Australian Bible Church Ė June 3, 2007  






What Moses lost when he lost his temper,
and what Christ gained as He kept His! 
Matthew 27:41-44, Numbers 20:1-12



Moses had had enough of the brawling, bawling, turmoiled truancies from grace of the seething mass of Israel. Since the recorded events of Numbers 14, when they had in cowardice failed to confront the challenge of the promised land, did not enter it but instead wept and threatened Moses with stoning, they had tried him. It was as if he were the culprit, not their lack of faith: and their shame was mingled with self-assertion. Moses was torn with concern and frustration.

It was not a sudden matter. He had even pleaded with God not to destroy so recalcitrant and blustery a people (Numbers 14:11-18). The Lord had expressed to Moses the option of being in his own person the substitute for such a people; but Moses did not opt for this, concerned for the name of the Lord. He had an 'out', but did not take it. To be sure, the Lord may have been seeking to show Moses that even in his own heart, he did not really desire to have the people 'removed' so that he could do the job of testimony as Jew, that they so signally were failing to do.

How badly they had failed, this nation of Israel! Imagine after being delivered from the Egypt of that day, then the most sophisticated and mighty nation on earth, rescued from its entire army, pomp, pride and power, as a nation of slaves, and brought out in the very face of their chariot strength, through a parting sea which returned to drown the pursuing host, and then failing to follow the Lord's leading, and in the apt moment, declining to enter the land which was at last right in front of them! Think of it, not only were they rescued in this omnipotent manner, but they had been saved with even more spectacular action.

Thus when Pharaoh had pursued them, to take them, a cloud came  between that army and the people; and this it did when the enemy's nearness was dangerous. More than this, and after it: they had water for milling multitudes in the desert presented when a rock was struck, and food from the heavens in the form of manna, to keep them alive, and then what happened when they reached the desired NEW LAND ? Was it not like the Pilgrim Father's when they reached the USA, and were able to disembark and go and live in this new land! Not at all: those went in, but Israel jibbed!

Can you see it ? Now imagine if the Pilgrim Fathers had suddenly decided that it was all rather too much, that they suddenly declined to disembark, and talked of returning to England, to Europe. How different history would have been for a significant sector of the USA! and for Europe itself, in the end!

This however, the Jews did: they reached THEIR new land, the promised land, after episodes innumerable of divine power and grace, including a fire to guide them by night, and a cloud by day (Exodus 13:21), and guidance on the strategy of the enemy from whom they did indeed escape in this spread of divine grace, wisdom and power combined. At last, safely, they were there.

It was like a car after days of back-breaking toil, restored from a smash, and now ready to go. They would not however press the starter, would not enter the land, turned with tears from their opportunity, and were saved from entire destruction through the INTERCESSION of Moses (Numbers 14:11ff.).

Moses was far from short-tempered, and indeed acted in a most godly, patient and gracious, kindly manner, like a mother and father to the people! But then...

How often we are pressed, tried and patient, and are coming through in triumph from some particularly evil test situation, where folly beckons and evil laughs, and win! Yet some trivial thing, some development suddenly finds a flaw in our character, and instead of relying as normal on the Lord, we do something foolish! Alas, this is the way of unwisdom, and even Moses could fall for it, just as David did much later with Bath-Sheba. It is not only the folly of it, but the ingratitude which in the end, is pathetically obvious.

Moses, the great man of God, fell: NOT when the people refused to enter, but much later. It was when they were moaning as so often about lacking water (which had been routinely supplied - it is one thing to need and ASK, it is another to need and MOAN). The multitude of them were complaining as if Egypt were better than this (and that, AFTER having wilfully failed to enter the promised land when they reached it!).

Ah what a travesty, to complain of their own folly, and to wish themselves in Egypt which had so evilly treated them, and so treacherously, and to act as if God had let them down, Moses were a failure: when the fact was that their own cowardice had turned away the whole point of the trip!

Moses snapped. You rebels, he cried, must we bring forth water for you! Who is shown to be ungracious and powerful, better and brighter, in charge and disposing power, in this ? Is it not Moses! But it is the LORD who enabled the striking of the rock with the rod, to bring forth water. It was the same rod with which Moses had struck the channel of the Sea (Exodus 17:5), to divide it for their rescue from the Egyptian army, and even this did not speak: Moses LOST HIS TEMPER. It is sad, because it was SO untypical of the man, and he was SO tried!

The water came, but so did the discipline. You did not glorify Me, the Lord protested. It was fake! God ALONE has the power to deliver me and you from the evils of this world, character defect, to restore and renew, to empower and to purify. Even when there were priests, it was God alone to whom the power belonged (Psalm 62:11).

There is NEVER any place for big-headed papacies, priesthoods and presumption in the work and service of God, whether in the New or the Old Testament (cf. I Peter 5:1ff., II Corinthians 1:24). Man is man and God is God, and those who serve Him are agents, not princes! It is the Lord who is elevated (Hebrews 7:23ff.): ministers are servants, not lords, for it is He who is holy, harmless, higher than the heavens. It is not so much the 'priesthood of all believers' which is the central stress, but the high priesthood of Christ; for it is HE and not ourselves, pastor or plurality of people, who does the works!

As a result, Moses personally did not enter the promised land, but Joshua and Caleb, these only of the older generation did so; for they had counselled the people to ENTER it, when their cowardice misled them, and Joshua had URGED them and pleaded with them! Is this not a lesson on exhorting people in a timely fashion OUT OF LOVE, not exasperation or frustration! Indeed Moses in the main is a splendid example of a servant of God, and it was he as one, with Elijah, who spoke with Christ in the transfiguration of the death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31, Matthew 17:3).

He was honoured; but he lost the magnificent joy of entering the Promised Land with the next generation, who went in when the older ones, having refused at their threshold, were dead! Thus we are reminded: let us meet each test with courage, fight with fortitude, never yield to temptation and bring cries for grace, not mumbling and stumbling to the Lord in our crises. Indeed, let us turn now to the spectacle of His example and life.



Jesus Christ was taunted mercilessly. Consider Calvary. Not only had He just been betrayed by Judas, ostensibly a spiritual member of the 12 near Christ, but He had been condemned BECAUSE He told the truth to the priestly interrogators, as was foretold by Isaiah:

"And they made His grave with the wicked,
and with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in His mouth."

Are you the Son of the Blessed ? they asked. I AM, He replied (Mark 14:62). For that, He was condemned: no, it was not for the positive test results on every side, at the level only DEITY COULD perform, but rather for the REFUSAL to believe, of His 'judges', just as the people had refused to enter Canaan, when Moses was leader.

Christ could equally have lost His temper at this stubborn refusnik approach, this call of 'blasphemy' when the actual blasphemy was to dismiss the testimony of His unique and divine works, with mere obstinacy. Indeed, He was tried still more.

ON the Cross, He was taunted (Matthew 27:41-44) by the obstinate refusniks of HIS day, the chief priests with the scribes and elders. "He saved others," they cried, "Himself He cannot save."

In fact, as foretold in Isaiah, it was in NOT 'saving' Himself, that His love had effect, since He died vicariously for those whose sins merited death, as all sin does. This taunt therefore set His dignity against His calling. If He would NOT let them think He could not even do that, then He would surely have failed in His mission. Therefore He said nothing to that, and suffered in the face of this spiteful misconstruction, and so triumphed and prevailed. He did NOT lose His temper, His mission's fulfilment or gain voice where silence was needed. He took it, He endured, travailed  and prevailed.

"If," they pursued, "He be the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the Cross, and we will believe Him." No doubt they would: forlorn and lost in this world, afraid of truth, hiding in ceremonies, ignoring the substance in Christ fulfilled BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES, they would believe if He showed Himself a fraud, like themselves. No doubt of it! But what did that show ?

Thus we see as so often, that to judge is to be judged (except it be application of the word of God), for with what measure you mete, it will be meted again to you, as Christ declared it. THAT is the sort of Christ they WOULD believe: One whose earthly lust mastered His spiritual mission. Yet Christ, the only begotten Son of the living God, was not like that, or like them for that matter! If you were Abraham's children, He had told them, you would do the works of Abraham. It was no such work to seek to kill Him! (John 8:37-40). Thus, there was no need to answer these taunts now.

"I know that you are Abrahamís descendants, but you seek to kill Me,
because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father,
and you do what you have seen with your father." They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abrahamís children,
you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me,
a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this."

Christ on the Cross, then, did not reply to these taunts. It was like those of Israel of old, who sought to stone Moses when they had failed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:10). These did not stone Christ, they killed Him with taunts and nails mixed, like rubble from an al Qaeda bomb. Killing is ever the way where truth is trifled with; and taunts are the path when truth will not do.

They went further: He trusted in God, let HIM deliver Him, since He trusted in Him! this was their cry. What their eyes, blind and to be blind as type, for two more millenia in Israel's officialdom, did not see was that it was BECAUSE He trusted in God, as sent Messiah from heaven, that He stayed on the Cross. What cries (Hebrews 5:7) had come from Him in anguish, as He faced ahead of time, the death not only for sin but WITH IT, like a burden, that He knew to be coming on Him, as His role, mission and mercy to man! Now that it had come, prepared, He stayed put, and put up with it, and when put down, did not hang up on the divine communication. He remained on call!

Having come to save, He saved by continuing on the Cross (cf. the resolution in Hosea 13:14).

Instead of losing His temper, indeed, He called out as foretold in Psalm 22:1, that Messianic Psalm, showing the sense of desolation as sin, which always tends to separate from God, struck Him like an atomic bomb. It was all disciplined, high in wisdom, without sin, beautiful in composure, yet human in agony. THIS, it was this that saved us, and in not 'saving' Himself, He became saviour for millions.  

He endured, committing His Spirit into His Father's hands, first pausing to seek and save one of the thieves being crucified with Him, who asked Him to remember Him, when He came to His kingdom, thus believing in His righteousness, mission and the cause of His suffering.

When it was finished, then and then only did He declare this, so removing all sacrifice for ever, from the domain of sin-bearing (Hebrews 7 1-10), and falsifying those who pretend to continue such work. He completed His divine mission, commission, payment through grace for our race.

THIS, it was this that saved us; and in not 'saving' Himself, He became saviour for millions, indeed for all and any who receive Him as He is, for what He has done, and relish the One resurrected bodily, as He endured bodily, from the dead, making display of that eternal life which is His free gift to those who in faith so receive Him, a gift as eternal as the life, as sure as His word (John 10:9, 27-28).  


It is not in seeking popularity, praise or showing proud face and hollow heart, or in frustration, irritation or dismay that spiritual service is wrought. Instead, its path lies in KNOWING what you are meant to be doing, and doing it in self-discipline, with courage, the splendour of the Lord in your heart, and His word in your ears, seeking always to do what pleases Him . Christ is our example in this (cf. John 8:29). Yet He did not save by His example, but WITH it, as in this splendid spiritual setting, He actually paid for what no one of us could begin to pay, the sins of man, as many as received Him.

Jesus put it like this, as seen in Matthew 20:25-28:

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Taunts may thus be borne with silence but not with capitulation, and frustration at people's blindness; and  accepted with patience, not irritation. Through all this, service proceeds with joy in the Spirit of God pointing the way, even though obstinacy and vile words come like Chinese floods from the River of Sorrow, the Yellow one, so prone to inundate. We are set upon a rock, and though the world flood, we stand firm; and though the world laugh, we weep for those who fail, and seek to deliver some, even if we must take up our cross, and follow Him! How often ?

The divine prescription, it is this: DAILY (Luke 9:23, 14:27). Each one, then, to acclaim his Master, must accordingly "deny himself". The cross he or she must TAKE UP, that is bear daily, and not shirk.

It is not a case of thumping it, as if Moses were striking the rock TWICE, as he did on that fateful occasion we noted, but of carrying it. In what do you carry it ? It is in this: that you bear what is necessary and walk as prescribed, with patience doing the will of God, at whatever cost. Truth is like that. Nothing changes it; and the power of God is sufficient (Luke 1:37), as He said,

"My grace is sufficient for you! for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9).

The very flower of God, as faith works through love, it is grace with power, the power which both parted the sea for Israel, and sin in its guilt and rule from man, through Christ, epitomised in the resurrection (Romans 1:4, Ephesians 1:19).