THE DEEP WATERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-13-57 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning hour’s message entitled The Deep Waters.
One of the sure signs of the inspiration of the Word of God lies in its deeper, far-reaching meaning. There are overtures in the Word of God that are not found in any other place. For example, a man in this church asked me the other day, "Pastor, is there any other religion that has in it prophecy? Is not the only religion in the world that has in it the prophetic the Christian faith, the Hebrew Christian faith?"
So far as I know, my answer to that question is an affirmative. There may be other religions concerned with prayer wheels, and incense offerings, and the bowing downs of worship, and all of the incantations and genuflections and litanies that we see in the temples of the world, but, so far as I know, the only faith that has in it the prophetic vision of God and a prophet who would stand up to speak for God and to unveil the future and the destiny of God’s dealings with His human race, the only one that I know is this one, the true and only faith of the true and only God.
Now, in our reading of the Word of God, it is in no wise comparable to the words of fiction or the words of secular story and history. Jesus, one time, said, "The words that I speak unto thee, they are spirit, and they are life" [John 6:63]. There is meaning, profound and deep, in the Word of God.
Now, it is easy, casually, to peruse the Scriptures, just read it – read it like you would a novel, read it like you would a magazine article, just read it, scan it. It is possible, and I would not say unprofitable. Better scan it, better read it hurriedly, than never to pick it up at all. But to a child of God who is thus willing to listen to the voice of the Spirit, there are depths in the Word of God that are unfathomable. There are riches and treasures in the bottom of that sea that man’s eye hath never looked upon. It is unfathomable. You cannot plumb the depths of the meaning of the Word of God. All it takes to do that is just to pause and to look and to listen – to be taught of the Spirit. And the Spirit will reveal depths of meaning that we had never thought or never known. God’s Word is like Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever [Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8]. It’s ultimate is inscrutable. We can see some, we can know parts, but there are always other depths, other riches, other mines of gold and silver, other stars and constellations of glory that we could never ultimately touch.
Now, that is what we are doing at these 8:15 morning hours. We are looking at the Word of God, not casually, peripherally. We are looking at it as God, in His Spirit, might open it up and to see therein treasures and riches that otherwise we had never known.
Now, this morning is one of those series. We are speaking of the deep, deep, waters. These things have a meaning in the Scriptures. They are symbols. They are pre-figurations. They are types. And they apply not only in one particular instance in the days of the flesh of our Lord, but they contain in themselves great spiritual truths that continue through the centuries and the millenniums. Truth, again, is like God’s Word, like God Himself – eternal. It never changes.
Now, to begin with, the Bible opens in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1]. How He did that must have been in glory and in splendor. I could not conceive of God doing anything without perfection, beauty, and glory. However God did that, it must have been incomparably beautiful, glorious beyond description – how that earth, how that heaven was when God first created it in the beginning.
Then – and we’ve been through this in these 8:15 services – then, there fell out of heaven, the son of the morning, the star in the diadem of God, Lucifer [Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17; Revelation 12:4]. And with him, there crashed in the whole creation. "And the earth was without form, and the earth became" – [tōhū wābōhū] – "formless, empty, void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" [Genesis 1:2] – chaos, ruin, dark, emptiness, waste of waters.
Last Friday night, I got a little glimpse of what, in imagination, I think this world must have looked like when it fell into ruin and to chaos and darkness and night covering the face of the waters – waters below, waters above. Last Friday night, due to a tremendous storm area all through the western states, we flew over the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles to San Diego, then down across the head of the Gulf of California, through northern Mexico, and cut back into Texas below El Paso. All to the north – and we were just skirting the edges – all to the north, hundreds and hundreds of miles through, there were the great, boiling-up, dark clouds, and the lightning flashing, and the thunder roaring. And while over the Pacific, just here and there, the great waste of waters below.
Looking upon that scene for two hours – those tremendous flashes of lightning, that great expanse of waste, the darkness of those clouds – I thought that must have been the way this world looked in that day of judgment and death. "The deep, deep waters and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" [from Genesis 1:2]. So the deep waters become, in the Holy Scriptures, a type, a figure, a picture of the judgment of God – of death and destruction; the billows and the waves that overwhelm us; the deep waters that destroy this earth, and the soul, and the life.
Now, before we follow that through, I have to pause because water does not always mean that. Water is used in the Scriptures to signify other things, and we’re going to look at them now. Then we’re going on with the signification of the judgment of God, death, desolation, and destruction. Water, I say, in the Scriptures can prefigure other things, and those pre-figurations are very easily seen, understood, by the context in which the water is used.
Now, here’s one. Water is used in Scripture as a type of cleansing. That’s one – the washing in water. One of the most interesting things that you can read here in the Bible is in the third chapter of the Gospel of John when there arose a dispute, in the twenty-fifth verse, there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about – now look at this – about purifying, about cleansing, about purification. John’s disciples and some of the Jews are in a discussion, a dispute, about cleansing, purifying [John 3:25].
Now, look at the next verse. "And they came unto John" – his disciples – "and said unto him, ‘Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan" – referring to Jesus – "to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him" [John 3:26]. Do you see that? In the twenty-fourth verse, the dispute is about cleansing. It is about purification. In the twenty-[sixth] verse, when they bring the dispute to John, you find out what they were discussing. It was concerning baptism – the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus.
I see from that, then, that water baptism, for one thing, refers to cleansing, to purification, to washing. Now, that has a deep and spiritual meaning other than just the washing of the flesh, the cleansing of the flesh.
In the thirteenth chapter of this same Gospel of John, you have the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet [John 13:5-20], and "Simon Peter says, ‘Lord, if it takes that to be a part of Thy kingdom, not only my feet, but my head and all of me. Wash me all over.’ And Jesus says, ‘He that is washed needeth not save but to wash his feet’" [from John 13:9-10]. That is, we are cleansed, and a sign of that cleansing, of course, is our baptism. We are cleansed. And he that is cleansed, that is washed, needeth not save but to wash his feet. You don’t ever need to be saved over again. You’re not saved but one time. You’re not washed but one time: "the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7]. You are saved one time. And he that is washed, he that is cleansed, needeth not save but to wash his feet.
That is, as you live through the days of your life, as you walk in the Christian way, your feet become dirty. And each day you need to ask God to cleanse you from the sins of that day. Day at a time, day at a time: "Lord, cleanse my feet, wash my feet." Water is a picture of the cleansing of God. In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, and the third verse, Jesus says, "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" [John 15:3]. In the seventeenth chapter of John, in the seventeenth verse, Jesus says, "Sanctify them" – purify them – "through Thy truth: Thy word is truth" [John 17:17].
In the 119th Psalm and the ninth verse, the psalmist says, "Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word" [Psalm 119:9]. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians and the twenty-sixth verse, we are cleansed, we are sanctified, by "the washing of water by the word" [Ephesians 5:26]. In John, the third chapter here and the fifth verse, we are "born of the water and born of the Spirit" [John 3:5]. That is, we are born of the cleansing and we are born of the regenerating power of the Spirit – the washing of water by the Word: cleansed by the Word, sanctified by the Word, made clean and holy by the Word, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God.
Now, that is a part of the mysticism of John. John never calls a miracle of Jesus a "miracle." He calls them sēmeion – signs, types. They meant something else. These physical things have a deep and spiritual meaning, and John, with that penetrating insight given to him of God, could see it. And he wrote his Gospel choosing seven of those types – things that happened in which he saw the great spiritual revelation of the Lord. That’s one of the meanings of water. It is a cleansing. It is the laver: "the washing of the water by the Word" [Ephesians 5:26].
All right, a second meaning of water. Water is used in the Scriptures to refer to the refreshment and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. As the rain poured out from the heavens upon the earth, so the Spirit of God poured out without measure through Christ [John 3:34]. Water refers, in a second place, to the cleansing, to the refreshment, and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.
Now, you will see that very distinctly in passages like the tenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter: "And they drank of that smitten Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" [1 Corinthians 10:4]. They drank of the smitten Rock. When Moses struck the rock with the rod, there flowed out life-giving water, and they drank of it [Exodus 17:3-6]. And that water, flowing from the smitten Rock, is the Holy Spirit.
I know that from the seventh chapter of John, the thirty-seventh and the thirty-eighth verses where – now, look at what Jesus says, then look at John’s interpretation of it. All right, this is what Jesus says: "He that believeth upon Me . . . out of his body shall flow rivers of living water" [John 7:38] parenthesis. Now, the next verse is what John sees in it. Didn’t I tell you that John had a deep spiritual insight? And the things that Jesus said, he saw their spiritual meaning. And the things that Jesus did, they were types of great spiritual revelations. All right, now look at this. Jesus says: "He that believeth on Me, out of his body shall flow rivers of living water" [John 7:38] parenthesis. Now, this is what John says: "(This spake He signifying the Holy Spirit that should come: for the Holy Spirit was yet not given; because Jesus was not yet glorified)" [John 7:39]. John is saying that that river of spiritual waters that would flow out of those who believe on Christ is a type. It was a saying pre-figurating the coming of the Holy Spirit through us and into the world after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. So waters, the flowing out of waters, the water flowing from the smitten rock – the waters are a type of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now, you will see that all through the Bible. In the forty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel is one of the finest, completest, most glorious visions in this whole earth for Ezekiel sees the river of God flowing out of the temple of Jerusalem, knee deep, ankle deep, knee deep, on up, till a man could not swim across it – great waters – and everything lived whither the waters came [Ezekiel 47:1-12]. Everything lived where the river touched until the whole earth was one of glory and beauty – a picture of the working of the Holy Spirit of God.
You see it again in the Book of the Revelation, in the twenty-second chapter and the first and the second verses: "And I saw a pure river of the water of life, flowing out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, clear as crystal" [Revelation 22:1]. And on this side of it was the tree of life whose leaves were for the healing of the nations – the river of God [Revelation 22:2]. "There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God . . ." [Psalm 46:4]. So, I say, a second meaning of water: it refers to the refreshment, the life-giving power, of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now, there is another meaning of water in the Scriptures. Water represents, again, sometimes in the Scriptures – and, I say, by the context, you can easily tell its meaning. Water refers, as a third thing in the Scriptures, water refers to instability and weakness, to feebleness and need, and it refers to unrest among the peoples and the nations of the world.
Now, it refers, I say, to instability and weakness. In the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Jacob says to his eldest son, Reuben, Reuben, weak as water: "unstable as water, thou shalt not prevail" [Genesis :4]. Then he tells him why – why the firstborn would not inherit the blessing. "Unstable as water, weak as water."
You see that again in the seventh chapter of First Samuel where, when Samuel had gathered erring, sinful Israel to Mizpeh and they are crying unto Samuel for deliverance, they gather there at Mizpeh, and look what they do. First, they pour out water before the Lord [1 Samuel 7:6]. What did that mean? Well, last Sunday we discussed that. That meant they were confessing their weakness and their feebleness before God – pouring out water before the Lord, weakness.
In the Second Samuel, the fourteenth chapter and the fourteenth verse, they refer to themselves: "We are as water spilt out upon the ground" [from 2 Samuel 14:14]: water, weak and unstable. In the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation, the angel says to the seer John: "The waters which thou sawest . . . are peoples, and nations, and tongues" [Revelation 17:15] – the restless moving of the waters.
In the fifty-seventh chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah says the wicked are like troubled waters. They’re like the restless sea which cannot rest [Isaiah 57:20]. The moving of the waters – weak, unstable. That is one of the meanings of the use of water in the Scriptures.
Now, the great meaning, though, of the use of waters in the Scriptures is this one that I began with. It refers to the judgments of God – the deep, deep waters: the death and the desolation of the judgment of God. And to go through the waters is to go through the judgment, and the desolation, and the bitterness of death – going through the waters. Now, I want us to see that and especially as it applies to our Lord.
I have chosen four instances in the Bible where you can see our Lord and His people going through the deep, deep waters. The first one is the one that would obviously, and immediately, come to your mind. The first judgment, which is typical of the judgment of God, now and forever and finally, is the destruction of this earth in the flood in the days of Noah.
And the sin of this world came up unto God. And God repented that He had made the man [Genesis 6:6]. "And God said, ‘My Spirit shall not always strive with man . . . but as for his days, they shall be a hundred twenty" [Genesis 6:3] – then destruction, then death. "But Noah found grace in His sight" [Genesis 6:8]; and it pleased God, in His mercy, to spare Noah and eight souls [Genesis 6:17-18].
How did God do it? In a type. In a figure. In a meaning. "Noah, make thee an ark," and He gave the dimensions [Genesis 6:14-16]. "And after you have taken into that ark these that I have designated, then Noah, you and your wife, Shem, Ham and Japheth, your sons, and their wives, all of you in that one door in that ark" [Genesis 6:17-21]. Then God shut the door [Genesis 7:16]. And when Noah and his family were inside of that ark and God shut the door, there came out of heaven, for the first time, great floods of rain [Genesis 7:11-12]. They had never seen it rain before. There came out of the deep, great fountains of God. And the waters above and the waters beneath met on this earth. There was vast desolation and destruction – the judgment of Almighty God [Genesis 7:18-24].
Noah was saved in the ark, but the ark was beat upon by the floods that fell and by the floods that rose. And the waves and the billows beat upon it, and it rolled through the storm and through the ark: a type, a figure of our safety in Christ. But he had to go through the deep waters, and the billows and the waves beat upon him: a sign, a figure, a picture – the deep waters, and Christ going through it, and we saved in Him. That’s one.
All right, in the little moment that remains, these others – the Red Sea and the Jordan at flood tide. They are signs; they are types. They are pictures of the waters through which God’s redeemed people are led and how God in Christ saves us. The waters of the Red Sea are a picture of our redemption [Exodus 14:1-30], and it’s behind us. And the waters of the Jordan [Joshua 3:1-17] are a picture of our entrance into the promised land, and they are before us.
Now, look how we go through the waters of the promise into the promised land – our entrance. Back there, our deliverance – the judgment of God upon Egypt and God’s deliverance through the Red Sea: how God hath delivered us from the darkness and the night of this world, out of slavery, into life and the glorious liberty of God. That’s behind us.
Now, the deep waters that are before us. Now, you look at this. The Jordan is at flood. It is overflowing its banks [Joshua 3:15] – the river of death, the river of night, between us and the promised land. Now, look:
And God said, "Take the ark of the covenant with its cherubim of mercy – take the ark of the covenant," and when the feet of the priest touched the waters, they piled up on one side and piled up on the other side; and the ark was taken into the midst of the Jordan River, and it stays there until all of God’s people were passed over [from Joshua 3:11-17] – that ark there in the bed of the overflowing waters of the Jordan until all of God’s people are passed over. Then the ark passes over, and the flood waters close again: "He tasted death for every man" [Hebrews 2:9]. Our Savior, in the waters of the Jordan, tasted death for every man, and He will not be removed until the last of God’s elect children pass over, all safe on the other side – the deep, deep waters.
Now, I want you to turn to this one hastily. I want you to turn to the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus – the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus. Here is another one: Exodus 15. Now, turn to the twenty-third verse – Exodus 15, the twenty-third verse. Look at this one:
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah –
"bitter": that’s just the Hebrew word for "bitter" – "Marah" –
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" –
"How shall we live? We shall die in this burning desert. What shall we drink? The waters are bitter, ‘Marah’" –
And Moses cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet –
And the Lord showed him a tree. Why did God do that? It is a type. It is a figure –
and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast in the waters, the waters were made sweet:
Jesus, in His cross and in His death, Jesus was cast into the bitter waters of judgment and death for us [2 Corinthians 5:21], and now, nothing remains but the sweetness of the resurrection. That’s all. Death no longer is bitter. Death no longer is the judgment and desolation of God for the Christian; showed him a tree – cast into the waters of death and made it sweet. Jesus cast into the bitterness of the waters of judgment. Now, nothing remains but the sweetness of the resurrection: glory, glory, glory, the sounding of the trumpets [1 Corinthians 15:52], on the other side, and the gathering of God’s children home [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. That’s all. That’s all.
That’s what it meant. Same thing you’ll find again in 2 Kings and the [sixth] chapter and the sixth verse. The ax head is lost, and it was borrowed [2 Kings 6:5]. And the man cries to Elisha the prophet. He cuts down a branch and casts it into the waters, and what had been sunken and lost is recovered [2 Kings 6:6-7]. There it is again. Jesus, the Branch, cast into the waters, and what is lost and sunken is recovered again.
Now, in just one moment, may I point to one other? Then I’m through. The Book of Jonah – the second chapter of Jonah sounds like that psalm that we read. In the third verse of the second chapter of Jonah, Jonah cries from the heart of the sea. Listen to him: "For Thou, O God, for Thou hast cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me . . . The waters compassed me about, even to the soul . . ." [Jonah 2:3, 5]: the deep waters, the judgment, and the death, and the desolation. And our Lord said: "As Jonah was in the depth of the seas . . . so shall the Son of Man three days and nights in the depths of the judgment and desolation and death" [from Matthew 12:40].
See, it isn’t just the word, casual, but it has a deep spiritual meaning. And these things that happen happen as ensamples for us – admonitions, revelations, spiritual truths for us – upon whom the ends of the world have come [1 Corinthians 6:11]. And to us who read and understand, the Word of God is a cleansing, a purifying, a sanctifying of our souls. Blessed be God who thus hath opened to us this fountain of love and mercy.
Now, we sing our song; and while we sing it, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord; somebody put his life with us in the fellowship of the church – a family you or one somebody you. While we sing the song, you come and stand by me. We pause just for this moment: in the balcony around, down these stairwells; on this lower floor, up here by me immediately. On this first note of the first stanza, "I give my heart in faith to the Lord," or, "We’re coming into the fellowship of the church." While we sing, you come, while we stand and sing.