Going Along the King’s Highway
August 9th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
GOING ALONG THE KING’S HIGHWAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-9-59 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Going Along the King’s Highway. It is built upon a text in the twenty-first chapter of Numbers and the twenty-second verse [Numbers 21:22]. This is the last sermon that the pastor will bring from the Pentateuch from the books of Moses. The next time that I appear in this pulpit at this morning service, we shall begin with the life of Joshua and follow the life of that great soldier, as with God’s help they conquered the land. The sermon this morning is a textural sermon, Numbers 21:22. Israel is in their pilgrimage to the borders of Canaan, the Promised Land. And they come on the eastern side of the Jordan River to the kingdom of Sihon.
And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying,
Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the King’s Highway, until we be past thy borders.
Then the story, of course is, Sihon refused to let the pilgrims go through, and under the hand and power and deliverance of God, Israel smote Sihon, and the land of the Amorites east of the Jordan River, between the Arnon and the Jabbok Rivers, where therein added to their inheritance [Numbers 21:23-25]. But the context brings to us no part of the message of the morning. It is the text itself:
And Israel said, Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the King’s Highwway, until we be past thy borders.
And as we have followed the story of God’s people, we are today taking this passage, this text, as a type and a picture of our life in the Christian faith. First of all, we are strangers and pilgrims in this earth. We are passing through the land. “And Israel said; Let me pass through thy land” [Numbers 21:22].
Israel had been in bondage in the land of darkness for more than four hundred years. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, God had showed to Abraham, when a deep sleep fell upon him and an horror of great darkness surrounded him, God said to Abram, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” [Genesis 15:13]. And Abram saw and behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between the pieces of his sacrifice [Genesis 15:17].
Down in the land of Egypt, in the waste of darkness, under the heavy rod of a taskmaster, these children of heaven slaved in Egypt, and not only were they slaves, but they were like the Egyptians finally under the sentence of death. “Tonight,” said God, “Mine angel shall pass over the land” [Exodus 12:12-13, 22-23]. And all the families, whether they were Egyptians, or whether they were Israelites, all of the families in that land of darkness were under the sentence of death. So their lot was full of trial and their way was encompassed with trouble. And they faced no other future but the sentence and judgment of death.
Then out of the goodness and the mercy of God, the Lord provided a way of salvation. It was by the death of a substitute. And between the two evenings of the fourteenth of Nisan, those who would trust in God and believe in God were to take a lamb and slay it. And the blood was to be sprinkled in the form of a cross, on the lintels and on the doorposts, in the form of a cross [Exodus 12:4-7]. “And it shall be,” said God, “when the angel of death visits the land of darkness, it shall be, if he sees the blood, he will pass over” [Exodus 12:23]. And no death, no judgment, no condemnation shall come into that house and home. But all shall be delivered unto life. And those who believed in God and trusted in God, and took God at His word, slew the lamb, poured out its blood, sprinkled it in the form of a cross on the lintel and on the doorposts on either side, and God honored the faith and the trust of those families that took God at His word [Exodus 12:28]. It was a sign that they believed in the Lord, that they trusted in God, and that they had committed themselves to the promise of deliverance if they would do what God had said.
That’s the way of salvation all through the ages and all through the Scriptures. Those who were bitten by a serpent, if they would look upon the brazen serpent raised between the earth and the sky, they would be healed and they would be saved [Numbers 21:6-9]. That is, they took God at His word. If I look, I shall live, and to look, which was all that some of them could do, to look was a sign that they believed God would keep His promise. For we are saved by the power of the Lord, not by our ingenuity; we might have worked out a far different way for a man to be saved. We might have concocted many schemes, approached it in many philosophical directions, but that’s not how God saves a man, by the man’s own ingenuity or his own schemes. God has His own way and God’s way is always by substitution and by blood and by sacrifice, and when we take God at His word and look and trust, sprinkle the blood on the lintel and on the doorposts, God is honored and His judgment and His justice is met. And God, for the sake of the sacrifice, forgives us [Ephesians 4:32], accepts the atoning life in our stead [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21].
So Israel is a redeemed people, and they are led out by the pillar of fire by night and by the pillar of cloud by day [Exodus 13:21-22]. And they are on their journey to the Promised Land. They are redeemed, and in the earth they are strangers and they are pilgrims, passing through the land. They are on the way, God’s redeemed.
Now that is an exact picture of us. We, like them, were under condemnation and death, even as others, we were born the children of wrath [Ephesians 2:1-3]. And we were under the lash and rod of the taskmaster, serving carnality, serving Satan, children of the night and of darkness [Ephesians 2:11-12]. And God provided for us a way of escape, an atoning sacrifice, the Lamb of God [John 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. And to us, who would take God at His word and trust in Jesus and His atoning blood [Romans 10:9-13], the death angel hath passed over us. It is the Lord’s Passover, and we are spared unto life [1 Corinthians 5:7-8].
No damnation faces us; no condemnation awaits us, no judgment and wrath of God to fall upon us, no hell and perdition for us [Romans 8:1]. We are the redeemed, blood-bought, forgiven children of God [1 Peter 1:18-19]. And now, we have been called to a pilgrimage through this land [1 Peter 2:11]. They are the children of the flesh; we are the children of the Spirit [Galatians 4:6]. They are citizens of this world; we are citizens of the world that is to come [Philippians 3:20]. They build their foundations on the sand; the foundation of our house is made without hands eternal in the heavens [2 Corinthians 5:1]. We are strangers and pilgrims in the earth [Hebrews 11:13]; we are passing through the land.
Then Israel says, “Let me pass through the land,” a stranger, a pilgrim, no abiding place there, “Let me pass through the land, then we will not turn into the fields or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well” [Numbers 21:22]. They are a separated people. We will not turn aside into the vineyard, into the field, or to drink of the well. We are a separated people, strangers and pilgrims, separated unto God. They were separated unto God by election [Deuteronomy 7:6]. God had chosen them before the foundations of the world [Acts 13:17]. They were separated unto God by covenant promises, which God had made to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob [Leviticus 26:42]. They were separated unto God by the blood of the Lamb; they were a redeemed people [Exodus 12:26-27]. They were separated unto God by the passage of the Red Sea that rolled a flood of death between them and the Egyptians [Exodus 14:21-29]. They were separated unto God by the pillar of fire and of cloud that shined with brightness and glory upon Israel that shined with darkness and foreboding judgment upon Egypt [Exodus 14:19-20]. And they were separated unto God by the grace and mercy of the Lord through the wilderness wanderings. Fed with bread of heaven [Exodus 16:14-17]; given drink from the rock of life [Exodus 17:6]; and they were finally separated by going over Jordan into God’s Promised Land [Joshua 3:14-17], which is an identical picture of God’s people today.
We are a separated people. We are separated by election. God hath chosen us from the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4-5]. He knew you by your name before you were born [Psalm 139:13-16], and your name was written in God’s Book of Life before you came into being [Ephesians 1:4]. God saw you from the beginning, and you are saved because of the grace and mercy and elective purpose of God [Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5]. Why weren’t you born a heathen Hottentot? Why weren’t you born an aborigene? Why weren’t you born a thousand years ago? These great, gracious, merciful purposes of God have come to fruition in us, not because of any worth or goodness on our part, but because God loved us and had mercy upon us [John 3:16; Titus 3:5]. Oh, man, woman, child in this congregation this morning, you could not frame the sentence to pronounce it, what you ought to say to God in gratitude for His elective purposes in your life! “Not to him that willeth, nor to him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy [Romans 9:16]; not by any righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” [Titus 3:5].
Not in pride do I look upon a filthy drunkard in the gutter and say, “Dear Lord, I thank Thee I am not as other men.” But in humility look upon the drunkard in the gutter and say, “But for the grace and mercy of God, I might have been just like that.” So with all of the favor and blessings of the Lord upon us, we are the elect and the chosen of God [Ephesians 1:4-7]. That’s why we are saved by His mercy [Titus 3:5] and His grace [Ephesians 2:8], separated unto God.
We are a separated people by redemption. We are blood-bought [1 Peter 1:18-19], not our own, bought with a price, belonged to God and not to ourselves [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. And we are a separated people unto God in the pilgrim way, in communion with Christ, following close unto Him [Matthew 16:24]. We are a separated people unto God by the Spirit that lives in our souls. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost of Jesus in this world [1 Corinthians 6:19], separated unto God, and our habits, and our speech, and our manner, and our hopes, and our lives, and all of the desires and ambitions and affections of our lives are separated apart from this world.
We are a different people. We will not turn into the fields or into the vineyards. We will not drink of the waters of the well [Numbers 21:22]. This world may pause at the pleasures of the wells of this life; we do not drink of them. This world may turn into the vineyards of lust and of sinful, carnal pleasures; we do not share them. This world may follow after its worldly vanities and its cheap rewards; our hearts are lifted up to heaven, and we are committed to a different way of life. We are a separated people, a different people.
I want to illustrate that, especially because we have so many children and young people at this 8:15 o’clock service. A Christian is a different kind of a man, woman, youth. He is separated from the world, and he acts different. His heart is different; he is different. He is different in his soul. He is different in his life; he is a different kind of a creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. I began my ministry in the Depression, and those of you who have lived since that Depression have no idea how it is to see men, educated, well educated, walking up and down the streets of the city begging bread.
I began my ministry in the Depression and one of the young men, that I knew so well and loved so much, was a young lawyer just out of school. He went to a certain city, hung out his shingle and because of the terrible economic plight of our nation, the young fellow was starving to death. He had no income, he had rent to pay; he had no way to make a living. And in those days, a kinsman, who had influence in a large doctor’s clinic, persuaded the doctors to invite the young man to be their lawyer. They had a great deal of need for a man to enter into the adjustment of insurance cases and many other legal matters that pertain to large physician’s clinic. So they invited the young fellow to be their lawyer, at a handsome salary. It required the young fellow to work on Sunday, and he said, “I cannot take the place.” In amazement, they asked why, and he said, “I will not work on Sunday.” Why, they were astonished and amazed! They could not believe it; young fellow just married, starting out starving to death, not supporting his wife, and not even being able to pay his rent. A fine position they offer him and he wouldn’t work because it entailed his being there on the Lord’s Day. That’s an unusual fellow to do something like that.
Now let me show you how God takes care of people like that. The young fellow refused it, and went back to the emptiness of his office without clients and to the need and poverty of his young home and his young wife. But the doctors sent for him, and this is what they said: “Young fellow, we have never seen anything like this in our lives. Not in our lives have we ever seen anything like this. And we have been talking about you and about what you stand for and what you believe. And young fellow, we’ve come to the conclusion that these nurses that work down here in this clinic ought to be off on the Lord’s Day. And we’ve come to the conclusion that we ourselves ought to take one day a week and give it to God. And young fellow, we have voted to close the clinic every Sunday, and that means you can come and work for us, and the clinic will be closed on the Lord’s Day.”
And that clinic, great and famous as it is, is still closed on the Lord’s Day. There are emergencies, of course. There are desperate needs on Sunday, of course, but they can be met in an emergency manner. God’s people are a different people, a peculiar people, a separate people. How God blessed that young fellow, and he just went right on up.
He always will bless us when we are true to ourselves and our highest calling in Him. Pass you the bottle in a crowd, you don’t drink, you just don’t. You don’t have any interest in it. It does not appeal to you. You’re not made that way. There is something on the inside of you that the very thought of it violates; you are just different, you are a separate people. To use foul and filthy language; it insults; it’s irreverent to you. It doesn’t fit; you are not made that way. A dirty, off-colored story, you just don’t share in it. You are just different, and all of those things to which you can be invited that are filled with the dirt and carnality of this dark, sinful, depraved world, you don’t rejoice in it. They may be entertained by it, not you.
But oh, bless your soul, if there is a great revival meeting going on, or if God’s house if open and the Spirit of the Lord is moving among His people to share in the songs of Zion, to bow in prayer before the Lord, to worship in His name, these things fit. To have your Christian spirit, to be chaste in language and thought, to be upright in decorum and behavior, these things belong. You are a peculiar and a different people. We will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the King’s Highway [Numbers 21:22].
Then our great King hath set before us a way. We will go along by the King’s Highway, stepping in the light, walking with the Savior in the King’s Highway [Numbers 2:22]. That way is a Person. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. Walking with the Lord; that way is a way of faith and of trust. When the sun and the moon and the stars do not shine, just walking by faith; “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” looking unto God [Job 13:15].
That way is a narrow way, just room to walk in, not turning to the right or to the left; the narrow way, walking with the Lord [Matthew 7:13-14]. It is a new and a living way, through the veil of His flesh [Hebrews 10:19-20], looking unto Jesus, who hath entered for us beyond the veil in the inner sanctuary, and who hath opened heaven’s door for us to follow after. All of our life in His; “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” [Galatians 2:20]. We will go along by the King’s Highway [Numbers 21:22]; the way of the pilgrim and the stranger to the earth, until we be past thy borders on the other side.
“Until we be past thy borders” [Numbers 21:22]. What were the borders of the king of the Amorites? Says here in the Bible, the borders were the rivers Arnon and Jabbok [Numbers 21:24]. We want to pass through the land as a stranger and a pilgrim [Hebrews 11:13-14]. We will not turn aside, we are a separated people. We will go along by the King’s Highway, following the steps of the Savior, until we be past thy borders [Numbers 21:22]. What are the borders of the Christian life? They are death and the grave.
In the fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis, you have one of the most monotonous refrains that you could ever read in the Bible. In the fifth chapter in the Book of Genesis:
And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.
And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.
And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
[Genesis 5:5, 20, 27]
After every one of the men in that genealogy, though they lived for so long, it all concludes with that same monotonous refrain, “And he died.” Death and the grave, the borders of this land; everywhere a man lives, but there is a city of the dead. Out there where the houses are tombs, out there wherein the streets there is no tumult and shouting, out there where the only sound that is heard is the sigh of the wind through the acacia trees, for the only sound that is heard is the repressed cry and a choking sob, the grave. And the Christian pilgrim is in this land, and those are its borders: death and the grave.
And somebody in the world pauses and looks, and he says, “Look, that Christian is dead.” And all heaven replies, “Dead? Dead? He that doeth the will of God liveth forever [John 11:26]. Dead? But dead in Christ, and Christ lives, and this is our victory, even our faith [1 John 5:4]. “Death is swallowed up in victory” [1 Corinthians 15:54]. Dead? His body is asleep in the Lord, but his spirit, his soul is with God in heaven, absent from the body and present with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:6-8]. He that liveth and believeth in Him can never die [1 John 11:26], till we are past the borders of the land; till we come to the river that separated in between, and are translated to the other side [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Let us pass through the land, not turn into the fields or into the vineyards; separated, not drink of the waters of the well, but going along by the King’s Highway, until we be past the borders [Numbers 21:22]. And bless God, some of us will never see death till we be past the borders; like Enoch, that walked with God on the King’s Highway: and he was not; for God took him [Genesis 5:24]. Or like Elijah, when he came to the Jordan River, smote the flood with his mantle, they parted on either side and crossing over [2 Kings 2:8]; he went up into heaven in a whirlwind [2 Kings 2:11]. Some of us shall not sleep in the Lord. Remember the passage you read in I Corinthians this morning: “Behold, we shall not all sleep [1 Corinthians 15:51-52], for we who abide and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be caught up in the chariot of God to meet our Lord in the air” [1 Thessalonians 4:17]. Until we be past the border [Numbers 21:22].
Can you sing an old Negro spiritual song about that? Can you? Let’s see if there is enough of the feeling, of looking over Jordan beyond the border, if there is enough feeling in us to sing it like they would sing it? You want to try?
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home!
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home!
Looking over Jordan, what did I see coming for to carry me home?
A band of angels coming after me, coming for to carry me home!
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home!
Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home!
[“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” by Wallis Willis]
“Until we be past the borders” [Numbers 21:22]. Ah, bless your soul, a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth, separated unto God, walking along the King’s Highway until we be past the borders [Numbers 21:22]. Oh, what a sweet and blessed hope, what a full and gracious life from the hands of God!
Now isn’t our song, “We Shall See the King Someday”? I love that song—what’s the number of it?—number 474. While we sing the song, number 474, “We Shall See the King Someday,” while we sing the song, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody you, put his life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a family, or just one you, while we sing this beautiful, beautiful song of hope and of love, would you come and stand by me? “Preacher, I give you my hand, I have given my heart to Jesus,” or “Today, we are putting our lives in the church,” while we stand and sing.
GOING ALONG THE KING’S HIGHWAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Passing through the land
1. Pilgrims and
strangers per God to Abraham
2. Bondage in Egypt
3. God provides
deliverance to the land
God separates out
1. His chosen
people of Israel
2. Believers in
We will not turn
1. Passing through,
we will not disturb the pagan’s land
land of promise