The Old Testament Template Book: Chapter 4

The Corn Field Revelation

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the seas to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.”
Deuteronomy 30:11-14

I was somewhere between Boise, Idaho and Des Moines, Iowa. I can still picture the wheat and cornfields on both sides of the car sliding by, mile after mile. The time of day, the angle of the light, the temperature, the clear blue skies are all as real in my mind at this moment as they were the day God spoke.

For more than a year, it had been clear to me that Christians were missing a significant part of God’s revelation. My generation was well on its way to reaching every creature with the salvation message, but had no idea what it meant to disciple nations. How could we regain the wisdom, knowledge, and influence to transform communities with the gospel as the church has done in history? What are the keys? I understood our gospel message was incomplete, but how would we restore the greater revelation?

In my search, I had pursued men and women of God who seemed to see the same deficits in the impact of the church. One man, Tom Marshall, was pastoring a small church in New Zealand. This man of God had an enormous vision of the church’s role in building the Kingdom of God and  its influence on earth. After he spoke at YWAM’s university in Kona, I wept for hours with a broken heart over our diminished gospel message. As I wept, I prayed, “God, You must show us the road back. You must reveal again Your great revelations of Kingdom life beyond salvation.” I was so constrained by the Holy Spirit it felt as if I was having a heart attack. “God, You must reveal Yourself to me or I feel I will die of need.”

Over the next few days I went to Pastor Marshall and asked the same questions I had put to others. The difference this time was that I was sure Tom Marshall would have the answer. “Tom, how do we do it? How do we actually disciple the nations? How do we put feet to the vision?” His answer was simple, short, and immediate: “I have no idea! God hasn’t revealed that to me.” That was all he said. To say that I was crestfallen is truly an understatement. The man with the greatest vision in the area of my search had no answers for me. What hope was there?

Within the year I was traveling through the grain fields of the Great Plains states of the U.S.A. I was on a seven-month trip visiting mission bases in America. Driving, for a change, instead of flying, was a great relief for me, and it gave me wonderful time to process and pray. Before I started the journey I had asked the Lord to give me a plan for my time in the car. I had been reading through the Bible nearly every year and a half for over twenty years and had read most of the English versions at least once. During this drive I felt that God gave me a very specific goal of listening to the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation during my trip. I will never forget that morning in the grain fields. The penny dropped and everything in my life, from that moment, changed.

As I was listening to Deuteronomy, suddenly it was as though I was given ears to hear what I had read so many times in my life and never understood. I realized the passage I had just listened to was about law! Moses was teaching civil law. Moses was forming government. Then there was a passage on economics; then one on the family and health care; now another on law…and on it went. The light flashed into my poor little brain. Revelation hit like a laser beam. Moses’ job was to disciple a nation. His job was to teach a people who had been slaves for more than 300 years how to form and run their nation. Moses was to teach Israel God’s principles of government, economics, the family, the priesthood and every God-given domain of human society. He had forty years in the wilderness to do it, and he had written it all down!

What had I been thinking when I read the books of Moses the first twenty or so times? I had been taught to read the scriptures looking for certain themes: salvation, sin, forgiveness, prayer, righteousness, and spiritual warfare. These great themes are there because they are major parts of the gospel message. I had been reading the books allegorically even though it is clear that they are historical records of events that took place in time and space. But, when I read of Israel in bondage to slavery, I saw a message on sin and life without Christ and salvation. When I read about the Jews in the wilderness I learned about the “valley of decision” between the life of sin and God’s great promise of salvation. When Israel entered the promise land…salvation! They were God’s at last. I preached these messages.

These parallels of sin, decision, and salvation are in the Bible, and there is nothing wrong with teaching them. But, they are not the primary message of the text. What was happening to Moses was real, not allegorical. He had a real population of Jews, in a real desert, with the real challenge of turning them into a prosperous nation. Moses was discipling a real nation in the truths that will make them great in every area of life, and God inspired him to write it all down for you and me. I knew I would never be able to read the Bible in the same way again. My mind was turned upside down.

Moses: What A Job!
What a job Moses had! We think we have needy nations today; look at what he had to deal with! We know that 600,000 able-bodied men left Egypt with Moses.1 What was the entire population?

If we take the number of women and children for each able-bodied man in Jacob’s family of 702when they enter Egypt, it is about 4.5 to 1. At that ratio, the number of Israelites leaving Egypt would have been somewhere around 2,700,000 people. But, remember, they were having problems with the pharaohs because they were multiplying so rapidly they threatened the balance of population with the Egyptians.3 Furthermore, Israel did not leave Egypt alone. Slaves that were not part of Israel left with them as well. They had alien members wandering with them from the very beginning of their wilderness journey. It is no exaggeration to say that Moses was leading more than three million people out of Egypt into the desert.

To put that number in perspective, it amounts to the entire population of New Zealand. The largest refugee situation in modern history was that of the Afghans on the Pakistani border after the invasion by the former Soviet Union. They numbered in the area of two million. Yet, even with the combined resources of the United Nations, the Red Cross, and aid from developed countries, this refugee situation overwhelmed our modern agencies. The Jews had no outside help come to their rescue. Moses’ people were in far worse circumstances. The Afghan refugees had a country to go back to. They had homes, schools, businesses, and institutions to which they could return. They had banks, roads, and infrastructures to rebuild even though the Soviet Union had demolished some of them. The Afghans were refugees. The Jews fleeing Egypt were people without portfolio. They had no country. They had only a promise.

These are a people who have grown from a tribe of seventy people to more than 3,000,000 in 430 years.4 They have been in exile this entire time. For the last 400 years they have been doing slave labor under Egyptian pharaohs. They have just walked out of the nation of Egypt with what they are able to carry and the animals they own. Think about it! A U.S. Army Quartermaster General put his mathematical mind to the situation and figured they would require approximately 1,500 tons of food a day – two freight trains worth, each two miles long – and 4,000 tons of firewood to cook the food each day; one million gallons of water daily would be required to drink and wash the dishes. That would necessitate a tank of cars several miles long. Their campgrounds would have been two-thirds the size of Rhode Island State. Plus:
• They are poor.
• They have no schools.
• They have no government.
• They have no economy.
• They have no land.
• They have no army.
• They have no industry.
• They have no agriculture.
• They have no religious system.
• They have a welfare mentality and no work ethic.
• They have been oppressed and victimized.
• They have an undeveloped social system.
• They are, without a doubt, the largest, most undeveloped mass of people that has ever existed on the face of the earth. Compared to any nation I can think of today, Israel was in much worse shape.

It is to these people that God says, you are not a people, but I will make you a people. He promises these people, in this condition, that they will become a great nation and that other nations will admire their greatness and be blessed by them.5 They have just left one of the greatest civilizations in human history, Egypt, in its glory day under the pharaohs. The Jews are an impoverished mob in the middle of a wasteland. Yet, to them God says He will make them a great nation! Can you imagine the unbelief, the bewilderment, even the cynicism they might have felt?

However, in about 300 years’ time, God does it. He makes them one of the greatest, if not the greatest nation on the face of the earth. They have such a notorious reputation that within three centuries the whole known world is talking about Israel. A queen from the Saudi Arabian peninsula hears of this great kingdom and decides she will check it out first hand. She travels north, passing the crossing to Egypt, the former greatest nation. Her journey continues further north toward Canaan. Listen to these words:

1 Kings 10:1-10
1 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard
2 Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan – with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones – she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.
3 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.
4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built,
5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.
6 She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.
7 But I did not believe these things until… I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.
8 How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!
9 Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.”
10 And she gave the king 1 0 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

God Made A Promise And Fulfilled It
God had made a promise to build a great nation and He did it. He built a great nation in every category. Israel had just laws. They were economically prosperous. Their architecture and crafts were brilliant. They had superior education and wisdom. One of their kings, Solomon, was a great scientist. They were even admired by their former slave masters, the Egyptians. They were by no means a perfect kingdom; God had never indicated that He was promising that. But, they were a great kingdom. This history of Israel is not written as an allegory from which we are to learn the benefits of salvation alone, although you could make that point from the text. This is history – it happened in time and space to real people, to a real nation. The point for us is: if God did it once, He can do it again. God’s truth, if it is applied, can, and does, transform communities and nations. If God can develop these poor Jews into a great nation, He can do it for any existing nation in any age because not one community or nation in this world today is worse off than the Israelites in that wilderness.

God has told us to reach every creature with the message of salvation, and He has taught us how to do that. He left us the model of Jesus and Paul and the New Testament church to guide us into the global vision of reaching every language, every tribe, and every people. But God has also told us to “disciple every nation.” How do we do that? God has not given us a job and then been silent on how to accomplish it. Just as the keys to evangelism are in the story and life of Jesus and Paul, the keys to our job in transforming communities are in the story and life of Moses. Israel – its journey from slavery to greatness – is our Old Testament template of how to disciple a nation!

Now the question is, “Will we learn how to use it?” Will we take the time to study God’s Word until our minds have been restored, until we understand God’s principles of community and nation-building in every arena of life? Will we do the work of being reformed in our generation so that God can once again glorify Himself through the wisdom and influence of His people? We must decide. You must decide.

1. Exodus 12:37-38

2. Genesis 46:26-27

3. Exodus 1:6-7

4. Exodus 12:40

5. Deuteronomy 4:5-8