Clay Village, Ky., March 18, 1880.
MY DEAR BRETHREN BEEBE: - I have concluded to suggest a few remarks on the distinguished characters, Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, for publication in the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and submit them to your disposal. From some cause, and I know not what the cause is, my mind has been made to contemplate upon those notable characters, and their various significant performances.
Moses was certainly a very conspicuous character in biblical history, and filled an important station in the Jewish nation. His name signifies, “Drawn out of the water.” Whether the name was designed to have any further significance than the simple fact that he was drawn out of the water, I cannot to a certainty say; but as he was a mediator, and the representative of the Jewish people, and as water is frequently used in the scriptures to signify trouble, tribulation, may it not have reference to his deliverance of that people from their sore bondage in Egypt, and, as their deliverance from bondage was doubtless typical of the deliverance of the people of God from a more terrible and degraded state of bondage by the spiritual Mediator, point to that circumstance also? Be that as it may, he was drawn out of the water, adopted as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians was mighty in words and in deeds, and made heir apparent to the throne of Egypt. But notwithstanding the glowing prospect of all the earthly pomp and worldly glory that lay before him, he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Heb. 11:24-26. Noble emulation; but “he had respect to the recompense of the reward.” In this and in many other respects he was no doubt a glowing type of Christ. He says, in Deut. 18:15, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king.” Thus did the Lord in this early period of time prefigure a more glorious work of a more glorious Mediator, that has delivered his people from a more terrible state of bondage by putting away their sin by the sacrifice of himself. The deliverance of the Hebrews from the yoke of bondage, the destruction of their enemies in the Red Sea, forty years in the wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan, and all the emblematic work in the promised land, were all directories to the pious Jews, pointing as a great cloud of testimonials to the great Anti-type, who was to “appear in the end of the [Jewish] world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
But one person was not enough to portray the coming and work of the great majestic Mediator, and therefore Aaron, with his flippant tongue, must accompany Moses as a teacher and priest, for Moses complained, saying, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” This whole mission was fraught and filled up with many important typical events. Before his outset, Moses was shown the very singular circumstance of a flaming fire burning in the midst of a bush, and yet the bush was not consumed. Signifying, first, the severe suffering of his brethren in Egypt, and typically, the fiery ordeal through which the church of Christ should pass; and yet in all these fiery trials the Lord sustains, and makes a way for her escape, and therefore, like the bush, she should not be consumed. When the time arrived for the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, the Passover was secured by slaying and eating the paschal lamb, [lively type of the Lamb of God,] but it must be eaten with bitter herbs; after which the Lord miraculously delivers his people at the Red Sea, and the obedient waters were made to close upon and destroy the Egyptian hosts. They sang songs of triumph and passed on, but soon came to the waters of Marah [more bitterness;] but the Lord showed Moses a certain tree, which when thrown into the waters they became sweet. I suppose this tree was typical of the tree of life spoken of in Revelation 22:2. The Lord also rained bread from heaven, and sent quails in abundance to supply them with food while traversing the barren wilderness; and as for their clothing, their garments waxed not old, neither did their feet swell. It is very encouraging to look back and see the temporal deliverances, support, protection and forbearance exercised toward his national people, typifying in advance the goodness and plenitude vouchsafed to his spiritual people of the gospel dispensation.
Nor was Aaron the priest idle while these memorible events were going on. His burning incense and various oblations were offered at the waters of Marah, and throughout their journey in the wilderness, until they reached the borders of the promised land; but on Mount Sinai the might and majesty of the Lord were most conspicuously displayed. And what a majestic display! The bellowing peals of thunder, the flashing flood of lightning, the shrill, piercing sound of the trumpet! The pompous scene caused the people to tremble; “And so terrible was the sight that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.” Here the law was given, with all its sin avenging wrath, taking cognizance of every evil thought and deed; and like Moses, its eye never grew dim, nor its natural force abated. Moses performs one more notable work near here, at Mount Horeb, which was very significant. The people clamored for water, and Moses and Aaron gathered the people around a rock. How unlikely the prospect of obtaining water from the flinty rock. But Moses smites it twice, and the water gushes out, affording drink for the people plentifully. Beautiful emblem of the law-smitten Savior, and the subsequent flow of the “water of life.” “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Isa. 53:8. And again, “Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Zech. 13:8.
But Aaron must be removed “by reason of death.” After fulfilling his official work of burning incense, his offerings and sacrifices, he has filled his mission as a type of the great High Priest and Apostle of our profession, and must die on Mount Hor, for he sinned at Meribah. He was therefore taken to the top of the mountain, divested of his pontifical robes, which were placed upon Eleazar his son, and dies there.
These two notable characters combined present very brilliant and significant types of the Savior. While Moses was lawgiver to a national community, Christ gave “the law of the spirit of life” to his spiritual family. While Aaron made offerings and sacrifices for the remembrance of the sins of a national people, Christ made one offering, one sacrifice, that “perfected forever them that are sanctified” as his peculiar people. But Moses has yet a great work to perform. Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, were to be subdued, and their country given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. These two tribes and a half were to half their possession on this side of Jordan, but it will be recollected that their men of war were to be armed and go over Jordan [leaving their wives and little ones behind,] to help in subduing the Canaanites. I have been asked why these two tribes and a half had their portion assigned to them this side of Jordan, and what did that circumstance signify? In answer to that question I will remark that, I think the land of Canaan, instead of being, as some suppose, a type of heaven, was typical of the gospel church or dispensation, and crossing the Jordan signified the passing out of the old dispensation into the new. If that be the case, then I suppose those two tribes and the half tribe represented God’s peculiar people among the Jews, that never reached or dwelt in the gospel dispensation. But as the men of war must go over and assist in subduing the enemies in the land of Canaan, so we need the prophets or former saints to assist us in putting to flight our enemies in this gospel day; and they are of signal benefit to us. How easy for us to prove not only the truth of the New Testament by the Old, but other things often transpire that require the prophetical writers to sustain us, so that they compass us about with a great cloud of witnesses. As to Moses, after subduing the kings Sihon and Og, and the appointment of their possessions to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, his work seems to be drawing to a close, and he says to the Lord, “I pray thee, let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan.” Deut. 3:5. But the Lord refused to let him cross over Jordan, and commanded him to get up into the top of Pisgah, and see the land with his eyes, and said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.” He was to charge Joshua to go over, and strengthen him, and was to die on the top of Pisgah; and there he did die, and the Lord buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, “and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day,” though work-mongers have been trying to find and dig him up ever since. Moses [the law or works] can bring no one into the kingdom of heaven.
Caleb and Joshua: The name Caleb signifies, “a dog, a cow, or a basket.” I cannot tell why this name was given to him, or what it was to signify. He and Joshua were the only two adults that were redeemed and came from the land of bondage that were to cross over Jordan and possess the promised land. See Numbers 14:29,30. The name Joshua signifies “Savior,” and it is sufficiently evident that he typified the Savior of sinners. He and Caleb were sent over in the first place to spy out the land, and brought a good report; while others reported adversely to them, and gave account of great danger, on account of which they were prohibited from passing over Jordan, while Caleb and Joshua were ordered to pass over and possess the land. As they were the only two that were suffered to cross over into the promised land, and as John the Baptist and Christ were the only two that passed out of the old into the new dispensation, I think that Caleb and Joshua were lively types of John the Baptist and Christ, for they were the only two that passed out of the old into the new dispensation. For “the law and the prophets were until John” – extended no further, but stopped there; therefore none could come out of the old, for it did not exist. John the Baptist, like Caleb, not only saw, but entered into the new dispensation, gathered its fruits, and exhibited them to others.
How wonderful the prescience and work of God! He not only foresaw and ordained the signal blessings of the glorious gospel of the Son of God, but so clearly developed them to the ancient patriarchs and prophets as to leave them and us without the shadow of a doubt as to their fulfillment. What indubitable evidence of his wisdom, power, veracity, faithfulness and goodness in all that he has ordained and in all his works for the good of his people, in the distribution of both his temporal and spiritual blessings to them. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, with the patriarchs and other prophets and priests, were prominent precursors of the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of his predictions, as well as the beneficence of his nature, in thus providing for and supplying with all the plenitude of his bounty everything that we need either for time or eternity. In the execution of his designs and the fulfillment of his promises, what incontestable testimonials we have, what a firm basis to rest upon. No casual impingings, no conditional circumstances upon which a doubt can reasonably rest. In all these cases Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua point unerringly to the Savior of us poor sinners; and how should we rejoice to see those typical characters so completely filling their stations, and the work of those hieroglyphical ones so completely fulfilled in our day. It is really heart-cheering to see that the Lord in those early ages should thus raise up such faithful emblematical personages, and so direct their performances as to tell in all succeeding ages and in unmistakable language – show forth by undeniable performances the great and glorious advent and work of the Savior of sinners in so lucid a light as to dispel every fear of a failure as to the complete consummation of his eternal designs.
As ever, your brother,
J. F. JOHNSON.