Summary: How many times did God’s people cross water that had parted for them? And what does this simple trivia question tell us about God’s main message in Scripture?
OPEN: I love trivia.
I enjoy all kinds of trivia games.
AND being a preacher, I especially love Bible trivia.
In fact, I’ve even came up with my own Bible trivia question that I use sometimes to stump other preachers once in awhile. The Question:
“How many times in Scripture did people cross rivers or seas that had been parted so they could cross on dry ground?”
The answer: FOUR.
First when Moses led the people out of their slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.
2nd - when Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and crossed the Jordan on dry ground.
And then (in our text today) when Elijah crossed the Jordan to meet with the Fiery Chariot and when Elisha crossed it again to reenter Israel.
That’s a GREAT trivia question. And as far as I’ve ever been concerned, it had no lasting theological value.
But then… maybe it does.
Romans 15:4 tells us (referring to the Old Testament Scriptures):
“… EVERYTHING that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
So – how much of the Old Testament was written to encourage us and give us hope?
ALL of it.
Including the stories of people crossing these bodies of water.
Now, I’ll get back to that in just a little bit… but first, let me lay a little foundation.
In Romans 15, Paul was telling us that (as New Testament Christians) the Old Testament can teach us…
… about God
… about endurance
… about encouragement
… and about hope.
But as valuable as the Old Testament is to us Christians, that doesn’t mean that we are to live our lives as Old Testament people. As Galatians 5:18 tells us:
“… if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
The Old Testament was a covenant/ contract that God established with Israel. And that contract was based upon the Law. The that Law had one major drawback – it couldn’t make anyone righteous.
As Hebrews 7:19 says: “…the law made nothing perfect… “
In other words, if you and I tried to live our lives according to those commandments, we could never be good enough to be good enough to get into Heaven.
The Law’s purpose was to expose our sinfulness, and to reveal our need for Jesus.
As Galatians 3:24 puts it: “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”
Thus, the Law was given through Moses (that’s why it’s often called the “Law of Moses”) and that Law could never lead us into heaven. God drove home this fact with a very painful story in the Old Testament
ILLUS: The story is related in Deuteronomy 32:48-52
“On that same day the LORD told Moses ‘Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.
This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.’”
This passage was saying that the reason Moses didn’t get to go into the Promised Land was BECAUSE he’d sinned against God.
Now, most theologians believe to the incident God was referring to here, was where Moses had been commanded to SPEAK to a rock so that water would come out. BUT Moses had grown weary of a people that were always complaining and bickering and backbiting. And he’d especially grown tired of their questioning his God-given leadership of the nation. So, in this particular incident, instead of just speaking to the rock, he STRUCK the rock in anger and implied about HE was bringing forth the water for Israel (not God)
Now, if that was true – by most standards that was a VERY small indiscretion. This seems to be ONLY complaint God ever had against Moses. Moses lived 120 years and this one incident keeps him out of the Promised Land! Others had done worse and they got into the promised Land..
That’s not FAIR.
But this wasn’t really about fairness.
This was about God using Moses as an object lesson
Moses was one of the greatest servants of God in the Old Testament.