Moses answered the call and was found worthy in the second semester field test when he overcame the encounter with Satan through knowledge and prayer. Like all who are called, they must then qualify for the work. We are told that only a few do. But those few become "chosen". (cf D&C 4:3,5; D&C 121:34-36).
  • v.25 There seems to be a deep link with water throughout Moses life. Moses name in Hebrew is Moshe (my 5 yr old son thinks Moses liked mashed potato because his Hebrew name sounds like it!). Moshe means to draw from and is a reference to the fact that he was drawn from the waters of the Nile as a baby. I believe this verse here in Moses 1 alludes not only to his overcoming the fate of other male babies of his day who were drowned in the Nile but also to his parting of the Red Sea and his producing water from the rock at Horeb. I would be fascinated to know if anyone else has studied more into this aspect of Moses' life. It is of course another facet wherein he was in similitude of the Saviour who is the Living Water and held power over the waves of the sea.
  • Looking at the chapter in macro, you can also see a very simple portrayal of the basic tenets of the plan of salvation. We start in God's presence where we learn of our mission. We then come to earth where we experience the frailties of mortality and are tempted and tested as to our faithfulness. Eventually, if we are faithful we are able to return to God's presence as his chosen people to continue in learning and growing. This is alluded to in the beginning where it is as if Moses is already in the exceeding high mountain (v.1) and then after this is sent to earth (v.9) and once he passes the test he is caught up to return to God's presence (v.31).

2 comments:

  1. I loved this. I have been searching for a lesson reference that was different and captured my attention. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Candice I am very glad this was helpful. I absolutely loved this chapter and its nice to see someone got something out of my comments. Thank you. :)

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