Moses and Mike

Meekness is a lens to view the world and the Word. I saw two powerful portraits of it in the last 24 hours: Mike and Moses.

Mike and his wife have been family friends for almost three decades. They attended my graduation party and our wedding ceremony. They even babysat baby Sam as I sat in on church meetings.

Last year, Mike’s progressing ALS mandated a big move. He and his wife relocated a full day’s drive from southeastern Wisconsin to live near their daughter.

My parents went to visit Mike and his wife in western Iowa last weekend.  Mom and Dad stopped by a day later.

How is Mike doing?  I wondered.

 Dad didn’t use the word meekness in his answer, but he described it to a tee.

“Mike is getting weaker. He always uses his wheelchair now. He’s got a lift when he needs it. Mike welcomes each new limitation.”  

He paused a moment, reflecting.

“I think he takes them as a sort of adventure. He sees God’s gracious hand at work in the deal they found on a mobility van, the grand view they have of a huge cornfield. And Diane has the walk in closet she never had in WI.”  

Mike has been and remains a consummate gentleman.  And he maintains his sense of humor.

“My eating isn’t a pretty sight,” he told my parents before lunch on Sunday.  

His left hand gently pummeled the top of the fork in his right hand. The extra force was needed to impale his chicken.

God’s strength, perfected in Mike’s meekness.

This morning Moses’ meekness was on display. A few chapters in the book of Numbers gave ample evidence for his “meekest man” moniker (see Numbers 12:3).

1. After nearly a year at Sinai the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle. Finally, the tribes can set out by companies, Judah first. At this point, Moses asks his brother-in-law to come along. Hobab refuses. Mr. Meek doesn’t drop it. His Midianite relative knows the lay of the wilderness land better than he. Moses knows he needs help and he’s not too proud to ask.

Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same will we do to you. (Numbers 10:31-32)

The meek ask for help. And you

2. Now he’s got Hobab as a trusty scout. But the burden of the Israelites weighs heavy. Moses knows his weakness and asks for help again. God answers in wondrous fashion: as they are assembled at the tent of meeting, some of Moses’ Spirit is placed on 70 elders.  As evidence of this divine gift, the men prophecy.

Meanwhile, back at camp and out of the sacred environs, Eldad and Medad also prophecy. This arouses Joshua’s jealousy. He tells Moses to stop them! (Numbers 11:28)

A show of mighty meekness, without a hint of jealousy, Moses responds to Joshua

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!   (Numbers 11:29)

The meek don’t hoard God’s gifts. And you? 

3. Soon after, Moses faces another round of jealousy. This was a baser type; jealous of-not for-Moses. And, it was from the lips of his very own brother and sister. Aaron and Miriam already had big roles in God’s redemption story, but they wanted bigger parts. So they put a self-righteous cover on their even uglier jealousy.

They spoke against Moses because of his Cushite wife.” And they said, “Has God only spoken through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”  And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12:1-2)

Then, the LORD himself becomes at once defense attorney and head prosecutor.  He calls out the envious siblings.  Hear my words, God says:

“Moses is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly…and he beholds the form of the LORD.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the LORD’s anger was kindled against them and he departed. (Numbers 12:7-9)

And when he did, Miriam was leprous. Aaron immediately confesses their sin to Moses and appeals to him on Miriam’s behalf. Moses forgave, and in an astounding act of meekness

Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her – please.” (Numbers 12:13)

The meek are quick to forgive?  And you?

4.  I saw one part of the portrait of meekness. Alone, it’s enough to land Moses the title of “meekest man on earth.”

Moses had sent spies out to the land. Now they’ve returned, yellow-bellied, except Caleb and Joshua. The faithless reports of giant in the land arouse such fear that all the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “Would that we had died in Egypt!” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:4) Ouch!

Stoning of Joshua and Caleb is averted by only as God’s glory appears before all the people.  And the LORD said to Moses,

How long will this people despise me? How long will they not believe in me, despite all the signs I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they. (Numbers 14:11-12)

 Were I in Moses’ sandals, I’m pretty sure I know how I’d have answered. Something like,

“Great plan, God. Go get ’em God. They deserve it.”

 Not Moses.

Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them…Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, “It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them. (Numbers 14:13,15-16)

In his defense of the rebels, Moses appeals to God’s character. He quotes the very name God revealed on the mountain months before (Exodus 34:6-7).  Moses asks God to save that wicked generation.

And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression…” Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. (Numbers 14: 17-19)

And God relented.

The meek appeal to God to have mercy on sinners? (Even insolent, hostile sinners.) And you?

Two portraits of the meek in the land. Moses and Mike: meek and mighty. They are the ones who inherit the land. This land, with verdant Iowa cornfields and spacious walk-in closets, manna and water from the Rock. And an even better land.

      And desiring a better country, that is a heavenly one.       
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, 
for he has prepared for them a city. 
Hebrews 11:16