Monday, May 2, 2011

Lessons from Moses 1 about resisting Satan

In this chapter we are treated to three great experiences Moses had--seeing God, being tempted by Satan, and seeing God again. Recently I’ve been looking at the encounter he had with Satan and studying it.
10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.
11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.
12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
14 For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?
15 Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.
16 Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.
17 And he also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me.
18 And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.
19 And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.
21 And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.
22 And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.
23 And now of this thing Moses bore record; but because of wickedness it is not had among the children of men. (Moses 1:10-23)
I decided to highlight some of the phrases that are repeated because it indicates a pattern, and when patterns emerge, there is something important to learn.

First, note how many times Moses says something like “depart hence, Satan.” (I highlighted it in orange.) From the very beginning, Moses wants Satan to go away. He says it four times, yet Satan keeps trying to get at him. (Only after the last time, when Moses commands in the name of the Only Begotten, does Satan obey.) So this should tell us that Satan does not take no for an answer and we have to stay firm and not give an inch.

There are some places where it is easy to think that Moses is starting to wander in his reasons for resisting Satan’s demand for worship. He starts out by comparing Satan’s lack of glory with God’s glory. We can grasp that; he’s just seen God after all. But then he says, “deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.” (v16) I didn’t see how this was connected to Satan’s demand for worship. After a while I began to suspect that it wasn't meant to be connected; maybe it indicates that Satan was also tempting Moses in other ways that Moses did not record. If Moses recalled God’s words that he was in the similitude of the Only Begotten, perhaps Satan had also tried to get Moses to doubt what God had told him about his similitude and even denigrate his body because of the weakness Moses had been left in. Then Moses says, “[God] also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me” (v17). This shows that Satan must have been trying to convince Moses that he didn’t need to pray any more after having had such a glorious vision of God and seeing so great things. (Insidious, huh?)

Moses is able to resist by remembering the commandments he had been given and remembering what he had been told about his identity. He had been told by God that he was a son of God, so he held to that.

Up to this point, Moses has been using logic according to the commandments to unveil Satan’s deceptions. And too he can judge Satan’s lack of glory compared with God’s. This is when Satan drops all pretense of politeness and tries to manipulate with spiritual abuse and strong emotional displays. (I highlighted this in red.) He cries with a loud voice, rants on the earth, and commands Moses to worship him as the Only Begotten. I looked up “rant” on my dictionary widget and it said “speak or shout in a wild, impassioned way.” All this to try to make Moses think he was wrong to resist and that he’s in spiritual danger. (To some extent, Moses does begin to feel he’s in danger; he begins to fear and senses the bitterness of hell, but he calls on God for strength.) Satan also tries to make Moses think Satan has power over the elements; Satan trembles at the same time that there is an earthquake, hoping Moses will think the two coinciding events are connected somehow. (Moses still resists with prayer and commands Satan to leave in the name of the Only Begotten.) Satan has to leave, but not before he vents all his frustration with weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

I have a few observations about this.

First, I notice that Moses resists Satan’s temptations and attacks by remembering to pray and continuing to call on God. (I highlighted in green all the prayer stuff.) Using logic and the commandments works at the beginning, but when Satan started attacking, Moses resorted to prayer for strength. This shows us that it is true that if we pray always, we will come off conqueror and conquer Satan (and his servants). It might be easy to look at this story and say that prayer didn’t work because each time Moses prayed Satan kept trying stuff. The truth is that each prayer Moses prayed helped him resist the particular tactic Satan was trying at that time, so little by little, Moses was conquering Satan through prayer. At the end, Moses commanded Satan to depart in the name of the Only Begotten, using his priesthood. Clearly priesthood has power over Satan.

I notice that Moses knows exactly who this entity is who is after him and he never ceases to call him “Satan,” even when Satan demands to be worshipped and identified as the Only Begotten, trying to usurp Christ’s identity.

I really think that this story ranks in value next to the account of Satan tempting Jesus in the Bible. The value of Moses’s record arises from the great detail about Satan’s different attempts to snare Moses and the ways that Moses resists and overcomes Satan. As I studied this, I found that the same attacks that Satan used on Moses, Satan has used on me—the loud voice, the ranting, the commanding, the fear, the bitterness, the weeping, the wailing, the teeth-gnashing. (Not that Satan appeared to me, but he still used these tactics on my spirit.)

The tricky thing is, when Satan makes you think he is from God and tells you to do what he says, it makes you feel like you can’t pray because you fear that the prayer’s answer will just be the same thing again. So it makes you feel like you can’t pray, that you’re stopped in your progression, and resistance will bring about your apostasy and you’ll go to hell. It’s really hard to pray then, but pray we must. That’s what Moses did, and he received strength. That’s what I must do, instead of being pulled down into depression, guilt, fear, and self-loathing about my resistance.

I anticipate that this story will help me discern such tactics in the future and I have faith that the Lord will help me conquer Satan through prayer and the priesthood.

Update: The question that we all end up asking ourselves about this story is, "Why did Satan come so immediately after Moses had seen God?" I happened to stumble upon the answer quite by accident tonight.

Satan comes in our moments of weakness. Moses was in a moment of physical weakness after having seen God. Furthermore, he had been overwhelmed by the glory of God and said, "Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." It is at this moment that Satan jumps in and tries to use Moses's insight against him. If Moses thinks man is nothing, perhaps he will be sufficently impressed with Satan and worship him. Anything ought to be better than man, right? This shows that it does not do to think too little of ourselves, just as it is harmful to think too much of ourselves. Satan will use either against us.


Wendy said...

Fascinating! Moses is a great example to follow in resisting and eventually being triumphant in this experience with Satan. Satan continues after each defeat or triumph.

The Good Tale said...

The woman of Revelation 12 is now here… God is very precise: A woman delivers the true word John1:1, Rev 12:5, Rev 12:13 who restores Acts 3:21 all things to the world before Christ’s return. This woman exposes the lies of Satan who has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9. This woman creates a new thing in the earth by fulfilling God's promise to Eve Gen 3:15, Jer 31:22, Isa 14:16. She is meek like unto Moses Acts 3:22, Num 12:3 and she is also like Elijah Matt 17:11 for her witness alone turns the hearts of the fathers to the children Mal 4:5-6 to prepare a people for the Lords return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord Matt 17:3, Luke 9:30. Moses and Elijah are together with the word Matt 17:3. They are all three in this one woman. Woe on those who will not hear Acts 3:23 the true word of God now delivered to the world free of charge, as a witness, at the heel of time from the wilderness Rev 12:6. This true word turns the hearts of the fathers to the children of God by giving the truth that not one child of God will be put in a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5. God created evil Isa 45:7 to teach his children the knowledge of good and evil Rom 8:7, Gen 3:22 so that at their resurrection they become a god Matt 22:29-30, Ps 82:6. Prove all things. Be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. You cannot rightly judge this unless you read all that has been written by this woman first Pro 18:13 Time is short.

Ramona Gordy said...

A simple question, could this encounter with Satan by Moses, be a foreshadow of what the Savior would/did experience in his "40 days and nights in the wilderness"?

Michaela Stephens said...

RGG, great question and an intriguing thought! This could be yet another way that Moses was a type of Christ.

val, God did not create evil. Satan corrupts good into evil.

Ramona Zabriskie said...

Ooooo. Good thinking! (As usual.) I had never thought about Satan jumping in at the moment Moses realizes "man is nothing". Since we have been living in Europe for the past 12 months, we have visited innumerable cathedrals in all the great cities on the continent. The thing that strikes us again and again, is that for all their impressive majesty - the only thing that really impresses us is how far away from God it makes a person feel -- EVERYthing seems to say, "YOU are nothing." Isn't that interesting that these edifices are products of the Great Apostasy? when Satan's message was the only one coming through loud and clear.

It feels wonderful to read your blog again - I have not been able to during our time here for so many reasons, but now that we are winding down our contract, travels and callings here and heading back to the states this month, I am resuming my favorite things - including my old Sunday blog: Mona's Gospel Musings: Hope you will visit and that I can use some of your amazing thoughts in some upcoming musings there.