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Pastoral Letter - 17 Jun 18                                                 

Dear Calvarians,        

It is always a delight to sit under the sound of sound preaching. Below is a transcript of a sermon preached at the Tuesday night prayer meeting by Dn Tang Chi Sin.

In Numbers 11:1-5, we read about the people who had travelled only a short time when they began to complain against God, with the result that God punished them (11:1-3). Among those who journeyed with the Israelites from Egypt were some foreigners who had mixed with the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 12:38). These people complained that they were tired of having the same food every day, even though God miraculously supplied it. They wanted some of the food they had been used to in Egypt (4-9). Soon, the discontentment spread throughout the camp.

 

The fiercest critics are often the people closest to us.  In Numbers 12:1-2, Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses. By this time, Moses' first wife had most probably died, and he had remarried. His new wife was not an Israelite, and Miriam and Aaron used this as an excuse to criticize him. The real reason for their attack, however, was their jealousy of Moses' status as supreme leader of Israel. Moses, being a humble man, did not defend himself, because he knew that God was the only true judge; and God's judgment was that although Aaron, Miriam and the seventy had a part in the leadership of Israel, Moses' position was unique. God spoke with him directly and entrusted him with supreme authority over his people (12:1-8).

 

Our focus for this little sharing would be Moses' responses to these personal attacks. Attacks of his personal character and his authority as God's faithful servant. We witness here, and repeatedly in various other episodes the account of Moses as a prayer warrior, mighty intercessor before God for His people. Likewise, we will also take this opportunity to study some of the Divine actions, and derive some spiritual lessons from them.

 

Intercessory Prayer is a powerful means of grace to the praying man. It is often observed that at times of inward dryness and depression, people often found a delightful revival in the act of praying for others for their conversion, or sanctification, or prosperity in the work of the Lord.

 

Marvellous was the effect of the character of Moses by his marvellous praying. No mission was more majestic in purpose and results than that of Moses, and none was more responsible, diligent, and difficult. In the account of Moses' intercession for the different people and individuals, we are taught the sublime ministry and the rule of prayer. Not only is it the medium of supply and support, but it is also a compassionate agency through which the pitying long-suffering of God has an outflow. Prayer is a medium to restrain God's wrath as it were, and that mercy might rejoice against judgment.

 

If you think about it, in the very first place, Moses himself and his ministry were the creation of prayer. Thus, it is recorded: "When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place" (1 Samuel 12:8). This is the genesis of the great movement for the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage.

 

The great movements of God have had their origin and energy in and were shaped by prayers of men. Prayer deals directly with God. God is pleased to order His work and base His actions on the prayers of His saints. Prayer influences God greatly. Hence, Moses cannot do God's great work, though God-commissioned, without much praying. Moses cannot govern God's people and carry out the divine plans, without having his censer filled full with the incense of prayer. Just like the work of the priests in the Levitical order, the work of God cannot be done without the fire and fragrance that are always burning, ascending, and perfuming.

 

Let us revisit the episode in Numbers 11 when the people and the mixed multitudes murmured with their dissatisfied spirit against the Lord and when they fell lusting for their wanton longings.

 

It was recorded thereafter that Moses was displeased. Several points that we can derive from this account. We consider here that afflictions are part of a godly men in the path of duty. This is in full accord with the character of God and his favour in moulding His people.

 

It also reflects here the burdens of leadership to be a very trying one because of the responsibility and duties involved, because of the interest in which a true leader takes in his/her charge, because of the intractableness of men

 

One is also painfully conscious of his/her insufficiency and that even the ablest and holiest leaders of men sometimes fail under the burdens of their position.

 

Amid this and all the past episodes, we notice something - Moses' prayers are often found relieving the terrible stroke of God's wrath. Before he led the Israelites out of Egypt, four times were the prayers of Moses solicited by Pharaoh to relieve him of the fearful stroke of God's wrath.

 

"Entreat the Lord" was the earnest plea of Pharaoh of Moses. "Moses cried unto the Lord" was his response and the plagues were abated.

 

Though Moses was the man of law, yet with him prayer asserted its mighty force. With him, it could have been said, "My house is the house of prayer." In this case, the murmurings of the children of Israel furnished conditions which called into play the full forces of prayer. They impressively bring out the intercessory feature of prayer and disclose Moses in his great office as an intercessor before God on behalf of others.

 

So what was the outcome of Moses' prayer? What was God's answer to the appeal of His much-tried servant? There was the remedy supplied in the form of the seventy elders.

 

"And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee" (Numbers 11:16).

 

The Church today has her needs as well. She - meaning, we the people of God - must pray as Moses prayed. Realizing the presence of the Holy Spirit, set ourselves to meet the demands of God's people and the work of the ministry.

 

 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD's hand waxed short?" (Numbers 11:23). Consider the matter of Divine Grace-is there any token in the work of Grace that God's power is failing? Are not sinners still saved? Is not the Word of God still quick and powerful?

 

In Grace, as well as in Providence and Nature, the unanimous verdict is that God is still Almighty. How is it, then, that such a question as this ever came from the lips of God, Himself?

 

There is but one creature that God has made that ever doubts Him! The animals doubt not. The angels never doubt Him, nor the devils either-devils believe and tremble! But it was left for man-the most favoured of all creatures-to mistrust his God! Unfortunately, this infamous sin of doubting the power and faithfulness of Jehovah was reserved for our fallen race! And we alone, out of all the beings that God has ever fashioned, dishonour Him by unbelief, and tarnish His honour by mistrust!

 

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). That is the divine cure for all fear, anxiety, and undue concern of soul, all of which are closely akin to doubt and unbelief.

 

This is the divine prescription for securing the peace "which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

 

All of us need to mark well and heed the caution given in Hebrews: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).

 

(To be continued next week)

 

 

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