Had Ye Believed Moses
By Arlen L. Chitwood
What Thing is This?
Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.
And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,
saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God!”
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.
Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
And immediately His fame spread throughout the entire region around Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28).
During Christ’s earthly ministry He spent quite a bit of time ministering in three cities which were in close proximity to one another, near the northern end of the Sea of Galilee — Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Christ performed many miraculous signs in these three cities; and, because of the continued unbelief of those witnessing the signs, resulting in their continued unrepentant state, the inhabitants of these cities were singled out by Christ for a greater condemnation in the day of judgment than were the inhabitants of certain other cities.
Those in these three cities, having witnessed more signs than had been manifested among the people in various other cities, would, in that future day, be held more accountable (Matthew 11:20-24). More light had been given, and more responsibility would be expected (Luke 12:47, 48).
The account in Mark 1:21-27 of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath day occurred in Capernaum. Though Christ grew up in Nazareth, not too far from Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee, He, during the course of His ministry, associated Himself more with Capernaum than with Nazareth or any of the other surrounding cities.
He, for example, can be seen performing miraculous signs in Capernaum, ministering elsewhere, and then returning to Capernaum (cf. Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:23, 31; John 2:12; 4:46-54; 6:17, 24, 59). And Christ’s association with this city would be very much in keeping with His condemnation of Capernaum above that of even Chorazin and Bethsaida in Matthew 11:21-23.
Christ pronounced a “woe” upon the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida for their unbelief, stating that if the mighty works which had been done in both of these cities had been done in Tyre and Sidon, “they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (v. 21).
But, for the inhabitants of Capernaum, Christ took the matter a step further. And He gave the reason why:
And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades [the place of the dead]; for if the mighty works that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. (v. 23).
In keeping with Christ’s statement concerning the prevalence of signs in Capernaum, the number of signs recorded in the gospel accounts that occurred in this city could be counted and compared with the number of signs performed in other cites and locations. But such would be of little value, for only a select number of Christ’s miraculous works have been recorded by the four gospel writers (cf. John 20:30, 31; 21:24, 25).
We have no way to ascertain how many miraculous signs were performed in Capernaum or in any other city or place. We can only see from the record that more signs were apparently performed in Capernaum than in Chorazin, Bethsaida, or in any other city or place; and these signs were of a sufficient number and nature that if they had been performed in Sodom, 2,000 years before that time, Christ indicated that the people of Sodom — unlike the people in Capernaum — would have heeded the message, resulting in the city being spared.
A Sign, on the Sabbath
The sign that Jesus performed in the synagogue in Capernaum, recorded in Mark 1:23-26, occurred on the Sabbath day (v. 21). Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, pointing to that which the entire nation could experience and one day would experience, which would also occur on the Sabbath, on the seventh millennium.
Because of disobedience, the entire nation was spiritually sick, most of the Jewish people were dispersed among the Gentiles, and the land of Israel itself was not only barren but was under Gentile control as well (cf. Leviticus 26:32ff; Deuteronomy 28:38ff; Isaiah 1:4-7). And this sickness, along with the condition of the land and the Times of the Gentiles, would continue until the Jewish people turned to the God of their fathers and repented (Leviticus 26:40-42).
1) God’s Promise
According to biblical prophecy, the Jewish people would turn to the God of their fathers and repent near the end of Man’s Day. This would occur following the appearance of the Gentile world ruler of the end time — the Antichrist, the Assyrian (arising from within the boundaries of the old Kingdom of Assyria [Daniel 8:9; cf. Isaiah 10:5; 14:25]). This man would arise and bring an already desolated house (both the people and the land) into an even worse state of desolation, one of such a nature that no parallel exists in history.
This is seen in type during Moses’ day, immediately prior to God sending Moses back to his people a second time. The people of Israel were in bondage to an Assyrian ruler (Isaiah 52:4) in Egypt (a type of the world in Scripture); and the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was inhabited and controlled by the Gentiles. And conditions became so bad for the Jewish people under bondage to this Assyrian ruler in Egypt that all hope appeared lost. It was only then that they turned to and cried out to the God of their fathers for deliverance.
And once the Jewish people had done this, God heard their cry and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God then “acknowledged them” and sent Moses back to deliver them from their bondage and to lead them into the land within the covenant that He had remembered (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-12, 16, 17; 4:19, 20).
All of this points to that future day when the Israelites will find themselves under bondage to a future Assyrian ruler — Antichrist — and will find themselves in the same dire straits that their ancestors found themselves 3,500 years ago during Moses’ day (Micah 5:5, 6). And, in the nation’s darkest hour, when it appears that all hope is lost, they will do exactly the same thing that their ancestors did. They will turn to and cry out to the God of their fathers, and exactly the same thing will occur as occurred during Moses’ day.
God will hear their cry and remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will then “acknowledged them” and send Jesus back to deliver them from their bondage and to lead them into the land within the covenant that He will have remembered.
(The former is the type, and the latter is the antitype; and the antitype must follow the type in exact detail. The pattern has been set in the type, and this pattern cannot change in the antitype.
And the promise of restoration seen in the type is just as sure as the promise of restoration seen in Leviticus 26:40-42, or any other place in the Old Testament. Both form a part of the unchangeable Word of God, both deal with the same restoration, and both necessitate the same promised fulfillment.)
Thus, the Israelites possess a God-given promise that no other nation or group of individuals on earth possesses. This promise involves a desolated house, which includes both a people and a land. And the fulfillment of this promise is conditioned on one thing. It is conditioned upon the repentance of the Jewish people.
2) Solomon’s Prayer, God’s Response
The whole of the matter, in completely keeping with the type in Exodus, is possibly seen best in Solomon’s prayer and in God’s response to this prayer at the time of the dedication of the temple.
Solomon completed work on the temple in the eleventh year of his reign as king over Israel. And, in the process of dedicating the temple, two things were uppermost in Solomon’s thoughts: 1) God’s regal promises to his father, David, and 2) the welfare of his people, the Jewish people, within the theocracy (1 Kings 6:38; 2 Chronicles 3:2, 6:14-42).
In a lengthy dedicatory prayer, Solomon began and ended his petition with regal requests concerning promises that God had made to David (2 Chronicles 6:14-20, 41, 42). This part of his prayer had to do with God’s promises surrounding the throne of David and the theocracy. And, between these two points (vv. 21-40); Solomon’s prayer had to do with the welfare of the Jewish people within the theocracy.
Actually, Solomon’s prayer in its entirety, including God’s regal promises, had to do with the welfare of the Jewish people. The prayer began and ended with references to regal promises made to David, but this part of the prayer involved proper leadership on the people’s behalf, emanating from David’s throne. Then, in connection with leadership of this nature, Solomon petitioned the Lord on Israel’s behalf that no matter what condition the nation found itself in days ahead that God would remember His covenant and deliver His people.
Thus, Solomon’s prayer involved regality and restoration; and both were intimately linked with one another and had to do with Solomon’s people, the Jewish people. Then, viewing matters from the framework of the type in Exodus, his prayer was Messianic in nature. And God answered this prayer after the same fashion in which the petition had been made, in complete accordance with previous revelation given through Moses:
Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.
When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,
if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:12-14).
The “people” in the promise were the Jewish people. They were the ones who would go astray and be in need of humbling themselves, praying, seeking the Lord’s face, and turning from their wicked ways. And the “land” was the land of Israel, the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Should Israel go astray (which they did), only when the nation returned unto the Lord — in accordance with Solomon’s prayer and the Lord’s response (both being in complete keeping with revelation previously given through Moses) — would the Lord hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is not a promise to any Gentile nation; nor is it a promise to the Church. This verse is a promise to the same nation for which Solomon petitioned the Lord and of which the Lord spoke in the two preceding verses, verses twelve and thirteen.
Certain applications could be made relative to the Church, for Christendom is in a similar condition to that of Israel. But the only “land” associated with the Church’s calling is a heavenly land presently occupied by Satan and his angels. If any application of this verse is to be made to Christians, it would have to involve three things: 1) regality, 2) healing for Christendom, and 3) healing for the heavenly land to which Christians have been called.
And, in reality, an application could be made relative to the land to which Christians have been called. That heavenly land is presently unclean (Job 15:15), it is inhabited by fallen angels (Daniel 10:13, 20; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12; Revelation 12:4, 7-9), and it is in need of healing.
But to take this verse and make the application which is often made — to revival within Christendom, and to the land in which Christians presently dwell (with no thought given to Israel, regality, and the Messianic kingdom) — is completely removed from any sound teaching set forth in the text, along with its context. It is completely out of keeping with the identity of the individuals addressed and that with which the verse deals.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is addressed to the Jewish people, with regal and Messianic implications, following a healing of both the people and the land. And if any application is made to Christians, exactly the same implications must apply.
An application of this nature must look ahead to that time when spiritual healing will occur within Christendom, when Satan and his angels will be cast out of the heavens (with the heavens being cleansed and the land being healed), and when Christ will be seated on David’s throne in the earthly Jerusalem and on His Own throne in the heavenly Jerusalem.
3) Belief of Demons
The healing in Capernaum, occurring on the Sabbath day, was an event wherein both belief and unbelief were exhibited. The demon that was present exhibited belief, but this was not so with the people who were present. This demon, which had come from the unclean world above, knew exactly what was happening and wanted no part of it.
He, as the scribes and Pharisees, knew Christ’s identity; but he knew something that the scribes and Pharisees didn’t know. He knew what the sign portended, which Christ was in the process of performing. And he reacted accordingly.
This demon cried out,
Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of God! (Mark 1:24).
This demon knew and understood things that the people in Capernaum had no knowledge of at all. He knew what Christ casting him out of a Jewish man on the Sabbath portended. And, because he knew what was involved, he, with all his power, resisted that which was being done.
The demon cried out to be left alone, but Jesus commanded him to be silent and to come out of the man (vv. 23b-25). The demon then had no choice but to obey, though in the process of resisting he caused the man to convulse, apparently through wrenching about in the man’s body. And it was only with a great cry that he then came out of the man (v. 26).
This demon — as the demons referred to in James 2:19, who “believe, and tremble” (which would include the demon in Mark 1:23-26 and all the other demons within Satan’s kingdom, including Satan himself) — knew exactly what was involved in this sign. This sign, pointing to the entire nation being healed and restored to her rightful place among the nations, spelled defeat for the entire demonic world. And, this demon, because he knew this, wanted no part of that which was happening.
This was something that Satan and all his angels knew and understood, for these were things set forth in the Old Testament Scriptures. And they not only knew these Scriptures, but it is quite evident — from comparing Scripture with Scripture — that they believed these Scriptures, accounting for their trembling in James 2:19, because of their belief in God.
Note the account of numerous demons indwelling two Jewish men in Gadara at a later time in Christ’s ministry. These demons recognized Christ. They, as the demon indwelling the man in Capernaum, not only acknowledged Christ but they clearly acknowledged their belief in that which Moses and the prophets had written — something alluded to by the actions of the demon in Capernaum:
When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way.
And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28, 29; cf. Mark 5:1ff; Luke 8:26ff).
Demons believe, and, as a result, they tremble. They know and understand that which awaits them. And the account of the demon being cast out of the man in Capernaum not only pictures Israel’s healing in that coming day, but it also pictures the actions and lament of the whole demonic world in that day as well.
4) Unbelief of the People
For the people in Israel, the matter was quite different from that exhibited by the demon that had been cast out, or by any other demon. The people of Israel, seeing the sign, neither believed nor trembled (though rejoicing at that portended by the sign should have been their lot). The nation’s religious leaders, through having misled the people, were not only responsible for the people reacting after this fashion but they had also set the downward course in which the nation would blindly continue.
Thus, there’s the picture in Israel at Christ’s first coming:
The Jewish religious leaders knew Christ’s identity (ref. chapter 2 of this book), though they had little knowledge of their own Scriptures and wanted only to do away with Christ and the message that He proclaimed.
The demons also knew Christ’s identity, but they, unlike Israel’s religious leaders, knew and understood the things revealed about Christ in the Scriptures. And knowing these things, they wanted Christ to leave them alone, for they knew that which lay ahead, things which the signs portended.
The general populace in Israel though was another matter. They had been misled by their religious leaders, they knew less than their religious leaders, and they understood very little about that which was happening.
This is why the people asked the questions, “What is this?” “What new doctrine [‘teaching’] is this?” (Mark 1:27). They had little to no understanding of that revealed in Moses and the Prophets. Thus, they had no way to understand the significance of the signs being manifested and could only ask questions of this nature — questions dealt with in their own Scriptures, revealing their lack of knowledge surrounding these Scriptures.
Actually, the Israelites asked a question that had already been asked and answered in their Scriptures. The Israelites under Moses, 1,500 years earlier, asked the first of these two questions in the wilderness of Sin. And, as was the case with the Israelites asking the same question at Capernaum, the answer had already been given (God’s prior Word to His people in both instances).
After the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea and were in Arabia, their food supply soon became a major issue among them. God, through a supernatural act, first gave the people quail to eat. Then, through another supernatural act, He provided bread. And this bread became a daily provision throughout the wilderness journey (except on the Sabbath [Exodus 16:8-15, 35]).
The Israelites, viewing this bread — provided in the form of “a small round substance” lying on the ground — didn’t know what it was and asked, “What is this?” Or the expression in the Hebrew text could just as well be translated the same as that seen in the Greek text of Mark 1:27, “What is this?” (Exodus 16:15).
The literal meaning of the word “manna,” a transliterated word from the Hebrew text, is “who?,” or “what?” And in the Hebrew text a pronoun, meaning “this,” or “that,” follows the word. Thus, the manner in which the Israelites used the two words together form a question — “What is this?,” or “What is that?,” or “What is this thing?”
Thus, the statement, “It is manna,” in Exodus 16:15 should read, “What is this [or ‘this thing’]?” And translating the expression after this fashion in the English text would be in much better keeping with the words that follow, words that explain the reason for their question — “for they did not know what it was.”
Then in Exodus 16:35 the word “manna” appears again, but here the word is used without the pronoun following and is not part of a question, as in the previous usage of the word. Moses, led by the Spirit of God, used the same word that the Israelites under his leadership had previously used to describe the bread from heaven. And, in essence, Moses stated, “And the children of Israel did eat ‘what’ forty years…”
And it was that word “manna [‘what’]” that resurfaced 1,500 years later in both questions that the Israelites in Capernaum asked following a demon being cast out of a man on the Sabbath.
These Israelites, as the Israelites under Moses, had also seen a manifestation of bread from heaven, provided through supernatural means. But they had seen something in addition to that seen by the Israelites during Moses’ day. Though God had manifested Himself in Israel’s midst during Moses’ day — in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21, 22) — there was now a manifestation of God in the flesh, standing in Israel’s midst. And the supernatural manifestation of power (the demon being cast out) originated from the One standing in the nation’s midst, through the work of the Spirit (cf. Genesis 1:2b; Matthew 12:28).
They had tasted of the bread from heaven through the sign that had been performed, and this sign had been performed by the true Bread from heaven (John 6:48-51). But, their response was the same as that seen in Exodus 16:15.
Thus, the word “manna [‘what’]” resurfaced in both of their questions: “What is this?” “What new teachings is this?” And they could just as well have used the word, “Who,” in relation to the Manna — “Who is this person?”
The general populace in Israel, having been misled by their religious leaders, knew neither their own Scriptures nor Christ’s identity. They knew neither the manna given through Moses and the Prophets nor the Manna sent from God, standing in their midst.
Previous Revelation, But …
God always makes known His plans and purposes through His prophets before He acts (Amos 3:7). And man may listen, but man too often doesn’t listen that well; he too often listens and has little understanding of that being heard (cf. Matthew 13:14).
This can be seen during Moses’ day, it can be seen 1,500 years later when Christ was on earth the first time, and it can be seen in the world today.
1) During Moses’ Day
God’s provision — bread from heaven — was made known to Moses first; then Moses made this known to the people (Exodus 16:4-8, 12). But when God provided the bread that He had promised, though Moses had made God’s Word known to the people, they looked at the bread and didn’t know what it was.
When God acted in complete accordance with His previously revealed Word, the people didn't understand what was happening. They had heard, but yet they hadn’t heard. They were seeing, but yet they weren’t seeing. And they could only ask, “What is this?” (v. 15).
2) During Christ’s Day
Then, 1,500 years later, when the true Bread from heaven was present, He provided that which God had also previously made known through Moses (and the Prophets) — signs, portending supernatural healing and provision for Israel. This was something dealt with extensively in the Old Testament.
But, as Christ went about the country performing these signs in Israel’s midst, the people had no understanding of the signs, for they had little to no understanding of their own Scriptures.
They didn’t know or understand that which God had previously revealed. Thus, they, as the Israelites who came out of Egypt under Moses, when placed in similar circumstances, could only ask, “What is this?” “What new teaching is this?”
That being set forth through these signs was something that they should have known. It had been clearly set forth in the Scriptures in their possession. Thus, it wasn’t a new teaching at all.
These signs portended something that had been dealt with by prophet after prophet, beginning with Moses; and the people should have known this. They should have known and understood that which the signs portended. But they didn’t.
3) During the Present Day
That’s the way it was in Israel 3,500 years ago, that’s the way it was in Israel 2,000 years ago, and nothing has changed when this is brought over into Christendom today. That’s also the way it presently exists in Christendom near the end of the dispensation.
When the same manna is presented in Christian circles today — going back, drawing from the Old Testament Scriptures, and reflecting out ahead on the coming kingdom (as Christ did in Capernaum) — Christians look at that being presented and ask the same age-old questions: “What is this?” “What new teaching is this?”
They listen, but they don’t listen; they hear, but they don’t hear. They don’t understand the things being taught, not really being in a position to understand. They have never been taught the basics. As a result, within their framework of thinking, they look on that which is being proclaimed as some new teaching. And it is anything but new.
In reality, that being proclaimed is the central message of Scripture. And it doesn’t matter where in Scripture a person turns — to any part of the Old Testament, or to any part of the New Testament — he is still faced with the same central issue. He is faced with the Christ of the Scriptures; and he is faced with some facet of the person and work of Christ, which points out ahead to that day when He will rule and reign over the earth.
This is the way Scripture begins (Genesis 1:1-2:3), this is the way Scripture continues (Genesis 2:4ff), and this is the way Scripture ends (Revelation 20:1-6; 22:7-21).
Christians asking, “What is this?,” or “What new teaching is this?,” are, in reality, asking an honest question. But, though honest, it is a question asked in ignorance. This message is something new to most Christians hearing it, for this is not a message taught in the Churches of the land near the end of the dispensation.
And it is also true that this message was something new to most of the Israelites 2,000 years ago, for this message was not taught in the camp of Israel either.
And the reason the Israelites 2,000 years ago had not been taught and the reason Christians today are not being taught is exactly the same in both instances. It goes back to the ones entrusted with the task of instructing and leading the people.
The scribes and Pharisees knew the letter of Scripture, but not the spirit of Scripture. Thus, though seated in Moses’ seat, they were in no position to instruct the people.
And it is exactly the same today. Those placed over Christians in Churches throughout the land don’t, themselves, know the Scriptures. They may know the letter of Scripture, as the scribes and Pharisees knew it, but to go beyond that into the spirit of Scripture is another matter entirely.
That’s the way matters existed in Israel at Christ’s first coming, and that’s the way matters exist in Christendom immediately preceding Christ’ second coming.
At Christ’s first coming, there was an entire generation of Israelites that had little to no understanding of their own Scriptures. And this resulted not only in their failing to understand the truth when it was taught but also in their rejecting the truth when it was taught.
And, immediately preceding Christ’s second coming, it is no different. There is an entire generation of Christians that has little to no understanding of their own Scriptures. And this has resulted not only in their failing to understand the truth when it is taught but also in their rejecting the truth when it is taught.