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Shemot/Exodus 25:22 And I will meet you there by appointment and I will speak with you
This passage, according to Brevard Childs, "seems to reflect an older concept of the Mosaic office, closely linked with the prophetic, in which Moshe continues to mediate the divine instructions to Israel. The parallel with 'Now Moshe used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the L-RD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp' (Shemot 33:7, ESV) is clear in seeing Moshe's communication with G-d as an ongoing activity. Indeed, in the verse, ' [, and , in/when + Qal infinitive of the root , to come or enter] Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him' (Exodus 34:34, NJPS)] the frequentive tense is employed to describe Moshe's office."1 Here it would appear,HaShem is telling Moshe to expect an on-going stream of communication in a particular location, as Gunther Plaut puts it: "there, as you stand before the ark."
Two strong verbs express the action starting the verse. The first, , is the Nif'al 1cs affix form of the root , to appoint (Davidson), preceded by a vav-reversive to render a future tense. In the Nif'al voice, this takes the meaning, to meet with anyone at an appointed place, by appointment; the second party, the one being met, is identified by the prefix preposition, here with the 2ms object pronoun, 'you'. The second, , the Pi'el 1cs affix form of the root , to speak, is also preceded by a vav-reversive so is also to be taken as part of the future promise. Uncomfortable, as ever, with anthropomorphism, Targum Onkelos changes the Hebrew , "And I will meet [with you]" to the Aramaic , "And I will summon My word/wisdom [to you]", but leaves the second verb "I will speak" in place. This is no less remarkable a promise: that HaShem will bring His word to Moshe at a special and appointed place and time in order to speak to him.
As well as the verses Childs proposes above, we can also see this process at work as the narrative of the Torah proceeds. At the start of the next book, Vayikra, the text tells us that "The L-RD called to Moshe and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying ..." (Vayikra 1:1, NJPS). Here the verb , "to call" and also "to read", is synonymous with the verb "to meet"; taking the latter meaning tells us that HaShem met with Moshe in the Tent of Meeting and spoke to him. Later on, the Torah relates that "And when Moshe went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him" (B'Midbar 7:89, NJPS). AsRashi underlines by paraphrasing HaShem's words: "When I will fix an audience for you, to speak with you, I will fix that place for the audience, that I will come there to speak with you." This in turn leads Walter Brueggemann to observe that "More than a place of deposit, the purpose of the ark and the mercy seat is 'meeting'! Perhaps even more astonishing that the prospect of meeting is its purposes."2 HaShem has not just called but explicitly scheduled a meeting; its purpose is to speak to Moshe!
RabbiHirsch hastens to try and explain away this particularity by saying that, "It is not as a result of some personal relationship of Moshe to G-d, that He will speak to him, but as a result of His proximity to Israel in accordance with the covenant, as a result of the presence of G-d in the midst of the nation that keeps His Torah." Hirsch attempts to deny - in spite of the verse "the L-RD used to speak to Moshe face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Shemot 33:11, ESV) - that any of this is because of Moshe himself. To the contrary, he tries to insist, HaShem only speaks with Moshe because He dwells in the heart of His people, Israel, and Moshe happens to be the leader of the people. Yeshua makes it clear that - on the contrary - He talks to His followers as friends: "I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15, ESV).
TheBaal HaTurim points to a fascinating Masoretic Note in the margin of this verse. The word appears just twice in the Tanakh: here, "I will set my meetings with you there"; and four chapters later when HaShem is describing the procedure for the daily offerings, each morning and each evening, and says, "I will set my meetings there with the Children of Israel" (Shemot 29:43). Not only does HaShem schedule meetings with Moshe, He also schedules appointments twice every day with the ordinary people of Israel who may come to the "the entrance of the tent of meeting before the L-RD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there" (v. 42, NJPS), to meet with their G-d. As Richard Elliott Friedman points out, "the term 'meet' denotes meeting at an appointed place or at an appointed time. Thus the Tabernacle itself is known as the Tent of Meeting." In the aftermath of the destruction of the (first) Temple, the prophet could still proclaim that "The kindness of the L-RD has not ended, His mercies are not spent. They are renewed every morning -- Ample is Your grace!" (Lamentations 3:22-23, NJPS). Someone's diary system was still running.
OvadiaSforno reports that this has been the experience of Israel in the centuries since - he lived in the sixteenth century - writing that, "through this the Divine Presence came to rest (among them) and will dwell in every place where the wise men of the generation are found, whose purpose is to understand and know Him, as it is attested to by saying, 'That I may dwell among them according to all that I show you ... and so you shall make it' (Shemot 25: 8-9)." He affirms this by quoting from the sages who wrote the Talmud who testified to the presence of G-d among them as they worked on and studied certain portions of Scripture (b. Chagiga 14b). This surely is what we would expect following Yeshua's words that "where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20, ESV). It is certainly the experience of many Christians that when they set aside time to meet with the L-rd, either in groups or individually, and are serious about seeking His presence, the sweet presence of the Ruach gathers with them and infuses the pages and their time, bringing forth words of wisdom and encouragement from the Scriptures, bringing inner peace and healing, binding up broken hearts and giving fresh hope in times of despair.
I think we can go further, though, to see that a certain discipline on our part to be sure that we make - that is, turn up for - all those meetings that our G-d and loving Father has graciously set aside in His calendar, will be rewarded by not only meeting Him then, when we do expect to see Him, but - like Moshe - will also mean that we meet Him when we are not expecting to do so. Moshe taught the Israelites to "Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up" (D'varim 6:6-7, NJPS). This makes them a part of every day life so that even in unexpected moments, we'll end up in a conversation about Yeshua, either talking to Him about someone or talking to someone about Him. He will become our life so that Rav Sha'ul's seemingly impossible claim, "I have been crucified with Messiah. It is no longer I who live, but Messiah who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of G-d, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, ESV), suddenly becomes not only possible but actualised in us. As the writer to the Hebrew observes, by showing "hospitality to strangers ... some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2, ESV). When we practice the presence of G-d, He shows up!
Did Yeshua call for quiet times? Did Sha'ul legislate for Daily Notes? Not exactly. Yeshua certainly encouraged prayer, "therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:38, ESV) and set the example by praying pretty seriously Himself: "In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to G-d" (Luke 6:12, ESV). Sha'ul put in time on his knees, "we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:10, ESV). But neither the gospels or the letters suggest that prayer is the same as experiencing the presence of G-d. That seems to be a given; it just happened naturally as you talked about Him, talked to Him, lived life before and with Him - and He was there. Have we lost something today in our programmed approach to G-d, in our rational expectations that G-d shows up at worship services or at Bible studies by doing X, Y and Z (whatever your denomination defines these to be), in our insistence that G-d behaves as we expect? What if we were to abandon our expectations and just live in and with G-d, letting Him do what He wants and experience Him raw and unfiltered by timetables and techniques?
1. - Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, The Old Testament Library, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 534.
2. - Walter Brueggemann, "Exodus," in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 446.
Further Study: Proverbs 17:17; Isaiah 41:8-10
Application: Can you imagine what your life would be like if Yeshua were with you and involved in what you were doing every moment? This can be reality for you today. Reach out and talk to Him now!
03Feb19 14:03 Diana Brown: Thank you for the excellent teaching. Agree with it 100%. I am learning to discern true prophecy from false prophecy according to the standard of Torah and the consistent message Adonai gave Israel through His Prophets. Yes, He very much wants to speak to us. He is a good, good Father.
06Feb19 22:51 Edward James Bishop Sr: My desire to understand the scriptures from a Hebrew perspective increases as I read each weekly drash.
10Feb19 03:54 Brian and Anne Nelson: It is very humbling to desire His Presence. We serve and honour The Almighty H-ly G-d, who loves you and me, and invites us to come before Him in repentance and with a contrite heart. What a privilege to share all of us/me with our Abba. Thank You, for listening. I so long to understand more of the prophetic in The Holy Bible.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2019
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