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Shemot/Exodus 33:17 ... for you have found favour in My eyes and I have known you by name.
The text presents an interesting idea that seems to run counter to many of the more evangelical views about salvation and the relative positions of G-d and man. The Calvinist position of mankind's total depravity, intended to describe man's unregenerate state before salvation, but often extended in contemporary teaching to say that man can never earn any favour before G-d by his words or actions because everything must be of grace - from G-d to man - would declare it impossible for Moshe to have earned any credit or standing with G-d by his actions and behaviour. Yet, nonetheless, the text is the reason G-d gives for granting Moshe's request that G-d's presence should continue to accompany the Children of Israel as they travel to the Promised Land in spite of the episode of the Golden Calf. Moreover, it appears to be the foundation of Moshe's extraordinary request to see G-d's glory, and of G-d's at least partial granting of that request.
RabbiHirsch addresses the issue, commenting, "since I chose you, you have shown yourself worthy of being chosen, and have been endowed with ever-growing talents." This places the emphasis back on what G-d has done: choosing Moshe and then giving him more abilities as he learns to use those he has already been given. At the same time, it allows room for the original meaning of the text: that Moshe himself has worked and been active, rather than simply passively letting things happen around him - and this is surely in character with the overall narrative of the text over the 40 years that Moshe led Israel, from the start at the Burning Bush, until his death after seeing the Land from Mt. Nebo.
Taking a more relaxed translation, Friedman points out that G-d is echoing back Moshe's own words in making the request, thus confirming His acceptance of Moshe's point. The text seems to be agreeing that Moshe has been sufficiently active in his relationship with G-d that he has actually been able to bring something to the table that G-d has found acceptable; more - that G-d considered this a basis for trusting Moshe's opinion and grating his request as a reward for his chutzpah in being so strong on the people's behalf.
So what does it mean to find favour in G-d's eyes and how is this done? Is this something that we can do, or should we? Does this come from us or is it something that comes from G-d? Without any explanation of what had been before, an angel appeared to a young girl - therefore, relatively uneducated and without formal Torah study - in Nazareth: "Shalom, favoured lady! Adonai is with you! Don't be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favour with G-d" (Luke 1:28,30, CJB). We get more of a clue some verses earlier, when Luke describes Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who were to be the parents of John the Baptist: "Both of them were righteous before G-d, observing all the mitzvot and ordinances of Adonai blamelessly" (Luke 1:6, CJB). When the angel of the L-rd appears to the mother-to-be of Samson she is told, "You will conceive and bear a son. Now, therefore, be careful not to drink any wine or other intoxicating liquor, and don't touch anything unclean" (Judges 12:3-4, CJB). Setting aside the specifics, these examples all seem to support that there is a significant component of human action, obedience, deliberate choice involved in finding favour in G-d's eyes.
So much so that Rav Sha'ul writes, "For we are G-d's fellow workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9, ESV); he sees Apollos and himself working alongside G-d Himself: preparing the ground, sowing the seed, watering the crop and G-d giving the growth - no doubt an echo of Yeshua's words, "The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the L-rd of the Harvest to send labourers into His harvest" (Matthew 9:37-38, ESV). But Yeshua went further saying, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15, ESV). Not only do we pray for workers, but we should expect to be workers and to find favour with G-d by so doing.
Further Study: Mark 16:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1
Application: How, then, are you working with G-d today? What has He called you to partner with Him to accomplish? If you are uncertain or unsure, ask the L-rd to help you see or confirm the ways in which you are to work with him, so that we may all take our part in the work of the Kingdom and find favour in G-d's eyes.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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