AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH January  23, 2011

A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith  

   

 

HELPS AND HINDRANCES

 

ON THE HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS

 

Numbers 14-20

 

Sermon Notes Part III

 

Note that Possess Your Possessions Vol. 12,  Ch.  4 has been extended
to give more insight into the situation of Moses' unmagnificent moment!
 
and Ch. 8   covers the case more extensively.

 

 

THE TORRENT THAT DID NOT HELP, THE TASK THAT HINDERED
AND THE TRUTH THAT STILL PREVAILED

 

In the last Section, as planned, there was a dwelling on the work of the Lord and the ministry of man! The first of Moses' errors in his famous double striking of the Rock after the death of Miriam, after he had suffered much provocation, was considered. Doubtless, with the "rod of God" (Exodus 4:4,17) earlier  used so notoriously both before and during  the Exodus,  and specifically commissioned for miracles in Egypt before Moses return there,  and its later use after the flight, the continuity with that event made explicit from the Lord (Ex. 17:5):  these things could not but be in mind. Thus when water was needed once more for a repeatedly contumacious people, Moses acted (Numbers 20).

Told to take the rod and to address the rock, it is scarcely surprising that he struck it. There was a large history relative to the rod, and to take one illustrative case, God once told Moses to stretch out his hand to induce a plague on Egypt, and in response,  Moses at once used the rod as before, without rebuke! (Exodus. 9:22-23).  Some things are established by usage, especially in normative circumstances (Exodus 17 and Numbers 20),  where  the same type of case arises. If in the former, directions to strike in this post-Egyptian situation, were explicit, then in the latter, the rod was again divinely directed to the work (20:17), both being scenes of symbolic significance.

Moses was flamboyant rather than buoyant, and an inflated sense of autonomy appeared. Today, we plan to ponder the next three aspects of his error, his sharp verbal torrent, the double stike, and  the soaring sense of personal importance, together with the personal case for Moses in the light of the wonder of the beauty of the Highway of Holiness, as in Isaiah 35. Though some have been touched in passing, now we separate for scrutiny, further itemising the errors of Moses to edify.

 

THE SECOND CRITERION
 

We move from the autonomous to the authoritarian,
from the priestly to the papal or primate tenor

(cf. SMR pp. 911ff., 1032ff.).

 

.

 

         2) Moses spoke in anger to the people, "You rebels ..."

While this indeed they were, the association of
"must we" and "you rebels"

led to the feeling
that sinners were addressed by a non-sinner,
tending to remove the sense of any connection,
and to exalt the leader.

Doubtless, it was entirely unintended,
 anger and perhaps temper having got the better of self-control;
yet this error of Moses could not be permitted to stand,
lest popes and other unauthorised leaders
(breaching Matthew 23:8-10) should elevate themselves
to gain a certain pre-eminence (as in II John 9),
rather than performing quite simply, a blessed function.

 

THE  THIRD CRITERION
 

Now we turn from the authoritarian to the aggregative,
cumulative, sacramentalist in thrust.

 

         3) The prophet Moses struck the rock TWICE! This was not authorised.

Symbolically, when it all came to fulfilment,
this would signify Christ dying more than once,
a folly contrary to the Bible
("I am He who was dead and am alive for evermore" as in Revelation 1),

         for "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many."
It is ONCE, NOT OFTEN,
a singularity repetitively affirmed in Hebrews 9.

"To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a second time,
apart from sin, for salvation,"
(Hebrews 9:28).
That is where the second time comes, and it is NO SACRIFICE!


It is His SECOND COMING which gives the next opportunity
of direct dealing with the incarnated Christ,
as distinct from His Spirit (Luke 24, Acts 3:19ff.)  -
HE is in heaven UNTIL "the time of the restoration of all things".
 

THE  FOURTH CRITERION

 

At last we see the additive, the sensational aspect, like some charismatic specialists who do not know when to pause, and when to proceed. The way and wisdom of God is blended with the way and will of man in an unacceptable paradigm, in danger of becoming a parody.


 

         4) The psychic flurry that led to his striking the rock in this manner suggests lack of self-control, a thrashing about of the spirit, an exasperation which led to addition to the word of God, so violating the symbolic meaning of the former procedure.  NO AGENT of the Lord or being is given power to add to the word of God, or to subtract (cf. Deut. 4, 12, Proverbs 30:6, Rev. 22:18-19) or  to be pre-eminent. That prohibition is express (Matthew 23:8-10), as is the prohibition of the use of the term 'father' in a spiritual sense and setting, EXCEPT OF GOD HIMSELF, both Rock and Father.  God added to His own infallible word until He had finished speaking as Revelation 22 indicates; but if man adds his words to the divine ones, he will answer for it (as in 22:18-19 for example). 

 

         At this point, it is apposite to add this: that it is not only some one heresy, like that of Romanism, which needs to be exposed for the sake of the flock (cf. Acts 20:28ff., I Corinthians 11:19), their rebuttal making the truth all the more manifest to many; ALL additions to, revisions of or stark refusals of what the Bible teaches are with equal hand to be exposed: for if one  say, I am privileged because I have corrected a former error! then the indulgence of laxity can even become the bombast of pride, and amidst prides,  so that alas, there is little deliverance! NO 'orthodoxy' in its own self-glorying can stand, when it becomes its own notation, and stands on its own two  feet, instead of on the word of God.  

         Indeed, it is precisely in this way that such things as the decretum horribile of Calvin are allowed to receive accolade instead of rebuke, or the Arminian excesses of Wesley (for all his underlying soundness far greater than many realise) are permitted because of his eminence, to stand where in fact they fall! And such errors as both of these, being oddments of the work of great men, then are prone to cause divisions in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 3:1-4). Why ? It is not least because the word of God AS WRITTEN is NOT applied because of this, or that. Yet it must always be applied, whatever the cost. There is stability control, there is braking system, there is scope for acceleration, within it, and neither beyond nor short of it.   

 

 

POISE AND COUNTERPOISE

 

Alas for Moses, one can grieve for him; but the case warranted divine action.

 

Because of this getting out of hand, out of control, out of symbolic fidelity, something made in a highly dramatic, public and disciplinary setting, with Moses acting in a manner more autocratic than authorised, the prophet was given a prohibition. HE could not personally in the flesh enter into the promised land. Now of course, Moses remained most intimate with the Lord, obeying and walking with Him, and was even told at what point to finish his life on this earth; and was to be heard talking with Christ and Elijah concerning the (then) approaching death of Christ, during the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:30), and his eminence is seen clearly in Hebrews 3.

 

Indeed, Moses entered what the promised land signified, heaven itself, on the other side, where sins forgiven, the Lord intimate, there is a felicity which as Paul stated in Philippians 1:21-23, is "far better" than the present. Nevertheless, the Lord's purity is made clear, and the limits of leadership pronounced in this matter! He would not enter the promised land, thus would be absent in that consummation of so much, wrought so valiantly.

 

Granted this error of his, was presumption, unintended no doubt, but in what way is it a help on the highway ? It is in this: if you or I, being Christians, become self-elevated, it is well to be warned. If we think we are above such childish pretensions, are we above loss of temper ? and if we do not become distempered, might we not yet illicitly and gradually assume a power as if we were somewhat ? If so, is this not an arrogance ? 

 

Might we not ALL be instructed, leader and led, husband and father, child and adult, in this way!  Further, if Moses had not been corrected, he might have gone even further in a mode or even mood of puffing up the neck glands, like a lizard, and that might have led to more trouble for all. Remember what the Lord thought of Egypt when it went too far! (cf. Possess Your Possessions Vol. 11,Ch. 3) ...and what He then did. By all means, if need be, walk through a recent atomic blast site, but BY NO MEANS allow pride to so much as peek into your spirit, far less laminate your soul with the lordly glory of the Lord!

 

We return to the more general matter: what was the help on the highway ? It was multiple. It included the cloud by day and the fire at night, to lead, adequate divine guidance, the water from the rock, the food from heaven - the manna, abundant physical support, if not fancy, the provision of 70 elders to help Moses administer for a huge body of people, the open door to enter the land in pristine purity of heart and readiness of divine help (though the hand twisted free from the 'parent' on the part of the restless 'child', Israel at that time, leading to no small 'accident'). At that stage, Moses was still free to enter, as were all!

 

There were isolated events, such as the budding of Aaron's rod, or the movement of the thick and protective cloud between Israel and the Egyptian army in its wild pursuit of its lost slave body; there were generics such as the cloud day and fire by night. There were thus helps both general and particular. It was divine and beautiful. Yet it also required in response, a certain HOLINESS. Children need to respect and have communication with their father, yet there may come a lifeless co-operation and mere ritual, stone-faced conformity, or even stark rebellion as when they REFUSED to enter the promised land (Numbers 14).

 

But Moses did not refuse. Alas it was in the aspect of holiness that his trouble came, suddenly, when he was vexed: it  did so publicly, dramatically, with substantial spiritual overtones, and peril for the people. 

 

 

 

 

HOLINESS ON THE HIGHWAY

One can delight in

 

If then judgment must begin at the house of God (I Peter 4:17), what must the unbeliever ponder! In this there is answer to the ignorant cavil of making it appear that a free salvation is mere scope for self-indulgence, even for doing 'evil that good may come'! Such a claim  could scarcely come from those who personally know the discipline of the Lord in their lives (cf. Hebrews 12).

 

Small wonder Paul speaks of God's own justification for judgment and the way He handles it,  and of mockery of it,  as slander (Romans 3:8). Evil is under extreme sanction in the life of a Christian, and foolish the one who imagines otherwise. There is one thing between free salvation and licence, and it is not merely a thing, it is a Person. It is indeed the personal God who ACTS who comes between! Discipline is what a child gets from  a good father, and this Father never forsakes (Hebrews 12, 13:5, John 10:9,27-28). Equivocation is no substitute for obedience, procrastination for purity.

 

Again and again, Moses fell on his face, when trouble erupted, rather than stridently strutting before the people. He was meek; but alas, when the meek (remember Dickens' Uriah Heap) swell, there may be a lancing needed!

 

Yet for all the discipline of the elect, so that those who are justified will assuredly be glorified (Romans 5:1,9, 8:17, 30, Ephesians 1:11, I John 5:11ff., Titus 3:3-7), it is still assuredly FAR BETTER to which they assuredly come, in that guilt-pardoned, life-garnered eternity with Him:  to which His people are conducted by guaranteed gift (cf. Romans 5:12-19, 6:23, II Timothy 1:8ff.). It is a vast and incalculable fount of mercy which is found by His people (Psalm 103), and there is nothing to separate His children from Him who NOW in Christ, through faith, is their Father (Romans 8:37ff.). If then Moses lost some one thing on this earth, he gained a vast wonder in the Lord, in heaven. 

 

Now then let us seek holiness, without which no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Hence we read in Paul:

         "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness,

         and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost," Romans 14:17.
 

The same sincerity that God manifests, selecting without violence, as is the way of love, is found in the heart of the redeemed - I Peter 1 verbalises it:

"Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous" (3:8).

This love of God (Romans 5:5, I Corinthians 13, Titus 3:4-7, Colossians 1`:13-14, 3:13-14, I John 2:15, 3:1-3,23-23, 4:10,15-18,20) ... it is unpossessive, seemly, spiritual, pure-hearted, constructive, patient, kind, Christ-grounded, Spirit-dynamised, Christ savoured, unselfish, strut-free, unfretting, free of guilt, made innocent by grace in the hearts of the redeemed through the blood of Christ:

"Above all these things," exhorts the apostle Paul, "put on love" (Colossians 3:14).

Again, he says (I Peter 1:22):

"Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth,
through the Spirit to unfeigned love of the brethren,
see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently:
being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible,
by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever."

 As to that, the principles of the place, you might say, of the palace, include this (I John 5:2):

"By this we know that we love the children of God,

when we love God, and keep His commandments."

The rules of the spiritual road are a good test; keep these and with a pure heart, walk in the Lord, whose light is sent out to guide to His holy haven, through the Kingdom, to the Kingdom. Ponder on the way, Isaiah 32:16-17, and 32:17, 33:6. Such is the way of the Kingdom, the province of the King. As to Him, on earth He is thus reported:

"And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth"
- John 1:14.  

Moreover, let us consider something more in Isaiah 35, where the "highway of holiness"  gains its name.

 

 

THAT MAGNIFICENT HIGHWAY.

 

Here we find this magnificent highway of holiness, equipped with the prediction of some of the miracles to be performed by the Messiah (Isaiah 35:5-6, cf. 29:18ff., Psalm 72, Isaiah 11, 40), the central figure in Isaiah's testimony of salvation. How richly He appears in the predictions here,  as seen in Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 22, 32, 40, 49-55, 61, the consequence of such actions in Isaiah 35, provides a new and beautiful account. Firstly note that in this highway, "the unclean shall not pass over it."  It is not a subject for psychological analysis (cf. I Corinthians 2:15), abandonment to sin, realisation of rebellion, the lusts of lordship or the arrogancies of aspiration to be first, to be dominant, to which some bearing the name 'Christian' illicitly surrender.

 

Its travellers, its sojourners and pilgrims (I Peter 2:11) do not loiter as if in the halls of secular power, or the islands of listless dreaming, but proceed impelled in the beauty of the place, to their appointed tasks and living, fulfilling like blooms, the way given.

 

So wonderful is the air and care upon this highway, that anyone actually travelling on it, even if  a fool, almost too witless to contemplate, is secure from failure, and  such is the wonder of the walk that no such person will go astray. There is One who helps and constrains, comforts and strengthens, warns and works, and the passengers here are not limp, but subject to the living and utterly reliable Lord, from whom none can be snatched, and with whom none can perish (John 10:9,27-28). "Nor shall any ravenous beast go on it," Isaiah 35:9, nor any lion, such as the devil, a roaring lion who resisted, flees (I Peter 5:8). Here is health and here is the Lord so that correction is made, protection is given and nothing is too hard for Him, who seals His own through His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), and keeps them by His own life, like a Shepherd, always interceding for them (Hebrews 7:25).

Indeed, quite simply, this highway is inclusive of all the redeemed and exclusive of those who are not, for "the redeemed shall walk there," those others and their source excluded.

 Thus, redeemed, pilgrims and strangers in this earth,

 

 "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing,
with everlasting joy in their heads.

 

"They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away," (Isaiah 35:10 cf. Revelation 7:13ff., 21:8).

 

These are those known to the Lord, and though their outward form (II Corinthians 4:16) is perishing, yet

 

"the inward being is being renewed day by day, for our light affliction,
which is but for a moment, is working for us
a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen.
For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal."

 

The eternal body, not made with hands,  fit for eternity is prepared for that time (II Corinthians 5:1-5); and in the meantime, though the tribulations mount, the deliverances accrue. Jew or Gentile, one Gospel, one salvation, one Lord, no mutations, there is but one issuance as to THIS highway, whatever the earthly preludes and partitions; for all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).