How does God speak with His prophets?
The Lord said, “Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold…” (Numbers 12:6-8).
God has always declared His will to His prophets through visions and dreams, and this will continue till the end of time (Joel 2:28; Amos 3:7). Based on Joel 2:28, it has been believed that “visions” are generally given to younger men and women, and “dreams” to prophets that are older.
An “open vision” (1 Samuel 3:1) is a physically very tiring experience (Daniel 10:8–11, 16–19). Different prophets wrote of experiences similar to Daniel’s. Inspired dreams cause far less depletion of physical strength of the individual to whom they are given.
But in the case of Moses, he had a special case for God spoke to him directly. Moses didn’t see the actual being of God for no one can see God and live. The Lord said to Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).
Moses saw some visible form that a man could endure to see and live. Therefore, the word “similitude,” in Numbers 12:6-8, is sometimes translated “likeness” (Deuteronomy 4:15, 16, 23, 25; Psalms 17:15; Isaiah 40:18; John 1:18 and 1 Timothy 6:16).
Man can’t see God and live. If at the appearance of one angel, the Roman soldiers at the tomb of the risen Christ “became as dead men” (Matthew 28:4), what would happen when a fallen man is brought into the very presence of God?
How did God speak with Moses?
The Lord said, “And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by” (Exodus 33:22). The different preventive measures here recorded were for the purpose of protecting Moses. Man has never seen the Lord’s face (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 John 4:12).
There is no misunderstanding between these texts, which state that no man has seen God’s face, and the many texts that indicate to us that God walked among men in the person of Jesus Christ and was seen by crowds (1 John 1:1–3; 1 Timothy 3:16; etc.). In the first group of texts, the Bible authors are speaking of God in His ultimate Glory; in the second, of God as “manifest in the flesh,” and thus with His hidden glory by incarnation.