God’s Word for You
Numbers 12:4-9 The Lord’s anger burned
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 13, 2021
4 Right then the LORD spoke suddenly to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “You three come out to the Tent of Meeting!” The three of them came out. 5 The LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance to the tent. He called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 He said, “Now listen to my words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, will make myself known to him in a vision. In a dream I will speak with him. 7 Not so, however, with my servant Moses. He is faithful in my whole household. 8 With him I speak face-to-face, clearly, and not in riddles. He sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” 9 The LORD’s anger burned against them, and he left.
The Lord’s anger had burned against Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and Pharaoh’s army was still lying, all drowned, at the bottom of the Red Sea (Hebrews 11:29). The Lord’s anger had burned when the people asked for an idol while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments. His anger had burned again when they complained about their food and asked for meat. But now Aaron and Miriam were alone, the two of them opposing Moses. On the one hand, he was their younger brother. But on the other hand, he was their prophet, their leader, and he should have had their support. If Moses were not the prophet God had chosen, what would Aaron be? What would Miriam be? They forgot that their status in Israel, whatever it was, was connected with the call of Moses to be the Lord’s mouthpiece to his people. As the Lord’s anger mounted and grew hotter and piled up higher and higher against those two, he called them out of the tent where he and Moses spoke together. Then he explained, with infinite patience, the difference between Moses and everyone else, including them.
“Moses is different,” the Lord said. Luther paraphrases the Lord’s words in his comments on Joseph’s dreams in Genesis 37: “Moses saw something greater and has other greater revelation besides these which you who are his disciples and who have visions and dreams have heard from him. I know what Moses and I are accustomed to confer and converse about together. Moses saw the sufferings of Christ” (LW 6:330).
We all know what a dream is. God spoke to many of his people in dreams, like the one Joseph Mary’s husband had while returning home from Egypt (Matthew 2:22). A vision is the way the Lord speaks when a man is not sleeping, such as what John saw on the island (Revelation 1:9-11). We must say that these things seem rare today, and if a man should receive a vision that does not pertain to the church but only to his own family or a private encouragement from the Lord, he doesn’t have a reason to share this with the church. Such things are too easily misunderstood out of context, and are not for everyone since we all have the Word of God in the holy Scriptures, the one thing needed (Luke 10:42).
The Lord also said about Moses that they spoke to one another “face to face,” or in Hebrew, peh el-peh, which is “mouth to mouth.” Moses was given the Lord’s plan, this very thought, in a far different and loftier way than any others. If we believers are seated at the Lord’s banquet table, then the prophets and ministers of the gospel are the waiters and servers who bring the dishes and delicacies out to us. But Moses was brought right into the kitchen while the Father was measuring and rolling and baking and preparing everything for mankind. The books of Moses are not just a portion of the Scriptures (as if such a thing could be said about any book of the Bible), but they began it all. The prophets and other writers built on Moses; no one else began it all again. “The rest of the prophets became his successors to testify with him to his words” (1 Clement 43:1). The Lord brought Moses to his side to look at the creation from his own memory so that Moses could indeed ask someone who saw it happen, even from the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
In verse 8, God says about Moses, “He sees the form of the LORD.” While most commentaries make valid points about Moses seeing God’s “form” and not his essence and so forth, I don’t see why this distinction would have made much of a difference to Aaron and Miriam who must by this time have feared for their very lives. I think Luther hits the nail squarely on the head when he says simply that Moses (fore)saw the sufferings of Christ. This was the plan, the recipe that God had, for the salvation of mankind from Adam’s fall and the otherwise irrevocable sentence of damnation to hell for eternity because of our sins.
Having said these things, the Lord’s anger burned again, and the cloud lifted. But this wasn’t over. How badly would his anger burn? How severe was the coming punishment to be? Perhaps God had given them a hint by using his name, the LORD, when he addressed them. This was God’s covenant name, the way he reminded people of his grace. What was coming would not be instantaneous death, but it would surely be memorable, and entirely unexpected. “What will he do to you? And what more besides?” (Psalm 120:3). Whatever we face, we must trust in God to rescue us, even when we need to be rescued from his wrath. “Have compassion on your servants!” (Psalm 90:13; Deuteronomy 32:36; 2 Maccabees 7:6).
Especially when we need to be rescued from his wrath.
Pastor Timothy Smith