When the Lord Withdraws

December 27-January 2

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The story in the first chapter of Moses holds so much doctrine. We learn about how the glory of God would literally disintegrate men if it wasn’t for Him transfiguring our bodies. We learn that Satan is so bent on his own power and greatness that he thinks he can fool Moses into worshipping him. We learn about the extensive works of our Heavenly Father. There is so much here for anyone who puts in time and spiritual energy to see it. 

Let’s talk about how Moses’ experience with both God and Satan parallel our own walk on the earth. 

Moses’ experience

Moses is on a high mountain. God’s glory comes upon him, and he is transfigured by it. Because of this change wrought upon his body, he is able to survive the presence of God. Heavenly Father teaches some core doctrine including His own work, the existence of a work He holds for Moses, and characteristics of the Savior. The glory of our Heavenly Father leaves Moses, and Moses is left exhausted for several hours.

Moses regains his strength, ponders on the nothingness of mankind, and is interrupted by Satan. Satan calls upon Moses to worship him to which Moses replies something along the lines of, “You want me to worship you? Yeah that’s cute. I just spoke to God, and you are pathetic in comparison to Him. Why should I worship you?” 

Satan did not find this very cute. Satan throws a tantrum, and it’s at this point that Moses becomes a little afraid. He becomes so afraid that he sees “the bitterness of hell.” Moses calls upon God and receives the strength to cast Satan out in the name of the Savior. Satan makes a dramatic exit. 

Moses is relieved and is filled with the Spirit. As Moses prays, he receives a vision and hears a voice, and it continues to crescendo until Moses is once again in the presence of Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father continues to teach him.

The amount of doctrine that was restored within this one chapter is mind boggling, but let’s talk about just one question.

Why did Heavenly Father leave and allow Moses to witness the presence of Satan?

The answer to this question is the same answer to the question, “Why did Heavenly Father allow Satan to enter the Garden of Eden and tempt them?” It is two-fold.

Recognition and discernment

Heavenly Father’s ultimate work and glory is eternal life for man. Why? Because it is a life of everlasting happiness and satisfaction. Though Heavenly Father desperately wants this kind of life for all of us, He refuses to force this kind of life upon us. He wants us to choose it. Were He to attempt to force it upon us, it would ironically negate His efforts and leave us unhappy. For us to actually attain eternal life, we have to personally choose it.

We all know this from personal experience. When you try to force someone to do something, no matter how happy it could potentially make them, they will often find themselves unhappy regardless.

It has to be a choice.

The only way that Heavenly Father could give us a choice is to give options. There has to be an option other than life with Him or there isn’t really a choice at all. 

Heavenly Father “withdrew” from Moses so that Moses could see the choice. Though I’m sure Moses had many learning experiences up to this point, there were probably few more poignant than the stark difference between the choice of God and the choice of Satan lined up back to back. 

Moses 1:14-15

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?

Imagine someone places your favorite dessert in front of you. I will personally imagine tapioca pudding (though not necessarily my favorite, it is certainly one of them). You have never tasted this dessert before, but you taste it. It’s pretty dang good. You could eat it for a while.

Perhaps you are the type of person who would have asked, “Well I had never tasted tapioca before…what if there’s something better that I’m not aware of?” Even if you’re the type of person who would be content with your tapioca forever, would you be able to fully appreciate it if you had never tasted anything else? Perhaps you would argue with me, but I would venture that you wouldn’t. You can’t appreciate the good without the bad. 

Adam and Eve couldn’t have been truly happy because they hadn’t ever been truly sad. Surely Moses was blown away by the power of God because Moses compared God to the nothingness of man, but how much more powerful did He become in the life of Moses when compared to the underwhelming/frightening presence of Satan? How much more loyal would you become to God when you know that nothing compares to Him?

To become like God

There is another reason Heavenly Father withdrew to an extent from Moses. It was so that Moses could become more like Heavenly Father. 

Moses 1:20-21

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.

Rather than doing the work for him, Heavenly Father gave Moses the strength and ability to live like Him. Moses received strength to do it himself. 

I imagine this is much like the difference between driving in the passenger seat or driving on your own. Even with someone right next to you, giving you the steps you need, there is exhilaration and pride and growth from learning how to do it.

Heavenly Father wants drivers, not passengers. 

Just as He blessed Adam and Eve with the ability to have children and become more like Him, Heavenly Father blessed Moses with the strength he needed to cast Satan (and his miserable influence and terror) out of his life.

The lesson for us

Heavenly Father has withdrawn from us a step. He sent us here to earth so that we could choose what we truly wanted for our forever lives. He sent us here so that we could grow stronger and wiser and ultimately like Him. 

Though Heavenly Father’s distance may feel painful and personal at times, it is a gift. Pain was a necessary part of the growth, and the distance is personal. The distance was given to you; you needed it. 

Our Heavenly Father never truly left Moses. He was there when Moses pleaded for help, and He was there the second Satan left. I can assure you He was certainly aware of Moses the entire time. 

It is the same with us. He never truly leaves us. He is there when we pray though there will be times in our lives when we can’t feel or recognize Him. I testify that He is there regardless of whether you can immediately sense it. Though we may plead with Him to remain close at all times for our own comfort, He gives us alternating experiences between Him and Satan for our own good. We need those alternating experiences to choose and fully appreciate what He’s offering. 

He is always aware and accessible and wise. 

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