Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said,
“Rise up, O LORD!
And let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee from Your presence.”
When it came to rest, he said,
“Return, O LORD,
[To] the myriad thousands of Israel.”
The the visible presence of God — the cloud by day and fire by night — rose up from the tabernacle and moved, the Israelites would strike camp and follow. When the presence stopped, the Israelites would make camp. Numbers records that as this happened, Moses sang a short song which is recorded in this morning’s verses.
The song Moses sang when the Israelites set out is about God rising up and scattering His enemies. It sounds like a pretty typical prayer for God to show Himself powerful, but the phrasing is interesting to me. Moses asks that those who hate [God] flee from [His] presence. I have heard people argue that God is unjust for sending people to Hell if they reject Him. Yet there is something in Moses’ prayer song that gets my gears turning. Hell is not so much about those who did something wrong — we have all done something wrong — or those who have been good or bad people — we have all been both in our time — but about those who have hated God Himself. Those who are in Hell have fulfilled Moses’ prayer song and have fled from God’s presence. It may very well be (and probably is) the case that Moses was talking about the hostile nations fleeing from the cloud or fire, but the fact remains that he, intentionally or no, ended up singing a rather poignant song about who ends up in Hell. The short answer: those who hate God.
But there is something more to this, for me. It is when I am in rebellion; when I am loving God the least that I most want to run away from Him. Just like Adam in Eden, I find that I want to hide when I have done something I know to be shameful and injurious to God’s heart.
Moses also sings a little ditty when the Israelites make camp that invites God to return to the multitude of Israelites. And that is precisely where I need to be if I have been running from God and finally stopped. I need to invite Him to bridge the distance between us, because I cannot do it. I have done something wrong, but it is only by His sacrifice that I can be cleansed from my wrongs so that He can commune with me and I with Him.
Father, let those who hate You flee Your presence. Please come and commune with those who love You.