I suppose we all have a favorite character in literature—fictional or historical as well as the one we dislike most. I have little liking for the Marquis de Sade. One of his chief pleasures, he has someone say, was to “corrupt the innocent.” And Shakespeare’s sly conniving Iago is ugly down deep but personally the one who sets my teeth on edge is Hawthorne’s hateful Roger Chillingworth who in “righteous” viciousness torments, tortures his alienated young wife Hester and the weak young preacher Arthur Dimsdale.
You must sometime, if you are a reader, invest the time to read The Scarlet Letter. (Did I tell you I updated it and made it so much easier to read? Hawthorne’s style makes it very difficult for modern readers and it’s too great a book to miss. I added a few paragraphs to develop a few thoughts Hawthorne was making but the book fully remains Hawthorne’s. I hope you read it and allow his brilliant work to open your eyes and heart in many ways as it has done mine.) Believe me, “righteous” Chillingworth is alive and well in the world today.
But heroes! The countless unsung and unknown (except to a handful of the world’s billions)! Add to those the grand few who are known and worthy of praise—who can number them, eh? People who consciously lay down their lives in a single act of breathtaking generous self-giving and others (vaster in number) who lay down their lives by living and working for decades until their tired bodies and willing hearts can do no more. Exclude for the moment the obvious among us whose malevolence and delight in the demonic is so startling that all the social-sciences can’t come close to “explaining” it. There’s a power that we turned loose, a monstrous, stalking predator that is as cunning and well-disguised as it is vindictive and insatiable. Across the world there are places and there have been eras where it wore and wears no disguise but now that we are “wise” scientists, sociologists and psychologists and can explain all in terms of neurons, genetics, socio-psychology, cultural anthropology and more—without remainder. So much truth and wisdom there—not unwise or untrue in what it includes but blindness to what it excludes and so somewhere beyond human vision a cosmic parasite feeds on us. We see its work and mistake the undeniable destruction for the destroyer—and that too is the deep cunning of the predator, when the genuinely wise become fools even in their wisdom (Romans 1:21-22) and serve the great corrupter.
But I’ve drifted from my point. More than anyone else in the Bible I admire Moses. Of course he was flawed and of course he sulked and ran off and in a colossal sulk refused to circumcise his older boy and in that refusal withheld his firstborn from God (which is precisely why God dismantled Egypt—Pharaoh refused to give Him His firstborn (Israel). See Exodus 4:22–26 where God got Moses’ attention and made him focus on his mission. And yes he tried constantly to turn down the new commission to deliver Israel.
But what a man, what a burden, what ceaseless criticism and what a mesmerizing self-giving word to God in Exodus 32:32 (with chapter 33), “If you won’t take them home I don’t want to go either.” Forty years with a nation and its leaders breaking his heart, even his sister and brother joining in the attacks and then, precisely because he was so magnificent a leader and model, he is not permitted to enter the promised land though it broke his heart and he begged until God told him, “I don’t want you to speak to Me again about it.” (Deuteronomy 3:24-26) Sinner or not, flawed or not, here was someone behind whose shadow a nation found freedom and shelter from the burning heat of life in a sad bad world. And he died in faith despite the onslaught of the World Hater who used everything and everyone against him. He wasn’t alone in this, it’s true, but was he not simply majestic? Women and men are listed in Hebrews 11 as people of “whom the world was not worthy.” And in Hebrews 3:1-5 the writer speaks of Moses in a marvelous and admiring way and then he immediately adds.
Finish the sentence in any way you wish. It’s no insult to Moses. On the mount of Transfiguration God said, “Don’t hear Moses, don’t hear Elijah, don’t hear John the Baptist, don’t hear David…..hear My Son.”