By John G. Lake
Moses had had his interview with the Lord at the burning bush, and God had definitely commanded him to go to Pharaoh in Egypt and demand the deliverance of the children of Israel. God gave him the signet of His Presence with him, his shepherd rod. All the miracles that followed that demand had taken place, and the children of Israel were finally given permission by the King to leave.
They started toward the Red Sea, when the King’s heart drew back, and I presume he felt he had done an unwise thing. He was losing the services of two and a half, and probably four, million slaves. In his effort to recall what he had done, he started after them with an army. In the meantime Moses had gotten down to the Red Sea. On the right and on the left were impassable mountains, and Pharaoh and his armies behind him.
The situation from a natural point of view was desperate, and if there was ever a time when a man was seemingly justified in calling on God in prayer, it was then. But I want to show you tonight one of the things I regard as hindrance in our life for God. Most of us do just exactly what Moses did. When the test comes we stop and cry, and as a second thing we stop and pray and put ourselves in a position where we become amenable to exactly the same rebuke that came upon Moses.
Moses started to pray. It is not recorded how long he prayed, or what he said, but instead of God being pleased, He was grieved, and said to Moses, “WHY STANDEST THOU HERE, AND CRIEST UNTO ME? SPEAK TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL THAT THEY GO FORWARD.” I will turn to the Scripture and read the exact words:
“The Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:15,16).
God did not even say, you stretch out your hand, and I will divide the sea. But God said to hoses: “Stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it.” It was not an act for God to perform, but it was an act for Moses to believe for. The responsibility was not with God, it was with Moses. A weak Christianity is ever inclined to whine in prayer, while God waits for the believer to command it.
In my judgment, that is the place of extreme weakness in Christian character. feel that very frequently prayer is made a refuge to dodge the action of faith. And just exactly as Moses came down there and began to pray instead of honouring God’s word to him by the use of his rod, so many times our prayer becomes offensive to God, because instead of praying as Moses did, God demands us to stretch forth our hand, exercise our rod of faith, and divide the waters.
In many respects it seems to me this is the most powerful lesson that the Word of God contains on the subject of prayer and faith. Just stop for a moment and think of God throwing the responsibility of making a passage through the sea on Moses. God would not take it. It was for Moses to believe God and act. God commands, “Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand”, not my hand. He was to lift the rod that God had given to him, the signet of God’s presence with him, and to be used by the hand of Moses.
In the consideration of the whole subject of an Apostolic Church, do you not see the principle in it, the principle of acceptance of responsibility from God?
I want to call your attention now to the New Testament on that line. In the ninth chapter of Luke we have Jesus commanding the twelve disciples:
“Then He called unto Him His twelve disciples, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases, and He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
Moses stood before God, and God gave him the commission to go down to Egypt. Then as an evidence of His presence, He said: “What is it you ‘have in your hands?” Moses answered: “A rod.” He said: “Throw it down”, and as Moses obeyed it became
a serpent. Then He said: “Take it up,” and it was changed to a rod again. This is one of the instances of taking up serpents. God said: “Keep it. It is the signet of my presence with you,” and it was so with Moses.
But you see Moses had forgotten, as he stood by the Red Sea, that God had given him a sign of His Presence with him. Circumstances overpowered him and he commenced to pray, and that prayer was an offense to God.
Just as God had done with Moses, so Jesus called the twelve to Him, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases, and that was their rod. He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. Suppose they came to the sick, and they commenced to pray and say: “Jesus, you heal this man.” They would be in just exactly the same position Moses was when he got down to the Red Sea and prayed, “Lord God, you divide these waters.” The two cases are absolutely parallel. God demands the action of the believer’s faith in God. YOU stretch out YOUR hand and divide the waters.
God has likewise given to every man the measure (rod) of faith, and it is for man, as the servant of God, to use the rod that God has given him. In these days there is an attitude of mind that I do not know hardly how to define. It is a mock humility. Rather, it is a false humility. It is a humility that is always hiding behind the Lord, and is excusing its own lack of faith by throwing the responsibility over on the Lord. The Word of God, in speaking of this same matter concerning the disciples, says: “They departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.”
Over and over again throughout the New Testament, the Word of God says, “They healed them:” “The disciples healed them,” and so forth. You see they had received something from God. They were as conscious of it as Moses was conscious he had received a rod from the Lord. It was theirs to use. It was theirs to use for all purposes. Peter used the conscious rod of God to heal the man at the beautiful gate. He did not pray. He did not ask God to heal the man, but he commanded him: “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And the man obeyed. That was not intercession. It was a command. It was the faith in Peter’s soul that brought the result.
Peter used the rod. The rod in this case was the rod of faith. In whose hands was it? In the hands of Peter and John together, and they used that rod of faith. The word was spoken through Peter, The command was given through him. Unquestionably John’s soul was in it just as much as Peter’s was. By faith in His Name, by the faith of the disciples, the power of God was made active, and the lame man was healed.
Beloved, the lesson in my soul is this. There is a place of victory, and a place of defeat, but there is a hair-breadth line there. It is the place of faith in action. To believe the thing God says, and to do the thing that He commands, accepting as the servant of God the responsibility God lays upon you. Not interceding as Moses did, but as in Peter’s case, through the faith that was in his soul, he commanded the power of God on the man. Suppose Peter had prayed, “Oh, Lord, you come and heal this man.” It would have been his own acknowledgment of lack of faith to do what Jesus told the disciple to do - heal the sick.
In the story of Saul, in I Samuel 10, among other things the prophet Samuel. says to him:
“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do AS OCCASION SERVE THEE; for God is with thee.” (1 Sam 10:6-7)
The lesson I know God wants us to see tonight is this, that He endues a man or woman with the authority of God to accomplish the will of God. The power of God is bestowed upon the man. It is not the man that accomplishes the matter. It is the stretching forth of the hand; the dividing of the waters must be in response to the faith of the man. The man is the instrument. “Thou shalt do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee.” That is, you simply go on about your business, and the power of God is present with you to accomplish the desire of your heart.
Returning to the case of Peter, Peter used the faith of God that was in his soul to restore a man who was born lame, and he was instantly restored.
In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, we see Peter using the same power, by the spoken word, not to restore a man’s limbs, but to bring judgment on a liar. When Ananias lied, the Spirit of God fell on him and he died as an example of sin. His wife likewise died. “Behold the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.”
Man is a servant of God. Man is an instrument through which God works. The danger line is always around this, that weak men have taken to themselves the glory that belonged to God, and they have said, “We did it.” They did not do it. God did it, but the man believed God that it would be done.
How closely we are made co-workers with the Lord, “co-labourers together with Him.” It is God’s divine purpose to accomplish His will in the world through men. God placed a profound respect upon the Body, “the church, which is His body.” I want to show you that.
In the tenth chapter of Acts we have that remarkable response to the prayers of Cornelius when an angel came to him and said: “Cornelius, thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and call, for one Simon, whose surname is Peter. He shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”
The angel came from heaven. He was a direct messenger of God. Yet the angel did not tell Cornelius the way of salvation. Why did the angel instruct Cornelius to send for Peter? Because Peter was a part of the Body of Christ, and God ordained that the power of God, with the ministry of Christ, shall be manifest through the Body. Not through angels, but through the Body, “The Church which is His Body.
It is, therefore, the duty of the Body to use the Spirit of God to accomplish the divine will of God, the purpose of God. With what strength then, with what a consciousness of the dignity of service, Christians ought to go forth! With what a conscious realisation that God has bestowed upon you the authority, and not only the authority but the enduement of the Spirit to cause you to believe God and exercise the faith for the will of God to be accomplished. Is it any wonder that David said; “What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels (Elohim), and hast, crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hand; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Man and God working together, co-labourers, co-workers. Blessed be God.