Emblems from the Life of Moses
July 5th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
EMBLEMS FROM THE LIFE OF MOSES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-5-59 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 message entitled Emblems from the Life of Moses. And if you will turn to the second chapter of the Book of Exodus, you can easily follow this morning message; the second chapter of the Book of Exodus.
It is not imaginative on our part to say that the characters, and personalities, and the figures, and the ceremonies of the Old Testament portray the great spiritual truths of God in Christ Jesus. All of the story of redemption is to be found in the portrayal of the life of the Old Testament saints and in the ritual of their sacred worship. We are told that Jesus, in that forty [day] period before He returned to heaven [Acts 1:3], took the Scriptures, and with His disciples, "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" [Luke 24:27]. Then that is repeated; He reminds them, "These are the words which I spake unto you, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me" [Luke 24:44]. In the preaching of the apostles, that same wonderful unfolding of what is enfolded in the Old Testament is brought to view.
For example, Stephen, in the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, says, "This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me" [Acts 7:37]. Looking at Moses, we see what God’s ultimate revelation in His Son was to be: "Like unto me; Him shall ye hear [Acts 7:37]. This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the Angel which spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the living oracles to give unto us" [Acts 7:38]. Now, we could multiply that endlessly in the New Testament. Those men of God who wrote the Gospels and who preached the gospel, those first apostles and evangelists found in the Old Testament, even according as Jesus taught them, all of the spiritual truths that they proclaimed in the gospel of the Son of God.
So when we turn back to the Old Testament, we are not being far fetched, we are not being highly imaginative, we are not reading into the Scriptures what is not there. What we find under the inspiration of the prophets as they wrote the books of the Old Testament, what we find there of Christ, God put there, the Lord made it that way. These words were not just adventitiously, facetiously spoken; but they were inspired of the Holy Spirit of God, and they had a definite reference and a definite meaning [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21]. So all of the patterns that God gave to Moses, and the rituals, and the furniture, and the tabernacle, and even the destinies of the people, how their lives unfolded, all of it had a deep and significant meaning: there was spiritual truth that God placed in those things [Exodus 25:9, 40], like you would place water in a cup; or like a cup would hold the water, these stories and these rituals and these objects hold great spiritual truth. That is why you can preach the gospel from the Old Testament just as well as you can from the New. For the same Author wrote all of those Scriptures. And God, who sees the end from the beginning, put in those Old Testament Scriptures those great truths that were patent and revealed and fully developed in the New Testament.
For example, Genesis is like a table of contents to the whole Bible. When you read Genesis, you’ll find in it every one of the great redemptive truths that you’ll find in the story of the Son of God. And the Book of Exodus, the book of redemption, of deliverance, the Book of Exodus takes those great truths in Genesis and reveals them even more and more. And so the revelation of God grows through the Bible until it reached its full glorious, lucid consummation in Jesus our Lord.
Now, we’re going to take the life of Moses for this morning, and maybe another morning, and look at some of the things in his life that are emblematic of the great spiritual truths of the Lord as they are revealed through the Scriptures and especially in Christ Jesus. Now I’ve chosen three emblems this morning if I can have time to speak of all three of them. If not, well, we’ll just stop when the time comes. And the first one is the ark. In the second chapter of the Book of Exodus, it says, "There went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months" [Exodus 2:1-2]. When he got so big, he could cry so loud – if you have a baby at your house, oh, if they cry like they cry when they’re eight days old, you can imagine how the fellow could cry when he was three months old – she couldn’t hide him any longer. "And when she could not hide him longer, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch," made it impervious to water, "put the child therein; and laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. Then came down the sister of the child, watched him" [Exodus 2:3-4], and the rest of the story we will not speak of it. Now, that ark is an emblem of the faith and trust of this mother in the ableness of God to rescue that little one from a watery grave. She placed him on the bosom of the Nile because of the cruel hand of Pharaoh; and she trusted God, she believed God, as the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews says, that God would keep, would bring back out of the watery grave, this little life that she had entrusted to His providential care [Hebrews 11:23]. And when she received the little life back, it was as though she had received him from the dead [Exodus 2:5-10].
It is an identical thing that you have in the laying of Isaac upon the altar. "Abraham staggered not at the promise of God when God said, In that son shall thy seed be called. And they will number someday like the stars in the sky" [Genesis 15:4-6]. And Abraham laid that son on the altar [Genesis 22:9-10], believing that God could raise him up from the dead [Hebrews 11:17-19]. And when he raised the knife to plunge it into his heart [Genesis 22:10], Abraham did it in the persuasion that God would keep His promise: that son, that son would be the life, the offspring, the seed in which God’s people would be multiplied in the earth [Genesis 15:4-6]. So as Hebrews describes it, the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament, Abraham received back that boy, in type, from the dead; for on the altar he full intended to obey the command of God and to offer him as a sacrifice [Hebrews 11:17-19]. In the same way, this mother entrusted to God’s hand this life; placed him in a watery grave, and in type, in symbol, received him back again from the dead [Exodus 2:3-9]; which of course is a picture that we find in our baptistery when we are buried in a watery grave and raised in the likeness of the resurrection of Christ from that watery grave: a burial and a resurrection [Romans 6:3-5]. It is a tremendous faith to be persuaded that God will raise us from the dead, that we shall live again in His sight [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. But that gospel is preached all through the Bible and finds of course its ultimate consummation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:17-20]. And this mother, when she laid that little life on the bosom of the Nile, trusted God, hoped in God, and received him back as though from the dead [Exodus 2:2-9].
Now, another thing: that mother had an illimitable trust in the providential care of God; that God would watch over [Hebrews 11:23]; and how wonderful it is to be persuaded that God can take care of things that we cannot take care of. When we are helpless, we don’t have the ableness or the power; God has the ableness and God has the power. I may not be able to, but God is able. I may be walking in the dark, but there are eyes of the Lord that see before me, and around me, and beneath me, and above me; it is not dark to Him, it is not night to Him, He is not lost. It is not unknown to Him, nor does He lack power; nor is He weak. She trusted in the kind, merciful, providential care of God. And what she was not able to do to preserve the life of this little boy; she trusted God for it and committed him to God’s providential care.
Did God fail her? The very cruelty that took out of her arms the little life was the doorway by which the little lad was restored back to its mother [Exodus 1:22-2:9]. And the very bosom of the Nile upon which she laid the life as though in a watery grave was the same avenue of glory by which that boy arose out of Hebrew servitude to become the power to deliver his people and the great lawgiver of the earth [John 1:17]. Ah, that there was to us given a like faith in the fortunes of God. There is a trial before every blessing; there is a cross before every crown. And though she was not able and she did not know, she trusted to God, and the Lord answered in a care, in a blessing, in a providence that is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever read in the Bible [Exodus 2:8-9].
Now another thing that we see, a symbol, a picture, an emblem in that ark: when Pharaoh’s daughter took the child and gave the little life into the hands of the mother to nurse it [Exodus 2:9], and to bring him up the crown prince of Egypt and the heir apparent to the throne of Pharaoh, "The child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses because, she says, I have taken him out of the water" [Exodus 2:10]. Moses, drawn out, taken out; that is an emblem of his life and a picture of his work; the very name of the book out of which I’m speaking is that same name, except in another language. "Exodus," in our language, "taken out"; and is an ultimate picture of our deliverance from the meshes of the darkness of Egyptian sin and iniquity and judgment, into the free fold glorious liberty as the sons of God. Taken out, drawn out, delivered out; all of it a beautiful symbol of what God was to do with the life of Moses, what Moses was to do under God for the children of Israel, and what Jesus Christ has done for us: taken out, delivered out, lifted out, set free; blessed be His name.
Now, this second emblem is in the third chapter of the Book of Exodus. "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" [Exodus 3:1], to Mount Sinai.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, beheld, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses. And Moses said, Here am I.
And God said, Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
And the Lord called to Moses out of the bush that burned with fire. All right, that’s our second emblem in the life of Moses. The first one was the ark [Exodus 2:3]; the second one is the bush that burns with fire [Exodus 3:2]. Well, these things are very apparent. The bush that flames and burns is an emblem of the fiery trial of his people. Down there in the land of Egypt they are in a fiery furnace.
That is the identical thing that you find in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis. God revealed to Abraham in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis that the children of Israel, his descendents, were going to be slaves in another land, in Egypt, for over four hundred years [Genesis 15:12-14]. And that vision came to Abraham like this: when Abraham made the sacrifice and divided the pieces [Genesis 15:9-10], that night Abraham fell into a deep sleep, and a horror of darkness came upon him [Genesis 15:12]. And in the horror of that darkness, there was a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those separated pieces of the sacrifice [Genesis 15:17]. That was another emblem; it was another picture God gave to Abraham: that his people were going to be plunged into a burning fiery furnace [Genesis 15:12-17]. And that emblem is here in the bush that burns: a fiery trial, down there in the land of Egypt, God’s people are in slavery, servitude, in anguish; they are in sobs and tears, they are tried by the fire [Exodus 3:1-2].
Now, it has another significant and tremendous meaning: the bush burned, and the bush was not consumed. "And Moses said, I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not consumed" [Exodus 3:3]. Isn’t that amazing thing, why the bush is not consumed? Pharaoh, to destroy the people and the more Pharaoh seeks to destroy them the more the people multiply and grow; they are not consumed [Exodus 1:12]. I think of the descendents of Abraham today: it is one of the evidences of the life of God in the world today, that the descendents of Abraham to this present moment are not consumed! They have been the objects of bitter persecution from the days of the Exodus to this present hour. Why are they not consumed? The bush burns, and it burns, and it flames; but it is not consumed. I wonder sometimes of God’s people in the world, what an amazing thing! With so much against them, the powers of darkness and the driving of evil, why are God’s people not consumed? Moses said, "I will see this great sight" [Exodus 3:3]; and it is something to look at, how God’s people continue to live and to flourish in the earth with everything against them.
Nebuchadnezzar put in the fiery furnace three of God’s children [Daniel 3:19-24]. And someone ran to the king and said, "We put three men in that furnace. You come and look." And the king looked, and behold, there were three men in the furnace, set free, though they’d been bound and thrown into the flames; and there walked with the three a fourth. And when Nebuchadnezzar the king looked upon the countenance of the fourth walking with the other three in the midst of the fire, he said, "And the countenance; and the likeness of the fourth looks like the Son of God" [Daniel 3:25]. That’s what God does for His people.
In the third chapter of the first Corinthian letter is a wonderful passage. The fire burns, and it burns every life; every life shall know its flame and its trial. God’s children in this world are in a fire, they’re in a flame, they’re in a furnace, it burns; but it never burns anything divine. God’s fire just burns the dross. Now the passage in 1 Corinthians the third chapter is this: "There are in our lives the building with wood, hay, and stubble, gold, silver, and precious stones. And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If it is wood, hay, and stubble, it will burn. If it is gold, silver, and precious stones, it will live" [1 Corinthians 3:11-15]. All of our lives are like that: the burning of the fire of God and the trials in our lives are to burn out the dross, the wood that’s in us, the hay that’s in us, the stubble that’s in us; but you don’t burn gold, it’s just purified in the flame: so here with the burning bush not consumed [Exodus 3:2].
That is an emblem also of the destiny of God’s people: the bush burns with fire, though it is not consumed [Exodus 3:2]. Had Israel been at ease in Egypt, do you think you would ever have had an Exodus? Would you ever had had any longing for a Promised Land? Would you ever have had any pilgrimage to Canaan, would you? Why, down there in Egypt, under somebody’s benevolent, benign, goodness, such as Joseph, there would have been as long as time lasted God’s people down there serving the Egyptians. But the fire that burned and the trial and the persecution that came, made it impossible for Israel to be happy and to be content in the land of Egypt. And out of the flame that burned and the trial and the persecution, they found their true destiny: they longed and cried for God to intervene, and to deliver them from the darkness of Egypt, and to give them their Promised Land [Exodus 3:7-9].
All of life is like that. Do you think the Pilgrims would have ever come over here to America had it not been for the flame and the fire and the trial in which they were plunged in the cruel acts of nonconformity that were passed by the government of England? Out of that trial and out of that flame came the founding of the New World in America. Dr. Fowler mentioned in his prayer, "Our gratitude to those men who on the fourth of July, 1776, affixed their signatures and their lives to a document that might have, could have, easily could have cost them everything they possessed, even their lives and their fortunes." But out of the cruelty, and out of the fire, and out of the oppression of King George’s England, came the independence of the United States of America; out of the fire and out of the flame. I cannot understand yet God’s purposes in the driving of communism. All I know is this: God of the Exodus, God of the captivity, God of the cross, God of the Patmos is the God who lives today. And out of the flame and the fire and the fury shall come God’s people in glory; their destiny realized in trial and in persecution. It’s the same thing we find here in the Book. The flame burned; and out of that flame and out of that fire, Israel found her true destiny, and we shall find ours.
May I just pause to say a word about us ourselves? I cannot explain all about sickness, and disease, and age, and death. But I can tell you one thing: were it not for sickness, and disease, and troubles, and crying, and tears, and age, and infirmity, and death, we’d never think about God, and we’d never want to go to heaven. You just wait. When you get sick, and when you get old, and when life is a burden, to look up, hear the angels sing, and to look beyond the river, and there on the other side stands our Lord and our Savior in the city celestial, heaven is sweet, and death is no longer that dreaded horrible enemy that we describe him and think of him in the youth and in the manhood and womanhood of life. But death becomes a release; the chilly [waters] of the Jordan River, to go over into the Promised Land [Exodus 14:21-31]. That’s the fire, that’s the furnace. And out of the tribulations and trials and sorrows of this life come our ultimate destiny: a looking forward to God’s promises on the other side.
Now I haven’t time to speak of this fire that burns in the furnace as an emblem of the presence of God. Just to speak of it is to,it is its own sermon, its own apology, its own presentation. From time in memorial, from the beginning, the burning fire has been an emblem of the presence of God [Genesis 15:17]. In the garden of Eden, the shekinah that guarded the tree of life [Genesis 3:22-24]; the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day [Exodus 13:21]; the burning fiery presence of God on top of Mount Sinai in the giving of the law [Exodus 19:16-18]; the shekinah glory of God above the mercy seat in the tabernacle [Exodus 25:21-22]; the God that answered by fire on Mount Carmel when Elijah prayed at the time of the evening sacrifice [1 Kings 18:36-39]; John the Baptist, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" [Matthew 3:11]; the flames of Pentecost, "cloven tongues of fire, dividing tongues of fire over the heads of each one of the evangelistic witnesses" [Acts 2:3-4]; for "our God is a consuming fire" [Hebrews 12:29]; the presence of God in the midst of His people: the bush that burned [Exodus 3:1-2].
Now in just the little moment that remains, a third emblem from the life of Moses, in the next chapter now, the fourth chapter: "And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me . . . and the Lord . . . that the Lord has appeared unto me. And they will not listen to my voice [Exodus 4:1]. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And Moses said, A rod" [Exodus 4:2]. Now, in the little time we have, this is the third emblem in the life of Moses: the ark [Exodus 2:3]; the bush that burned unconsumed [Exodus 3:1-2]; now the next chapter, the rod [Exodus 4:2]. "What is that in thine hand?" [Exodus 4:2]. It was a shepherd’s staff; a piece of a thorn bush with a crook. I suppose the humblest kind of a thing that you could describe or think of, a stick, a rod. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? God is not preparing to give Moses some astonishing emblem, but, "What is that in thine hand?" a rod, a staff, a stick, a cane, a shepherd’s crook, a thorn bush. "What is that in thine hand?" [Exodus 4:2]. Well, when you begin to think about that, that’s just God all the way through this story, an emblem of how God works through common things and with common people. It’s a remarkable thing, a remarkable thing. "What is that in thine hand? What that is in thine hand is God’s token, it’s God’s emblem, it’s God’s call, it’s God’s promise to deliver you and to be with you. What is that in thine hand? A rod" [Exodus 4:2]. And the Lord God says to Moses, "That rod, that stick, shall be the power that shall break the throne of Pharaoh. And that rod shall open the way through the waters of the Red Sea; and My people shall pass through unafraid [Exodus 14:16]. That rod shall bring rock, shall bring water out of the flinty rock [Exodus 17:5-6]. And that rod shall find victory over Amalek and the enemies of the Lord [Exodus 17:8-13]. What is that in thine hand? A stick, a rod, a shepherd’s crook; that shall be the sign of the conquest of God."
Well, I said while ago you could just find it everywhere in the Bible. "What is that in thine hand, Gideon?" A pitcher and a lamp, that’s enough, that’s all God needs is a pitcher and a lamp [Judges 7:16-20]. "What is that in thine hand, David?" A slingshot, that’s all God’s needs against the whole host and the whole army of the Philistines, a slingshot in a boy’s hand [1 Samuel 17:40-50]. "What is that in thine hand, Simon?" A net, use it to catch fish, use it to catch souls for men [Matthew 4:18-19]. "What is that in thine hand, Matthew?" Tax collector’s notebook, out of that tax collector’s notebook came the logia that you finally have in the Gospel of Matthew, all the sayings of Jesus. A tax collector been habit of it, keeping notes in a little notebook on his taxes [Matthew 9:9]. He kept those things that Jesus said. They’re called "the logia of the Master, the sayings of the Master" [Matthew 7:24, 26, 28, 19:1, 26:1]. "What is it in thine hand?" [Exodus 4:2]. That’s the sign that God is with you, and God has called you. Now, the thing, of course, is obvious: it’s the power of the Lord in it, not the thing itself, but God’s hand back of it. I have to close.
Saladin the Saracen, said, "I want to see the sword of Richard the Lionhearted." And when they brought it to Saladin the Saracen, he took it and looked at it and said, "Why, this is nothing but a cleaver. My sword is much better. Look," he said, "Look." And Saladin drew out his burnished sword and took the tip of it and pulled it clear back until the point touched the hilt and said, "Look at my sword." And then he flashed it and felt of its keen edge, and said, "Look, it’s sharper than a razor. And that sword is like a cleaver." And his friend standing with him looked, then remarked, "Yes Saladin. But it’s the hand that wields it that makes the difference." So it is with these common things in our lives. If God is back of it, however humble, however unostentatious, however common, if God is back of it, it has the power of heaven in it. Don’t you be reluctant to offer to God what you have in your hand; that’s all that He needs, that’s all that He asks? It’s an emblem of the presence and power and ableness of the Lord who calls us.
Now we sing our song. And while we sing it, somebody give his heart to Jesus, somebody to put his life with us in the church, while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? Coming into the fellowship of the church, by baptism, by letter, by promise of letter, as God shall open the door and lead the way, would you come? Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.