"And Moses said unto the Lord, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people; and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, If I have found grace in they sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall It be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken; for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name." Exodus 38:12-17.
If the Lord gave us sufficient liberty to tell what is contained in these verses, eternity would not be long enough to tell it all. For the purpose of reviewing the circumstances, let us show you just a little of what had occurred at this particular time in the book of Exodus. The Lord had summoned Moses to the Mountain - Mount Sinai. He was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. During that time the Israelites, under the leadership or Aaron, committed a terrible crime against God. The Israelites had begun to murmur. They came to Aaron, and this was their language, "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." (Exodus 32:1)
How quickly they had lost sight. How quickly the flesh showed itself. It had been but a short while that they had seen the hand of God parting the waters of the Red Sea, and all of them going across in a great deliverance; God showing Himself to be their God; destroying Pharaoh and all of his army, and now they say to Aaron, the very man that God would anoint a priest, "Make us gods." So Aaron instructed them to take their earrings, their gold, and their jewels and bring them to him, and he fashioned a calf, a golden calf, as the scripture calls it. And the text says, "The children of Israel rose up to play." They declared a feast day, and they frolicked, and they made themselves naked. They worshiped and adored, and idolized the calf that Aaron had made.
So the forty days and nights being ended, Moses and Joshua, as they descended the mountain, heard a great noise. Joshua thinks there is a war in the camp. Moses says that this is not the noise of warfare, nor is it the voice of singing, and so on, but he recognized that this was the voice of those that were frolicking before the Lord. In verse 19 of chapter 32 we read, "And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing; and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." Moses confronted the people and Aaron. He asked Aaron, "What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?" Aaron was a lot like his distant relative, Eve. He wanted to pass the buck. "And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief." Isn't that just like human nature? "Moses, it wasn't my fault. These are a mischieveous people. They got up this idea." "For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." So it says that he told him, "Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me; then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf." A bigger lie was never told. "And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men." It is interesting to observe, (and mark this well, this is not idle history, but this is the beginning of the legal dispensation;) God had written on the tables of stone. The Israelites were about to engage in a legal covenant with God. As His people (and before Moses could come down from the mountain,) they were already whoring after other gods. Moses said, "Who is on the Lord's side." That's a solemn expression, isn't it? Who responded to Moses? Only the Levites. Now the Levites were the tribe from whence Moses came. But even more important than this is what occurred. They took their swords, and by the instruction of God, they went through the camp and they slew a great number which the scripture says was about three thousand souls.
We learn sometimes by comparison, and other times we learn by contrast. This was the beginning, as I said, of the legal day. Let us travel in time, you might say, 3500 years, (or however many years it might have been, depending on which chronology you read.) Let us go from the time of Moses to the time where rather than Moses coming down off the mountain of the law, we see our resurrected Saviour ascending up off of the Mount of Olives, and this you may say, was the end of the legal day, and the beginning of the gospel day. And whereas at the beginning of the legal day with moses, and because of transgression, there were 3000 souls put to death; at the beginning of the legal day with Moses, ascends up (as Moses came down) and there were 3000 souls brought into life and liberty and freedom. The Lord added unto the church and blessed 3000 to be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Can you not see how the one ended and the other began with the same number of people? Three thousand died here under Moses, and three thousand were brought into a living union with Jesus the Lord at the other end of the day. God's people can learn much from such examples and comparisons, and contrasts as this.
After the slaying then, the anger of God continued to kindle against the people. The Lord told them to strip off the orniments from them. (They had ornimented themselves very well.) Now, do you know what they were wearing? They were wearing silver and gold and jewelry, and all sorts of fine garments. You recall that the Lord had told Israelites the night of the Passover that they were to spoil the Egyptians. They were to borrow of the Egyptians, and God put it in the heart of the Egyptians to give them what they asked for. Now the Lord was not instructing them this for the purpose of enriching them, because they didn't have any need of gold, silver, diamonds, jewelry, and fine garments. God was going to take care of them in the wilderness in His miraculous way. All of this material business was for the purpose of ultimately constructing the tabernacle where God's glory would dwell while they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. You see the abuse that they put these things to. They had a piece of gold, or they had a bracelet, or they had whatever it might have been, and they adorned themselves with it. These things were for the adornment of the glory of God. Now may we be blessed to learn a lesson in that.
"Then Moses went out." He left Israel's camp. Moses was distraught. Moses had seen the people of the living God sin the gravest sin, and he was distressed. Verse 7 of this 33rd chapter says, "And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation." And you know what someone would say if that occurred today? They would say, "Brother Moses split the church." Moses took the tabernacle and went outside the camp, "afar off." "And he called it the Tabernacle of the congregation." The congregation was not the twelve tribes of Israel in the mind of Moses at that moment, but those that would come to the tabernacle outside the camp. "And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp." (If you would like to learn more about being without the camp, read the latter verses of the book of Hebrews.)
"And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses." Here Moses talked with the Lord face to face. "And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle."
After God spoke to Moses face to face, what did he do? "And he turned again into the camp." Moses had gotten his tabernacle and moved out. He left the camp. He went without the camp, and when God came and spoke to him face to face, his heart was drawn back to the people once again, because he said that though God was vexed with His people, He had not forsaken them. And Moses' heart was drawn back out to the people of God. Now let me ask you. Put yourself in Moses' shoes. Have you not been at one time or another, (if you were honest about it,) where you had come to the place where you said, "I'm not going back." Most of you have. Something didn't suit, but Oh, when God comes to us and speaks to us face to face, and we learn that God is in heaven and we are on earth, and only God in heaven is holy and we are no better than the Israelites who bowed before the calf, we no longer have any desire to be separated from our brethren.
And then this brings us to the text. "And Moses said unto the Lord, See, thou sayest." Moses had some questions, and Moses desired some answers. "You've told me to bring up this people, and you've not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight." Moses didn't understand this. This was his petition, "Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people." What is Moses saying? Oh, how profound it is. "Lord, if I have found grace in thy sight." This stems not so much from doubt as it does from an honest inquiry after a further knowledge of the situation. "Lord, if I've found grace in thy sight." If what you have said is so, then show me now thy way. Now someone might say that Moses was a little impatient. "Show me now thy way." Not at all. We cannot but believe that every one of those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb desire to know, not tomorrow, but today, the way of God, but even one day in walking in our own paths, in the footsteps of our own designing, is enough to distress and vex us to no end. It's not sufficient for God's children to be like those of the world and go in any direction and not be bothered about where it is they are going. They want nothing more and nothing less than the guidance and the direction of God in their lives at all times.
Moses says, "If I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way." Do you believe the Lord was going to show him? Do you believe He did show him? What was the way that He showed him? The only way that there ever was, and we will see that in just a moment. Now there is some language in this that we wish to point out, also. "Shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight." It is a wonderful thing to feel that the Lord is gracious to us now. But there is a longing in the heart of the people of God that God will not only be gracious today, but that they may, by faith, lay claim to the promise, "I'll never leave thee nor forsake thee," and that they may find grace tomorrow, also. There is in our breast from time to time an apprehension that tomorrow may not be as good as today. We know this is wrong because our Heavenly Father has instructed us to take no thought for tomorrow; but that we must stand on sufficient things for today, and yet we recognize the same thing in the mind of Moses when he said, "If I have."
"That I may consider that this nation is thy people." This is what Moses was really concerned about; that God still owned these people; that God's favor would be with them, and as He led them through the wilderness that he could have the assurance and comfort of knowing he was leading the people of God. We can say this with all sincerity, and believe it from the depths of our soul, that if we could be convinced this day that you people were not the church of Jesus Christ, we would leave you just as suddenly as we came. It's too important! We don't know the uncertainties of life, but we know this one thing, that we want to be in the right way. "Show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight; and consider that this nation is thy people." If there was a people on this earth that were nearer to being the church than these people, we should be there with them. We are not wedded to the name, "Old School Baptist" and we are not wedded to the name "Primitive Baptists." That which is of the utmost importance is if "I have found grace in thy sight", that He would show me now His way, and that in showing me His way, we might continue to find grace and that we might consider that this nation is His people.
It is His people that we want to be with, to live with, and to die with; and no other people on the face of the earth. But let me ask you, unless your natural family that you meet with are believers of free grace like you, can you have the same union and feeling with them as you can with these spiritual people? When we gather after our meetings, and partake of natural food and sit around the tables, is there not a bond there that cannot be had at the table of our mothers, or natural families? Is it not a bond that says to us, "This is the people of the living way?" Dear readers, let us tell you there is nothing more precious in this world than the thought of sitting together around the table which is the Lord's and taking of those emblems of His body, and His blood, eating with the very people we expect to rejoice with in heaven. That knowing and that feeling, and that satisfaction will take away loneliness; it will take away gloom; it will take away everything in this world that would distress one as regards union with other things.
There have been times that the Lord has left us to ourselves that we were so miserable, so desperately miserable, that if we thought we could not regain the communion with our Heavenly Father, that we could not go on. Have you ever been that miserable? If you have ever been in that way, you will ask again, "Lord, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight, and consider that this nation is thy people."
And then, the grandest portion of all the text, "And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." "My presence shall go with thee." Whose presence? The presence of God. Oh, could the world believe such a doctrine as this? The presence of God. We hear men say, "Oh, God has not the time to be worried about the minor or little things in the world. He is more engaged in the big things." Let us tell you, our God is just as mindful of His dear little lambs, each one of them in their various problems and trials, as He is in the moving of great nations. God speaks to Moses, and He says, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
Let us ask you, and consider it well, Do you long for the presence of God? Not just when you meet; not just when you read the Bible; or when you pray, but do you long to have the presence of God with you all the time? We don't feel it to the same degree at one moment as we might, another, but isn't it a comforting thing to think that God's presence is with us? God's holy angels are around about us, and that come what may in this world, dangers, and trials, the assaults of Satan, devils, and wicked men, and all other things combined, if the presence of God is with us, we are secure. We are on a solid rock. Our standing is sure, and though we might not be blessed to feel it nor understand it as we would desire to, we know that if the presence of God is with us, then all is well! And the further along we go, the more we desire the presence of God; particularly in the light of the certain knowledge we are not going to be here much longer. Life will shortly be over. Dear brothers and sisters, when we look at our congregations, and see those old grey heads; those that are bowed down, ready for the harvest, we think, "Oh, what a blessed thing it is to see in their faces and in their deportment that God is with them. His presence is with them." It is a great blessing to know that in the moment that the Lord calls them to come to Jordan and walk down quietly and gently into the stream of death, the chilly waters of the passing from this life to the next, that the presence of God would be with them. A greater blessing could not be imagined. Nothing could surpass the hope that "My presence shall go with thee." By having that, what difference would it make if that moment was now? The dread of it is if we don't have such a hope. Sometimes when we look at those that are near to, and ready to pass that way, we could almost wish we could go before them, lest we see them depart from our company in death.
When the children of the Heavenly King pass from our camp, we sorely miss them. We realize we will never see their smiling faces again on the shores of this life, but it is a comfort and a consolation to believe that the voice that spoke to Moses has spoken to them. He says, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." Why? Why, they've already heard that other voice before they hear the summons of death, and that is the voice of the Son of God when He says, "Come unto me all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give thee rest." Such a rest that it is that the world know. nothing of. And worldly people know nothing of it. But those who have heard it can lay down their labors, and lay down all of their griefs, and cast their cares before the Lord. They have ceased from their labors, and they have ceased from their earthly toils, that they might rest in the sure promise of God that "My presence shall go with thee." We spoke of the dear saints as they pass through life, journeying down into Jordan. We don't know who originated the comparison that Jordan River was the symbol of death, but the illustration does fit. We must pass through it (Jordan) to come out on the other side. There is also a death that we experience when the Lord kills us to this world. We die to the world when we are made alive in Christ And when we have been made alive in Christ and are dead to the world, then we are ready to be buried. We are ready to be buried, not actually, because the physical body is not dead. We are dead as regards the world and sin. We are ready then to be buried in the waters of Jordan, like Jesus was, or we are ready to be baptized. And then we come up on the other side in the newness of life and the presence of God goes with His people in that death, burial, and resurrection.
Many people today are being buried who haven't died yet. Many religious institutions the world over are wholesale baptizing people (so called) and it is supposed to be a figure of death, burial, and resurrection, but the people haven't died yet. They are still alive to the world and still alive to the flesh, and still alive to the things of human nature, and until God has killed them and slain them by the law and brought them in dead and guilty before God with the sentence of condemnation upon them, they are not prepared for these things. But then when God does work the work of Grace upon their souls and kills them to all hope of heaven by any means except the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, then being dead, it is suitable for them to be baptized, like being buried, because then like as our Saviour was resurrected, they come forth in newness of life, not an actual life as the world knows it, but a spiritual life, as only the elect family may know.
The Lord willing, we shall continue this later.
Elder J. F. Poole
Signs of the Times
Volume 150, No. 12 - December 1982