“In the voice of Moses, in his earnestness and his pleading and his care, we can hear the voice of the Father.”
Happy Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the day we contemplate the great mystery of our one God in three Persons. I don’t have anything remarkable to say about that (Lord knows I don’t want to be accidentally speaking heresy at anyone!) but I did have something I wanted to share about the heart of this one God in three Persons.
Our first reading today comes from the book of Deuteronomy. I didn’t really understand this book until very recently, after starting to read it through the Bible in a Year podcast with Father Mike Schmitz (*shameless plug for this podcast, it’s wonderful and well worth your time for spiritual enrichment*). To set the scene for this book, Moses and the people of Israel have just spent the past 40 years wandering in the desert, where the people have been growing in wisdom and love of God, learning through their trials how to trust Him and rely on Him before entering into the Promised Land. Now here they are, on the banks of the Jordan, ready to set out to the place the Lord has promised them. And Moses, knowing that he will not be able to cross the Jordan with them, that his time as their spiritual father is at an end, gives them a final address, his last words of wisdom, to take with them in his stead.
There wasn’t anything in the particular passage for today’s reading that struck me (Deuteronomy 4:32-40), but what did pierce me was the heart of Moses as he spoke to his people. He has watched these people grow up, from tiny infants to strong and capable adults, both in their bodies and in their spiritual maturity. And as he’s speaking to them, he knows that they are about to embark on something even more dangerous than what he has led them through. He has told them everything he can, taught them everything he knows, and now it is time for them to it without him.
Moses knows what awaits them on the other side of the Jordan: the Promised Land. The land the Lord God had sworn to give to them since they were in the land of Egypt. A land full of the goodness of the Lord, where they can be their own people, their own nation, no longer subject to anyone else’s authority except the Lord Himself. Moses also knows that obtaining that land and achieving the victory of independence will come at a big cost. It will not be easy to receive all that the Lord had promised them. Yet the Lord has promised to be with them, and to give them this victory if they but stay close to Him. And this is what Moses reminds the people of today.
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.” – Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
In his words, I hear the earnest voice of a father who loves his people very much, who has led them and formed them and done everything he could for them and wishes he could still do more. I hear the heartbreak of separation as they go on without him, a pleading for them not to forget what they have learned and become so strong in. I hear the voice of a father that is proud of his children and wants only that they should have everything they have been promised.
In the voice of Moses, in his earnestness and his pleading and his care, we can hear the voice of the Father. Our Father in heaven knows how difficult this journey is for us. He knows that conquering sin is not easy for us. He knows that what He’s asking of us is hard. Daring to move into the land of our own souls and letting Him take possession of it, working with Him to conquer what was once ruled by sin and death to build the kingdom of God, that’s really hard, and it hurts, and it requires a lot of sacrifice. He knows what He is asking of us.
And it is precisely because He knows what He is asking of us that He pleads to us, that He adjures us not to forget Him, to be faithful to Him and keep Him close to us. He wants to be with us. He wants to stay close to us. And He has promised us victory if we would but keep by His side. But He cannot make our choices for us. All He can do is pour out His heart like Moses did and beg us to make the right choice, the choice that will bring us in freedom to the life He offers us. He loves us so much, and His heart is always for us. He wants only to give us more than this life we’ve settled for. He wants to call us into the promised land of His blessing and His presence, and He wants to give us everything we need to take possession of it. And so He calls out to His people.
I pray we would keep this image of the Father in our hearts, the image of Moses crying out to his people out of his deep love for them and the knowledge of where they are going. I pray we would remember the heart of Moses in this moment as we look on the face of God, and be reminded of how deeply the Father loves us, and where His heart is coming from when He instructs us and disciplines us. This is the heart of our Father, the first person of the Trinity. This is the heart of our God.