This chapter records the song given by God to Moses. As we have already noticed, its purpose was to remind God's people of His faithfulness and their unfaithfulness. In this way it would "testify against them (the future generations which would 'turn unto other gods, and serve them') as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed" 31.19-22. It is worth repeating that the song does not end with the elimination of the nation, but rather with the Lord's mercy "unto His land and to His people" 32.43.
The chapter clearly divides into two sections, which can be entitled:
The Song Of Testimony vv.1-47;
The Sight Of The Land vv.48-52.
The song is locked together with the words, "And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song ... And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people" 31.30; 32.44. We will consider this lengthy passage under three main headings:
The Character Of The Song - vv.1-3;
The Content Of The Song - vv.4-43;
The Communication Of The Song - vv.44-47.
THE CHARACTER OF THE SONG - vv.1-3
In introducing the song, Moses calls on heaven and earth to witness the solemn warnings that follow: "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth" v.1. It is therefore a song of testimony in the presence of witnesses. Moses had previously called upon the same witnesses to attest his faithfulness: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing" 30.19. In the New Testament, Paul wrote in the same vein: "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe" 1 Thess.2.10. As believers, we must provide "for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" 2 Cor.8.21. Neither heaven nor earth could deny what Moses was about to say. It was completely reliable. Moses emphasises two aspects of his testimony:
The Goodness Of God's Word
"My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass" v.2. This describes the effect of the song on future generations. Raymond Brown calls this "the unique reviving power of God's Word". Sometimes it comes almost imperceptibly as the dew, and sometimes like heavy or torrential rain.
The Greatness Of God's Name
The song would extol the Lord: "I will publish the name of the Lord; ascribe ye greatness unto our God" v.3. The mention of "the Lord" (Jehovah) and "our God" (Elohim) emphasises that He is the covenant-keeping God (Jehovah) and, to quote Thomas Newberry, the "one supreme object of worship" (Elohim, the plural of Eloah).
THE CONTENT OF THE SONG - vv.4-43
There are four sections to the song:
Remembrance - vv.4-14: "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations" v.7;
Rebellion - vv.15-18: "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked" v.15;
Retribution - vv.19-23: "I will heap mischiefs upon them" v.23;
Remission - vv.34-43: "He will...be merciful unto His land, and to His people" v.43 or "He ... maketh atonement for His land, for His people' (JND).
Remembrance - vv.4-14
Having said "ascribe ye greatness unto our God" v.3, Moses calls on the people to remember three ways in which they had experienced His greatness. In the words of Raymond Brown, He had proved to be "a reliable Rock" vv.4-5; "a caring Father" vv.6-10; "a protective Eagle" vv.11-14.
A reliable "Rock" - vv.4-5. "He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He" v.4. (For further references in the chapter to the Lord as "the Rock", see vv.15,18,30,31). As C.H. Mackintosh points out, "He is the Rock" - not merely a rock. This emphasises His unchanging strength and reliability. Unlike the drifting sand through which they had travelled, Israel's God was thoroughly dependable. More than that, everything about Him is marked by perfection ("His work is perfect") and absolute consistency ("all His ways are judgment"). Hannah appreciated this: "There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our God" 1 Sam.2.2, and so did the Psalmist: "The Lord is my rock" Ps.18.2. In tracing Israel's history, Asaph recalls that having incurred God's wrath in the wilderness, "they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer" Ps.78.35. The New Testament tells us more: "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" 1 Cor.10.4. When the Lord Jesus said to Peter, "I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church" Matt.16.18, He was proclaiming His deity. He was none other than "the Rock" of Deuteronomy 32! Peter was just a stone!
The perfection of the Lord is contrasted with the perversity of Israel: "They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of His children: they are a perverse and crooked generation" v.5. This verse gives translators and commentators a considerable headache! The sense appears to be 'their great blemish is that they are no sons to Him'. They did not resemble God who had been "a very Rock of fidelity to them" (Ellicott's Commentary). Leaving aside the technical difficulties, we do well to examine our own lives. Can it be said of us that "as He is, so are we in this world" 1 Jn.4.17?
A caring "Father" - vv.6-10. "Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not He Thy father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee, and established thee?" v.6. Compare Isa.63.16-19: "Doubtless Thou art our father ... We are Thine: Thou never barest rule over them (our adversaries); they were not called by Thy name". We must notice the following:
The price He paid for them - v.6-7. Moses describes the Lord as "Thy father that hath bought thee". In a previous song, he calls them "the people...which Thou hast purchased" Ex.15.16. Having suggested that the verb means 'to found, create', Gesenius appears to contradict himself by adding a note: "There does not appear to be any sufficient ground for ascribing the sense of to create to this verb ... to possess appears to be the true meaning". Having delivered them from Egypt, he welded them into a nation: "hath He not made thee, and established thee?". Notice the play on words. Moses says in effect, 'If you want to know about God's fatherly care, ask your father!' v.7. We too are a purchased and redeemed people 1 Cor.6.20; 1 Pet.1.18-19.
The position He had given them - vv.8-9. "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance". God does everything with His people in mind! C.H. Mackintosh comments with his usual warmth: "Yes; Canaan, a little strip of land lying along the eastern coast of the Mediterraean, with an area of eleven thousand square miles (about a third of the extent of Ireland) is the centre of God's geography, and the twelve tribes of Israel are the central object of God's history ... There is not a spot on the face of the earth so interesting to the heart of God as the land of Canaan and the city of Jerusalem". Contrary to Amillennial teaching, God has not abandoned "His inheritance". Amongst other passages, Isa.2.1-4 is compulsory reading on this subject.
The provision He made for them - v.10. "He found him ... He led him ... He instructed him ... He kept him". There is no need to expand this here. The verse furnishes abundant material for a good sermon or two! The expression "apple of his eye" refers, not to Bramley's Seedling or Cox's Orange Pippin, but to the pupil of the eye, that is, the most sensitive part of the body. The Lord is deeply sensitive to the hurt of His people. It explains Acts 9.4: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me".
A protective "Eagle" - vv.11-14. This emphasises Divine support. Moses uses the beautiful figure of the eagle teaching her brood to fly and ensuring that no harm comes to them in the process: "As the eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him" vv.11-12. Compare 33.27: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms". The Lord cared for and provided for His people. He gave them the best: "He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape" vv.13-14. The references to honey and oil are nicely explained by Raymond Brown: "In the fissures of Canaan's rocks, the bees were there to provide Israel with nourishing honey; the olive trees would flourish in unlikely places, even where other trees would find insufficient soil to root".
The Lord's provision for His people in this way reminds us that "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" 2 Pet.1.3. Divine blessing has been "shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" Titus 3.6. Like Israel, we are called upon to recognise that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" Jms.1.17. Israel owed nothing to idols (v.12) and we must ensure that nothing diverts us from complete allegiance and devotion to God (1 Jn.5.21).
Rebellion - vv.15-18
"But (after all this) Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked" v.15. Jeshurun means 'the upright one', but Israel was far removed from the will of God for them in this way: "they are a perverse and crooked generation" v.5. Compare 1 Sam.2.29, "Wherefore kick ye at My sacrifice and at Mine offering, which I have commanded in My habitation ...?" These verses make sad reading. Moses refers to:
The folly of self-indulgence, v.15. "But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation". They became so immersed in the material blessings that the Lord had abundantly bestowed upon them, vv.13-14, that they became self-contented and abandoned Him. "It was not simply that, in their secularist preoccupation with things, they absent-mindedly forgot God. They resolutely abandoned and rejected Him" (Raymond Brown). This was nothing less than criminal. He was both their Creator-God ("God which made him") and their Saviour-God ("the Rock of his salvation"). It is still possible to 'lightly esteem' Him. We must beware. Self-indulgence brings departure from the Lord: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" 1 Tim.6.10.
The fear of idols, vv.16-17. "They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not". This is a comprehensive condemnation of idolatry. It involved the worship of "strange gods" (foreign gods), and this provoked the jealousy of God. He will brook no rival, Deut.5.9. It was therefore abominable (detestable) to Him. He hated idolatry, reminding us that "any kind of God-substitute in our lives is highly offensive and distasteful to the Lord" (Raymond Brown). It therefore provoked His anger. Moreover it was satanic: demons were involved (see 1 Cor.10.20; 12.2). Idolatry was also innovative: it involved the worship of "new gods that came newly up". Unlike the God of their fathers who had so abundantly blessed them as "the Rock", as a "father" and as an "eagle", these gods had no track record and were worthless. The "fear of the Lord" had given place to 'the fear of idols'. Modern technology has introduced a whole range of "new gods". They cry 'watch me...play with me...listen to me...speak through me'.
The forgetfulness of Israel, v18. "Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee". The "new gods" had done nothing for God's people, whereas they owed their very existence to Him. Moses had previously warned Israel against such forgetfulness. See 6.11-12; 8.11-14.
Some saints are afflicted with doubts regarding the possession of salvation and this new series is designed to highlight the truth of assurance. These papers are taken from an old (undated) book called “Salvation and How to Possess it,” published by J. Ritchie
LIFE, LIGHT AND LIBERTY
By John H McKnight
There stands in a lone Highland glen an old rustic bridge, which, it is said, was the boundary between the lands of two feudal chieftains. It was named by the people, "The Bridge of Life," because all who crossed that bridge stood under the protection of the strong chieftain who had defeated his foe in mortal combat. On one side of that bridge there was danger and often death. On the other, there was life and protection. So it is now. The Cross of Christ divides the world. On one side is the sinner, in his sins, unreconciled, guilty, and unsaved, who neglects the salvation God has provided, despises the pardon He makes known in the Gospel, and refuses the reconciliation He has provided in virtue of the Cross of Christ. On the other, stand those who have "crossed the bridge," become reconciled to God, and are not only safe, but protected by the power that was once against them. There are just the two positions, and the two conditions in this world: in sin, an enemy of God condemned already; in Christ, justified, reconciled, and free from judgment. There is no intermediate place, no half and half condition. The reader is either lost in sin, or safe in Christ, justified or condemned, alive in Christ, or dead in sins. It is a red letter day in one's life when this is discovered, and the sinner's place honestly taken, and owned before God. Then the Gospel is listened to, as Good News to sinners.
Crossing the Bridge
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, of London, was converted to God while listening to an unlettered preacher, in a small Methodist Chapel, on a snowy Sunday. The preacher could do little more than repeat his text, which was: "Look unto Me and be ye saved," Isa.45.22. Fixing his eyes on the stranger lad, the preacher said: "Young man, you look miserable. Look to Jesus Christ, and look now." Spurgeon did look, and he got life that hour. As he said afterwards —
"I looked on Him, He looked on me,
And we were one for ever."
Yes, that is how a sinner "dead in sins" gets life. And the life he receives is "eternal life," the very life of God, its source in Christ, its stream in him, a life he can neither forfeit or lose, because it is "hid with Christ in God" Col.3.3. This passage from death into life, Jn.5.24, is the beginning of true Christianity. Apart from it, the sinner is lost, guilty, undone, and perishing in his sins.
Reconciled and Justified
A Rebel sinner needs to be reconciled, and a guilty sinner needs to be justified. God can do both, in virtue of the Cross of Christ. God never needed to be reconciled to sinners, as if He hated them. But sinners hate God, and are His enemies. They need reconciliation. And on the ground that Christ by His death has given satisfication to God, He has become the Propitiatory or Meeting Place, where an offended God and the offending sinner can meet, and there alone the sinner can "receive the reconciliation" Rom.5.11, (R.V.). But those who refuse to obey the Gospel invitation, "Be ye reconciled to God" 2Cor.5.20, continue in their rebellion and hostility to God, and will be punished among His foes in the day of His righteous wrath. Reconciliation is a present experience, but there is neither place for repentance, nor promise of reconciliation beyond death.
A guilty sinner, whose mouth is shut, Rom.3.19, so far as seeking to justify himself is concerned, and only opened to say, "Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth" Job.40.4, is "justified by grace" Rom.3.23 on God's part. And he is "justified by blood" Rom.5.9, the blood of Christ, shed for "remission of sins," on the Cross. God's grace is the only cause, for he never did, nor will do aught, to merit it. Christ's blood is the only means, for no work of man can ever justify him before God. But, in virtue of the Cross, God is able to exercise His grace, to be a just God, and also the Justifier of the believing sinner. And we are told clearly and plainly in Acts 13.39, that "all that believe are justified from all things" here and now. If God, Who surely knows, says so, it is no presumption for me to believe it. It would be presumption to doubt Him. And the result of believing God, and being justified by God, is peace. So we read in Rom.5.1, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God."
A New Relationship
The day the sinner comes to the Saviour, receives God's gifts of life, justification, and reconciliation, he enters on a new relationship with God. He is no longer a criminal at God's bar, but a justified man, pronounced and proclaimed righteous in God's courts, able to hold up his head without fear or shame. And he is also a child in God's family, born of the Spirit, with all the liberties of a son, having access at all times to his Father's presence. But while all this is true in fact of all who believe in Christ, it is not always enjoyed in daily experience. For some, who are always safe, are not always sure of their salvation. And not all who have Life from Christ are living in the Light and Liberty of Christ.
Life and Light
A mother and her child were on a journey by rail. The child was bright and happy, as the train steamed on through green fields and flower-clad vales, bathed in sunshine. But when the train entered dark tunnels, she was frightened, and clung close to her mother, until the darkness was past, and the train was again in the light. She was just as safe in the darkness as in the light, but not so happy. Life in Christ is the believing sinner's security. Light from Christ is the source of his peace and happiness. Many who have life are far from happy. They need light. And light comes to the soul by way of the Word of God. "The entrance of Thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple" Psa.119.130. From Christ I get life; the Word assures me that I have it, 1Jn.5.13. The believing sinner's safety depends on Christ keeping His Word, when He tells him he "shall never perish" Jn.10.28: his joy depends on his believing what God says, for it is "in believing" — not in feelings — that he is filled with "all joy and peace" Rom.15.13.
Life, Light and Liberty
When the slaves in the West Indies were proclaimed free, thousands in one day believed the good news, shook off their chains, and claimed the liberty which had been procured for them at great cost. But some, in distant places, did not hear the news of their freedom, nor were their former masters likely to tell them of it. So they remained much as they had been before, sometimes hearing they were free, at other times doubting and never enjoying liberty. The Government had given them freedom, but they had not heard the good news of it, therefore had not received and did not enjoy it. One day a British officer arrived in one of the islands, and was amazed to find many slaves at work, still in bondage to their former owners. He called them around him, read the Royal Proclamation, explained how it was for them, and that the King had sent it. They asked, "Is it true?" "Yes," said the officer. "See the King's name on it." "That is right," said an aged slave. "I doubt no more, when the King says it." The King's proclamation was the fact of his liberty. The making of it known gave him light on what had been true before; the receiving of that word gave him the knowledge of it, and that knowledge gave the assurance and experience of it. God says to every believing sinner, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins; return unto Me, for I have redeemed thee" Isa.44.22, and "Your sins are forgiven you, for His Name's sake" 1Jn.2.12. This is the fact. When this is believed, and received as God's Word to the soul, the light and knowledge of this forgiveness comes. And when it is known as a fact, on the authority of God, the joy of forgiveness becomes the experience of the believing soul. The devil hinders sinners from getting life, by causing them to look to themselves, to other people, and at anything and everything but Christ. It is when the sinner looks to Him — as the serpent-bitten Israelite looked to the brazen serpent on the pole — that he gets Life. It is when he turns to the Word of God, and believes what it says, that Light dispels his darkness, and doubt, and Liberty — true freedom in Christ — becomes the happy experience of the soul. May I ask the reader: Are these blessings, these great gifts from the God of Salvation, as brought to you by the Gospel, and assured to all believers in the Word, yours? Do you thank God for them, and live in the enjoyment of them as a daily blessed possession? If not, you may, for God has sent them to you, and they wait your personal appropriation and acceptance today.
The history of the world presents us with a vast and complex tapestry of events, individuals, and ideas. Over the centuries, civilisations have risen and fallen. They have clashed in war, and cooperated in peace, they have built, and destroyed, and built again. The scale is so vast, and the action so complicated that we could easily lose faith in the idea that history has meaning, and that that meaning comes not from the human actors who seek to shape the destiny and future of the world, but from the God Who has created that world, mankind, and even time itself and Who has intervened in history.
Scripture records for us numerous occasions when God reached into time to affect and to alter the history of the world. Sometimes this intervention has been public and dramatic, at other times it has been secret and hidden, but its effects have been profound, its progress unstoppable. Among this record of Divine involvement in history, two events stand out as clearly unique, two great events that radically shape human history. The first of these is the Incarnation, that unparalleled moment when "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" Jn.1.14. The first coming of Christ transformed the world as no other event before had and His second coming will be no less dramatic.
With great clarity Scripture confirms to us that Christ is returning to this earth. The Rapture will see Him come secretly to the air, but His manifestation, His "glorious appearing" Titus 2.13, is His public and glorious return to the earth, as sudden, shattering, and attention-grabbing as a lightning bolt, Matt.24.27. This event is one of the great hopes of Scripture, saturating both Old and New Testaments and it is, says Paul, "our blessed hope" Titus 2.13. The return of Christ will be a dramatic and cataclysmic intervention in human history, but its significance will not be the same for all.
The Nations - Consternation
For the nations of the world, it will be a time of consternation. Revelation chapter 19 describes His coming, seated on a white horse, as King of kings and Lord of lords, destroying utterly the nations who have gathered together to make war against the Lamb. It is of this event that the Psalmist spoke in Psalm 2, "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed" v.2. What a tragic and yet ludicrous moment it will be when all the firepower of man’s infantry is turned skywards in a futile attempt to destroy the coming King. Small wonder that "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision" v.4. The nations of this world long have been in rebellion, and that rebellion has yet to have its fullest expression, but all their power and their vainglory will be blasted in a moment by the Saviour as He returns in glory.
Israel – Restoration
For Israel, His return will be a time of restoration. God still has a place for His earthly people and, when Christ returns, a faithful remnant will hail their Messiah. In an evangelical world where supercessionism (the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in the purpose of God) runs rife, we do well to remember that Paul’s great statement that "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" Rom.11.29, is made in the context of his discussion of God’s faithfulness to Israel. If we rob Israel of their hope, we deny the character and faithfulness of God, and rob the Church of her confidence in Him. Israel has failed God many times and in many ways but God has never failed Israel, and when the Lord Jesus is manifest "they shall look upon [Him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" Zech.12.10, and "in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" Zech.13.1. Ultimately, the nation will be restored to relationship with God: "I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God" Zech.13.9.
Christ - Vindication
For Christ it will be a time of vindication. The world last saw the Lord Jesus on a cross. To the Jew it was a symbol of one accursed; to the Gentile it indicated a felon so base, so contemptible, that only the agonising and shameful death of a rebellious slave was deserved. Though the apostles preached the resurrection and ascension of Christ, for many that verdict has never been reversed: our Lord is still rejected and disowned. His precious name is traduced and blasphemed, His character attacked, His person denied. But God has taken account of every claim made against His Son and, on the Earth where He was rejected, and amongst those who rejected Him, Christ will be vindicated. God will have the last word as to the righteousness, holiness, and greatness of His beloved Son. God’s time is set when He will show His Son as "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" 1Tim.6.15. Christ humbled Himself; God will exalt Him and "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and every tongue ... confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" Phil.2.10-11. In the words of J.N Darby, "Upon this earth, where the Son of man has been in humiliation, the Son of man shall be glorified. If this earth in itself is but a small thing, that which God has done upon it, and will do, is not a small thing for Him." (Collected Writings, 2:289)
The Believer - Participation
These three aspects of Christ’s manifestation – consternation, restoration, and vindication – are more than sufficient to make us long for this great event, to make it for us a "blessed hope" not to be eclipsed by any other. To see our Saviour given His rightful place, to see Israel restored, and to see the unrighteousness of the world judged and set right will be a tremendous experience. However, God has something beyond observation in mind for the Church. We will not be distant observers of Christ’s manifestation; we will be involved in it as participants. Christ is not coming back alone, the armies of Heaven will accompany Him "upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" Rev.19.14. What grace it is that allows us not only to witness but to share His glory, His victory, and His triumph.
Like every hope of the believer, our involvement in the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus reaches into our present experience. It is with this hope that Paul opens 2Thessalonians as he points these persecuted believers to the day "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels" 2Thess.1.7, and when their suffering will be recompensed. It is in the light of their part in this glorious event that he prays "that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" vv.11-12. What the apostle prayed for these believers in the light of the manifestation of Christ ought surely to be our prayer as we anticipate that tremendous day.
Paper 4 – Moses’ Respect, Renunciation and Rejection
A RESPECT – v.26a, "Esteeming [regarding, reckoning, accounting] the reproach of Christ [the disgrace, contempt, abuse, shame borne for Christ] greater riches [to be of greater wealth, of greater value]."
Moses knew what it was to balance things out, weighing the evidence on both sides – this is what the word "esteeming" or "accounting" involves. The apostle Paul had a similar experience when he testified, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted [reckoned, accounted] loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung [refuse, offal], that I may win Christ" Phil.3.7-8.
Living in this very modern and materialistic world, a lot of emphasis is being placed on the things of earth. So much time, energy and effort seem to be going into the things of time and sense, the mundane and the material, the natural and the physical! There is a distinct line of demarcation between the riches of this world with its fading values, and the reproach of Christ with its unfading, eternal worth. Moses knew what it was to place a correct assessment on the things which last for eternity and was able to evaluate and esteem the reproach of Christ and all that it entailed, as being of greater riches than all the wealth and wherewithal of Egypt! Well did Helen H Lemmel write:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Material things are necessary to enable us to maintain acceptable living standards in this world. However, for the believer, the material must not take precedence over the spiritual. We must needs keep our priorities in order as Matt.6.33 enjoins, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you". Here the importance of that first priority [the spiritual] is followed by the Divine assurance that the mundane and the material necessary for everyday life and living will be reckoned and accounted to us.
A RENUNCIATION – v.26b "than all the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto [was looking forward and away to] the recompense [compensation] of the reward."
The word ‘reward’ literally means wages or payment of wages. God had said to Abraham, "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward" Gen.15.1. Heb.11.6 reminds us, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is [that God is God], and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Again in Col.3.24, "… of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance." Moses was not looking to Egypt for any reward despite the fact that Egypt could have handsomely rewarded him out of the riches of its material resources. In renouncing all the treasures of Egypt –
Moses Renounced the Wisdom of Egypt. Egypt with its knowledge and its know-how, its experience and its expertise, its philosophy and its fantasy. Paul states in 1Cor.1.19, "For it is written, I will destroy [render useless] the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing [frustrate, nullify] the understanding of the prudent". James succinctly enjoins us, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally [generously, ungrudgingly], and upbraideth not [without finding fault]; and it shall be given him" Jms1.5. Paul’s prayer for the Colossians was, "…That ye might be filled [filled full, fully equipped] with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" Col.1.9. We are not saying believers should not go in for higher learning. Education is most important and plays a vital role in human society and civilization. We have had, and still have, men in assembly fellowship who held, and hold, university degrees, professorships and scholarly expertise in Hebrew and Greek and they have been enabled by the Holy Spirit to use their wisdom, knowledge and understanding for the spiritual education, edification, exhortation and encouragement of believers in Christ. We value highly the contributions they have made in this regard. However, all will wholeheartedly agree that the best education that we can get as we progress through our lives and experience as Christians, is to have the spiritual wisdom and understanding which comes from above as we graduate in the school of God! Moses was "learned in all the wisdom of Egypt", but he learned infinitely more in the ‘university of the wilderness’, taught and guided by the heart and the hand of Jehovah Himself. Our Lord’s disciples were perceived as "unlearned and ignorant men", yet were marvelled at by those who heard them preach. "They took knowledge of them that they [the disciples] had been with Jesus" Acts.4.13.
Moses Renounced the Wealth of Egypt. The Egyptian palaces, royal treasures, monetary wealth, opulence, affluence and luxury. Moses lacked nothing as far as this world’s goods were concerned, but he very wisely turned away from it all. Earthly wealth could never buy spiritual verities. Egyptian wealth could never redeem one, single, solitary Israelite, nor liberate any from the Egyptian yoke of bondage, let alone bring any of them into the possessions of the Promised Land! The Psalmist rightly expostulates, "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)" Ps.49.6-8. Thank God the believer in Christ has been redeemed, "not redeemed with corruptible [perishable] things, as silver and gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, [with its inestimable value, intrinsic virtue and eternal validity] as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot" 1Pet.1.18.
Moses renounced the ways of Egypt. In its art and architecture, culture and customs, elegance and entertainment, ideology and idolatry, pomp and pageantry, society and civilization, in its trademarks and traditions! Spiritually, the ways of Egypt could only lead to darkness and death. The Wiseman warns, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end [the terminus] thereof are the ways of death" Prov.14.12; 16.25. Like Moses who took the conscious decision to leave and turn his back on the ways of Egypt so that he might walk in the ways of Jehovah, may we in our day and age, do likewise in the words of Jer.6.16, "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein".
Well has Fanny J Crosby penned the words,
Take the world but give me Jesus
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
A REJECTION – v.27a, "By faith he forsook [abandoned] Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king [unawed and undismayed by the anger of the king]."
Moses was prepared to turn his back on Egypt and all it held in store for him as far as this world with its wisdom, wealth and ways are concerned. He was prepared to turn his back upon and reject all the comfort zones of celebrity life, no matter what it would cost him. Not even the wrath of Pharaoh would make him afraid and so he abandoned the place and the palace of his upbringing. He forsook those forty years of favour and fanfare in Pharaoh’s Egypt, where he learned that he was something, and betook himself to the backside and barrenness of the desert where he was to learn that he was nothing as far as Jehovah was concerned! This is what discipleship entails for us in the present time. As someone has said, "a disciple is one who learns to follow, and who follows to learn". The Lord Jesus said to His disciples "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" Matt.16.24. It is going to involve a renunciation and a rejection of all this world would hold dear for us, so that we follow Christ without distraction, without let or hindrance, without fear or favour.
It has been said that parables are miracles in word and that miracles are parables in deed. When the Saviour was on earth He told over thirty parables and performed over thirty miracles. In John’s gospel he records eight miracles that are really signs and these are particularly outstanding in several ways.
As to their Extent. Although John does not write the shortest gospel, he records the fewest number of miracles.
As to their Exclusiveness. Very few miracles are "exclusive" to Matthew, Mark or Luke alone, but only one in John’s gospel is recorded in the Synoptics.
As to their Explanation. They are significant because they were picked out of an infinite number, 21.25, and for a definite purpose, 20.30,31.
As to their Execution and End Result. Dramatic circumstances were involved. Consider, for example, four miracles connected with individuals and the results that followed.
4.46-53. The Nobleman’s Son was healed at a distance (Himself and his whole house believed).
5.9. The Impotent man healed, after 38 years of frustration.
9.7. The man blind from his birth receives sight.
11.43. A dead man raised – after four days corruption! And it was, "for the glory of God" v.4,40.
We now come to consider three miracles in John’s Gospel. He recorded the Lord’s first in chapter 2; His foremost in chapter 6 (the only one recorded by all four gospel writers); and His final one in chapter 21.
The Wedding at Cana in chapter 2 – His First Miracle
v2. Invitation - Here we have a beautiful example of Divine sovereignty linked with human responsibility! Nothing could have prevented the Lord being present on that occasion. It was in the Divine plan and will. Equally, however, He would not have been there had He not been invited! Food for thought, but still outside our human understanding!
v3. Consternation - "They have no wine". This depicts human failure and disappointment.
v5. Recommendation - His mother knew the importance of obedience coupled with faith!
v7. Instruction, Co-operation and Enthusiasm - What a privilege to work for the Lord. No "half measures" either! "Up to the brim".
v8. Anticipation - An enjoyable experience.
v10. Appreciation - "The Best Wine" – there was no process involved – ie No vineyard; No pruning; No reaping; No processing; No preserving; No maturing.
v11. Manifestation (Divine glory revealed) and Appropriation (His disciples believed in Him)
Here we have increase in quality – in the next miracle increase in quantity.
The Feeding of the Multitude in chapter 6 – His Foremost Miracle
In chapter 6 there is the feeding of the 5,000 men (beside women and children). The Lord among such a crowd, asked Phillip where food for them all can be obtained. He replied that 200 pennyworth of bread would be insufficient, indeed woefully inadequate – not even enough for a little for all (cp v.11 "As much as they would"). In today’s money 200p would equate to thousands of pounds! An "impossible" situation indeed! Andrew draws the Lord’s attention to a lad’s lunch. V.9 brings before us three despised things. He was only a lad; there were just 5 barley loaves (the food of the poor); plus two small fishes (cp 153 great fish caught in the last miracle!). How important that he was near to the Lord that day and willing to surrender the little he had to Him. We too should keep close to our Saviour and surrender what we have for Him to use in blessing. We have our time, talents and treasure, how much of these are we willing to give for the Lord?
The Net Filled with Great Fish in chapter 21 – His Final Miracle
John records this final miracle in the last chapter of his gospel. We are introduced to five disciples here together. Peter, (typically with his extrovert character) takes the lead. Here we see the power of influence, "I" becomes "we also" in v.3. He desires to fish to feed himself, but in vv.15-17 he learns that he is to feed others! But that night they caught nothing. They had to admit this to the Stranger on the shore. He gave them instructions, and upon obedience they had a huge catch, so great that they took the trouble to count the total number! Readers are likely to be familiar with other details recorded concerning this occasion, but let us now draw a few comparisons.
a condition of need which was confessed;
submission to the Lord with obedience (enthusiastic, chapter 8; sacrificial, chapter 6; humbling chapter 21);
provision for the needy in abundance.
To re-cap in more detail:
I. The Problem
2.3 "They have no wine" – no joy, the servants submitted in faith.
6.5 "Whence shall we buy bread?" – no food, a lad's sacrificial surrender
21.5 "Have ye any meat?" – no fruit, humbled disciples' obedience
II. The Emphasis
Unexpected action – faith;
Costly action - love;
Humbling action – hope.
III. The Results
The best quality - 6 Full Waterpots;
As much as they would - quantity - 12 Full Baskets;
The net filled with great fish - 1 Full Net.
He transformed what was unsuitable = salvation;
He multiplied what was inadequate = service;
He collected what was inaccessible = sanctification.
Would we not love to experience more blessing in our day? In these three miracles we are reminded that before the power of God was displayed, the condition of need had to be appreciated and confessed and submission exercised in obedience to the Lord’s commands. May we reflect increasingly in our lives the pattern brought before us in the "first, foremost and final" miracles we have considered.
Intense activity characterizes the third chapter of Nehemiah, where a massive urban renewal project is underway - the story of stone walls, ten gates, and a people committed to rebuilding. It's the culmination of one man's exercise before God; an exercise appropriately designated, "this good work," in Neh.2.18. Though serving in palatial surroundings as cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah was not indifferent to his brethren's plight in the city where the Lord had placed His Name, 1.9. He inquired "concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem" 1.2. What he heard stopped him cold. "And they said unto me, 'The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire'" 1.3.
Idolatry accounted for the city's calamity. It wasn't a new obsession, for long before these stone walls and ten gates existed, stone tables with Ten Commandments lay shattered at Moses' feet for the same reason, Deut.9.10-17. Yet ninety years after Jewish captives followed Zerubbabel back into Jerusalem the walls and gates were still down. Nehemiah resorted to prayer. Like Moses, he esteemed "the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt" - or in this case, Persia, Heb.11.26. He wept for the people and he wept for the place because they were Jehovah's "servants" 1.6,10,11, Jehovah's "people," 1.10 and were in the place where Jehovah's "honour dwelleth" Ps.26.8.
There are lessons for our learning here, Rom. 15.4. Without walls, Jerusalem stood exposed to evil encroachment and this is true of local assemblies also. Yet the Scriptural truth of separation has fallen on hard times. Many no longer view the maintenance of Divine hedges as, "this good work." Voices have arisen from amongst God's people, calling for greater compromise and camaraderie with the world. And in certain places, the dignity of our heavenly calling has been so undermined, it is no longer possible to distinguish professing saints from perishing sinners. Eschewing legalism, many have catapulted to modernism, embracing fashions and philosophies endemic to society. Extremes, however, are expensive. We cannot break God's barriers and expect God's blessings. The true course lies not in isolation or integration, but in separation: "Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord" 2Cor.6.17.
Nehemiah neither excused the present laxity, nor exonerated himself from it. Notice how he prayed in chapter 1. So passionate was his plea, it reverberates still on the pages of Holy Writ. He prayed earnestly, reverently and scripturally. Though far removed from Jerusalem's plight, their sin became his sin, their affliction his affliction, their reproach his reproach, and heaven gave heed, 1.6,7; 2.17. The petitioner soon became practitioner, as the way to Jerusalem opened before him.
His initial movements went largely unnoticed, 2.16. Even his survey of the walls and gates occurred at night while others slept. Like a true man of the sanctuary, God's glory was paramount to him, 2.8,12,18,20. Ostentatious display was only an impediment to God's work. "The man of faith, who trusts God, can go and act without making known what the Lord has commissioned him to do" (A. C. Gaebelein). Regrettably, however, for every Nehemiah there are hundreds, if not thousands, who emulate the Pharisees of our Lord's time, by parading like peacocks in their modern-day phylacteries and fringes, Matt.23.5. They crave admiration and adherents, but deserve only pity, for God will not give His glory to another, Isa.48.11. "Go into the awful presence of the Lord," said J.H. Jowett, "and contemplate His glory until the vision brings you wonderingly to your knees ... That is the place where we discover our size! No man speaks of greatness who has been closeted with God." As Bonar penned:
Glory be to Him Who loved us,
Washed us from each sinful stain;
Glory be to Him Who made us
Priests and kings with Him to reign;
Glory, worship, laud, and blessing
To the Lamb Who once was slain.
The task ahead was daunting. Lesser men would have buckled, but "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" Isa.40.31. Hardships only increased as the walls ascended; there was rubbish, 4.10; ruckus, 5.1; reproach, 4.4 and reproof, 5.7. We might say they "were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears" 2Cor.7.5. Yet under Nehemiah's leadership, hindrances were overcome and the wall completed in fifty-two days; an extraordinary achievement.
Are we equally engaged in "this good work"? The Lord allots fifty-two weeks in a year - do we use them wisely? Paul spoke of "redeeming the time" Eph.5.16; Col.4.5 - of "seizing every good and favourable opportunity" (JND). Yoni Netanyahu, commander of an elite military unit in Israel, died leading soldiers on a daring rescue mission in 1976. A comrade described him as "a constant battle against sleep, fatigue, self-indulgence, forgetfulness, inefficiency, helplessness, lying." "I must feel," said Yoni, "that not only at the moment of my death can I give account for the time I have lived - but that I will be ready at every moment of my life to face myself and say, 'This is what I have done'" (Shimon Peres in Lionhearts: Heroes of Israel). Oh that we might value our minutes that way! Spiritual building awaits! Not the building of bridges to the world, but the building of barriers from it. Rubbish may strew our way, but He who enabled Nehemiah, can enable us. Think of the obstacles Moses and Israel faced on their trek out of Egypt, yet God overruled and soon they were singing on the opposite bank of the Red Sea: "The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation" Ex.15.2.
Upon resurrected walls went resurrected gates. These were the lifeblood of a city. Through them goods and services flowed; beside them markets flourished and magistrates ruled. But they were also weak points, susceptible to enemy attack. Those possessing the gates, Gen.22.17; 24.60, possessed the city. Thus, the integrity of gatekeepers was critical: "Their position was of some importance, requiring loyal and trustworthy men to ensure the safety of the entire city" (The International Bible Encyclopaedia). Assembly gates - those avenues of spiritual worship and work - are of equal consequence and just as assailable. Paul warned Ephesian elders, "after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" Acts 20.29. For this reason, God raises up shepherds, men "not ignorant of [Satan's] devices" 2Cor.2.11, who faithfully oversee. From the Sheep Gate where Worship ascends, right on to the Miphkad Gate where Works are assessed, vigilance is vital: "Therefore, Watch!" Acts 20.31.
But where did Nehemiah find material for the gates? Unable to supply it himself, he was cast upon the king and his resources, 2.8. In like manner, provision for spiritual building comes from God: "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build" Ps.127.1. The Persian king had a bountiful forest for Jerusalem's need and God has an inexhaustible depository for ours: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished (or equipped) unto all good works" 2Tim.3.16,17. To access the wood, however, Nehemiah needed Asaph, the king's caretaker, to open the forest. Similarly, we need the Holy Spirit's aid in opening the Scriptures to us: "He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you" Jn.16.15. Apart from this, all spiritual endeavour is futile, since human intellect and ingenuity by themselves, are inadequate.
Once acquired, the wood was portioned and planed and put to proper use, and this required skill. We thank God for spiritual craftsmen today, who with God-given ability take the truth and "bring it home" to the hearts of hearers. Unlike others who entertain or embellish their message with personal commentary, these men edify and establish the saints. It is hard work and often unappreciated. In fact, in last days (like ours), "heaps" of unqualified and unfaithful teachers will infiltrate assemblies, because "My people love to have it so" Jer.5.31; 2Tim.4.3, 4. May the Lord preserve us!
And we must never forget that wood is combustible. Jerusalem's gates were vulnerable to fire and eventually burned due to disobedience and discord. We cannot play fast and loose with truth and expect to keep it. Will ours be the generation that loses what previous saints purchased at great cost? Is it possible that our ears have already turned to fables? If we lose truth, we lose reward, for, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss..." 1Cor.3.15.
Oh that we might "consider our ways" in view of eternity! Hag.1.5. Current sentiment may clamour for greater inclusiveness and worldly involvement, but the principle of Scripture remains unchanged. "Let us rise up and build" - Let us strengthen our hands for "this good work."
Few of us will soon forget the meteorological blunder committed in 2009 when weather forecasters predicted a ‘barbecue summer’. With what excited expectation we waited for the heat and the balmy sunshine but our hopes were soon dashed as day after day we woke to grey skies and heavier than usual rainfall. Have men forgotten that God is in full control of His universe and every aspect of it? How easily He can confound the pronouncements of puny men and bring to nought their boasted wisdom.
Hope and anticipation were replaced by disappointment and the lesson must be learned that we cannot rely upon the predictions and promises of men. Many felt they had been deceived and some were angry since they had made their holiday plans on the strength of men’s vain words, choosing to stay at home instead of jetting off to sunnier climes.
How often has this scenario been repeated! Politicians and their spin-doctors appear upbeat and aim to convince the electorate that they have the solutions to all the problems. Vote for them and the economy will improve, your living standard will be raised and everything will, in time, be better. Religious leaders and spiritual advisers calm the fears of their congregations, assuring them that they need not worry: continue living a good life; keep performing charitable acts; be regular in church attendance and there is a good chance that you will get to heaven.
My friend, in these vitally important and eternal matters you cannot afford the slightest uncertainty. One moment after death is too late to discover that, like Eve, you have allowed yourself to be duped by lies and your eternal fate is sealed. In fact, in chapter 20 of the last book in the Bible, Revelation, the devil is described in v.10 as the one "that deceived them". How thankful we should be that God will never deceive or disappoint us. His Word is infallible and what God promises He can perform.
Can we be sure, here and now, that we will be in heaven forever? Is there a way that definitely leads to heaven? Is it possible to know that our sins have been forgiven and that we will never have to face the consequences of our sins in hell?
Absolutely! God’s Word assures us that salvation can be obtained in a moment of time and can never be taken from us. Consider 1John 5.13 "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life …". Romans 8.1 states emphatically, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus …". The Lord Jesus Himself said in John 10.28 "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
The gospel presents the good news that simply by trusting Christ alone, you will be saved without a doubt. Let God’s Word speak: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." The Saviour stated categorically in John 6.47, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life." Two former preachers, Paul and Silas said in Acts 16.31, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved …".
My friend, there is no other Saviour; no other means of salvation; no other way to heaven. Do not let anyone deceive you: a wet summer passes, we get over the disappointment, but hell is forever.