These are notes on the sermon, God Is Good Even When Times Are Bad, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 19 July 2020, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
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The Bible says clearly that every good and perfect gift is from the Lord (see James 1:17), and this COVID-19 virus is not from Him. While it is not from God, He will work all things out for the good of His people.
Pastor Prince emphasizes that in the midst of all that is happening, it is important to hear what is on the Lord’s heart. He shares how the Lord told him, “I want My church to be a church that will reach out beyond its walls. I want everyone to bring this glorious gospel of grace and peace to all the four corners of the earth.”
This is a word that is not just for our church but for churches all around the world. God’s heart is for people to hear the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. The pandemic has forced many churches to go online and to broadcast the gospel online and because of this, many more people have access to the gospel now and are able to hear the good news every Sunday.
We are living in the last days before Jesus returns. The global famines we are seeing (food famines, financial famines) and pestilences (diseases, viruses) are signs that the end is near and Jesus is coming back for us. He will return and establish the millennial rule. This will be the reign of prosperity and peace.
"and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come."
— 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ESV
“wait for his Son from heaven” — Our posture is not to look to the grave but to look to the sky!
Before Jesus returns, God wants the gospel to reach as many people as possible and in this year of time and space, we are seeing so many more being reached and impacted by the gospel. It is important that we rally behind the preaching of the gospel of Christ with our prayers and support.
Pastor Prince shares a testimony of a brother in our church who experienced a financial breakthrough in his business during this time and was even able to be a blessing to others.
Get involved in what God is doing. When you do so, you will be blessed in every area of your life.
"Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there."
— 1 Kings 17:3–4 NKJV
We see in the story of Elijah how God provided for him during a famine. God told him to go to Brook Cherith, where His supply would be.
“I have commanded the ravens to feed you there” — When you are “there,” the place where God leads you to, God’s provision flows like a river in your life.
“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”
— 1 Kings 17:9 NKJV
Later on, God spoke to Elijah and told him to go to Zarephath where He would provide for him again. God’s provision may not look the same all the time. Be open to flow with what God is doing and where He is leading us to.
When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided for them and kept them safe but that was still not the best God had for them. God had the promised land for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, which speaks of abundance and of having more than enough. That was God’s heart for them.
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”
— Hebrews 4:1 KJV
“entering into his rest” — Today, our promised land is a land of rest. It is the place of abundance and provision, where all our needs are supplied by God and more.
We look forward to the day when we can gather physically together again but in the meantime, let us lean into what God is doing and be present in what He is doing right now.
God wants to provide for you but sometimes He does that through the leading of the Holy Spirit. This applies to even teaching and raising your children. For instance, the Holy Spirit is able to lead and to guide you in how to teach and to correct them.
Today, we are looking at the story of the children of Israel in their 40th year in the wilderness:
And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: "If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink."
— Numbers 20:3–5 NKJV
“And the people contended with Moses” — After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the children of Israel murmured and complained. God didn’t bring the children of Israel out of Egypt just to wander and dwell in the wilderness. He brought them out to bring them into the promised land.
Likewise, God’s plan is not for us to remain in the wilderness season we are in now. The period of being in the wilderness is an interim period.
Throughout the 40 years, the children of Israel had the tangible presence of God with them day and night. They experienced the supernatural provision of God throughout the 40 years. Yet at the end of these 40 years, they forgot how the Lord had been with them and they complained to Moses.
But the truth was this:
"For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing."'
— Deuteronomy 2:7 NKJV
“you have lacked nothing” — The children of Israel lacked nothing in their 40 years of wandering. The Lord provided food and protection for them. He sheltered them from the heat of the desert by traveling with them as a pillar of cloud. Their feet never swelled and their clothes never grew old. God took care of them.
Just like the Israelites, when we go through a difficult time, we sometimes forget what the Lord has done for us in the past. Instead of looking at what He has done for us, we focus on what the Lord could have done for us.
“Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;”
— Deuteronomy 8:16 KJV
These times we are in can be seen as times of testing. God’s testing is different from the devil’s tempting (which is meant to produce evil in our lives). God’s testing always proves good in the end. Nothing happens to the child of God by accident. We are in the palm of His hand.
This is the now word for us. God wants us to know that we are exactly where the children of Israel were in their 40th year just before they entered the promised land. What the children of Israel experienced in that 40th year are lessons for us for this present time.
Context: After the 40 years, at the edge of the promised land, the children of Israel complained to Moses because the situation around them still looked bleak (Num. 20:3–5).
“So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them.”
— Numbers 20:6 NKJV
Moses and Aaron sought the Lord’s mind about what was happening. This is what good leadership does.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals."
— Numbers 20:7–8 NKJV
“Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water” — Instead of God rebuking the people for complaining, He gave Moses a specific instruction to provide for the people.
The God we see here is the same God we have today. Even back then in the Old Testament, God’s heart was to bless the people.
However in the Old Testament, even though God was full of love and compassion, with all goodness and blessing to dispense, God could not fully express His love and goodness because of man’s sins. But by dying for our sins at the cross, Jesus fully met the claims of a righteous God and removed the barrier of sin that once separated us. So today, God can justly and fully express His love, His grace, and His goodness toward His people.
We don’t understand grace because we don’t understand God.
God wanted to teach the children of Israel about the grace of the priesthood. God didn’t condemn them for their complaining but instead, wanted to demonstrate His grace and goodness toward them.
Priesthood and grace are synonymous. In the Old Testament, a prophet may represent the law but a priest always represents grace.
18 years before this, the children of Israel experienced a plague and the plague was stopped when Aaron, the high priest, made atonement for the people and presented the incense to the people.
“Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.”
— Numbers 16:47–48 NKJV
The high priest is a picture of God’s grace. God did not deal with the people based on what they deserved but He dealt with them based on their high priest. The incense is a picture of the finished work of Jesus Christ, ever pleasing to the Father. When God is reminded of Jesus, the plague stops.
Similarly, we are in a plague right now. There are no logical answers, no answers at all in the natural, but we have an answer in the incense—the finished work of Jesus Christ. Jesus bore every plague in His own body. The children of Israel survived the plague that day because of the incense that the high priest brought.
Back to the story after Israel’s 40 years of wandering:
“Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
— Numbers 20:8 NKJV
“Take the rod” — Here, God is referring to Aaron’s rod, not Moses’ rod. It is important to see the difference.
Moses’ rod is a picture of judgment. And his rod was used to bring water out of a rock before too, many years ago:
“And the Lord said to Moses, "Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.”
— Exodus 17:5–6 NKJV
“take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river . . . and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it” — Moses’ rod is the rod of judgment. Earlier on, this rod was used to pronounce judgment on Egypt by striking the river and turning its waters to blood. Here, God tells Moses to use his rod to strike the rock so that water would flow out of it.
The rock is a picture of Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). God told Moses to hit the rock, which was a picture of Jesus being struck by God’s judgment at the cross.
It is because Jesus was struck that rivers of life flow to us now.
Sin is no longer a barrier to all the goodness of God. The salvation of God can come unhindered to us because Jesus was struck at the cross, and He took all the judgment once and for all.
What has been completely paid for need no longer be paid for again. Jesus does not need to come down to earth and die for our sins again because He has paid for them fully. Once was more than enough.
Fast forward to the end of the 40-year journey. This is the second time that God asked for a rod to be brought before a rock. This time, He asked for Aaron’s rod, not Moses’ rod.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals. So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. "
— Numbers 20:7–9 NKJV
“Moses took the rod from before the Lord” — The rod that is before the Lord refers to the rod of Aaron that is kept in the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle of God.
Aaron’s rod budded and blossomed. It brought forth almonds. The almond is the first fruit to show itself after winter, and it is a picture of Jesus' resurrection.
Aaron’s rod is the rod of grace.
Aaron’s rod represents the priesthood of God, which is a picture of the grace of God.
At this point in time, it is Aaron’s rod of grace, not Moses’ rod of law that God asked for.
Remember, the Israelites are just about to enter the promised land.
Only the death and resurrection of Jesus can bring us out of the wilderness and into the promised land. The law (represented by Moses’ rod), could not bring the Israelites into the promised land. The law cannot, only grace can.
The law has no answer to this pandemic but God’s grace does. God’s healing, protection, and blessings are all found in the person of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals. So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him."
— Numbers 20:7–9 NKJV
“Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water” — God told Moses this time to speak to the rock, not to strike it like he did the first time.
The 2 times the word “rock” are mentioned:
“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock (‘tsur’ — boulder), and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.”
— Exodus 17:6 NKJV
“rock” — In this instance, it is the Hebrew word “tsur,” which means “boulder.”
“... Speak to the rock (‘sela’ — cliff) before their eyes, and it will yield its water…”
— Numbers 20:8 NKJV
“rock” — Here, the word “rock” is the Hebrew word “sela,” which means “cliff.” It’s no longer a boulder because Jesus has been raised from the dead and now He is far above all principalities and evil.
Today, we don’t have to ask Jesus to come down to die for our sins again. All we need to do is to simply speak to Him:
“Lord, you are my Redemption.”
“Lord, you are my Provider.”
“Lord, you are my Healer.”
Whatever you need today, you only have to speak to Him.
“And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.”
— Numbers 20:10–11 NKJV
When God told Moses to speak to the rock, it was because He wanted to demonstrate what Jesus is like. How easy it is to speak to Him and have Him answer.
But instead of speaking to the rock while holding Aaron's rod of grace, Moses struck the rock with his own rod of judgment. God did not intend to give the children of Israel what they deserved. Despite their murmuring and complaining, God’s heart was to provide for them, not to punish them. Instead, Moses presented God as an angry God who wanted to chastise them for their murmuring. The children of Israel couldn’t see God physically but they could see His representative, Moses.
Here, Pastor Prince cautions leaders and pastors tuning in to be mindful of the way the heart of God is represented to the people. Are we showing the people a God who is angry or are we showing them a God who is full of grace and goodness? Grace is not grace if it is dealt according to what people deserve.
“thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock” — In fact, God wanted to honor Moses before the children of Israel by allowing him to be seen as the one that provided the water for them.
And yet Moses missed the point God wanted to show and he misrepresented God.
God wanted His people to see the beauty and grace of their high priest right before they entered the promised land. Today, He wants us the same for us. Before the rapture happens, God wants us to see the beauty and grace of our Lord Jesus, who intercedes for us.
It is not about how poor we are, but about how rich He is.
It is not about how weak we are, but about how strong He is.
It is not about how fluctuating or wavering we are, but about how perfect He is.
God wanted the children of Israel to look away from themselves and look to the goodness of the high priest. It is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance.
But instead of speaking to the rock with Aaron’s rod, Moses used his own rod to strike the rock twice. It was a major sin on Moses’ part in misrepresenting God’s heart like that, yet in spite of that, “water came out abundantly” because God is still gracious.
Pastor Prince refers to Targum Jonathan, a translation of Jewish writing that is written by Jonathan, son of Uzziel, about a few hundred years after Jesus died. His writings are believed to hold oral traditions from prophets Malachi, Zechariah, and Haggai. In his writing, he wrote that when Moses first struck the rock, blood came out of the rock and the second time, water came out. This points to what happened at the cross when blood and water came out of Jesus’ side after He was pierced.
“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”
— John 19:34–35 NKJV
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
— Hebrews 4:14–16 NKJV
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest” — Do you see that you have a great High Priest in Jesus?
“throne of grace” — Whatever need you have right now, come boldly to the throne of grace because you have a great High Priest. Jesus, your High Priest, is there at the right hand of the Father for you, to present you holy, righteous, blameless before God.
“And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
— Numbers 20:12 ESV
“to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel” — Only the grace of a high priest can bring the children of Israel through the wilderness and into the promised land. To show grace to the people is to uphold God as holy. Many think that it is in giving the law that God is shown as holy but that cannot be further from the truth. It is in the demonstration of grace that God’s holiness is upheld.
“And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:
"Praise the Lord,
For His mercy (‘hesed’ – grace) endures forever."
— 2 Chronicles 20:21 NKJV
“praise the beauty of holiness” — When you talk about His grace, you are demonstrating the beauty of His holiness, and you are praising the beauty of God’s holiness.
Child of God, you have a great High Priest and because you have a High Priest, good things are coming your way. The trouble may be there but it is temporal. Good days are coming!
Say this out loud, “I have a High Priest, my Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Expect rivers of refreshing to come your way, expect God to do a turnaround in the trouble you are in, expect health to spring forth speedily. Your best days are yet ahead of you. Why? Because you have a High Priest who intercedes for you. Simply speak to Him!
“The Lord bless you and keep you throughout this coming week. The Lord keep you and your loved ones from the COVID-19 virus. The Lord, your High Priest, keep you safe in His embrace from all evil and from the power of the evil one. The Lord make his face shine on you and be favorable and gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you and on your family, and grant to every one of you His shalom wholeness, wellbeing and peace. In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. And all the people said, Amen.”
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2020
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.
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