December 18, 2017

Moses

A sermon by Bob Jones, Jr.

Moses was a man of mountains and a mountain of a man. He was a man of waters, cradled on a river, commanding the sea, bringing water from living rock, but halted by a muddy stream he could not cross. He was a man of fire who knew flame that did not consume and who slept every night under an arching tent of burning; a man who by one act of killing lost a prince’s heritage, but with hands uplifted won a battle and saved a nation. Moses was a man whose rod was a reptile, and who cured snakebite with a brazen serpent; a man who was a failure at 40 and a goat herder at 80. Before he died, Moses gave us the finest system of law the world has ever known, the foundation of the jurisprudence of western nations; he codified and organized a religious system more complex than any the world has ever known, with specific rules concerning vestments, priesthood, offices, sacred vessels, and a building for worship. He was a man who in all things was strange and unique.

The life of Moses can be viewed from its lesson, its law, its limitation, and its illumination; or, if you prefer, the call, the climax, the conclusion, and the consummation of his life; or if you prefer again, his service, separation, sorrow, and salvation.

Moses and the Voice

In Exodus 3, Moses is on the backside of the desert, keeping watch over the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses hears the Voice of God speaking from a bush that burns, yet is not consumed. His first reaction is curiosity; he says, “Let us go see about this.” As Moses approaches the bush, he is stopped by a Voice that says, “Take off your shoes, Moses. You are on holy ground.”

There are holy things upon which you are not to intrude. Today, this shallow and blasphemous generation does not hesitate to approach sacred things lightly and to come with unclean hands into the very presence of the Holy One. There are secret things that belong to God (Deuteronomy 29:29); God says that they are His secrets and that we are to leave them alone. But God reveals certain truths to us, and those truths belong to the children of men. Beyond these, however, we are not allowed to venture.

Taking off his shoes, as he had been commanded, Moses engages in quite a little dialogue with God. God’s call to Moses is this: “Go down to the .land and free the people. I know that Pharaoh will not let them go, but I am going to do such things in Egypt as will compel him to let them go.” Moses begins to argue with God. He argues about his own inabilities and the fact that he cannot speak and about other things which, while Moses may have thought them true, were not, at least some of them, true at all. Then he uses this argument: “If I go down to Egypt and say to these people that Thou hast sent me there, they will ask, ‘Who sent you?’ What shall I tell them?” The Lord’s answer is very clear: “I AM THAT I AM … say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”

When you study a passage of Scripture, always consider the context. Earlier in this chapter, God has referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, or Isaac, and of Jacob. But that will not do now. Remember that these children of Israel in bondage in Egypt had only the vaguest kind of tribal legends about their religious traditions. They had no written Scripture. For 400 years they had been in Egypt, and most of that time they had been slaves. They had only that which had been handed down from father to son to grandson-tribal heritages handed down by word of mouth, legends about Abraham whom God had called out of Ur of the Chaldees, accounts of what God had done for Isaac and Jacob, and vague stories about Joseph whom God had honored. Who these men were, the Hebrews were not quite sure. They simply knew that in the past God had done wonders. But they did not need a God of dead men, a God Whose wonders in the past were half-remembered legends. In the midst of their trouble they needed a God Who was immediate, eternal, everlasting, and very contemporary.

Moses learned a lesson that day that changed his whole life. He discovered that “this God Who speaks to me from the bush is the God I AM — not I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I am the God of Moses, too. And I am the God of downtrodden and enslaved people busy in the slime pits making brick, and also of those who shall be born. I am the God Who is unchanging, eternal, everlasting, from age to age the same, with an arm that is not shortened, a power that knows no limit, an eye that never grows dim, and a voice that never weakens-a God Who eternally is God.” If you can learn the lesson Moses learned, you will be prepared to face any calamity, any testing, and any stress that might destroy your life.

“I AM hath sent me.” Incorporated in that name was all that Israel needed at the moment: I am God, I am Love, I am Power, I am Law.

The Rod of God

Have you noticed that when Moses went down into Egypt he took with him “God’s rod”? “What is that in thine hand?” (Exodus 4:2). “A shepherd’s rod.” “Throw it down!” And it became a serpent. Then came the command, “Take it up again.” I cannot help smiling as in my imagination I see Moses gingerly stretching for the staff from as far away as he can get, trying to just barely grasp the serpent’s tail with two fingers and a thumb, and suddenly finding it stiff in his hand. Moses looks at it and feels the roughness of the bark and fancies that he is touching glittering scales.

When Moses went down into Egypt, he took with him that rod of God. When you know God’s name and receive God’s commission, you have God’s power as well. God never calls you to do something you cannot do. You may call yourself to tasks beyond your gifts. You may strain beyond your grasp to reach something you desire. But when God sends you somewhere, you go in His name, in the name of the eternal I AM. You are His, and all He has is yours. Moses’ most valuable lesson can be yours — that the God of Abraham, Isaac, arid Jacob’ is your God, that the God Who shaped the universe is the God Who will shape your life, that the God Who upholds all things by the word of His power will not negligently let you drop .

The Law on Sinai

Moses has been serving the God to Whom Moses is answerable, but a God Who is answerable to no man. On Mount Sinai, Moses comes to know the very nature of the God he serves. There are always new lessons ahead; there are always daily blessings for those who walk with God. I always smile — somewhat sadly, of course-when I think about the people who speak of a second blessing as if it is God’s final blessing. I thank God that there is no limitation to His blessing. The more you walk with the Lord, the more you will learn about Him.

It was not until Moses had reached Sinai that he really came to know exactly what God’s nature is. Before then he had known God’s power and God’s determination. Now he knew the very nature of God Himself. God begins, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The law begins with God’s declaration of His right to be alone in the affections of His people. This is the first point in the whole structure of the doctrine of separation. God says, “I am alone. Moses approaches Me alone, and I am a God Who decrees that you shall have no other gods beside Me. No graven images are to be made. My name is holy; it may not be blasphemed.”

It is natural that before God describes man’s relations with man He sets forth man’s relation with Himself. You cannot be rightly related to man until you are rightly related to God. People who try to fix up the world and take care of civil rights and everything else, yet who blaspheme the name of God and are strangers to His grace, sinners on their way to Hell, can never be rightly related to their fellowmen. You can be rightly related to men only when your relationship with God has been conformed to God’s law and God’s love.

On the mountaintop with God, Moses faces the climax of his career. He asks permission to see God’s glory. God answers, “You cannot see My glory. No man can look on My face and live. But go over to the cleft of the rock and I will put My hand over your face, will walk by, and you can see the fringe of the hem of the garment of glory as it passes by. You cannot see My glory and live, but you must know and keep My law in order to live.”

At Sinai the law is given, and at Sinai Moses finds God as He is in His righteousness, in His holiness, and in His nature. God’s nature loves so perfectly that it sets up a barrier of law to protect man from that which would mar and destroy him. Never regard the law as something cold and hard. The law is as warm as the heart of God, and it burns as the very affections of God burn toward sinners.

On this mountaintop Moses learns God’s second name. Moses’ sojourn on Mount Sinai ends with God describing Himself in His holy righteousness and then declaring, “My name is Jealous” (Exodus 34:14), It is strange-”I AM THAT I AM, but where My people are concerned, I am jealous for their love and for their affections. I am jealous also for their best. That which I require is for their good that the nation shall be established and shall prosper, that liberty shall be respected, that families may be ennobled, and that My people shall be a testimony to My name.”

When you chafe under rules, think of this: without law there can be no stability, and without rules there can be no warm and effective ministry. When a man does that which is right in his own eyes, he sets himself above God and worships at the shrine of his own perfections, believing that his own will is good. But God says clearly that our wills and our hearts are faulty and that our perfection is found in Jesus Christ, Who is the fulfillment and the completion of all the law of God.

Moses’ Limitation

Now let us go to the mountains of Moab, to old Nebo. Moses is an old man. Though his eye is not dimmed and his strength is not weakened, he is old and ready to die; He comes to the place where the rocks are heaped up, and God takes him to a mountaintop near the Jordan and lets him look out over the land that lies beyond. Moses sees the places of all the tribes. He sees Jericho that soon shall fall. “But Moses, you shall be satisfied with a look. Your foot shall not press the slopes of the mountains nor grow damp with the waters of Jordan, for this is as far as you can go. This is the farthest reach and the point of limitation for you.”

All of us face limitations, but we are responsible for most of them. Moses was to blame for the fact that he could not go into the land. Do you remember the incident? The people were in rebellion because there was no water, and the cattle were dying. The Israelites were whining that Moses had led them into the wilderness to die. (How often Moses had to hear that complaint!) Actually they were not in rebellion against Moses but against God. Moses and Aaron went before God and asked God what to do. God said, “Go out and speak to that rock, and it will give water for the people and for their cattle. I am going to be sanctified among these people” (Numbers 20:8). In other words, “I am going to be proved in the power of My holiness. I am going to show these people that water can come from a rock at the very Name of God. Go out and in My name command that rock to give water.” But Moses, angry at the rebellion of his people, went out and smote the rock twice (Numbers 20:11). Although water gushed forth in abundance, Moses’ hopes dried up. Earlier in the Israelites’ journey, God had told Moses to smite a rock. He had obeyed precisely and the water had come out (Exodus 17). But this time God is dealing differently. He is to be glorified in the power of His name that commands a rock to give forth water. But Moses, in the strength of human anger, takes the rod of God and brings the miracle. In a sense, the results are the same. The water is there as before, but in this case judgment instead of blessing comes on Moses.

There are times to use the rod of God-when the strength of a man’s arm will hold up that which God uses as the focal point of His power. But there are also times when a man must stand quietly by and speak God’s name to bring a miracle to pass. Moses, instead of speaking and commanding that rock in the Name that is above every name, smote the rock .in anger with the rod of power. The water came, but God said, “Because you have failed to sanctify Me before this people, you shall not possess the land.” By one disobedience, Moses, lost the right to go into the land.

The people who had been unwilling to enter the land because of their weakness and lack of faith and disobedience now see Moses set aside. Moses stands on the top of the mountain and looks out and sees all that lies before. Then he tums around, lies down, goes to sleep, and is buried.

On Another Mount

We could leave Moses sleeping quietly. We could leave in a secret grave the one whose name is not forgotten and whose deeds have been a wonder to all generations since. But God does not leave him there. Let us go into Canaan after an elapse of years to a high, secluded mountain (Mark 9). Our Lord stands here with three selected disciples. Suddenly He is transfigured before them, and they see Him in the glory of the eternal God. Talking with Him are Moses and Elijah. Moses can look on God’s glory now and live because the glory is “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As God reveals His glory in the law, so now God reveals His glory perfectly in Jesus Christ, Who is the fulfillment of the law.

What compensation God gives His own! From the mount on the backside of the desert, past Sinai and Nebo, to the mount of transfiguration. Here, the Lord, revealed in glory, permits Moses to stand with Him and discuss the fulfillment that lies a few weeks ahead. The fulfillment will come when our Lord dies on a cross in our behalf. Moses, the giver of the law, and Elijah, the prophet of fire, are forerunners of the One Who on a cross was bruised for our iniquities and suffered the penalty for our rejection of God’s love and our rebellion against God’s law.

Where the wild·tossed rocks of Moab
Rise like turrets gaunt and high,
Ripe in years and finished labor
Moses stood against the sky
Gazed across the wretched wasteland
To devour with hungry eye
Fertile fields of land well·watered
That across the river lie.
Then contented with the vision,
Moses laid him down to die.

There he rests in secret sleeping
Where the rocks of Nebo stand
Who a rock in anger smiting
Might not lead the wandering band
Through the fords of swelling Jordan
Or
with them possess the land.
Yet upon a mount in Canaan
What a wonder God has planned!
There the Christ revealed in glory,
Moses there at His right hand.


This article first published by Faith for the Family, May/June 1974. It is republished here by permission.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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