How It Went Ill With Him

Numbers

How It Went Ill With Him

May 24th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM

Numbers 20:1-12

Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
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HOW IT WENT ILL WITH HIM

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Numbers 20:1-20

5-24-59    8:15 a.m.

 

 

You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the 8:15 o’clock morning message entitled, How it Went Ill With Him.  We are following the life of Moses.  And beyond the message of this hour, there are three more.

The astonishing thing to me as I have prepared these series of sermons, I had never followed the life of Moses before.  This is the first time I had ever prepared a series of sermons on the life of the great lawgiver.  The astounding thing to me has been how many of these messages are messages of deep and bitter sorrow and indescribable disappointment.  I had never thought of Moses as being a man of great sorrows and deep and lasting disappointments.  I have always thought of him as being at a hundred twenty years of age, with his eyes still like a falcon, his courage still like a lion, and his bodily physical vigor undiminished [Deuteronomy 34:7].  I have always thought of him as the great triumphant leader who lived in singing and rejoicing.  And yet without any plan to do so, just taking the life of the great lawgiver as it is portrayed here on the sacred page, I have been astonished how many of these messages concern the great illimitable disappointments that overwhelmed his life and broke his heart.

For example, the message Sunday before last was entitled The Great Disappointment, the Bitter Disappointment.  He had led his people to the very verge of the Promised Land.  They could see the green hills of Palestine just beyond.  And after all of the miracles of God and the shekinah glory of God even then in their presence, he saw his people refuse to enter in [Numbers 13:30-14:4], and heard the awful, awesome pronouncement of the Lord: "Turn you, get you back"; and for forty years to be wasted in the wanderings of the wilderness [Numbers 14:26-35, 32:11-13].  That was the sermon Sunday a week ago.  Last Sunday morning the sermon was The Faithfulness of Moses Under the Reproach of His People.  Though he carried them like a lamb in his bosom, and guided them as a shepherd would his sheep, yet the story is constantly one of rebellion, and chiding, and murmuring, and anger against Moses.  In the sermon last Sunday morning, in his very face, in his very presence, the congregation stood up, led by Korah and Abiram, and proposed to elect a captain to lead them back, and on, and out, and wherever it was they must have thought in their minds.  And Korah was going to be elected a new high priest, and they were going to establish an altogether different system from that which had been given into the hands of Moses [Numbers 16:1-3]. 

Next Sunday’s message is entitled Preparing for Pisgah: "Go up, and look at the length and breadth of the land for thou shalt die in this mount" [Deuteronomy 3:23-27].  And this sermon is one of the saddest that you could ever, ever think for: How It Went Ill With Him.  Now you can follow it easily in the Bible, the twentieth chapter of the Book of Numbers; Numbers 20, the twentieth chapter of the Book of Numbers:

 

Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin . . . and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.

And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!

And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.

And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces,

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth His water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock:  so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as He commanded him.

And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice:  and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

[Numbers 20:1-12]

 

And oh, the hurt, the bitter cup!  In the third chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, beginning at the twenty-third verse:

 

And I besought the Lord at that time, saying,

O Lord God, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness, and Thy mighty hand:  for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy might?

I pray Thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.

But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me:  and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter.

Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes:  but thou shalt not go over this Jordan.

[Deuteronomy 3:23-27]

 

I repeat: I do not select these passages in the life of Moses because of any sadistic appeal they have to me.  I am just following the life of the great lawgiver, and this is it.

Now in this twentieth chapter of the Book of Numbers, we have come to the end of the forty years wandering, and again they are at Kadesh, at the south of Palestine, right on the edge of the Promised Land.  After the wandering of the years, and the years, and the years, they have come again to Kadesh.

And Miriam died there, and was buried there [Numbers 20:1].  Out of the six hundred thousand men of war, and out of the congregation of something like three million, only four of them are left:  Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua.  All of the rest have died in the wilderness.  The sand has been their winding sheet, those silent rocks their tombstones and that vast, empty desert their mausoleum.  And for that many people to die in that length of time must have been one funeral procession after another, and I can imagine the Oriental moaning and wailing that constantly and daily characterized the camp.  Oh, what a sad journey as that vast host began to fall in the wilderness!

But this now is a new generation, these are the children of the fathers who have died; all of them gone now but just those four.  And this is a new shoot from the old stalk; this is the new generation.  And I can imagine with what high hopes, with what cherished visions Moses thinks upon these children.

Their fathers murmured, and their fathers rebelled, and their fathers chided, and their fathers refused to believe God and to lean upon His mighty arm [Numbers 13:30-14:4].  But these, these children they will be different [Numbers 14:31].  Every day they have been fed with manna from heaven [Exodus 16:13-18], the shekinah glory of God, the pillar of the cloud by day and the burning fire by night, has been in their midst [Exodus 13:21-22].  God has guided them for forty years [Deuteronomy 2:7; 8:2].  These children will be different; they will trust in God, and believe in God, and lean upon the strong arm of the Lord.  Why, I can just see how the great leader and lawgiver must have cherished in his soul those high glorious hopes for this new generation; the old one now is gone.

So, leading this new generation to the edge of the Promised Land, once again there is no water in the desert [Numbers 20:27].  The streams have dried and there’s no water, neither for man nor for beast.  What does this new generation do?  Oh, I cannot believe what I read!  They do exactly like the old generation.  The children do exactly like the fathers except only worse, more viciously did they chide.

Look at it.  "And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.  And they chose with Moses, and said, When the people died in the plague, stopped by the censer of Aaron, would God we died in that plague" [Numbers 20:2-3].  And then they said, "Why have you led us up into this wilderness that we and our cattle should die?"  And then they said, "You have taken us out of Egypt, where there were onions, and leeks, and garlic, and you have led us up here where there is no vine, there is no tree, and there is not even water to drink" [Numbers 20:4-5].

Isn’t that a typical thing?  Look at those children just exactly like their fathers.  That’s not unusual.  Look at those children just exactly like their parents.  Look at those children just like their parents.  Look at these boys and girls doing the same thing their parents did.

Oh, you say, "I didn’t do those things!"  You have just forgotten, that’s all.  Doing the same things, these children just like their fathers.  And their fathers murmured and the children murmur.  And their fathers rebelled against God and the children rebel against God.  The fathers are without faith and the children are without faith.  Just the same thing, identical; I read it here in their lives just like I read it before in the lives of the parents.  And poor Moses; all the high hopes he had for that coming generation are dashed to the ground.  And here is another familiar scene, "And Moses falls upon his face before the Lord" [Numbers 20:6].

So the Lord spake unto Moses, and said to him, "Moses, the rock" – evidently there was one particular rock, must have been a tremendous thing, set apart, unusual, significant – "And God said unto Moses, Speak unto the rock; and it shall bring forth water, a river of water: so that thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle and herds drink" [Numbers 20:7-8].  But Moses, all of his life – and here’s another thing that is good for us to understand; when you are converted, and when you are saved, that old you is still with you.  It’ll be a rare and unusual instance where a man’s actual nature is changed when he’s converted.  If you are hotheaded and tempestuous before you were saved, you’ll have that same tendency to burn up, to be hotheaded and tempestuous after you are saved.  If you have a tendency to be domineering, greedy, grasping, before you’re converted, you’ll have that same innate old nature when you’re saved.

Moses was a tempestuous man.  He had a fiery and a burning spirit.  He had a volatile temper, one that would just flame like that.  He had it back there in the land of Egypt when he saw that Egyptian wronging that Israelite slave, and he killed him with his bare fists [Exodus 2:11-12].  He had it all the way through his life.  And it comes out again here.

Now what happens to you when you’re saved is, by the side of that burning tempestuous spirit, God will put a spirit of grace and intercession by which you’re able to command and to control that volatile spirit.  But you’ve still got it.  However you are, that’s the way you are made on the inside.  When we are saved, God just gives us another heart and another spirit by the side of that old one.  And on the inside of our souls there goes civil war all the time, a’fighting, and a’struggling, and a’warring all the days of your life.

Now it comes out again here in Moses.  Moses had a reaction in that new generation.  He had such high hopes for them, such wonderful expectations of them, such great fond dreams for them that when they fell back into that old way of their fathers, of murmuring, and finding fault with God, and chiding their leader, Moses was irritated.  He was hot with indignation.  His spirit burned within him.

And instead of doing what God said, "Speak to the rock, and water will gush out" [Numbers 20:8], Moses took his rod and turning to that new generation, he said, "Ye rebels, you traitors to God’s call and cause, must we fetch you water out of this rock?" [Numbers 20:9-10]. See, he had gotten so accustomed to leading and for the blessings of God to come to the congregation through him, that he was almost persuaded unconsciously that he was doing it himself.

It’s easy to get in the habit of having your way, easy to get in the habit of domineering, easy to get in the habit of being exalted; get to where you think you belong up there, get to where you think that’s your prerogative and your domain.  "Must we fetch you water out of this rock?" [Numbers 20:10].  And in his hot indignation, in his irritation, in his anger, he took the rod, and he smote the rock once and he smote the rock twice [Numbers 20:11].  And then the judgment of the Lord, "Moses, because you believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the people, therefore ye shall not go over this Jordan" [Numbers 20:12].

Now why that divine decision?  To us it seems a forgivable thing.  To us it seems a harsh decision for a weakness in the character of Moses.  Why that divine decision?  "Thou shalt not go over."  Well, when you get to studying this, it is very apparent, that is it is to my heart, why it was that God did that; interdicted the passage of Moses into the Promised Land.

Now there are three reasons for it.  The first one is this: there was plain, overt, actual, clear, unadulterated disobedience.  In the cemetery chapter of the New Testament, the third chapter of Hebrews, you have those two things, disobedience and unbelief, and Moses was guilty of both of them.  God said to Moses, "Speak unto the rock"; and Moses, in his anger took his rod and struck it twice.  "To whom swear He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that were disobedient" [Hebrews 3:18].

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of disobedience, in departing from the living God" [Hebrews 3:12].  Moses plainly, overtly disobeyed God [Numbers 20:8, 11].  That was the first thing.  The second thing here is, and I can hardly believe it, somehow the faith of Moses was not extensive enough to believe, that by speaking to the rock, water would gush out.  In the twelfth verse, there in the Book of Numbers, it says, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, because you believed Me not" [Numbers 20:12].  In other words Moses felt that somehow human ingenuity had to enter into that.  Just to speak to the rock was not enough, could not be enough.  He had to do something himself.  Oh, there had to be somehow a human instrumentality!  And Moses proposed to offer that in taking his rod and vehemently striking it twice [Numbers 20:11].  He somehow just didn’t believe that to speak to it was enough.

Isn’t that a strange thing?  This man who was used of God to visit upon Egypt the ten plagues [Exodus 7:14-12:30], who saw the dividing of the Red Sea [Exodus 14:15-31], to whom was given from the hands of God the tables of stone [Exodus 31:18], who saw the manna fall and the quail given [Exodus 16:12-15], and the streams following the congregation in the desert [Exodus 15:24-25; 17:6], that same man somehow staggered at the promise of God when God said, "Just speak to the rock; and it will bring forth streams in the desert" [Numbers 20:8].  There was unbelief [Numbers 20:11].

But I don’t think any of those, either one of those is the real reason.  They shared in it, but to me the real reason why God interdicted the passage of Moses into the Promised Land lies in this; he broke the type, and God has great care and great store for His types.  "See," said the Lord to Moses, "that thou dost make every thing according to the pattern showed thee on the mount" [Exodus 25:9, 40; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23].

Those curtains were to be just so, and the veil in between.  God had a meaning.  That altar had to be just so, and the laver, and the seven-branched candlestick, and the table of showbread, and the golden altar of incense, and the mercy seat, and the ark of the covenant, all of it just so, for God had a meaning in it [Exodus 25-27].  And these things that God was doing with Moses, all of them had a meaning.  They were types.

In the tenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, the fourth verse, "And that Rock was Christ," 1 Corinthians 10:4, "And that Rock was Christ"; 1 Corinthians 10:6, "Now these things were our examples," and the Greek word is tupos.  "Now these things are our types, to the intent."  Now again, 1 Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things happened unto them for examples," you have it translated; the Greek is tupikos.  "All of these happened unto them typically."

They were types.  That Rock was Christ.  And God said to Moses before, "Strike the rock, strike the rock"; and Moses took his rod and he struck the rock, and waters flowed out [Exodus 17:6].  But you must not strike it again.  "Speak to the rock, and the blessings will overflow" [Numbers 20:8].  The Rock is Christ [1 Corinthians 10:4].  Christ is struck once.  Christ died once [Hebrews 9:27-28].  But He does not die twice nor thrice; once.  And I want to show you how insistent the Word of God is upon that point.  You just take these one, two, three, four, I’m going to read four passages.  Hebrews 9:28, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many."  Hebrews 10:10, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."  Hebrews 10:12, "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, one time, one time."  Same thing over here in 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust."  One time did Christ die a sacrifice, once for all for sin.  That’s why – and I haven’t time to enter into it this morning – that’s why in the sixth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, here:

 

It is impossible for those who have been enlightened, and given the heavenly gift, were partakers of the Holy Ghost,

Tasted the good word of God, the powers of the world to come,

If they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame;

[Hebrews 6:4-6]

 

As though for Christ to die one time were not enough.  But He must die again, and again, and again, and again.  Christ died one time [Hebrews 9:28; 10:10, 12; 1 Peter 3:18].  A man is saved one time; he can never be saved twice.  And that type is precious in the sight of the Lord.

If I had another thirty minutes, I’d just like to expatiate here on what God thinks of His types.  The Lord said, "You must not touch this ark.  In the day you touch it, you die" [Numbers 4:5, 10, 15].  And Uzzah, to whom it was a piece of household furniture being in his home, to steady the ark he put his hand upon it, and he died [2 Samuel 6:3-7].  Why?  Because God holds serious His types.  The good king Uzziah, the good king Uzziah went into the holy place where only the priests were allowed to offer incense unto God, and he was stricken with leprosy [2 Chronicles 26:16-21], because God holds precious His types. 

In that awful hour when the Lord Jesus was dying on the cross, the Lord God in heaven was taking care and watching His types.  In the very awful, dark hour of the death of Jesus Christ, God the Father went over there into the temple, and He took that veil and with His own hands He rent it in two, from the top to the bottom, in order that He might carry through the type: the veil of His flesh [Matthew 27:50-51].  "And through the rending of the veil," so the Book of Hebrews says, "we have entrance into the heavenlies of God" [Hebrews 10:19-20].  These things are precious in God’s sight.  They may not mean anything to us, they may be trivial to other people, but to God His types are important. 

And this Rock was Christ [1 Corinthians 10:4].  God said, "Smite it once [Exodus 17:6], then speak to it for the blessings" [Numbers 20:8].  And Moses broke the type [Numbers 20:11].  And when he did, God said, "And Moses, for the disobedience, thou shalt not cross over this Jordan" [Numbers 20:12].  Well, it is a sad and tragic thing. 

Before I close, may I say one other thing about that type?  Somehow or the other, Moses could not lead the people into the Promised Land for the law – and he represented the law – the law does not lead us into rest.  The law can take us to the edge of Jordan, but it cannot take us over.  We must come to a new Joshua, a new Savior, the Lord Jesus, to enter in to the Promised Land.  The law is a paidagogos to bring us to Jesus, but it can’t save us.  And Moses cannot lead us across.  It’s Joshua.  It’s Jesus [Numbers 27:12-23].

Now this last sentence, "And I besought the Lord, saying . . . O I pray Thee, let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon" [Deuteronomy 3:23-25].  But the Lord said, "Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter"[Deuteronomy 3:26].  Did you ever hear that before or again?  "And Paul said, Of this thorn in the flesh, I besought the Lord thrice; but the Lord said, Speak no more to Me of this matter, My grace shall be sufficient for thee" [2 Corinthians 12:8-9].

Remember that? "Do not mention it anymore."  David could not build the temple; God interdicted [2 Samuel 7:12-13].  Moses cannot go over this Jordan; God interdicts it [Deuteronomy 3:23-27; Numbers 27:12-14].  But in God’s day, and in God’s time, and in God’s will, the Lord does not forget His saints.

Moses went over that Jordan; Moses saw that goodly land, and Mount Lebanon; when our Savior was transfigured, there at His side is Moses on the other side of the Jordan in that goodly land, and Mount Lebanon [Matthew 17:1-3].  God had some better thing for him, and He has some better thing for you, in God’s will, in God’s time, in God’s purpose [Hebrews 11:40].  He may interdict it now, maybe take it away from us now, maybe the dregs of bitter disappointment we drink in the cup now, but some day, some time, some hour, somewhere, God hath some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40] as He had some better thing for Moses [Matthew 17:1-3].

Now in this moment of appeal while we sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, from this balcony round, or from side to side, while we sing this song, into this aisle, down one of these stairwells, and here to the pastor, "I give you my hand.  My heart I give to God."  Or, "We are putting our lives in the fellowship of His church and here we are and here we come."  If the Lord is in it, would you make it now, this morning?  While we stand and while we sing.

HOW IT WENT ILL WITH HIM

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Numbers 20:1-20

5-24-59

 

I.              Wanderings of forty years almost over

1.    Last four in first generation, Moses, Aaron, Caleb, Joshua

2.    Most of the first generation dies in the desert

II.            How it befell

1.    Failing water supply

2.    God’s command to strike first time, speak the second time

3.    Moses strikes both times, second time in anger

4.    God provides water both times

III.           Why the divine division?

1.    Clear disobedience striking the rock the second time

2.    Unbelief – "a word is not enough; I must do something with human ingenuity."

3.    The breaking of the type death of the Lord to occur but once and for all

4.    God is deadly serious about types in His Word, i.e. Uzziah

5.    The law can never lead us into rest