I need not say that the books of the Bible are grouped together in an orderly way, evidently not thrown together haphazardly. Take for instance the Old and New Testaments. You find that they treat of two distinct subjects. We come however to our particular subject tonight, the five books of Moses, the first part of the Bible. They are all held fast together. It is one coherent whole; you could not take one of them away without mutilating this whole portion of scripture. Rob us of Genesis, for instance, and we would be without the very foundation as to God's ways and works in this world. Rob us of Deuteronomy or put it with another part of the Bible and we would be without the conclusion as to God's ways.
Moses was the author of all these books, the single author. At their close we see him laying down his life with his pen in token of a completed work. We shall find as we go on in the study of Scripture, that this Pentateuch as it is called, (which simply means five volumes) gives us the model upon which the whole word of God is written, a key by which we can understand something of His purpose in giving us such a full revelation. I have said that they are one whole that you could not take one of them away without mutilating the rest.
We have however to look at the other side also, which is, that they are entirely distinct one from the other. People might say Why did not Moses write just one book. If he is the author of the whole as he evidently is, why did he write it in five volumes instead of one? Simply to emphasize the fact that here we have a diversity, a divine progress and that God has a lesson to teach us in the fact that there are five books, just as well as in the fact that it is one division of Scripture. Now what is the lesson that is upon the very surface of this? There are five books. The subject of Genesis is creation, and the life of individual saints. When you come to Exodus, you get an entirely new thought. The prominent thing there is redemption, the redemption of a people to be in association with God. Come again to Leviticus and there is a distinct line of truth that underlies the whole book, the truth of access to God, of holiness. Passing into Numbers is like passing into another room. You find an entirely different thought. It is now the pathway of God's people along the wilderness journey, and when Numbers closes and we get to Deuteronomy, it seems to return as it were to the very beginning. There you have God's summary of His ways with the people.
Now this is what lies upon the very surface, and you will notice that we have here a distinct progress, a distinct advance in each book upon what you had in the previous one. Let us go over them again typically. In Genesis you have creation, the type of new creation, the work of divine life in the soul. Now what is there that answers to that in simple language for our souls? Is it not new birth? "Except a man be born again, he cannot see, (he cannot enter) the Kingdom of God." There must be new birth, there must be a new nature imparted, if there is to be relationship with God. But is that all He has to unfold to us, as to our relationship with Himself? No, that is only the beginning. What is the next point? The ground of our relationship with Him. And in the book of Exodus we find the prominent thought throughout is the basis of all relationship with God, redemption by blood. Now a man is born again by the sovereign act of the Spirit of God; that is new birth; but what is the basis of our relationship with God, what is the foundation of our peace with Him? Is it not this Exodus truth, this great truth of redemption? So you see that Exodus is clearly another book and it presents a distinct and advanced thought. First we have life, secondly we have redemption. Now pass to Leviticus, and what do you have again? The theme of Leviticus, as I was saying, is the sanctuary of God; it is the principle of divine holiness that must be maintained; you get to Leviticus, and you find it quite different from Exodus. What God is occupied with there is the holiness that becometh His house, it is the ground upon which His people can draw near and enjoy fellowship with Himself, which was led up to in Exodus. The very close of the book prepares you for that which you find in Leviticus, but all through it there is unfolded as a distinct truth an advance upon what we had in Exodus — the truth of holiness and access. Translate that again into our practical every day life. "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." Now peace with God is peace by the blood of the passover Lamb; but the "access by faith into this grace wherein we stand," corresponds to this book of Leviticus; it is access, nearness, beholding the holy glory of God and rejoicing in that. What losers would we be, if there were no principle of holiness, such as we find in Leviticus. I fear, alas, for most of us that we are quite content to remain in Exodus as it were, quite content to go on merely with the knowledge of salvation, without enjoying the precious privilege of entering into the holy place, and sharing the thoughts of God.
But again is that all? does that sum up the whole of the believer's life? Surely not. Our feet are here upon the desert sands, we meet with manifold temptations. What are we to do in this hostile world? We are occupied as to our souls with the infinite fulness of Christ. We enjoy all the precious things that are unfolded to us as to Him, but what about our daily life? what about our testimony in a world like this? What about that development of character that comes from exercise? I will quote again from that same chapter in Romans: "Not only so, but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." Where are we with experiences like that? Not in Leviticus, but we have passed into Numbers. I have enjoyed my access in Leviticus, and now I can glory in the very tribulation, that I have to pass through in this world. Now that is exactly what is unfolded to us in the book of Numbers; it is the testing, the trial, and alas, when you try the flesh, its weakness, its failure, its feebleness, its dishonoring God are brought out on the one hand. But is that all? Thank God there is also brought out the infinite patience, the long-suffering and wisdom of our God, and if in this wilderness experience on the one hand I learn what I am, on the other hand I learn God as I could not learn Him, I say it reverently, even in the glory up there. I learn Him here as the One who upholds me, and sustains me in the midst of the sorest trials; who, when I have tripped and fallen, or grown cold and careless, can restore me, can bring me back, can bring me through, and bring me to the end of it all; and I could not learn that in heaven; and that, dear brethren, is what we have brought out in the book of Numbers.
Are you not thankful that we have such a book as that? that He has given us in His precious Word a whole volume as to our earthly walk, a whole volume as to His grace in the place where we need grace? So the book of Numbers we find is a distinct advance, another step in the progress of God's people, and that brings us to the last book, Deuteronomy. Is it merely that we are brought through the world? that God sustains us, and brings us to the end of our journey? That is not all. The holiness of God demands that when we have reached our journey's end, and there is not another step to be taken in the wilderness, His love for us demands that we turn round with Him now and look back over that history and see the steps we have trodden, and see our failures and shortcomings with Him to recount them to us, and so you find the whole book of Deuteronomy devoted to a recapitulation. You find no new event narrated there; but the old events, things that happened long years ago are taken, up never forgotten by our God, not one step that we have taken, not one failure that we have made will ever be forgotten by Him. He takes them all up, and there at the end of the journey He goes over them all. What for? To humble us? We had our humbling long before. He humbled us in the wilderness and taught us that man should not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. He goes over the history not to humble us, but to give us lessons for eternity. Think of that! We are so apt to think of heaven as a place where we need no lessons. We are just ready to begin to learn our lessons there; most of us are so slow here, that we learn very little. The first thing that we have got when we get to heaven is to learn the lesson of our wilderness journey. I need not tell you that it is the judgment-seat of Christ where we learn all this; when the Lord Jesus gathers His redeemed people up there, in the glory with Himself and like Himself, that He opens the record of their whole life and goes over it. Deuteronomy is the last step in the progress of the saints.
Now then do you not see the beauty of that order? and you will agree with me that you could not displace that order. Could you take out Genesis and put it last? Could you put Leviticus in the fourth place? No, they are linked together in just that order, and you will find there is a distinct definite progress in the history of your soul, and in the history of Israel, for that matter, as a nation too; a progress that begins with Genesis, the life of God in the soul; passes on to Exodus, the knowledge of redemption and communion; then into Leviticus, access into the holiest; then through this wilderness journey, in Numbers; until finally all is recapitulated for us in the book of Deuteronomy.
Let us look at another thought before we go further. You notice that these books are in order and that their order cannot be changed, and that order therefore, gives to each book a certain number. Genesis for instance is number 1, Exodus is number 2, Leviticus number 3, Numbers is 4, and Deuteronomy 5. They could not be anything else because they are in that absolute order. Do those numbers mean anything for us? Are we to learn anything from that? Genesis as "one," tells us of creation, of the origin of things, of God as the author, the source. You will find that truth as to number one, goes through all Scripture, and when we come to look a little more closely at the book of Genesis, you will find that to be the character of the book everywhere. For instance, take Abraham, God calls him out in sovereign grace, that is number 1; it is sovereignty. You will find this thought of sovereignty and the control of God over the lives of His people prominent in the book. Take another thought of one; it means a single person an individual as contrasted with a nation. Genesis is a history of individuals. We shall see presently that it is a history of seven individuals.
Now you come to Exodus and what a contrast, it is a second book, and two suggests evil; it suggests bondage, and captivity; it suggests more than that, blessed be God, — help from Him, salvation, redemption. Then it suggests communion, association, and so you find this number 2 stamped, — do I say stamped? nay woven into the very fibre and texture of the whole book. It is a book that tells us of bondage and of redemption from bondage; of sin and of sacrifice for sin; of deliverance out of Egypt; of walking with God, or communion; and so you find throughout number 2.
Go again to Leviticus, the third book, and here we find three prominent. Who is the third person of the Trinity? just as the Father is connected with Genesis, for it is the book of birth, and the Son is connected with Exodus, for it is the book of redemption, so the Spirit is connected with Leviticus for it is the book of holiness. Here are the great principles of God's holiness, and it brings us into that into which we can only enter in the power of resurrection, and that is into the sanctuary of God. Three is the number of the sanctuary; it is the number of the presence of God. I have been particularly struck of late with the fact that when Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit, it does not present something peculiar to Him, any unfolding of His character, as it were, but you have an unfolding of Christ, of the work of Christ, which agrees exactly with the promise Of the Lord that He would send the Holy Spirit and He would glorify Christ, that He would take of the things of Christ and show them unto us. How blessed that is. The blessed Spirit of God is having His time (if I may use such an expression) of humiliation. Christ has had His season of humiliation. The Lord came here, took a lowly place and became obedient unto death — the death of the cross, and now in this dispensation the Holy Spirit veils His glory and instead of speaking of the things concerning Himself primarily, He speaks of Christ and His work. That is why you find in the book of Leviticus, the work and Person of Christ typically unfolded with a fulness that is found nowhere else in the whole word of God.
Passing to number four; it is the earth number, the number of this world. We speak of the four corners of the earth, the four winds. It is that which has to do with the earth. We have already seen that the book of Numbers has to do with this present world. Forty days, forty years — how they tell us of testing. You might write for instance at the head of the book of Numbers, Forty years, for it is the history of the forty years' testing in the wilderness. This number four is woven into the very texture of the book so that it could not be anything else.
That brings us to the fifth book. Deuteronomy is a history too, but a history that comes from the lips of God. It is the "one" added to the four, and that "One" is God; O what a difference that makes; my history in God's hands, He will make a blessing, even out of my failure. So this number five, which tells us of God with man, gives us exactly the character of the book of Deuteronomy.
Pardon me a still further step, as to these numbers. You have the odd and the even numbers, which sounds very prosaic. But look at the three odd numbers; one is Genesis, three is Leviticus, and five is Deuteronomy. You find God in them in an especial way. In the "one" you have God as the author of life, in "three," you are introduced into His presence, and in the "five" of which we have just been speaking, you have God with man.
In the two even numbers, two and four, you have evil and failure. Blessed be God you have something else too, salvation from sin, and succor in times of failure. Is it not remarkable that in these five numbers you should have linked together, in such a way that we cannot break them apart, five books that unfold five thoughts that are absolutely connected with the meaning of each of the numbers? I make no apology for this because if God has given us these things in His word, the sooner we learn them and familiarize ourselves with them, the sooner will we get the blessing out of them. Our Bible will become more and more dear, and will as it were interpret itself to us.
Now let us take Genesis for a moment and see some of the prominent thoughts which lie there. We have seen that it is the book of origin. Looking closer we find that it divides in a very remarkable way. We must look elsewhere for these divisions as a rule, but there is something very striking about this book of Genesis; it divides the whole volume.
Two chapters give us the history of unfallen man, and the rest of scripture — fallen man. That is what we have made our Bible; we have compelled God, as it were, in writing His book to divide it into two such unequal parts, that a single leaf tells of what man was when he came from God's hand, and the whole volume tells us of God's remedy, when the ruin and the sin had come in. Thus we find in that first part, man as he came from God, and in the second part, whether it be the whole Scripture, or more particularity the book of Genesis, salvation.
In the second part, the narrative clusters around seven men. This will enable us to remember the contents of Genesis: — Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph — these seven men divide the whole of the remainder of the book amongst them.
Adam comes first, of course. He is the first recipient of the promise. Secondly, Seth is the substitute; Abel was slain by Cain, and Seth is appointed in his place as his substitute; that is the number two. The brief history of Enoch belongs likewise to that period. Noah, the third prominent one, brings us through the flood, out on resurrection ground in the new earth; that is number three. The next prominent one is the pilgrim Abraham, the fourth, who went through this wilderness as a stranger. The fifth gives us God with man as it were. You have in Isaac the first great prominent personal type of Christ, God's man and then in Jacob you have God's discipline, the testing which God allows His people to pass through in order to restrain the evil in them, and to overcome their self-will. So we find in Jacob the history of self-will. And then in Joseph the last one, you have God's perfect man to whose image we are one day to be conformed. Now those seven men give us the entire book of Genesis. In them we have set before us the history of divine life in a seven-fold way.
Let us dwell upon this a little further, for it is very attractive. The promise is the first thing a sinner gets, the promise of salvation through the woman's seed. The next thing he needs is deliverance from the power of sin that is typified in Seth the substitute. The third thing he needs is to walk in the power of resurrection that is Noah the risen man. Then he must be a stranger and a pilgrim. Next, he is to learn that subjection which we find in the image of Christ, the Man down here, typified in Isaac. The sixth is the restraint upon our self-will which alas! we have given God so much occasion to restrain, — and the chastening: we have this in Jacob. And finally we are conformed to the image of Joseph, the one who is such a perfect type of Christ that you scarcely think of him but his great Antitype. His entire history, unlike that of Jacob is typical from beginning to end. That is very beautiful. In Jacob it is almost impossible to trace the type, in Joseph we see the type everywhere. In Jacob you find God's rod upon him all the way through. But it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, — and we find Jacob at the last blessing the sons of Joseph on his departure, and passing out from under all the experience through which he had been brought by his own self-will largely, entering at last into the rest of God.
We have no time to go in like manner into the other books. You will have to do that in your own private study, but you see how in this way each book has its precious lesson, and these lessons run through it in a perfect way. Each single book opens out like a lovely flower, perfectly consistent, perfectly harmonious all the way through. Let me now rapidly give you a key-thought to each of these other books. We have seen the life in the individual in Genesis. Let us take these thoughts for the first part of Exodus: When I see the blood I will pass over you." "Sing unto the Lord for He hath triumphed gloriously."
In these two verses, you have before you the thought of Exodus — shelter by the blood from the judgment of God, and deliverance by His power from the bondage of sin, a two-fold salvation. Almost the entire second half of the book is occupied with the description of the Tabernacle and its construction — God's dwelling place with His people — emphasizing the thought of communion — and. its ground in the Person and work of Christ our Lord.
The place of the law in Exodus is suggestive. The first tables never were brought into the camp, but broken at the foot of the mountain, as Israel had already broken their covenant. The second tables suggested the mediation of Moses, and in that way were not pure law. They stand, therefore, for God's claim of obedience from a people whom He had redeemed and spared, rather than the demands of a law which could not give life.
Take up Leviticus again. I was saying, you remember, that it was the book that unfolds to us in its perfection, the work and the character of Christ. But what is the key-thought to the whole book? the sixteenth chapter, the third section of a third book, is the holy of holies. You find there the great day of atonement, and the priest carrying the blood of the sacrifices in behind the veil, and sprinkling it upon the altar. The key-thought in Leviticus is "having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us." I wish we had time to dwell upon the first parts of this book. In the first seven chapters you have the sacrifices described in their varied perfection; and then, that our minds may be kept evenly balanced, you have the Priest in all His glory put before us in association with the other priests, types of ourselves; then the holiest. Take those three thoughts, the perfect work of Christ the ground of our relationship, the person of Christ our companion — if I may speak reverently in such a way; the holiest, the place of our communion with Him: the ground, the person, the place. In the same way we might go on to the eighteenth chapter towards the end, and find there holiness for the way, and the summary, and result of it all, completing the entire book.
As to Numbers, there is one key-thought that is very striking, you will find it in the fifteenth chapter, second verse. "Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them: 'when ye be come into the land of your habitation which I give unto you.'"
But you say what has that to do with Numbers? Is not Numbers the book of the wilderness? What has it to do with the land? Let us look at what precedes that verse, and at what follows it, and you will see the beauty and the grace of it. What precedes it is the murmuring of the children of Israel, and their refusal to go into this very land, — their absolute refusal. Following it in the fifteenth chapter, you have the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. On the one hand the deliberate refusal of the people to enter into their blessing, on the other their rebellion, and turning away from their leader. And what have you in between? "When ye be come into the land." I may fail, alas! I may turn back to Egypt in unbelief; alas! my poor heart may rebel against the grace that has given me such a leader and high-priest, but let unbelief and refusal be on either side, in between, in the very heart of the book is this precious assurance, "When ye be come into the land." We will get there! you have failed, you have refused, you may be an unbelieving child of God. Ah! you may get the rod — the father's chastening, — but just so surely as you are an Exodus child of God, just as surely as you are a Leviticus child of God, you will be a Deuteronomy child of God. You will be in the land some day. Do you say I have practically turned my back on it, I have gone into the world and been enjoying the things of this wretched earth. Very well, God hath sworn it — He will make you drink the bitter water, but just as surely as you are His child, "when you be come into the land," you will remember it all.
We are travelers, we are going through the wilderness. It is a long journey, but it is a journey that has an end, and just as surely as we have taken the first step in that way, so surely shall we reach the end. Meager as this account of Numbers is, I must pass on, with barely a mention of the first part, the first ten chapters, where everything is set in order according to God, before the journey begins, the unfailing priestly intercession in the midst of all, and the foretaste of conquest at the close.
There is much that is precious in Deuteronomy. As I said it reviews our whole history for us, goes over it all, but at the close. Two things give us the key, — Moses' song, and the blessing of the twelve tribes. They seem very different things. In Moses' song you have put before you, not the praises of the children of Israel, it does not sound very much like a song of triumph; that we had in the fifteenth chapter of Exodus; but in the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy you have glory and honor ascribed to God. In the first part of the book, He goes over the whole past history of His people, He hides none of their failure from view, and in that prophetic song, He views the whole future history of His people — nothing is hidden. He tells of their captivity of their disobedience and rebellion against Himself, but running like a golden cord through all that song is the truth that God will prevail. He will be glorified, in spite of the failure and sin of His people. That is the end of God's ways.
How good it is to think of heaven, nor merely as the place where I am going to enter into rest, nor even as the place where sin is done away, but to think of heaven as the place where God will take our poor clay miserable lives, and make them fairly shine with the glory of His goodness, His grace, His almighty power. That is the thought of this book of Deuteronomy. God glorified in the end in spite of, nay, and through the failure of His people in all their ways. And then the other thought is in connection with God's glory. Can you think, can you for a moment think of God being glorified, and His people not being blessed? Impossible. You cannot think of His glory without having your blessing. That is what the cross is. It most fully manifests the glory of God. You say it secures your salvation, so it does, but it is because God is glorified. God glorified about sin. God glorified in the obedience of His Son, — God glorified, and I defy Satan or any power to prevent our blessing in connection with that glory. And so you find in the thirty-third chapter the blessing of the tribes. In the thirty-second chapter he has been speaking of their failure, but of God's triumphing over their failure. And then when He is done describing all the glory of God, He can come down and give us blessing, such as our heart has not conceived, — blessing which reaches on through the millennium to the very end, to the remotest end of time to the uttermost bounds of the everlasting hills." Beloved brethren this is what we are journeying onward to. Think of it, ye travelers through the wilderness as you are passing on weary and weak. Think of it, that even out of your own wretched experiences our blessed God is going to get glory for Himself. He is going to give blessing, eternal blessing to us. Does that sound as if we can be careless? as if we could go on in indifference through this world, and say it will all turn out right in the end God will get the glory?
I am persuaded that any one who reasons in that way will get the chastening rod of God upon him. No dear friends, the more we are in accord with God's thoughts, the more we realize what His purposes are, the more holy we will be. And the more we apprehend what grace is, what grace will do for us in the end, the more we will rejoice even here to be more conformed to Christ's blessed image.
Of the repetition of laws, with new features., looking forward to their entry into the land, we must say little. All has significance all will richly reward patient, careful study.
May we, by God's grace, grow more and more familiar with the divine truth of the Pentateuch and not only so, but assimilate them, that our lives may be the living reproduction of them before the world.