for a Kingdom
What hath God wrought!—Numbers 23:23
Back in the mists of time before the earth was formed, God was alone; the purpose of the ages was in his mind. There in a vision of delight he viewed the wondrous end of his great work: a family, a wonderful family of sentient beings, to live on various planes. Each family member would be intelligent and reflect some likeness of God’s mind: creative, thoughtful, and endowed with senses enabling fellowship with God. The common bond of love would unite all and guarantee eternal harmony between Him and every member of that blessed family.
So wonderful a purpose called for wisdom, skill, and power beyond our dreams. Achievement would entail much patient love, and would demand acceptance of great cost. That cost, the Father knew, would have to include innumerable heartaches, countless tears, the misery and sadness from a reign of sin which would be an essential step in developing that freewill choice of holiness which would crown his work. The greatest cost of all would be a “lamb.”
Through many ages was the earth prepared. At last, the moment came and man was formed, and heaven rejoiced. All seemed to be going well. Yet the wise Creator knew that time would come for man’s free will to choose a course apart from him. And so death reigned from Adam to Moses.
More than two and a half millennia passed from Adam’s fall with man enslaved and trodden down by sin.1 Then was deliverance portrayed, and there began a thousand years in which, in type, a kingdom was prepared. It was not yet the finished work of God, but it was full of lessons pointing forth the nature of the preparatory work for the true kingdom.
From the whole lump of human clay one family was set apart from which would spring the seed, foretold at Adam’s fall, who would be the deliverer from sin’s curse. Thus by the Lord’s design it became Israel’s role to illustrate important features of His plan for all mankind.
Into the history of this chosen race God wove the story-line of human plight and showed, in type, the answer to man’s needs. In Israel’s own preparation for its place the Lord portrays the truths all men will learn, so they may one day enter and enjoy the blessings God prepared for every family of this earth.
Blood of a Lamb (Exodus 12:3-13)
What graphic picture of mankind’s sad state was there depicted in Israel’s sighs and groans, for they were slaves in Egypt with no prospect of relief from the misery of that bondage! Their cries reached up to heaven, from whence at last deliverance would come in the blood of a lamb. For three days and a half that lamb was taken into their homes to dwell among them. But to achieve deliverance the hour came for that lamb to die, its life surrendered, and the doorposts daubed with its blood.
That very night did terror spread throughout the land as cry upon cry went up from Egyptian home to home. By light of dawn each first-born in the land lay dead, all but the first-born of the Hebrew slaves, whose life was spared because of that lamb’s blood. They were passed over from the scourge of death.
Each year thereafter Israel would recall the terror of that night, that lamb and
its saving blood: deliverance of their first-born seed and the dash for freedom
following with the light of day, providing deliverance of all the people from
bondage by the servant whom God chose. Thus was salvation for all people shown.
But this was first preceded by deliverance of those who would in a special sense
become the Lord’s first-born. Two hopes are thus revealed, one for the ones who
by new-birth would be the first to taste the blessings of redeeming grace, the
other for all families of this earth. The Church of the Firstborn are the first
to share and then become dispenser of life’s blessing to mankind.
Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-21)
Not without struggle would Pharaoh let them go. Nor will sin loose its hold on man without a fight. This would forty desert years illustrate. Four and a half centuries more would only bring the shadowy kingdom blessings of the type. Yet final victory for man will come, and this we glimpse in that triumphant morn when those pursuing Egyptian chariots sank to rise no more. The sea was lit as though by fire as it reflected the first hues of that new day, and wave upon wave now flooded in to wash away all traces of that sinful enemy. First spell-bound at the sight, then from that wondering throng rose wave on wave of praise as sheer delight replaced the fears that had beset each soul that night. Then suddenly did all begin to sing! Oh what a blessed glimpse is here portrayed of that triumphant hour of sweet release when all sin’s hold, its evils and its woes, will fall like broken fetters at the feet of all that through sin mourn. With gladness and rejoicing shall they come, the Lord’s redeemed, while God himself will sing (Zephaniah 3:17) and heaven’s joy will be shared by men.
Three cameos then show, in ways related to the needs of man, the cost of that
salvation. They also speak of blessings now enjoyed by simple trust, yet to be
shared by all the ransomed race. One theme appears through each: Messiah, man’s
Sweetening the Waters (Exodus 15:23)
Three days from that triumph at the sea the people marched, but gradual unease
began to show. Their water bottles soon drained dry and no source of
replenishment was found. Then, what relief at the sight of Marah’s pool! With
quickening steps the pilgrim band approached what seemed to be the answer to
their sighs, and joyfully they stooped to take their fill. Then with cries of
grief and discontent they found the waters were unfit to drink. The bitterness
of Marah filled their souls, and angrily they turned upon their guide. How
swiftly disappointment changes mood. The Lord knew well the people’s need. He
also knew the cost of its supply. The tree that makes life’s bitter waters sweet
would be the cruel cross of Calvary.
The Smitten Rock (Exodus 17:6)
The hot relentless sun beat down and wearily two million thirst-parched souls trudged on in vain attempt to search for what alone would satisfy their desperate need. The little children cried, tempers rose, and sight was lost of earlier victory and trust in heaven’s providence. Was God asleep? Did He not care who brought them to this place so bare of life’s necessities? Their anger turned upon that man God gave to lead them through this wilderness. “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God?” (Isaiah 40:27, NIV). When God in wisdom waits to bless, it is to test the faith He seeks, that “though he slay me” (Job 13:15) will confess full confidence and trust. Such truths Israel must yet learn who could not see that one who stood above on Horeb’s height (Exodus 17:6). At divine direction Moses smote the rock. Then sprang the waters forth, rivers of life’s water from the rock that followed them along their desert way. With joy the people rushed to drink and satisfy their thirst.
Thus will mankind one day enjoy life’s waters to the full, and each will know
that rock was Christ, that he was smitten, tasted death, that they might have
Made a Sin-Offering for Us (Numbers 21:4)
Another answer to human need came in the graphic language of this further type. The people were discouraged by the way. Their fortunes seemed so mixed and faith was tried, until resentfully they cried against their God. The manna that God’s love supplied now failed to satisfy the cravings of the flesh for a more varied fare. Perhaps we might admit, if we were there, our own complaining flesh would test our trust. Then, as if adding to their plight, the Lord sent fiery serpents to the camp, and death lay in their venomous fangs. The scene was set for another glimpse of what redemption’s plan would yet entail. A serpent made of bronze was raised on high for all to see, and those who looked thereon would find the remedy for that fierce serpent’s bite that plagued mankind. One day the whole world will behold that man, and recognize in him the perfect one once lifted up for them to bear that curse.
Thus did accounts of that long march from bondage to the kingdom form a treasure
trail of truth, a deep mine of embedded gems for man to search when eyes are
opened and men see this history that speaks prophecy.
The Upward Path (Isaiah 26:9,10)
Milestones of the desert march show stages in the way of holiness for Israel and mankind. A righteous nation they were called to be, that bunch of slaves, a peculiar treasure of God’s family on earth (Exodus 19:5,6). By sin enslaved, yet called to fellowship with him whose name is holy. With wonder do we ask: “How can this be?”
Only in shadowy outline was the path there shown, the upward climb from the
wilderness of sin to Zion, the holy mount of God. First must God’s ways be
known, that perfect law to be engraved in every mind. There is a way that
seemeth right to man, whose fallen judgment is long warped by sin. The standards
of the world around may seem sufficient for the day; just keep one’s lusts
concealed and cleanse the outside of the cup. But this is not God’s way, who
seeks to live within the temple of man’s heart and cannot dwell with sin. The
blind must first be made to see, then follow their Redeemer from the state of
curse to taste the perfect liberty of sons of God (Matthew 20:29-34).
Need of the Mediator (Exodus 20:18,19)
Moses stepped into the breach between the people and their God (Psalm 106:23,
Still with alarm do people back away and flee from God’s commands of holy walk,
supposing that his laws will so restrict and curb man’s lusts that life will
turn to misery. What lessons must be learned until men see that without law
there can be no liberty. But law imposed is not enough. No rules of conduct can
release the captives from the power of sin (Mark 5:3-5). Nor can the work of
grace begin without a savior, one who knows man’s need, and who, for man, will
plead with God. The go-between of Sinai, the high priest offering in the holy
court, and the Joshua who will complete the journey that the Law began, wondrous
roles fulfilled by the Son of God, and Son of Man!
When All Mankind Will Know (Joshua 3:15-17; John 17:11)
The people wait at Jordan’s banks aware that they must shortly ford that river
of death. The living know that they will die, but can they with such certainty
believe that they will rise again beyond death’s waves? The Jordan floods today:
more people die now every hour than at any time in earth’s history. The gospel
message only few receive, and many doubt that Jesus really saves. But time is
nearing for death’s tide to ebb, for far upstream we trace its flow back to a
place called “Adam,” and there by the ransom pledge that dreaded flood be
stayed. The people watch with awe as at the feet of priests death’s waters fail.
With apprehension had they gathered there, but with what blest relief they cross
the Jordan, assured of life beyond that evil tide. Thus did God mightily confirm
that Joshua was the servant he had sent. So men will know that when they come
forth from death they now so fear, that Jesus is indeed God’s holy son: for
every ransomed soul a Savior dear.
Giants in the Land (Numbers 13:33)
The lamb of God once slain must first prepare men’s hearts before they own his reign. There is no easy way, no magic wand to wave to instantly transform each sin-born slave. A consecrated mind is first required before the spirit can each vessel fill and every pot be holiness. The period of the judges shows how steep the climb and tough the way before man learns obedience and trust.
The close besetting sin will oft return. One quarter of that age or more was
spent in frequent bondage. Each was correction for the nation’s lapse. Yet over
and again a savior rose at God’s command to stir afresh a zeal for
righteousness. So much will mankind need the savior’s aid to conquer giant
enemies within their hearts of selfishness and lust that urge them down the path
of continued disobedience.
Shout of a King (Numbers 23:21)
At last the old man, Adam (Edom), must submit that it no more may block the king’s highways (Numbers 20:17,18; Isaiah chapter 34 must precede chapter 35). Then from the Mount of Curses man will turn and to the Mount of Blessing make his way, with ears attuned to God, and hearts that burn with deep desire their savior king to ever own and serve (Zephaniah 3:9). Within each heart the struggle will go on. Each man must fight for victory to win. The stirring aid of those God has prepared, the pastors given after his own heart, like shining stars will guide men’s minds and lead them on to conquer every foe. The teachings of the word, once happily ignored, will be the light to guide, and on the mount of God will saviors rise (Isaiah 1:26; 30:20; Jeremiah 3:15; Obadiah 21). Thus will men learn those songs of triumph to sing as they ascribe their victories to him, that “lamb” once slain.
The Test of Time (Exodus 32)
Impatiently they count the days, while Moses lingers on the mount, ’til anxiously his brother seeks to pacify the restless throng. The voice from heaven is no longer heard, and reverential fear of those who once faced the shaking mount has waned. How shall God’s worship be maintained without some aid by man’s device, some thing of beauty that will complement the act of obedient love required by God? No sordid object of base substance will suffice, only gold, whatever be the cost. The golden jewels of Egyptian women given in fear to rid them of the plagues are quickly gathered for the smiths to fashion into the form of beast man deems appropriate.
We tell this ancient tale in the present tense for it has a warning for each age of man. Time alone will test man’s intent to worship God. We daily ask the Lord to search and to eradicate all human thought that would debase the home of our hearts in which he deigns to dwell. The most ingenuous schemes to serve, if based on man’s wisdom, we are always wise to doubt, or else a golden calf may come out.