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I have been a stranger in a strange land. – Moses, Exodus 2:22
The other day I taught a class on Moses. I’m certainly no rabbi, secular or otherwise, so I had to study the subject pretty extensively before I taught the class.
In the course of that study, I learned more about Moses. As a kid, I read some of the Old Testament in my Lutheran confirmation classes, but most of my limited knowledge about the great prophet of the Torah, came from other sources, like the books and films I’d read and seen, which fictionalized or summarized his life and reduced it to its most dramatic moments.
Just as I did, we probably all knew that Moses was found in a basket in the reeds; raised as a prince in the household of the Egyptian king; after his exile became a wandering shepherd; brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai; parted the Red Sea; and led the Jews for forty years in the wilderness.
But did you know that Moses fled Egypt after he fought and killed an Egyptian slavemaster who was beating and trying to kill a Hebrew slave? Did you know that Moses stuttered so badly that he appointed his brother Aaron as his spokesman? Did you know Moses has many names in many cultures—Musa, Moshe, Mose, Moyses, Mneves, Musaeus? Did you know that all four of the world’s major Abrahamic religious traditions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith—recognize Moses as a prophet of God? The Baha’i teachings revere Moses, and ask us a profound question about him:
Moses was for a long time a shepherd in the wilderness. To outward seeming He was a man Who had been reared in the bosom of tyranny, had become reputed among men as a murderer, had taken up the shepherd’s staff, and was fiercely hated and reviled by Pharaoh’s government and people. It was such a man Who freed a great people from the fetters of captivity and persuaded them to leave Egypt and settle in the Holy Land.
That people had sunk to the depths of degradation and were lifted up to the heights of glory. They were captives and were set free. They were the most ignorant of peoples and became the most learned. By virtue of that which He established, they so progressed as to be singled out among all nations, and their fame spread to every land, to such a degree that when the inhabitants of neighbouring lands wanted to praise someone they would say, “Surely he must be an Israelite!” Moses established laws and ordinances that conferred new life upon the people of Israel and led them to attain the highest degree of civilization at that time.
Such was their progress that the philosophers of Greece would come to seek knowledge from the learned men of Israel. Among them was Socrates, who came to Syria and acquired from the children of Israel the teachings of the oneness of God and the immortality of the spirit. He then returned to Greece and promulgated these teachings, whereupon the people of that land rose up in opposition to him, accused him of impiety, arraigned him before the court, and condemned him to death by poison.
Now, how could a man who was a stammerer, who had been brought up in the house of Pharaoh, who was known among men as a murderer, and who out of fear had long been a fugitive and a shepherd, establish in the world so mighty a Cause that the wisest philosophers of the earth would be incapable of producing a thousandth part thereof? This is clearly an extraordinary feat. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 17-18.
Give some serious thought to that final question—how could such a man, single, alone and lowly, produce a world-conquering Cause and civilization? By extension, how could the few founders and prophets of the world’s great Faiths have such enormous influence on the world for so many centuries after their passing? How could one lone individual like Moses cause millions of people, thousands of years later, to gather every week in synagogues to worship and honor his teachings?
Inasmuch as Moses through the influence of His great mission was instrumental in releasing the Israelites from a low state of debasement and humiliation, establishing them in a station of prestige and glorification, disciplining and educating them, it is necessary for us to reach a fair and just judgment in regard to such a marvelous Teacher. For in this great accomplishment He stood single and alone. Could He have made such a change and brought about such a condition among these people without the sanction and assistance of a heavenly power? Could He have transformed a people from humiliation to glory without a holy and divine support?
None other than a divine power could have done this. Therein lies the proof of Prophethood because the mission of a Prophet is education of the human race such as this Personage accomplished, proving Him to be a mighty Prophet among the Prophets and His Book the very Book of God. This is a rational, direct and perfect proof. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 406.
Only the power of the Word of God, the Baha’i teachings say, could impel such an astonishing result:
The proof of the validity of a Manifestation of God is the penetration and potency of His Word, the cultivation of heavenly attributes in the hearts and lives of His followers and the bestowal of divine education upon the world of humanity. This is absolute proof. The world is a school in which there must be Teachers of the Word of God. The evidence of the ability of these Teachers is efficient education of the graduating classes. – Ibid., p. 339.
Only the power of the Word of God, the Baha’i teachings say, can forge unity and harmony:
Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas, and convictions of the children of men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 103.
Only the power of the Word of God, the Baha’i teachings say, can change the world:
…could these fevers in the world of the mind, these fires of war and hate, of resentment and malice among the nations, this aggression of peoples against peoples, which have destroyed the tranquillity of the whole world ever be made to abate, except through the living waters of the teachings of God? No, never!
And this is clear: a power above and beyond the powers of nature must needs be brought to bear, to change this black darkness into light, and these hatreds and resentments, grudges and spites, these endless wrangles and wars, into fellowship and love amongst all the peoples of the earth. This power is none other than the breathings of the Holy Spirit and the mighty inflow of the Word of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 52.
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