Kadesh is the [Holy] Spirit’s portrait of our modern age.  In all the history of the Theocracy there is no such entire blank as Israel’s thirty-eight years in the Wilderness.  At Kadesh, nearly four decades earlier, Israel, excommunicating themselves from the Promised Land, disbelieved God’s prophecies, backed by the reassurances of the two faithful Spies, and the unbelief was countered by the Oath of God that what they doubted they should not share.*  Kadesh is not a resemblance, it is a photograph.  For through an exactly corresponding nineteen centuries Christ’s coming [millennial] Reign on [this] earth has died out of the Church’s creed, becoming what the Holy Land became to Israel - a desert mirage; and the silent, chequered, tragic history of the Church has been largely a blank.  So, after nearly forty years of unrecorded silence, of marches up and down leading nowhere, of weary waiting until a generation had died out, Israel is back at Kadesh once more, in what, the Holy Ghost says (1 Cor. 10: 11), is a portentous ‘figure of us.’  And in the very heart of Kadesh is embedded an extraordinary danger now upon us; a danger entrapping, not the careless disciple, but the closest walkers with God, and not the rank and file, but Jehovah’s faithful and selected leaders; yet a danger on which, in the whole range of inspired literature, there is no greater silence on the part of teachers in the Church of Christ.  It is the danger of an exasperated spirit.


[* Denial of the [millennial] Kingdom is self-exclusion.  Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein” (Mark 10: 15).]


For if there was one man in those wandering tribes whose conspicuous office, holy character, faithful record, and constant devotion lifted him head and shoulders above the faithless crowd, and seemed to make entrance into the Reward absolutely secure, it was Moses.  Here is a man of whom the Divine record is that he was faithful in all his house (Heb. 3: 5); a man whose renunciation on the threshold of discipleship was so great that he is chosen by the Holy Spirit as its eternal model; in spite of extreme age, a man with none of the crippling and lowering disabilities of years; the meekest man on earth (Num. 12: 3), and so armed in triple brass against outbursts of temper; with a devotion such that he alone of mankind ever asked to be blotted out of the Book of Life for others’ sake; a worker of miracles on a scale, and of a quality unparalleled save by our Lord; and the author of more Scripture than any man who ever lived.  Yet this is the mighty servant of God who trips and falls in the last lap of his race.  The warning could not be more pregnant and rousing.  Nothing wins the Prize (Phil. 3: 14), but a clean race run to a clean finish.


For the very heart of the warning lies in the absolute justification of Moses’ exasperation.  It is only necessary to recite the sacred narrative.  And the people strove with Moses” - casting off, with scorn, the faithful leadership, and undying intercession, of nearly four decades, “and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! and why have ye brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness?” (Num. 20: 3).  The whole modern situation lies embedded in Kadesh.  First, all prophecy comes to be totally denied; then follows the inevitable reaction and revolt against a leadership - for Moses had never faltered as to the goal - which had fastened the entire gaze of God’s people on Canaan, a future state; and finally, under an awful realization of Wilderness horrors - the sole destiny of God’s people left - faith in the very call of God is shaken to its foundations, and God’s Word becomes a dead letter, the pilgrimage a funeral, and the Wilderness a cemetery.


Now we see the danger.  Jehovah had been rightly consulted: the dangerous Shekinah fires had shown themselves in the heavens in response: God’s mercy was to be unlocked from the rock.  Moses and Aaron approach the rock.  Before the vast assemblage Moses cries:-  Hear now, ye rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?”  The comment of the Psalm (106: 32) lodges the sin in the exasperated utterance rather than in the double blow, his passionate action being only a symptom: “it went ill with Moses for their sakes [on their account]; and he spake unadvisedly with his lips.”  God had proposed a greater miracle - a fountain gushing from the rock without a gash.  Moses curtly disobeys, striking the rock much as he might have desired to strike the people.  They provoked his spirit,” says the Psalmist: once he reproached them as rebellious (Deut. 9: 24) without offence; but now, in passion, he loses all command of himself, and by that fearful word – “ye rebels” - plumbs the depths of denunciation and excommunicates, in one sweeping sarcasm, the entire People of God.*


[* “It is too like Moreh” (M. Henry).  For a believer, in a fit of passion, to brand another believer as a ‘rebel’ from God, an apostate, a limb of Satan, is an offence (Matt. 5: 22) on which the Most High is extreordinarily sensitive.]


The sentence of God falls like lightning. “And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed not in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel” - because you have lost faith in My long-suffering to My people, and are taking their judgment into your own hands: ‘ye rebels, shall we bring you forth water?’ - “therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land.”  It is obvious that reward, not [eternal] salvation, is what Moses forfeits, since later he appears with the Saviour on the Mount: he missed that for which he looked – “the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11: 26).  Yet the Lord softens the sentence with a concession to Moses, though not to Aaron – “Behold with thine eyes” (Deut. 3: 27) Pisgah; while excluded Moses is nevertheless, and even after exclusion, the only man ever buried by God.  It is also exceedingly suggestive that, though he did not enter the Land, he died and was buried in the inheritance of Israel.  So the very word of Moses in the context of his own rejection the Holy Spirit uses for our warning.  Moses says:- “I must die in this land; I must not go over Jordan: ... take heed unto yourselves, for the Lord thy God is a devouring fire” (Deut. 4: 22, 24).  The Holy Spirit takes up the very word in Hebrews:- “Let us have grace whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12: 28). ‘Thy God,’ says Moses; ‘our God,’ says the Apostle, deliberately changing the phrase: for God, under Grace equally as under Law, is, where [wilful] sin [and disobedience to His Word] is concerned, avenging Fire.


A valuable lesson on the graded nature of sin springs from the severity of the sentence.  The aged saint himself felt keenly the dreadful disaster.  And I besought the Lord, saying, O Lord God, let me go over, I pray thee; but the Lord was wroth with me, and hearkened not unto me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter” (Deut. 3: 24).  The guilt of a sin turns on the standing of the sinner as well as on the enormity of the act.  The supremest saintly achievement spells the greatest largesse of a grace which makes a man more responsible, not less (Amos 3: 2).  Similar impatiences and angers, only incomparably greater, in the ignorant and unstable people which He had overlooked again and again God could not pass over in him who was His very mouthpiece to the people.*  Nor could He revoke the sentence.  The reversal of a sentence announced in public and sealed by [His] oath would have shaken the very foundations of God’s throne; and so he who had saved millions by his intercession, cannot save himself.  Moses and Aaron had lost the race that Joshua and Caleb won.**


[* It is also a comfort to recollect the aggravations of the ofience which place it beyond mere exasperation.  It was public; it occurred just after God’s miraculous action (Num. 20: 6), and immediately before fresh miracle, as Moses well knew; it was accompanied by violence - the double rupture of the rock; and it was lawlessness in the supreme lawgiver of all time.


** Actually, Moses lost Canaan: typically, he lost the Kingdom.  It must never be forgotten that Israel, an earthly people of God bounded by earthly penalties and rewards, are a forecast, in their desert career, of a spiritual and heavenly people whose recompense is at the Judgment Seat; and their personal destiny in the hereafter does not enter into the type.  Now these things” - primarily the fivefold sinfulness which created the displeasure of God, and exclusion; though also the fivefold standing (ver. 2) which made them the sole people of God on earth – “happened unto them by way of figure” (1 Cor. 10: 11), and comprise the whole of the type.  It only adds to the force of the type for us, and enhances it as solely a typical exclusion, that Moses, personally, not only has already shared in the Kingdom in glory (Luke 9: 31), but is also assured of a future place in it [when it is established in the ‘age’ to come] as one of the prophets (Luke 13: 28).  Possible exclusion [of regenerate believers] from the Millennial Kingdom is a solid Scripture fact taught alike by type and statement.]


Therefore Jehovah Himself finally lays bare the profound principle underlying the judgment of His people. “Because ye believed not in Me, TO SANCTIFY ME in the eyes of the children of Israel, ye shall not bring this assembly into the land”: “these are the waters of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was SANCTIFIED” - showed Himself holy – “in them.”  God sanctified Himself upon them by a judgment, because they had not sanctified Him before the congregation” (Keil and Delitzsch).  God must sanctify Himself from the sins of His people: “if He be not glorified by us, He will be glorified on us” (M. Henry): I am proved holy (Jehovah says) by the judgment I inflict upon my most conspicuous and beloved servants, as much as by the mercy I grant to a murmuring people.  For Kadesh is the place of the vindication of God.  At Kadesh God’s oath excluded the disobedient generation: at Kadesh, once again, Miriam - one of the murmurers of old (Num. 12: 1) - is excluded by death, and Moses and Aaron by oath (Deut. 4: 21).  Kadesh, this very age of ours of imminent danger, is the epoch which also embraces the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that none [of us] fall after the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4: 11).*


[* “Moses and Aaron among his priests thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their doings” (Ps. 99: 6, 8).  It is sad to see how otherwise godly evangelicals can soften, if not obliterate, the sorely needed and most blessed judicial warnings of God.  It was better for Moses,” says C. H. Mackintosh, “to see the land of Canaan, in company with God, than to enter it in company with Israel.”  God’s people have never been so faithful as to make advisable a softening of His judgments which comes perilously near making His Word of none effect through our tradition.  Moses’ death was penal (Num. 27: 12-14), though the mode of his burial was signal grace.  The sentence was perhaps the most effective possible revelation of His exceeding holiness.  Even so the Lord will make His glory to be known and felt through His servants if they be faithful, but without them if they be faithless, He will be sanctified in us to our great reward in the one case, to our shame and sorrow in the other.” (The Pulpit Commentary).  The unique burial of Moses was manifestly in view of a no less unique resurrection on the Mount of Transfiguration, a resurrection so unprecedented as to be disputed by Satan (Jude 9); in order to shadow forth the [Millennial] Kingdom’s risen [resurrected] saints, as Elijah embodied the living rapt.]


Some one said to George Muller in his life’s eventide:-


When God calls you home, Mr. Muller, you will be like a ship entering harbour in full sail.”  Oh no,” he replied; “it will be only poor George Muller, who needs daily to pray – ‘Hold Thou me up in my goings, that my footsteps slip not’.”








By Nebo’s lonely mountain,

On this side Jordan’s wave,

In a vale in the land of Moab

Therelies a lonely grave;

And no man knows that sepulchre,

And no man saw it e’er,

For the angels of God upturn’d the sod

And laid the dead man there.



That was the greatest funeral

That ever pass’d on earth;

But no man heard the trampling,

Or saw the train go forth –

Noiselessly as the daylight

Comes back when night is done,

And the crimson streak on the ocean’s cheek

Grows into the great sun;



Noiselessly as the springtime

Her crown of verdure weaves,

And all the trees on all the hills

Open their thousand leaves:

So, without sound of music,

Or voice of them that wept,

Silently down from the mountain’s crown

The great procession swept.



Perchance the bald old eagle,

On grey Beth-peor’s height,

Out of his lonely eyrie

Look’d on the wondrous sight;

Perchance the lion, stalking,

Still shuns that hallow’d spot,

For beast and bird have seen and heard

That which man knoweth not.



But when the warrior dieth,

His comrades in the war,

With arms reversed and muffled drum,

Follow the funeral car;

They show the banners taken,

They tell his battles won,

And after him lead his masterless steed,

While peals the minute gun.



Amid the noblest of the land

Men lay the sage to rest,

And give the bard an honour’d place,

With costly marble dress’d,

In the great minster transept,

Where lights like glory fall,

And the organ rings, and the sweet choir sings,

Along the emblazon’d wall.



This was the truest warrior

That ever buckled sword;

This the most gifted poet

That ever breathed a word;

And never eatth’s philosopher

Traced with his golden pen

On the deathless page truths half so sage

As he wrote down for men.



And had he not high honour, -

The hillside for a pall,

To lie in state, while angels wait,

With stars for tapers tall,

And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes

Over his bier to wave,

And God’s own hand in that lonely land

To lay him in the grave.



O lonely grave in Moab’s land!

O dark Beth-peor’s hill!

Speak to these curious hearts of ours,

And teach them to be still:

God hath His mysteries of grace,

Ways we cannot tell;

He hides them deep, like the hidden sleep

Of him He loved so well.