March 09, 2015
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
The Willing but Unable Substitute
“This people have sinned a great sin; if thou wilt forgive their sin
… if not, blot me … out.”
There are many mountain peaks in the life of Moses. He rises to some dizzying heights in His spiritual character. His magnanimity amidst false accusation, his meekness despite being tried severely, his selfless care for the people of God – these and others all remind us of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, perhaps he never rises so high as when he says in effect, “Blot me out but bring them in.”
The sin of the people had been monumental. They had made golden calves and worshiped the work of their own hands. To aggravate the crime, Aaron the high priest had been involved in the building of the calves. God’s anger was at such a righteous level that He offered to destroy the nation and begin again with Moses. Just the refusal of Moses was a gracious display of grace.
But Moses rose even higher. As he interceded for the people, he offered to die for them. He was willing to become the one who would bear the anger of God against their sin. Moses was willing, but not able. A mere man, he lacked the necessary credentials to stand in the gap. He could not be a substitute for anyone. Righteous, godly, a man who knew God “face to face;” yet he was not able. Death had a claim upon Moses so the giving of his life could hardly be thought of as a “voluntary sacrifice.” That would have to wait for another Man, upon another Mountain, at another Moment.
- Think of men who offered or wished they could die in the place of others.
- “Peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.” What did this reveal of Moses’ own thinking?
- The people never knew until years later (Deut 9:18-29) that Moses had offered to give his life for them. By then it was a different generation. The people of that generation had lived and died with no knowledge of the greatness of Moses’ love and care for them. No one ever asked him of what transpired on the mount. Their dullness hindered their knowledge and appreciation for him. Can it be that we as well are limiting ourselves from knowing the depths of His sufferings for us?