THE DANGEROF AN EXASPERATED SPIRIT
By D. M. PANTON.
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
Denial of the [millennial] Kingdom is self-exclusion. “Whosoever shall not
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
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
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
[* “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
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’.”
THE BURIAL OF MOSES
By Nebo’s lonely mountain,
On this side Jordan’s wave,
In a vale in the
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
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.
M. S. ALEXANDER.