Being for the People to God-ward
February 15th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
BEING FOR THE PEOPLE TO GOD-WARD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-15-59 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services, at this early hour, of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. I received a note this last week from Mrs. Clark, that she was going to have Dr. E. C. Routh as their guest over the weekend, and they would be here at this early morning service. I could not find him or them in the congregation, and found out this big organ blotted out the sight and scene. Dr. Routh, hold up your hand where our people can see you. We are so glad to have him back again; he belonged to this church for many years when he was editor of the Baptist Standard. And then when I began preaching, he was editor of the Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma and then editor of The Commission of our Foreign Mission Board. His son is the executive secretary of our Southern Baptist Convention, and one of his daughters is Mrs. Christie Poole, who is a missionary in Nigeria, Africa. And we are happy to have you, Dr. Routh, and the Lord give you another hundred years in which to live.
The following of the life of Moses has brought us to the eighteenth and following chapters of the Book of Exodus; so if you will turn in your Bible to the eighteenth chapter of Exodus, you can follow the message this morning very easily. Exodus 18, and we begin at the seventh verse, Exodus 18:7:
And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare . . .
And Moses told his father-in law all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians . . . and all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lord delivered them.
And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom he had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians—
now, the thirteenth verse—
And when it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening—
waiting their turn, all day long—
And when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest? Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all these people wait, standing by thee from the morning unto the even, all day long—
And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and the people that wait for you: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward . . .
And thou shalt teach the people ordinances and laws . . .
But thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth . . . and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and of hundreds, and of tens:
And let them judge the people at all seasons . . .
So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said.
And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, of tens.
And they judged the people at all seasons:
But Moses was for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19].
Now that is a part of simple, humble wisdom in all of the Lord’s work. It is a saying, “It is better to get ten men to work than it is to do the work of ten men.” While Moses was doing it all, the people were not being trained. Their talents were not being used. It was an intolerable burden upon the people. They had to wait and wait, and some of them who waited all day long still had not their matters adjusted and had to come back the next day and sway through a long day again. That was not good. It is never good. A one-man church is a weak church. A one-man show is a weak show. A one-man country is under a dictatorship and a tyrant.
It is always the wisdom of God and the choice of God, and the elective purpose of God for us to share in these ministries. One has one talent, and one has another gift, and one has still another, and each one ought to have an opportunity to develop his talent and his gift. And all of this ministry ought to be wonderfully and dutifully shared by all of us. It is a very prone weakness on the part of God’s people to leave to a professional group all of the ministries of Christ.
If there is any praying to be done, he is to pray it. I had a well-to-do farmer in the beginning of my ministry and in my little church. When I called on him to pray, he said, out loud, he said, “That is why I pay you, is to pray.” Beyond that, he meant a whole lot more than just public praying, paying me to do all the soulwinning, paying me to do all the visiting, paying me to do all of the work of the Lord. Now, I do not do that for money. When I first began my ministry, it was a shock to me that I was going to be paid for it, and the first time I was ever paid for preaching a sermon, I refused it. I would not take it. I said, “I am not preaching for money.” I have always been glad I did that. Since then, you know, I have agreed to accept it. But all of that is very wrong, very wrong. Our minister has a part, and our people all have a part. And the more of us who can and will share in this work, the finer our work and the better our congregation.
And Moses could see that, and the wisdom of the Lord was in the counsel that his father-in-law gave him, and Moses assented, and the work was done much better [Exodus 18:17-24]. Now that is the way we want to do our church, all of us in it, all of us doing his part. And it will be a happy congregation and a blessed congregation when we do it.
Now I want to speak for a moment on this text here in Exodus 18:19, being “for the people to God-ward.” That thing just clung to my mind like a fly sticking to molasses paper, being “for the people to God-ward”; “Be thou for the people to God-ward.” There is a richness in the very language that blesses the soul, “Be thou for the people to God-ward” [Exodus 18:19].
When I think of that text, there come to my mind saints who have been so much that way. Martin Luther said, “When my work is heavy, I must pray at least three hours every day,” being for the people to God-ward. Bishop Andrews almost every day spent at least five hours in closet communion with God; being for the people to God-ward. John Wells counted it an ill-spent day that had not witnessed from eight to ten hours in close communion with God; being for the people to God-ward.
So many, I say, of the saints have been that way, spend long time with God.
Now Moses, more and more, came to be like that. When he first began as a young man, he was very much objective and vigorous and forward in his life. He was a man of action. He was a man of vigorously expressed leadership. As Josephus says, he led the armies of Egypt in victory over Ethiopia. And when he went out and had cast his lot with the people of Christ, he took his own right arm to deliver them and thought by his own human and physical energy and force, he would strike down the throne of Egypt and be the emancipator of his people.
And that’s the way Moses once was. That’s the way he used to be. But when you follow his life, he became more and more and more for the people to God-ward. He leaned less on himself and more on God. His wisdom became not so much his own as of the Lord. And the work that he did was less and less in the power and strength of his own might and more and more in the strength and in the might of the Lord.
Now I am sure that that is a mark of the saint, of God’s children who grow in Christian grace. It is less and less and less of ourselves, and it is more and more and more of God, until finally, I suppose, if we were to come into that full life of communion, and service, and devotion, and surrender, and obedience to Jesus; it would be nothing of self, nothing—that it might be all of Him, being for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19], and Moses’ life was that way.
For example, it came finally in Moses’ life that when the storm of rebellion swept through the camp, what Moses did was to fall on his face before the Lord. He would not have done that as a young man. He would have been out there in the middle of the camp with a sword in his hand or with his fist doubled up, seeking in his own strength to quail the rebellion and to guide the people. He finally came to the place where he did nothing of that at all, but when rebellion and recalcitrance and disobedience and sin swept through the people, he made it a matter of prayer. He fell on his face before the Lord.
How many times will you read in his life and in the story of his pilgrimage here, when the people cried unto him, Moses cried unto the Lord? At one time, when God threatened the extinction [Exodus 32:9-10], the destruction of the people, because of their worship of the golden calf [Exodus 32:1-8], Moses stood in the breach in prayer, being for the people to God-ward [Exodus 32:11-14].
Now I have made the observation that that was more, and more, and more characteristic of his life as he grew in grace, as he grew older, as he grew in experience. The weapons of his warfare became less carnal, and less human, and more spiritual until finally, until finally, he literally lived in the very presence of God. And God and Moses spoke together as friend would speak to friend [Exodus 33:11].
Now I want us to take our Bibles and look at that. We are going to follow Moses, just for a moment here, as Moses is for the people to God-ward. I want you to see how many times here, and this will not be all of them, but how many times here it will mention the fact that Moses went up to talk to the Lord.
Now let us begin. We have our Bible open at the eighteenth chapter of Exodus. Now just look at the next chapter. Look at Exodus 19, 19 and the third verse. Exodus 19:3, “And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called him out of the mountain….”
Now turn to the twentieth verse of the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, “And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up” [Exodus 19:20]. There again, he is up there, with God, on the top of the mount. Now, let us turn to the twentieth chapter and the eighteenth and following verses, Exodus 20:18:
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off, they were afraid.
And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was—
being for the people to God-ward— [Exodus 20:18-19]
Now turn to the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus and the fifteenth verse, Exodus 24:15. There is the same again:
And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
And the glory of the Lord abode upon Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
Twice it says, twice it says that, that when Moses went up there to talk to the Lord, he stayed with the Lord forty days and forty nights. That was why the first time he went up there the people said, “Why, he is not coming back. A lion has devoured him. A wild beast has eaten him. Some tragedy has befallen him. He is not coming back.” He had been with God so long and had been talking with the Lord and praying with the Lord so long that the people thought he had disappeared [Exodus 32:1, Acts 7:40].
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful reputation if some of us could fall into a category like that; we praying with God so long and staying with the Lord so constantly that people would wonder what had become of us? Being for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19]; it is the second time there, Moses is in the mount for over forty days [Exodus 24:18, 34:28]. Now let us turn to the thirty-second chapter of Exodus [Exodus 32], the thirty-second chapter of Exodus, and here Moses is again, up there talking to God:
And it came to pass on the morrow—
this is the thirtieth verse, Exodus 32:30—
that Moses said to the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, they have made them gods of gold.
Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—
And he never finished it; in the Bible, there is a long black dash, “Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—”; and he never finished it, “and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written” [Exodus 32:32].
Wasn’t it wonderful that Moses could be for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19], for the Lord had said, Stand aside, Moses, and I will destroy this people. I will consume them in the fire of Mine anger [Exodus 32:10], and Moses stood in the breach, for the people to God-ward [Exodus 32:18], making intercession [Exodus 32:11-14].
Now look at the next chapter, Exodus 33, the eleventh verse: “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh with his friend” [Exodus 33:11]. Oh, oh, oh! Face to face, as a man would speak to his friend; God and Moses were so acquainted with each other, so knew each other, had spent so much time in communion with each other that they were like friends, speaking face to face. Now look at what happens. In the eighteenth verse of the thirty-third chapter of Exodus [Exodus 33:18]:
And [Moses] said [to the Lord], I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory, let me look upon Thy goodness.
And the Lord said, I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
And the Lord said, Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live.
We shall see God’s face in the other world. Flesh and blood cannot bear the glory of the face of God.
And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
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:
Then I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts: but My face shall not be seen.
So the Lord put Moses in the clift of the rock and covered him there with His hand until His glory had passed. And then God took away His hand, and Moses looked upon the back of God, for he could not see God’s face, and live [Exodus 33:20].
But what a vision! That’s the beautiful song; do you remember the chorus of it?
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
And covers me there with His hand.
He hideth my life in the depths of His love.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land.
He hideth my life in the depth of His love
And covers me there with His hand.
[from “He Hideth My Soul,” Fanny J. Crosby]
That is where that beautiful song came from.
Now one more, in the next chapter, in Exodus 34, being for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19], I want to show you the effect it had upon the life and countenance of Moses, Exodus 34:29:
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai . . . that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone . . .
And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone . . .
And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned . . . and Moses talked with them . . .
And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.
But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel . . .
And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with God.
His face shone. Ah! That isn’t just with Moses; all God’s children’s faces shine when they live in communion with God. Your face shines, your life shines, you can tell it. I do not know that I could put my finger on just what happens to you. Your eyes are still the same color, and your countenance has its same form, but somehow, when one is for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19], when time is spent with the Lord, your face shines.
There is a different tone in the voice. There is a different look in the eye. There is a different gesture in the hand. There is a different gait in the walk. There is a different attitude toward the problem. There is a different outlook on the life. The whole horizon changes when you are for the people to God-ward. And he didn’t realize it. He didn’t know it [Exodus 34:29].
It would be like a girl working in a perfume factory. When she leaves the factory, the fragrance is in her hair; it is in her skin; she cannot wash it off. That’s the way it is when we are with God. There is a something that clings to us. There is an air. There is a fragrance. There is a way. There is a look. There is a turn. We have been with God.
Do you remember the Sanhedrin looking at Peter and John? Agrammatoi kai idiotai, they said, unlearned, unlettered, untaught [Acts 4:13]. And then do you remember the little characterizing close to that sentence? “And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” The Sanhedrin look at them, Oh, I remember, those were the men with the Lord [Acts 4:13]. Wasn’t that a wonderful characterization? Been with Jesus, and they remembered them, they had been with Jesus.
Well, it is a glorious, glorious, glorious thought. And as Moses grew in that blessedness, in that sanctity, in that piety, in that leaning upon the Lord, ah, but God would grant it to me, and that God would grant it to us, leaning on Him! Being for the people to God-ward [Exodus 18:19].
Now I have about five minutes left. Let us begin with the nineteenth chapter now, then that will give us just a little way along for our next Sunday morning’s message, Exodus 19:
In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt—
three months after they had come out—
the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.
And they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and pitched in the wilderness: and there Israel camped before the mount.
Now we are going to stay with them there a long time. Heretofore, they would go to one place and then another and then another, coming by stages toward the Promised Land. But when they came to this place of Sinai, there they camped.
Rephidim is on the coastal plain of the Red Sea, and it was about 18 miles through piles of precipitous rock, just mountains of bare, dry, burning cliffs, and they made their way up and up and up through those declivities and passages until they came to an open plain, sort of like an amphitheatre, about two miles long and about half a mile wide.
And at the southern end of it, a precipitous pile of rocks, jagged and impressive, and that is Sinai. And the children of Israel encamped on the plain before, and Moses there speaks to God, and the Lord reveals to him the moral, the civil, and the ceremonial law by which, if a man could live, he would live forever.
Now may I take just this little minute and speak of what God is doing?
At the day and at the time of the Exodus, the whole world was plunged into idolatry. And what God did in the deluge of idolatry was the same thing that He did in the Deluge of water [Genesis 6:8, 7:1, 23]. Out of the awful, awful, awful idolatry of the whole world He chose one man, and He took that one man and sent him to a far and a strange country, and promised it to his seed for an everlasting inheritance [Genesis 12:1-7].
And out of that one man, God made a nation [Genesis 12:1-2]. And this is the way God did it; God took the seed of that one man, and He put in their hearts and in their memories their common ancestry. They were the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they belonged to one of the twelve tribes. It was a close-knit family feeling.
And the Lord God kept them separate and apart in their occupation. They were not city dwellers; they were not traders; they were not commercial enterprisers; they were not scattered. They lived to themselves. They were a shepherd people, and even down in the land of Egypt they were to themselves because they were shepherds.
And down there in the land of Egypt, the trials and the fiery furnace of the brick kilns molded them and pressed them into a nation, just like the brick that they made, heated under the sun and in the fire, molded and pressed; so it was with the people of God. They were molded and pressed into a nation by the common toil and trials down there in the fiery furnace of the land of Egypt.
And then God appeared unto Moses in the flaming bush [Exodus 3:2] and sent him down [Exodus 3:16-19], and in the great, miraculous, and wonderful power of the Lord, God led them out [Exodus 13:18]. And when Israel came out of Egypt, they were a nation. And so well did God do His work, so well did God press them into that mold, that when the Hittite and the Hivite, and the Girgashite and the Ammonite and the Moabite and the Canaanite and all of the other “-ites” have vanished and perished from the earth, you still have the Jew in your midst.
And God took that nation and brought them to the foot of Sinai, and there He taught them the monotheistic revelation of the law and purpose of God [Deuteronomy 6:4]. And beginning next Sunday morning, we shall follow what God hath done as He speaks from the mount in trumpet and clarion tones to the people who listen below.
Now in this moment that we tarry, we sing our song. And somebody this morning, to give his heart to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], somebody to put his life in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews [10:24-25], while we sing this song, would you come and stand by me? In the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle, down here to the front, on the first note of the first stanza, “Today, I give my heart publicly to Christ,” or, “Today, I am coming into the fellowship of the church.” One, somebody you, or a family you, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
BEING TO THE PEOPLE GOD-WARD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Moses and Jethro
1. Moses meets Jethro
2. Moses’ duties
3. Jethro’s advice
4. Moses assents
II. Godward aspect Exodus 18:19
3. God’s power through prayer
4. Moses’ dependence on God, being in God’s presence