"And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter (Deuteronomy 3.23-26)."
Moses, that great and noble servant of the Lord God, was drawing to the end of his long and illustrious sojourn in this life. There are few characters in the Bible more interesting when studied than Moses. From his birth right down to the events of this text, his life was amazing. As an infant he was wondrously delivered from Pharaoh's death sentence. All the male Hebrew children were under it. His parents had first hidden him, hoping he might be spared. Then they placed him in an ark, setting him loose in the river, a figure of being in Christ, even in the midst of peril. Human reasoning would have placed his prospects for survival at slim to none. But, of all people, the very daughter of Pharaoh rescued him, taking him for her own son. Blinded free-willers might suggest this was pure chance; a mere stroke of luck. We are persuaded, and that overwhelmingly, that the predestination of God was forging this chain of events that brought Moses from the dreadful waters to a lofty position next to the very throne of Egypt and then finally to lead the children of Israel to the land of promise.
Our persuasions, however, will not prove anything. Nor do we really want to prove this, or anything else, to our readers. Our aim, if blessed and guided by God, is to set forth the facts of His Word, and leave it there. We shall, accordingly, divide our text under three headings; first, God's revelation to Moses; second, the prayer of Moses; and third, God's answer. We hope to show in each division the wonders of predestination thoroughly and throughout.
Moses was then an hundred and twenty years old. His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated (Deuteronomy 34.7)." Learned in all the wisdom of Egypt he nevertheless had not sufficient eye-sight, nor physical power, to appropriate an understanding of the greatness of God. This great leader of Israel meekly served those many years with less understanding of his heavenly King than he did the king of Egypt. "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds (Acts 7.22)." Notice that Moses was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt. What boundless depth of understanding this great man possessed! Egypt founded the first national government. As Moses rose to prominence in Egypt his understanding of its laws, workings, and system was no doubt spectacular. The Egyptians were masters of astronomy and geography. Moses learned all they knew. They were undisputed geniuses in architecture and construction, witnessed to by the Pyramids. Moses became their equal. Their ability to write in hieroglyphic form displayed an advanced grasp of geometry; thus they possessed a depth of learning in mathematics. Moses advanced to their highest attainments in this achievement as well. The Egyptians were prolific in the sciences, arts, crafts, medicine, engineering, jewel making, and varied other industries. Moses was learned in all this wisdom also. Simply put, the Egyptians were highly learned and skillful in a multitude of areas. And Moses grasped fully all the learning they ever knew.
Moses saw and comprehended all the greatness of Egypt. Why then did God prolong to this late hour in the life of His servant Moses to begin showing him His greatness? Moses had previously seen many vivid displays of God's greatness, such as the burning bush, the plagues on Egypt, the parting of the sea with the destruction of Israel's enemies. Would not that at least have been a start of showing him His greatness? No, it would not. To illustrate: there might have been a mountain goat or a jack-rabbit looking on when Moses approached the bush that burned with fire. Would their ocular appropriation of that event lead them to any appreciation of the greatness of God? Did the various plagues inflicted on the subjects of Pharaoh soften a single heart to even partially learn of God's greatness? We are persuaded by all we know that the answer is no! So Moses, despite his extensive grasp of all Egypt's wisdom, could not, by that worldly learning, be taught of God's greatness. "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness (I Corinthians 3.18,19)." Despite his lofty attainments, Moses was, in himself, no better at comprehending the greatness of God than was the lowliest hod carrier in Egypt.
God forbid that we should slander Moses, or deprecate his abilities. It is our aim to relate why God did not, until late in the life of this eminent man, begin to show him His greatness.
We might assign many opinions, some with good foundation, as to why the Lord did not begin to show His greatness to Moses until the end of his distinguished life. We feel sure the Bible can give us the surest reason, however. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3.1). "Surely the delay in God showing Moses His greatness was one of the every thing in this text. The reason for the delay? It was not yet the season or the time! Had God shown him His greatness prior to when He did, it would have been out of season and untimely; a situation unthinkable with God. And displayed with unmistakable clarity in Ecclesiastes 3.1 is the word, purpose. There is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Yes, indeed; the season and time for Moses to learn of the greatness of God had been purposed; not by Moses, but by God Himself. And, what is the purpose of God but predestination, and if predestinated, then absolutely predestinated.
By analytical observation we see then: at one season and time Moses did not see God's greatness. At another season Moses did see God's greatness. We learn from Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3.1) that these seasons of knowing and not knowing were by purpose. We know that what God speaks or purposes He will bring to pass (Isaiah 46.11). What God brings to pass in time was ordered, willed, and decreed in eternity. Those of us not ashamed of the Holy purposes of God call this predestination. Predestination, as a word, can surely stand alone without an adjective to support it, but for the sake of identification, we call this predestination absolute, as opposed to the Arminian idiocy of limited predestination. Thus God's revelation of His greatness to Moses was timely, and in season. For reasons left secret to God, His servant Moses did not need to know of God's greatness until the end of his long and fruitful journey. Any further speculation or conjecture on our part we consider profitless, and certainly not necessary.
THE PRAYER OF MOSES
"I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon (Deuteronomy 3.25)." Yes, Moses knew the promises of God. Israel would soon be transported into that land which God had given them for an inheritance. Deliverance had come; the land of rest was soon to be their home. But what of Moses, that well-taught scholar of Egypt's learning? "Let me go over" was his prayer. It was not to be, however!
The reason it was not to be, from an observable standpoint, was because Moses had not followed the directives of God at the waters of Meribah. "Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink (Numbers 20.8ff)." The conduct Moses displayed on that occasion was less than seemly for a person of his station; for example: "And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock (Numbers 20.10)?" Beside calling his brethren rebels, and assuming for himself and Aaron ability to get water from the rock, Moses smote the rock; not once only, but twice, as if for good measure. God had given him clear instructions; he was to speak to the rock. But twice he smote it with the rod, in seeming defiance of God Himself.
What made this conduct of Moses even all the more aggravating was that the rock he smote was a theophanic manifestation of Christ. "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ (I Corinthians 10.4)." The marvel of it all is, though, that this is not why God refused the prayer of Moses for entrance into the land of promise.
"They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips (Psalms 106.32,33)." "He spake unadvisedly!" It was what Moses said, not what he did, that was the action for which God denied him entrance into the land. In a way, and for God's good purpose, the smiting of the rock twice set forth in a figure the smiting of God's only begotten Son. It was his speaking, however, that sealed his journey's end in the wilderness short of the land of promise. Thus he prayed for a reprieve from the sentence upon him.
"I pray thee, let me go over." It would be a begging at the issue to contend that this was not a real prayer Moses uttered. No! Never! This was as real and proper a prayer as any child of the heavenly King ever prayed. No doubt but Moses truly felt there could be some measure of relief for him since God had then begun to show him His greatness. "Perhaps God will yet show mercy" seems to adequately portray the feeling of this noble servant of God.
We come now to the matter of predestination. If we admit that this prayer of Moses was a real prayer, that he was given utterance by the Spirit of God, and that God heard his prayer, which the record clearly shows He did, then it must have been included in the eternal will of God which embraces all things. Now Moses could not have even thought to pray in this regard but for the previous message from God that he could not go over to the land of promise. Otherwise, the prayer would have been useless, having no foundation for its being offered up. This leads us to the unmistakable conclusion that Moses also must have spoken unadvisedly when he was instructed by God to bring forth water from the rock. Otherwise he could not at this time pray for deliverance from God's penalty upon him. No transgression; no prayer for deliverance.
Red-hot free-willers might say we are attempting to lead our readers in circles with unfounded deductions, but that is not the case at all. Is it unfounded to say God has declared the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46.10)? To get to the end of anything, all in between must be traversed. Surely the transgression and prayer of Moses falls somewhere in between the beginning and the end which God has from eternity declared. But, let us confine ourselves to only one text, which is vastly sufficient to establish the proposition that the prayer of Moses was predestinated. "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear (Isaiah 65.24)." Yes, then, the eternal God had an answer for Moses before he ever prayed! What else can, before they call, I will answer, mean? How long before Moses prayed did God answer him? Five minutes? A day? Forty years? God, Who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, always had answered Moses. Dare we suppose then that Moses might not have transgressed, and might not have prayed? Whatever would our all-wise God have done with the answer had Moses failed to pray? The answer is cleat as the noon-day sun to those that worship an all-wise God. "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord (Proverbs 16.33)."
"But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter (Deuteronomy 3.26)." There is much of value in the expression "But the Lord Was wroth with me for your sakes" but We shall pass that by with only this comment: Moses would be sacrificed for the benefit of Israel. That which commands our attention at this time Is the answer of' God to the prayer of Moses.
"Let it suffice thee." If we have any understanding at all of the clear language of God, He was instructing Moses to be satisfied with matters as they were, for they would not change. That was the way things were going to be, and further pleading was prohibited. Moses had thus seen another display of God's greatness, this time in answer to his prayer. "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33.9)." It need not be doubted that Moses was reconciled in this matter; he never brought the issue up again, and, in fact, proceeded with the business God gave him regarding the transition of leadership to Joshua. Moses had prayed; the Lord had answered.
Contained in the answer of God to Moses is certain evidence that predestination was involved, Consider if you will, the brief, yet awesome, expression from God to Moses: "Let It suffice thee," Besides the brevity, and we say forcefulness, of the answer there are two extremely important words contained therein; the first being it. "Let it suffice thee." If we are not totally mistaken the word it refers back to Moses acknowledging that God had begun to show him His greatness and His mighty hand (verse 24). God, in His infinite and eternal wisdom, saw fit to begin showing Moses His greatness, and what He began to show him did not include crossing Jordan with Israel. Surely it cannot be believed that God would have entertained a change of mind. His purposes towards Moses remained the same. He was of one mind!
"But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? [Not even the great Moses.] and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him (Job 23.13,14)." Poor wretched lob; in all his afflictions his grief-plagued soul could still rise higher than any unhumbled Arminian that ever lived. He could contemplate the eternal decrees and appointments of God, even in his darkest hour. Affliction and sorrows could not seal this truth from his heart. The flowing tears failed to blind him from a view of the immutable purposes of his God that he called appointments. And bless his soul, Job said there were many of them; appointments, that is.
One of those appointments was the it God told Moses to be sufficed with. It was an appointment, and thus done forever; that is, from everlasting, and not on the spur of the moment, after the manner in which men act.
Solomon was of this same persuasion when he penned the following: "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him (Ecclesiastes 3. 14t)." "So, Moses," God is saying, "Let it suffice thee; this appointment is eternal. It cannot, nor shall be changed. It cannot be added to, nor taken from. Let it suffice thee." Yes, "God requireth that which is past (Ecclesiastes 3.15)." Simply put, God was requiring Moses to be satisfied with His eternal predestination for him to die on the wilderness side of Jordan.
The other word of importance we mentioned in God's answer to Moses is suffice. "Let it suffice thee." What God had ordered from all eternity was sufficient. God's appointment was all Moses needed, and all he was to rest in. Sufficiency with God needs no additions, and knows of no diminishing.
Centuries later the apostle Paul learned this pleasurable lesson. Paul had been given a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure. "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me (II Corinthians 12.8)." We affirmed previously that Moses had prayed for what God was not pleased to grant him, and that it was a real and proper prayer. Just so with Paul, he was praying for relief which was not to come. The notion that Paul's prayer was not a real and proper prayer is as absurd as the idea that Moses was not in the Spirit when he prayed. How did God answer Paul? Precisely as he had answered Moses! "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (II Corinthians 12.9)." What a blessed answer. God also tells Paul, "Let it suffice thee."
Often truths concealed in the Old Testament are fully revealed in the New Testament. But they are truths nevertheless. God was gracious to Moses just as He was gracious to Paul even though the word, grace, was not used. And it was sufficient grace. When God suffices His children it always flows from eternal wisdom. God apparently did not explain to Moses that this sufficiency was all of pure, free, eternal grace, but you may be sure it was the same eternal grace that Paul received in his distress. Is there a heart so steeled against the purposes and eternal will of God that they could deny that in both these cases, that of Paul and Moses alike, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past (Ecclesiastes 3.15)"? We envy them not.
Moses and Paul alike had that which God deemed needful; sufficient grace. Grace flows from God as does all His other glorious attributes, such as love, mercy, pity, or even wrath. They are all as eternal as God Himself. They are that which has been and are now. They are that which hath already been and is to be. They are required for they are past. They are past, present, and future with God, for they are NOW. The great I AM had spoken as He had thought, and it stood fast; fast as the everlasting hills. Be it His great will, counsel, decrees, or predestination, it all remains the same. Certainty is stamped on them all. We are content that there never was a time with God that He would not suffice Moses when he prayed. And not a moment before, or a moment after, the appointed season and time for grace to be his sufficiency.
Moses, like Paul, had his supplication denied. His request was, based on the content, denied. However, in both cases these great servants of the Most High gained more by losing than if they had won. The power of Christ rested on Paul in such a fashion that he could rather glory in his thorn than further complain. And as for Moses, that figure of the law, he was blessed to be laid to rest by God Himself in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor (Deuteronomy 34.6). No one but God ever knew where he was buried, though apparently Satan would have moved mountains to find the location (Jude 9).
Wherein then does the great blessing to Moses lie in all this? "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1.21)." We would join with the poet in saying: "To die in the Lord is a covenant blessing." The work of Moses, a figure of the law, was done. The predestinated time for Moses to depart was at hand. He would be gathered home to his eternal rest, there to everlastingly bask in the full glory of that grace which was his sufficiency in this world. If the death of a child of God, in this case, Moses, is not a great blessing to him, we are at a total loss to know what blessings are really all about.
Had Moses been able to change God's mind, an unthinkable proposition, and be left with Israel a little longer, God would have had to also revise all His other plans relative to Israel going to the land of promise. For our part we had rather rest in the sweet doctrine of God's absolute predestination than try to sort out all the confusion involved with any other process.
J. F. Poole
Volume 9, No. 1