The Nobility of Moses
April 26th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
THE NOBILITY OF MOSES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-26-59 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message, which message is in the life of Moses. I just changed the order of our following this morning. It is announced in your program that I would speak on the law which was a continuation of our studies of Moses in the Book of Exodus. I had thought to follow it as it is here in the Bible, taking the life of Moses up to Mount Sinai and then, as the Bible records it, at Mount Sinai receiving the moral law, and the civil law, and the Levitical law. And I had at first thought to follow that through just as it is here in the Bible, but I have decided to change that. We are going to follow through the life of Moses to the end of his life, then go back to the legal legislation and take that as a series of messages in itself. If I do not do that, it will be almost years we are separating the life of Moses. So in order for us to have a complete picture of the life of this great and marvelous man of God, we are going to follow his life through to the end. Then when we get to the end of Deuteronomy, we are going back to the legal law, the civil law, and the Levitical law and see what God gave to Moses on the mount.
Now you can easily follow the message this morning if you turn to the tenth chapter of the Book of Numbers. See we are skipping over all of the latter part of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and coming now to the Book of Numbers where we pick up the life of Moses and continue it on. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Numbers:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.
And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Then let us turn to the eleventh verse of the tenth chapter of Numbers:
And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the Testimony.
And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the Wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the Wilderness of Paran.
And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
Now that is the beginning of the progress of the children of Israel toward the southern part of Palestine, toward Kadesh-Barnea. They stayed at Mount Sinai for a little over eleven months, long enough to see the change of the seasons. And while they were there, God gave them the moral law, The Ten Commandments; the civil law by which their government was to be administered; and the Levitical law, the law of the worship and the sacrifice [Exodus 20:1-31:18].
In all of this, God has been speaking with Moses face to face [Exodus 33:1]. And the people have been waiting as God talks to Moses and Moses hands the legislation and the patterns and all that God hath spoken down to the people. Then they build the tabernacle and they build all of the holy instruments inside it [Exodus 35:1-40:33]. And now fully prepared, they turn their faces to march toward the Promised Land [Exodus 40:34-38].
It is almost impossible to conceive of the vast change in the life of the people in that little brief period of less than two years [Numbers 10:11]. They have been changed into a nation. When they came out of Egypt, they were a slave conglomerate. But now leaving Mount Sinai, they are a full army in battle array. They have a moral law and a civil law that is the model of all civilized nations ever since; and they have a sacerdotal system, a way of worship, that has lasted, that did last for centuries and centuries.
Nothing but a miracle of God could ever explain what happened to that slave people, who came out of Egypt. And when they came out of the wilderness, they were possessed with these marvelous revelations of the Lord [Exodus 20:1-31:18]. There could be nothing more indicative of that marvelous change that happened to the nation, than to begin at the fourteenth verse in the tenth chapter of Numbers, and to look how they were organized in the camp [Numbers 10:14].
In the center of the camp is the tabernacle, the tent of the congregation, the tent of meeting [Numbers 2:17]. And around the tabernacle are the tents of the priests and of the Levites. Then on either side, at the point, at the four points of the compass, are the twelve tribes; three tribes on this side, three on this side, three on this, and three on this side [Numbers 2:1-34]. And when they marched in the first place went the standard of the camp of the children of Judah, and then Issachar and Zebulun, those three tribes [Numbers 10:14-16].
Now the seventeenth verse: “Then the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle” [Numbers 10:17]. First Judah, then Issachar, then Zebulun, then in six wagons the sons of Gershon and Merari carried all the heavier portions of the tabernacle. Then there followed the host of Simeon, and of Gad, and of Reuben [Numbers 10:18-20]. And after those three tribes, the Kohathites carried on their shoulders all the sacred parts of the vessels of the sanctuary [Numbers 10:21]. Then followed the remaining six tribes: Ephraim, and Manasseh, and Benjamin, and then Dan, and Asher, and Naphtali [Numbers 10:22-27]. When they marched, they marched in perfect organization [Numbers 10:28]. And in the center of it is the tabernacle and the sacred vessels of the sanctuary [Numbers 2:17].
So this group of slaves, almost three million in number, that Moses has led out of Egypt, has become a great and a mighty nation; organized, built around the assembly and the worship of God. Wasn’t that a beautiful theocracy? That’s the ideal government when God shall lead us, when the Lord shall visibly live among His people [Revelation 21:1-3].
This is not God’s final word such as we see it now. This is iron and clay in the toes of the image [Daniel 2:33, 41-45], weakness and strength. Our Lord is away [Acts 1:9-10], but someday God will live in our midst [Acts 1:11; Revelation 21:1-3]. We shall see Him. We shall all be transfigured; we shall all be immortalized [1 Corinthians 15:51-57]. We shall all live in His presence just as He is; a body like His, regenerated, perfect, washed, clean, pure, a beautiful and perfect society just as the pattern here, with God in the midst and all of us His children living round about. The Book finally says it is to be in a beautiful and wonderful city [Revelation 21:1-7].
So the transformation of these slaves into a theocracy with God living in the midst, and they’re pilgrimaging now toward the Promised Land [Numbers 10:14-28]. Now we follow the life of Moses to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Numbers [Numbers 10:29-11:15]. We are going to see now in the eleventh and the twelfth chapters, a marvelous instance of the nobility, the grandeur, of the personal character and life of this incomparable man. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Numbers, now we begin at the sixteenth verse; Numbers 11:16:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou may not have to bear it alone.
Now the twenty-fourth verse:
And Moses went out, and told [the people] the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested upon them, stayed upon them . . .
And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of the young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!
Now that’s the story.
Now may I summarize it in my own words and then say a word about it? The work of guiding, and judging, and teaching all of those people was more than Moses could bear, more than physically he could undertake. So God said to Moses, “Moses, you gather seventy of the finest men, elders,” that is, the heads of houses and the heads of tribes and the heads of clans, “you gather seventy of those men and bring them to the door of the tabernacle. And I will take of the Spirit that is upon thee,” God’s Holy Spirit, “and I will place my Holy Spirit, that Spirit upon them. And they will help you as you guide the destiny of the people” [Numbers 11:16-17].
So when those elders stood there at the door of the tabernacle to be consecrated for this sacred task of helping Moses govern the life of the nation, when the Spirit of God came upon them, they burst into prophecy [Numbers 11:25]. They magnified the Lord. They were filled with an unction just as at Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit of God came down at Pentecost, they spake with other tongues and languages and magnified God [Acts 2:1-8].
They were so full, their cups ran over. And they were shouting the praises of the Lord. Now on sixty-eight of those elders, the Holy Spirit, the gift of the unction of the Holy Spirit was temporary [Numbers 11:25]. It left. But upon two of them It abode. The Holy Spirit of God stayed in power and in great unction. And one of them was named Eldad and one of them was named Medad [Numbers 11:26].
Now they went among the camp, filled with the Spirit of the Lord, prophesying that is, magnifying the Lord, speaking forth, propherō, speaking forth. Prophecy does not mean just foretelling an event. Sometimes the word “prophecy” is used in that word. Most of the times however, prophecy means speaking the words of God, magnifying the word of the Lord. And so Eldad and Medad are plainly filled with a great unction from heaven, and there they are in the camp, and all the people are gathered round listening to them, marveling at them, it is very evident that the Spirit of God is upon them, and the Spirit of God is in them [Numbers 11:26].
Well, one of the young men in the camp, when he saw the people listening to Eldad and listening to Medad, when he saw all of the great unction and power that God had given to Eldad and Medad, one of the young men there ran to Moses and said, “Moses, Moses, Eldad and Medad attract great throngs, and thousands attend upon their ministry [Numbers 11:27]. O Moses, it’s Eldad and Medad; their names are on every lip. Their words are on every tongue. And people are following them by the thousands and the thousands!”
And when Joshua—who was the young warrior and Moses’, would you say, minister of the state—he was the young fellow who constantly waited upon Moses. When Joshua heard the report, Joshua, who was jealous likewise for the honor and popularity of Moses, Joshua said to Moses, “My lord Moses, forbid them [Numbers 11:28]. It isn’t right that any man should have the Spirit of God but you. Nor is it right for any man to have a great following but you. Nor is it right for any man to have great popularity and the unction of the Holy Spirit, and the throngs attending his ministry but you. My lord Moses, forbid them!” [Numbers 11:28].
And what did Moses do? Oh, the nobility of this man! And Moses said:
Envious thou for my sake?
Would God that every man was filled with the Spirit of the Lord and was a prophet, and the Lord’s Spirit upon him, and the throngs waiting upon his ministry.
Ooh! That’s the hardest thing in the world, you know that? That’s the hardest thing in the world. May I illustrate it? We had a marvelous preacher in London by the name of F. B. Meyer. Did you ever hear of him? F. B. Meyer. F. B. Meyer was truly one of God’s great, great, great ministers. I have many books by F. B. Meyer and every one of them is precious. I read F. B. Meyer all the time. He was one of the great preachers of the age; a Baptist pastor in London.
Right in the midst of F. B. Meyer’s ministry, I mean in the midst of it at the very height of F. B. Meyer’s ministry, there came into London a boy, not quite twenty-one years old, and his name was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And lo and behold, glory, glory, that boy not twenty-one years old came into London. And you couldn’t find a; you couldn’t find a tabernacle; you couldn’t find an auditorium; you couldn’t find an assembly hall; you couldn’t find a place in the whole city that could hold the crowds who attended upon that young man’s ministry. It was a marvelous thing!
I have a book in my library. A man sat down and took down the sermons of that boy, and put them in a book and sent it over here to America, first time America was introduced to him. And he says in that preface of that book that,
There is a star that has suddenly appeared in London, and we do not yet know whether it is a meteor that will soon burn out, or whether it is a star that will continue to burn for God in the heavens. But we want you in America to know about him, and here are some sermons.
And I have that book.
Well, F. B. Meyer says—now this is in his private confessions—F. B. Meyer says that he’d been preaching in London for years and years and years. And he was the great Baptist leader and the great Baptist preacher. And he said, “When that boy, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, came to London and people began to attend his ministry by the thousands and the thousands and the thousands,” F. B. Meyer felt in his heart, you know what he felt—oh, oh! And he looked at that young fellow with a jaundiced eye, and he envied him. And F. B. Meyer said, “I got down on my knees, and I said, ‘I am not going to be cheap, and little, and full of jealousy and envy.’“ And F. B. Meyer says:
I got down on my knees, and I began to pray for that young boy, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And I thanked God for the spirit of prophecy that rested upon him. And I prayed God that God would give him more power, and greater ability, and more burning unction from above, and that he have bigger crowds, and bigger throngs, and bigger results.
And F. B. Meyer says,
And God blessed my prayer, and He took out of my heart all envy, and He took out of my heart all jealousy. And it came to pass, when Charles Haddon Spurgeon went up, and up, and up, it so blessed my heart in answer to my prayer that I felt that I had a part in it myself, and I rejoiced in the favor of God upon Charles Haddon Spurgeon as if the favor of God had been upon me myself.
That is a big man. It’s a big man that can stand aside and see somebody else shine and rejoice in it. Glory to God, listen to that man preach. It’s a big man that can stand aside and see somebody else take your place and do it better. It’s a big man that can stand aside and see the power and unction of God fall upon somebody else and they prophecy in the name of the Lord. That was Moses [Numbers 11:28].
Joshua says, “My lord Moses, forbid them” [Numbers 11:28].
“Joshua, enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” [Numbers 11:29]. Oh, that all the preachers could preach like Billy Graham with the same unction and power; would God that all the preachers could preach like Charles Haddon Spurgeon; would God that all the preachers could preach like George W. Truett; would God that all of them had the Spirit of the Lord upon them. And that’s the way we’re to be in all of our lives; in your class, in your home, in your life, rejoicing in the goodness and favor of God upon somebody else. That’s true nobility of character, and that is Moses.
Now we have opportunity for one other instance of the greatness of this man Moses. We turn now to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Numbers [Numbers 12]. You will recognize this twelfth chapter as an incident in the life of Moses I have already discussed in another connection. But this morning I want to use it as an instance of the true virtue of the wonderful character of this man; the twelfth chapter of the Book of Numbers. “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman” [Numbers 12:1].
Now you all recognize my discourse upon that now, “Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of that Cushite whom he had married: for he had married a Cushite.” Now I told you I went into that very explicitly: that refers to Zipporah, his wife. Moses had married a Cushite. You have it translated here “an Ethiopian” [Numbers 12:1].
That Cushite district was one of the rivers, was one of the districts watered by the rivers that came out of Eden. And as the tribe, as the Cushites migrated, why, different sections of the country were called by their names. It was a Cushite district over there in Mesopotamia. It was a Cushite district down there in what you know as Ethiopia. And as those people migrated, why, of course some of them remained settled in those different places. And here in the land of Midian is a Cushite family. And Zipporah is a Cushite. Now what is the matter? Let me go on reading: “And they said,” Miriam and Aaron:
And they said, Hath the Lord spoken only to Moses? hath He not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.
(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
And so the Lord had—now let me summarize it—and the Lord had Moses, and Miriam, and Aaron to appear before the tabernacle, before the tent of meeting [Numbers 12:4-5]. Now let’s look at the tenth verse:
And the cloud departed—
the presence, the visible presence of God that came down—
The cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, behold, Miriam was leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.
And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, whereby we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.
Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb.
And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee.
And the Lord heard Moses’ prayer, and Miriam was healed. Now this is the thing that happened. You see Moses left his wife and his two sons at her father’s house in Midian when he went down into Egypt. And when he came up out of Egypt, now you know when Moses came up out of Egypt, Miriam led the women. She with her timbrel and with her song led in the great singing of that song of Moses [Exodus 15:20] after the Lord’s people had triumphed at the Red Sea [Exodus 14:21-15:19].
So Miriam had become accustomed to a place of primacy by the side of Moses. Now when Zipporah came [Exodus 18:2, 6], why, Miriam lost some of that primacy. So she whispered into the ear of Aaron her older brother these poisonous things: “Hath the Lord spoken only by Moses indeed? hath He not also spoken by us?” [Numbers 12:2]. Well, isn’t that a common thing? When Miriam looks at Zipporah and pours poison into Aarons’ ear, they do it on the basis of a zeal for the word of God.
Now may I pause to make a characterization here, one of the commonest that I see? I could not tell you the number of splintered denominations and the number of splintered Christian movements that are ostensibly based upon a great zeal for the truth and a great zeal for the Word of God, when actually the thing that is happening is the man leading the movement feels that he’s been slighted by the denomination or he’s been slighted by his fellow ministers. So he just leads off in another direction and organizes a movement around himself, where he can shine and where he can be the great center and the great leader.
Now he does it ostensibly, overtly. He does it on the basis of a great zeal for God. He’s standing by the truth and all of these others are over here in the depths of spiritual apostasy. But actually what he’s doing is, he’s trying to build a work around himself. And that’s why you have so many splintered movements, churches pulling off, all of these divisive things that so greatly hurt.
Now whenever we stand for the truth—and we ought to stand for the truth—it ought to be always for the truth not for us, not for us. There ought to be nothing personal ever in a man’s great decision for God, never. But we are just given to the truth, speaking the truth in love. And that’s what Miriam was doing here. Cloaking what she was doing with a great zeal for God, and a great zeal for the word of the Lord [Numbers 12:1-2]; actually, actually, truthfully, she was trying to undermine a situation wherein she herself was somewhat left out.
Well, how did Moses react under the hammer of a movement like that? Well, it shows you how Moses has changed. This is the man that one time doubled up his fist and in his anger and in his furor he felled an Egyptian. He killed him with his fist. Moses must have been personally a tremendously, powerfully physically able man. With his fists, he doubled up his fists and slew that Egyptian, killed him, hit him so hard it killed him [Exodus 2:11-12]. This is the man, this is the man that proposed by his own strength to overwhelm Pharaoh and by his own personal prowess to lead Israel out triumphant from the land of Egypt [Exodus 2:11].
Look how he has changed. He doesn’t answer a word, not a word. This bitter, awful criticism that is being raised against him by his own sister and by his own brother [Numbers 12:1-2], he doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t say a word. And when the Lord God took a part in it, and Miriam was leprous, condemned by the Lord, Moses intercedes in her behalf, and prays that God will heal her [Numbers 12:10-13].
Now in the little minute or two that remains, may I say some things to us following this example of Moses? First, first, if we are true Christians, always we are to be like our Master; meek and lowly [Matthew 11:29]. Not on the defensive, not jealous for our own rights and prerogatives; “Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” [Matthew 11:29]. We are not to be belligerent and pugnacious. We are to be humble and meek, first.
Second, we are not to defend ourselves: “Vengeance belongeth unto Me; I will repay, saith the Lord” [Romans 12:19]. Do you have enemies? Leave them in God’s hands. You don’t need to take cudgels. You don’t need to bear double your fists. You don’t need to go to war. Leave it with God. “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” [Romans 12:19]
You don’t need to do it. God will do that. Leave them in God’s hands. You don’t need to say anything. You don’t need to do anything. When Senacharib came and surrounded Jerusalem and said all those blasphemous things to Hezekiah [Isaiah 36:1-20] and finally wrote them out in a letter, Hezekiah took the letter of blasphemy, and went up to the house of the Lord and laid it before God, and got down on his knees and told God about it [Isaiah 36:1-20].
And that night, God sent an angel. And when Senacharib awakened the next morning, one hundred eighty-five thousand of his soldiers were corpses [Isaiah 37:36]. You don’t need to do anything. “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” [Romans 12:19]. “Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if thine enemy thirst, give him to drink [Romans 12:20]. If he compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” [Matthew 5:41]. Leave it to God. Turn it over to the Lord.
Is there somebody you don’t like? Is there somebody you hate? Is there somebody that has done you despite? Is there somebody who said words that aren’t true about you? Has somebody wronged you? Leave it to God. Just tell the Lord about it. And you, you be gracious, and sweet, and meek, and kind, and humble, and lowly. “Vengeance is Mine; I will take care of them, saith the Lord.” I’m preaching to myself as to you; how all of us need it.
Now this last thing: “And Moses prayed for Miriam, Heal her, O God, I beseech Thee” [Numbers 12:13].
“Pray for your enemies. Bless them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 5:44]. The lowly Jesus bearing His cross [John 19:16-18]; the lowly Jesus following after the will of his Father in heaven [John 4:34] and leaving the issues ultimately unto God, this is the Christian way; an example of the nobility of the life of Moses.
Now while we sing our song, somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord or to put his life into the fellowship of the church while we sing this song and make this appeal, would you come and stand by me? Somebody this morning to give his heart to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13] or to put his life in the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; one somebody you, or a family you, while we sing, while we make this appeal, would you come? On the first note of the first stanza; while we stand and sing.
THE NOBILITY OF MOSES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Out of Egypt to Sinai
1. Three million go from Egypt as slaves to a nation with laws
2. Moses leads them
3. Moses still humble
1. Moses gathers seventy men as God commanded
2. The Holy Spirit temporarily fills sixty eight
3. The Holy Spirit stays with Eldad and Medad
4. Eldad and Medad become great prophets
5. Joshua’s concern
6. Moses’ continued humility
1. Miriam jealous of Zipporah the Cushite wife of Moses
2. Miriam directs her jealousy at Moses
3. Moses does not respond but remains humble
4. Moses prays on behalf of Miriam and her leprosy is healed
IV. The right attitude for believers in Christ
2. Cultivate the habit of silence
3. Leave to God any vindication
4. Give ourselves to prayer