Preparing for Pisgah
May 31st, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
PREPARING FOR PISGAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-31-59 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Preparing for Pisgah. In our following the life of Moses, we have come to the conclusion of his work. And there is only one other message to be delivered; and that will be entitled The Death of the Man of God.
Now you can follow the message easily in your Bible in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Numbers, Numbers 21. In the twenty-first verse of the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Numbers [Numbers 21:21], Israel has finished its years of wandering in the wilderness, and they are now prepared to come up on the eastern side of the Jordan River and to enter the Promised Land. In the twenty-first verse of the twenty-first chapter of Numbers:
Israel sends 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.
Now Sihon is the king of the eastern side of Jordan from the Jabbok River down, and from the Jabbok River north, Og, “O-G,” Og is the king of Bashan. All of that country over there originally belonged to the Moabites and the Ammonites. Moab and Ammon, you remember, were the incestuous children of Lot [Genesis 19:30-38] who was saved out of burning Sodom [Genesis 19:15-25]. But in these recent years, two Canaanitish chiefs—Sihon of the Amorites down from the Jabbok River south, and Og the king of Bashan, from the Jabbok River north—those two Canaanitish chiefs had overwhelmed the country of the Moabites and the Ammonites [Numbers 21:26-30]. And they were rulers in all of that vast district which went clear from north and south on the eastern side of the Jordan.
Now there was no disposition on the part of Israel to conquer that part of the country. They had their hearts and their desires and their visions steadfastly set on the land beyond the Jordan. So they sent to Sihon the king of the Amorites saying, “Just let us pass through. We will touch not a fig, not a grape; we will not even drink out of thy wells; but we will go along by the King’s Highway, turning neither to the right nor to the left” [Numbers 21:21-22]. Now the next verse,
But Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but he gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness…And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from the Arnon River unto the Jabbok.
Now look at the thirty-third verse: Israel now by conquest has conquered half of the country east of the Jordan. Now the thirty-third verse:
And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan—
that is just north, and then planning to go across—
And Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people.
Og was a giant. His bedstead was nine cubits long [Deuteronomy 3:11]. That doesn’t mean the man was nine cubits high, but it took a big bed for him. A bed that was nine cubits long would be nine feet plus four and a half feet. Is that thirteen and a half feet? I’m getting better, you notice that? Thirteen and a half feet; now that is some bed! And it took that big of bed for this fellow to sleep in with comfort.
Well, when he heard what had happened down there in the south of his country, Bashan was an impregnable fortress, a great enormous plateau of rock—sixty cities up there. Outside of a miracle, Israel could no more have conquered Bashan than they could have taken wings and have flown. But Og—all of this in the elective purpose of God—Og, in his stature and in his prowess and in his military might, thought he would crush those wandering Jews with just one blow. So he came out of his invincible fortress up there and out of his sixty cities, and came down there on the plain where Israel could easily face them and meet them [Numbers 21:33].
And the Lord said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites which dwelt in Heshbon.
So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed the land.
So Israel now has conquered all of the land east of the Jordan from the south to the north [Numbers 31:1-54]. Later on, in the division of the country among the tribes, the southern part of it was given to Reuben, the middle part of it was given to Gad, and the top part of it was given to one half of the tribe of Manasseh [Numbers 32:1-42]. So Israel now has begun its conquest of Palestine, and now stands on the eastern side of the Jordan River ready to go over and to posses the land that God promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob [Numbers 33:53]. This is the end of the wilderness wandering; this is the beginning of the conquest [Numbers 33:50-56].
Now turn to the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Numbers and the twelfth verse, Numbers 27:12. This recounts, of course, one of the most tragic sorrows that you will ever find in the Word of God, or in the story of a man. The purpose of the Exodus, of course was to take these people into God’s heritage. And the purpose of all of the efforts of the wilderness wandering was to prepare them for the new government and the new life, the new theocracy; all of the things that God had in store for His people. And now they are ready to enter in. And look:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.
For ye rebelled against My commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify Me at the water before their eyes.
Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
[Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 3:27]
In the very peak, in the very zenith, in the very glory, in the very consummation of all of the work of his life, “Thou shalt not go over” [Deuteronomy 3:27].
And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying [Numbers 27:15],
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
And the Lord said unto Moses—
now we have his successor appointed—
I am not to lead them over. O Lord, who will go out and in before the people?
And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit and lay thine hand upon him;
And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
And thou shalt put some of thy honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
So Joshua is chosen.
Now we come to the end of Moses’ life. Turn now to the Book of Deuteronomy, the Book of Deuteronomy. All the Word of God, of course, is in-breathed with the Holy Spirit. All of it alike is inspired, written by the hand of holy men of God as they were moved by the Spirit [2 Peter 1:20-21]. But, as Jesus Himself would acquiesce in, not all the commandments are equal; there is a first, a primary, a great commandment [Matthew 22:35-38].
Not all of the books of the Bible have in them that same glorious fullness of meaning, of significance. There are some things that Paul wrote that are more dynamically meaningful in our lives than other things that Paul wrote. So it is with the Bible. There are some books that are of everlasting meaning and highest significance.
Genesis is one of those books. Romans is one of those books. John is one of those books. Deuteronomy is without question, without doubt, the great book of the Old Testament. Deuteronomy is, I suppose, as much quoted or more quoted than any other book of the Old Testament in the New Testament.
When the Lord was tempted by Satan, He answered out of the Book of Deuteronomy, “Thus it is written…” [Matthew 4:4, 7, 10] and through all of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, Deuteronomy is referred to again, again, and yet again. Out of the Old Testament, this is the heart of the Mosaic revelation and covenant.
Now it is called Deuteronomy, deutero nomos; deuteron, second, nomos, law. Deuteronomy is called the second law, the repetition of the law; for the story of the giving of the law is finished in Numbers: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, those four books. But there is a Pentateuch. There are five books. And Deuteronomy is the collection of the addresses of Moses on the plains of Moab as he makes his last and final charge to the people before being translated to heaven [Deuteronomy 34:5-6] and before Joshua leads the host across the river Jordan [Numbers 27:12-23; Joshua 1:1-3]. So when we come to the Book of Deuteronomy you come to that high, higher, highest plain of the Old Testament covenant.
“And these,” now let’s begin; Deuteronomy, “These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan,” that is on the eastern side, before they entered into Canaan:
These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on the eastern side of the Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red Sea… And it came to pass in the fortieth year—
at the conclusion of the period of the wanderings—
It came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them;
After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites… and Og the king of Bashan… on this side Jordan…
On the eastern side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law saying…
Then you begin, and this is the Book of Deuteronomy.
Now there are many, many, many divisions of the Book of Deuteronomy. I mean there are many, many different outlines as different men read it and would outline it all of which are very fine. But I have divided it just for simplicity’s sake into these apparent divisions. I mean plainly, lucidly apparent divisions.
There are three great addresses of Moses in the book on the plains of Moab before they enter in. And the first address is from Deuteronomy 1:6 to 4:40. And that address, that first address is a summary of the history of the people for the last forty years. It summarizes the story of the children of Israel from the day of the exodus until that present moment when they stand on the banks of the Jordan River ready to enter in. So the first discourse is Deuteronomy 1:6-4:40.
Now the second great discourse delivered by Moses there on the plains of Moab is by far the longest. It’s from Deuteronomy 5 to Deuteronomy 26. The fifth chapter of Deuteronomy to the twenty-sixth chapter of Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 5:1-26:19], there you have the long, long second great sermon of the man of God. Now this second discourse concerns the law. He starts off with the Ten Commandments [Deuteronomy 5:7-21]. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy he begins this second discourse like a man would take a text, like a man would take a chapter from the Bible and preach on it. Moses takes the Ten Commandments and he begins, there and then he preaches his sermon on the civil, moral, and ceremonial law that is to govern the people of the Lord.
There are two places in the Bible where you find the Ten Commandments: in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, where they were delivered to Moses from Mount Sinai [Exodus 20:1-17]. Then the second time you find it is in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, when Moses takes the Ten Commandments and preaches this marvelous sermon on the law God has delivered to the people [Deuteronomy 5:7-21].
This Book of Deuteronomy, I haven’t the beginning even to speak of it, but it is filled with exhortation; it’s a sermon, it’s filled with plaintive pleadings. Here is a very typical one in the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, after Moses takes his text and goes through the reading of the Ten Commandments, here in the twenty-ninth verse; “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments, always that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29]. So you have this long sermon on the law; the second discourse of Moses [Deuteronomy 5:1-26:19].
Now the third one: the third discourse which Moses preached on the plains of Moab before entering into the Promised Land, before Joshua led the people in, the third discourse is Deuteronomy 27 and 28. Deuteronomy 27 and 28 and this is the sermon of the cursings and the blessings [Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68]. “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven image” [Deuteronomy 27:15]. “Cursed be he, cursed be he,” all through it, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” [Deuteronomy 27:26]. Then you have the blessings:
Blessed shalt thou be in the city…
Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body…
Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, when thou goest out—
in keeping this law—
Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.
Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body…
Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
This third discourse is a sermon of cursing and blessing [Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68].
Now Paul picked that sermon up and preached a sermon on it. Paul’s sermon was, if a man could keep that law he would be blessed when he rose up, and blessed when he sat down, blessed when he came in, and blessed when he came out [Deuteronomy 28:6]. But Paul said, the law also says, “Cursed be he that continueth not in all things of the law to do them. Cursed shalt thou be when thou sittest down. Cursed shalt thou be when thou risest up, when thou comest in, when thou goest out” [Deuteronomy 28:19, Galatians 3:10]. And Paul’s sermon was, “Who then can be saved?” [Galatians 3:21-22].
Have you kept the law? Anybody here never sinned; anybody here perfect before God? Why, it’d be foolish for a man to stand up—any man, any man who ever lived—be foolish for any man to stand up and say, “I have been perfect in all of my heart and all of my life and all of my deeds. I have kept the law.” So Paul says that the curse of the law fell upon us. We are cursed in it not saved by it [Deuteronomy 27:26]. Then Paul points to Someone who did keep the law, who fulfilled the law [Matthew 5:17], who took the penalty of the transgressors of the law in His own life, in His own suffering; in His death on the cross was made a curse for us [Galatians 3:13].
“Cursed be he that continueth not in all things of the law to do them” [Galatians 3:10]. He became that curse for us [Galatians 3:13]. He took the penalty all of the judgment of God upon our sins. “God made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And in His love, and mercy, and sacrifice we are saved [John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. And what we do now, we don’t do in order to be saved. No man is saved by keeping the law, by doing good [Galatians 2:16]. But the good that we do we do now—not in order to be saved but for the love of Jesus who has already saved us, given us a new heart, given us a new spirit, given us a new life, a new hope, a new love. He has regenerated our souls, given us a new spirit [John 3:6]. And now what we do, we do not in fear of the curses of the law, “If I don’t do this I’ll be damned.” We don’t live like that any longer.
If I come to church, I come to church on the first day of the week out of love for my Savior that’s all. I can come to church on Wednesday just as well. I could preach down here just as well on Thursday. I could preach just as sorry on Thursday as I could on Sunday; wouldn’t make any difference. The reason we come on Sunday the first day of the week is out of love to our Lord. He was raised on the first day of the week [Matthew 28:1-7]. And every first day of the week to us is an Easter. We don’t have Easter once a year. Some people may but not we. Every Lord’s Day is an Easter to us.
And we come to church to God’s house on the first day of the week not by commandment. You don’t have any commandment to come to God’s house on the first day of the week. We come out of devotion to our Lord. Same way about our giving; what we give, we give out of the love of our Lord. And all of our ministry and all of our service and all of our devotion is out of the fullness of our souls for what Jesus has done for us. Well, that’s what Paul preached on this text from Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 3:27].
Now in the twenty-ninth chapter and the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy you have the second covenant, not in the sense of the New Covenant of the Old Testament, but a covenant beside the one which was made in Horeb, in Sinai, and just a confirmation of the first covenant [Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20]. Then in the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, you have the charge of Moses to the people, and to his successor, Joshua. And he did it on his birthday. Now look at it. In the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, “And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel. And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day” [Deuteronomy 31:1-2]. This is Moses’ birthday. Now the seventh verse:
And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
And the Lord, He it is that goeth before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
So with the charge of Moses to the people and with the charge of Moses to Joshua, he now writes the ninth verse, “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests… which bare the ark of the covenant, and unto all the elders of Israel” [Deuteronomy 31:9]. He writes the law.
Now the twenty-fourth verse, see what he does with it. “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished” [Deuteronomy 31:24]; oh, how the higher critics, the historical critics, had a field day over that for generations, for centuries! They scoffed and laughed at the idea that it says, “Moses wrote the words of this law in a book, and it came to pass when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished” [Deuteronomy 31-24].
“Why,” said the scoffers and the critics, “Why,” they said, “that’s the most impossible thing, for in Moses’ day they didn’t know how to write. So how could Moses write the words of this law in a book when writing was not even invented in Moses’ day?” You know when you go back and look at all of those things the critics have said of the Word of God, most of them now seem so ridiculous, so inane, so foolishly silly.
Did you know there has never been, there has never been one spade of dirt that has ever been turned, never one piece of pottery, of potsherd, that has ever been uncovered, there has never been on piece of archaeological evidence ever dug up that has contradicted the slightest syllable in any sentence of the Word of God? None. But every time they would spade up one of those old cities, dig up one of those old tells, uncover one of those old mounds, go back into those archaeological stories of the distant antiquities—every time they do it, the man writes what he finds in the record of the rocks, in the record of the mounds and the tells, in the depths of the earth, every time he writes he confirms the Word of God. There has never been an exception to it, never been an exception.
Why, they had writing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before Moses; everybody knows it now. But what a field day they used to have making fun of Moses. He wrote these words, and those words are the Pentateuch. Moses wrote the five books of the Old Testament, the first five books of the Old Testament. Moses wrote them.
How do you know anything about the creation of the world? We were not there. We did not know it. The only way a man could ever know it was by revelation. God showed it to His people, and Moses wrote it down. This is how we know God spake to Moses as a man would to his friend [Exodus 33:11]. And Moses wrote it down in a book. And when we read these words in the Pentateuch, we are reading what God spake unto Moses.
Now look at what he did with it:
And Moses wrote the book until the words were finished,
then Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this Book of the Law, and put it inside of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God.
And it is there.
At the heart of Oriental religion, at the heart of an Egyptian religion, at the heart of an Assyrian religion, at the heart of a Babylonian religion—going to the temple, going to the holy place, going to the holy of holies, and at the heart of their heathen religion what would you find? Well, you would find a sacred cat in some temples. You would find a sacred cow in some temples. You would find a sacred crocodile in other temples. You would find a sacred ox or a sacred bull in another temple.
But when you went into the house of the people of God, pulled aside the veil, there you found the ark of the covenant of the Lord. And on the inside of the ark you found the Word of God, the Book of the Law, the moral code of the Ten Commandments and above it the sprinkling of blood that speaks of Jesus our righteousness [Deuteronomy 31:24-26; Leviticus 16:14].
Now I must close. I just have just a little more of Deuteronomy before we speak of Moses’ death. So he stands the man of God in the plains of Moab. And God leads him up to Nebo, and says, “Look east and west, north and south” [Deuteronomy 3:27; 34:1-3, 27:1-4]. So Moses goes up to Pisgah, to Nebo, to the Aborim, to the great high mountain plateau that overlooks the valley of the Jordan [Deuteronomy 34:1-3]. And he stands there—behind him, the forty years of the wanderings [Deuteronomy 8:2].; before him, the heavenly sanctuary.
Here the shekinah, the symbol of the presence of God; there the unveiled face. Here the pitching and striking of tents, the pilgrim’s march; there the eternal rest. Here from Mount Nebo, seeing the land from afar [Deuteronomy 34:1-3]; and there on the Mount of Transfiguration, on the mount of resurrection, on the mount of immortality, living in the presence of God [Luke 9:30]. Oh, bless your heart, what a fellowship some of these days when we see Him and talk to Him face to face [Revelation 22:3-5]. It is in the promise. It is in glory; it is in heaven, and it someday will be ours as much as it now is Moses’ [John 14:3].
Now while we sing our song, on the first note of the first stanza, in this balcony round, from side to side on this lower floor, if somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord this morning, somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of the church, as God should say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? Into the aisle and down here to the front, would you come? Just one stanza, if the Lord bids you here, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.