Fickle Or Mosaic?
Many have reminded us that Paul sees himself as a Moses figure. His life paralleled and contrasted with the life and commission of Moses in so many ways that are alluded to in the Corinthian literature. For example:
Both experienced a call and a commission
Both had to be overcome by God
Both claimed incompetence for the job
Both had leadership undermined
Both interceded for their people
Both reflected God's glory & covenant
Both spoke bitter words when provoked and suffered because of them
Both were invited up into God's presence and saw wondrous things
Both begged for something they were not granted
Both were accused of lording it over God's people
Both were accused of claiming authority they didn't have
Both talked of possible disqualification and one experienced it
Let me suggest that Numbers 16-17 is important background to 2 Corinthians 1-2 in particular and to 2 Corinthians in general.
Paul pictures himself led about in the God's triumphant procession (2:14). It's clear enough that Paul isn't the triumphant one but given the image of a Roman general's triumph he could have seen himself as one the serving troops or one of the captives. Since he includes himself as part of those being "led about" it's likely that he sees himself as one of the prizes won by God in the Lord Jesus Christ in his battle with the powers. Paul naturally sees his place in that procession as a matter of thanksgiving butit does mean he doesn't dictate the direction or the pace of the procession. He goes where the Lord leads him as Moses did in the wilderness.
But what provokes the image at this point? In the context, Paul is not only defending his change of plans he's defending his change of plans because it's being used against him. The claim is that he doesn't love them. If something more pleasing confronts him, he forgets the Corinthians and the promises he made to them. His critics would have no doubt said that that was why he took no money from the Corinthians. Take money from people and you owe them something and Paul didn't want to be under obligation to the Corinthians. So it could be understood.)
He assured them he didn't stick with his plans not because he didn't love them but precisely because he did love them (2:1-4). The reason he wouldn't come as promised, the reason he wrote the scathing letter were motivated by the same thing--he loved them. He takes that point up again in 2:12, explaining that that was why he went to Troa--to get assurance from Titus that his relationship with them was intact. He left Troas for the very same reason--he couldn't wait to hear how things were at Corinth. When he left Troas he headed for Macedonia. Again, for the very same reason! (In mentioning "Macedonia" he remembers that it was there the roof fell in on him--7:5.)
All this might look like dithering and devious changing of purposes but it wasn't. These aborted and unplanned moves might look more like (wilderness) "wanderings" but love for them was the motivating factor and the Lord of the Triumph (and the Wilderness) was in control. The hardships and the anxiety involved in them all.combining with the "on- -again-off-again" appearance makes it all look so haphazard, but Paul insists that in and through it all God was making known his own purposes and gaining his own glory (2:14).
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, the abiding word.com.