Numbers 3, 7&8: Speaking With God Face to Face

Numbers 7:89 has always stunned me.  In this verse we read, “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony.  And he spoke with him.”  In this one verse we notice that Moses was afforded during his earthly sojourn the greatest privilege any human being may have . . . to hear the voice of God on this side of the grave.


Do you ever wonder what it must have been about Moses that he would have been granted such a privilege?  When Moses was conceived, very few people would have ever considered him a candidate for some special relationship with God.  It would appear that this special relationship was granted to him apart from any kind of human explanation.  When Moses was born there was a ban on Hebrew children so he was tossed into the Nile by his parents as had been commanded by the pharaoh.  Yet, rather than this event leading to his demise, God supervised his survival which was for the purpose of his people’s ultimate triumph.  Yet, there was certainly nothing about this baby that was particularly special, except for the fact that God had certain purposes for him.  Then in God’s good providence he was raised in the pharaoh’s household and learned diplomacy and how to speak with royalty.  He learned the proper graces of the court and the way that Egyptian law operated.  Ancient kings had many, many children so that they could ensure that each region would have a kingdom filled with leaders that would be trustworthy.  Kings could trust family and Moses was probably being groomed for some significant government post (not as the successor to the pharaoh himself like the popular movies portray). 


Yet none of these things would go as Moses or the pharaoh’s family would have expected as Moses, after killing a man fled into the desert to avoid arrest for what he had done.  While he was in that wilderness, he met his wife and began to build a new life for himself.  At that time it appears that he lived more like an Egyptian than a Hebrew as he had avoided circumcising his son (Exodus 4:24-26).  In some ways, before the burning bush, we might surmise that Moses may have been a secular sort of man.  Perhaps not secular in the modern sense, but in the ancient world filled with superstitions and polytheism, Moses didn’t seem to have any special relationship with the God of the Bible.


Then a new event arose in Moses’ life.  While he was herding sheep, a voice came to him out of a burning bush and this voice would eventually rock Moses’ world.  God called Moses to go back to the land that he had escaped from and stand in the very court that he had always hoped to avoid.  Moses would become God’s man in a world deeply cut off from a sense of God’s sovereignty over it.  Why God would have chosen this man for this purpose, as much as he seemed disconnected from God is a mystery to me. Yet, God did choose him and he would be granted a very special relationship with the Holy One of the universe. 


God had it in his perfect council and will that one day, this Moses a baby placed in the river Nile to die would one day have the type of relationship with himself that every pious believer would beg to have.  Wouldn’t you like to know what it is like to interact with God in the way Moses did?  If this is something that you really do desire, I believe that there is hope for you.  As AW Tozer notes, throughout this narrative, God makes his presence known by the means of fire.  Generally, when God is present there is fire nearby.  When Moses first met God, it was at the “burning” bush.  When God led the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness and then around in the wilderness, he would go before them with a flame of fire that the people could easily see at night.  When an offering was acceptable to God, as we read in today’s reading, God would consume that offering from fire from heaven.  In the Bible, fire is symbolic of the Lord’s presence.


In the New Testament, we read of the miraculous events of Pentecost and the permanent indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in God’s new program for the church was marked with tongues of fire. 


“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”[1]



These tongues of fire began above the heads of our Lord’s disciples and then they began to speak in different tongues.  We may note in these verses in Acts 2 that these tongues of fire were internalized.  So what was the point of these tongues being “like” fire.  It appears that the only answer for this is that this fire which was apart from them, eventually became part of them so that after the Holy Spirit came to indwell them, he also burned within them.  In essence, how do we know if we are walking with God and communing with God as he has given us the opportunity?  The answer can be found by asking a simple question: do I burn for God?  Is there is a passion within my life that burns so brightly within me that I can hardly contain it or is my walk with God “ho-hum”?  The Bible teaches us that we can quench the Holy Spirit through disobedience and when we do, it is like we have taken a bucket full of water and thrown it on God’s work within our hearts. 


The truth is that Moses did not begin his life as a likely candidate to speak with God face to face.  Yet, when the opportunity presented itself, he made a conscience choice not to miss out on it.  Again and again, Moses returned to the Tent of Meeting to speak with God.  Moses understood that what he had in this relationship was amazing and he developed a great dependence upon God through it.  He didn’t begin the way we would imagine a giant of the faith to begin but he ended up that way, and this is what really matters. 


Moreover, Moses isn’t the only person God has intended to share rich communion with.  In fact, his desire is that you walk with him in a similar way.  Prayer is a gift that is available to each of his children and it is most rich when our lives are walked in a manner which will not quench the Spirit of God but will feed that fire through a passionate pursuit of personal holiness.  If you know Christ, take the time to walk with Christ and experience the uncommonly meaningful and rich life of faith that God intended you to experience.  Moses was an unlikely candidate, yet experienced it . . . so (if you are not experiencing this life) what is hindering you?  Like Moses, you have a choice, which will it be . . . the narrow or the wide road?

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Ac 2:1-4


2 Responses to “Numbers 3, 7&8: Speaking With God Face to Face”

  1. John Says:

    In case you’re wondering, I’m still here and enjoying the journey.
    Thank you,

  2. Nathan W Northup Says:

    Thanks Bruce for the thoughts. In addition to Moses speaking with God face to face, I have always found it fascinating to consider the Exodus 24 scene where half-way up Mount Sinai, corresponding to the Holy Place in the Tabernacle/Temple, the seventy elders, the high priest and his kin, and Moses, all see God and eat and drink with Him. If now the curtain is torn, the Gentiles are brought near, and we who have God’s Spirit with us have been made priests, we too like Moses have a glory that doesn’t fade as we look God in the face.

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