Exodus 1 - 12.
Part 1 of "Handfuls of Purpose"
Let fall for eager Gleaners.
Thirty Addresses on Various Scripture Truths and Incidents
by W. T. P. Wolston. M.D.
PART 1 — Chapters 1 - 8:
THE PURPOSE OF GOD; or, FROM EGYPT TO CANAAN.
1 — SLAVERY AND SHELTER
2 — SEVEN DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
3 — SANCTIFICATION: ITS POSITIONAL ASPECT
4 — SANCTIFICATION: ITS PRACTICAL ASPECT
5 — SALVATION
6 — THE SONG: SATISFACTION
7 — SUSTENANCE: THE MANNA AND THE WATER
8 — THE SERPENT OF BRASS, AND THE JORDAN
CHAPTER 1 — SLAVERY AND SHELTER.
The book of Exodus is practically what you might call the book of redemption, the book of escape. In Genesis you have creation, but in Exodus you have redemption — redemption from slavery by purchase and by power. If you think that Exodus illustrates the whole truth of the gospel, it is an immense mistake. It only takes you out of Egypt and into the wilderness, whatever these types may mean. Leviticus shows you how the souls that are on the ground of redemption can happily approach God, whose purpose was to bring them first to Himself, and then to a land which flows with milk and honey. In the book of Numbers you see the way in which they are cared for as they pass through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. Thus in type and figure we see that which God would bring us into now.
Possibly you may have just waked up to discover the blessed truth of the gospel, and have learned that you are going to heaven. I should therefore like to tell you, before you take many steps of the heavenward journey, that you may know a good deal about heaven before you get there. All these incidents in Israel's history are but figures and types, or illustrative pictures that God has given us to show us the way in which He deals with our souls now, and thus though we are yet in the world, we may get an ever-deepening knowledge of God.
If you look at the commencement of the book of Exodus you will find that the Israelites were in the world, and living in the flesh. Egypt is a figure of this world where Satan rules, where the flesh is ministered to, and where it has plenty to feed upon, and where as sinners we are found to be the servants of Satan. It perhaps may be some time before we find out what our case really is. In the second chapter the King of Egypt began to oppress the children of Israel. In the third chapter God has prepared a deliverer in the person of Moses. He was in the backside of the desert when "the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." He could not understand how there could be a bush all aflame, and yet not burnt. Then God spoke to him. He had His eye upon His people, hitherto unconsumed amidst affliction, and He was going to bring them out; and though as an unholy people they were amenable to the wrath of a holy God, yet would He find a way by which He might dwell among them and fulfil His purposes about them. It is a great thing to get in our hearts the thought of the purpose of God.
Chapter three explains a little what God's purpose is, viz., to bring us out of bondage and into that blessed holy scene of love and liberty where Christ now is, and to put our hearts into the enjoyment of all that is His there. Israel's groans had gone up to God, and so have yours and mine. What led God to me? How was it you were converted? What was at the back of all? God's purpose, and He had His eye upon us, and His ear was open to our cry of distress. "And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good land and a large, to a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:7-8). That was God's purpose, while at the same time Israel was learning that there was nothing to give their souls rest in Egypt. It is what we get in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, "and no man gave to him." What is that? You are in a scene that cannot give you one single thing that meets the soul. The will of the prodigal took him from his father. What brought him back? His misery.
Just so here, the Lord had seen all His people's misery, and to deliver them was His purpose. God had His eye upon the affliction, sorrow, and trial of His beloved people, and there were two things He proposed. To deliver them, and to bring them up out of that land (it was the land of the whip, as well as of the fleshpots and leeks, and rung with the lash of the taskmaster), and to bring them into a good land, and a large, to a land flowing with milk and honey. Yes, heaven is a land that flows with milk and honey. This is the figure that God uses to describe the blessedness of association with Christ in heaven, and the unspeakable joy, gladness, and peace with which the Holy Ghost fills the heart of a believer.
Well now, that was God's purpose, but how long did they take to reach Canaan? They took forty years, and learned a great many lessons in those years. What was the purpose of God? To bring them out, and bring them in. The wilderness was no part of God's purpose, but it was part of the ways of God. They had to learn themselves. And that is what you have not learned yet, my dear young convert. I want to encourage you. What will you have to learn? You must learn, perhaps in a very practical, bitter way, the absolute good-fornothingness of the flesh. You will then learn the goodness of the Lord, and the tenderness of the Lord, and the pity of the Lord, and the wonderful way the Lord will come in to meet and help your soul. That is what they learned (see Deut. 8:).
I want you to be quite clear as to the difference between the purpose of God and His ways. And what is the purpose of God? He is not going to judge me, you reply. But I would not call that the purpose of God. That is His mercy. His purpose is to have you and me in heavenly glory by-and-by in the absolute likeness of Christ. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30). And why? Because it was His purpose to conform us to the image of His Son. Wonderful tidings, indeed, beloved friends, that you and me, once slaves of sin and Satan, God is going to have for ever in the joy of His own presence, and in the likeness of His blessed Son. If you have the purpose of God unfolded to your soul by the Spirit, and apprehend it by faith, you will make a good start, and a good journey too.
In the fourth chapter Moses gets his commission: "Thou shalt say to Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born: and I say to thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me" (Ex. 4:22-23). Now mark, there is relationship. If a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are no longer looked at by God as a poor sinner. You are no longer a slave. What is the message that Moses has to carry? "Israel is my son." It is a wonderful thing to wake up, in the very day of your conversion, to the truth of sonship. "Let my son go, that he may serve me." That is the point. God comes in, and He says, I must have My people all to Myself. If you have just been brought to know the Lord, what a wonderful thing to find that God's heart beats toward you as a son, and He looks for you to enjoy sonship. Do you?
Chapter five gives us an added privilege, as we hear the Lord say, "Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness." What does the Lord want with you? A feast. You are called to a feast now, but you must get clean out of Egypt for that. And just as Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" (Ex. 5:2), so will Satan hinder the young convert from making a clean break with the world if he can do so. The first thing you find out is that you are a sinner, and the next that you are to be a worshipper. You can never worship in the world, nor can the song of deliverance ever be sung truly in Egypt. Sinners can go through a form of worship. But spiritual worship is a question of the truth and enjoyment of the Father, and there must be disassociation from what is of the world and of the flesh, for that to be known. Hence we can understand Moses and Aaron's words, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice to the Lord our God" (Ex. 5:3). Three days' journey in the wilderness. That is a good long distance; it leaves the world fairly behind. You will find three days abundantly in Scripture. But Pharaoh will not have this, and immediately increases their burdens and their work. It is very instructive. As long as we were going on easily doing the devil's work he left us alone, but the moment the chains were felt as it were, oh, how he put the pressure on (Ex. 5:4-19).
This action of Pharaoh is just a figure of the way in which the devil, when he sees a soul seeking to get free, immediately binds the chains more tightly round him lest he should escape to Christ. Oh, thank God, if you have passed through this misery, and are free. Perhaps you are saying, I thought I believed the gospel, and yet now I am no better than I was, and I am far from happy. Do not faint, nor let Satan drive you back. It is a good thing for us to learn, at the start, our utter good-for-nothingness, and powerlessness. That is what the soul must pass through. You have no power, and Satan has a great deal.
But God's purpose must be carried out, and "He that is for us is stronger than he that is against us," hence in the next chapter the Lord speaks again (Ex. 6:1-8). Pharaoh still keeps them in bondage, but to the children of Israel God sends a lovely message. Mark the seven "I wills." Seven in Scripture is always the number of spiritual completeness. (1) "I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." That is good. They were feeling those burdens. (2) "And I will rid you out of their bondage, and (3) I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments; and (4) I will take you to me for a people, and (5) I will be to you a God. … And (6) I will bring you in to the land. … and (7) I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord" (Ex. 6:6-8). It begins with, "I am the Lord," and it closes with, "I am the Lord." His "I will" never fails, and faith always reposes on God's Word. I recommend you to take God's seven "I wills" to your heart. I think I hear you saying, "I have had a good many doubts." You will never have any more if you hug those "I wills." God will not fail of His word, and His purpose He always carries out. Your redemption and mine does not depend upon what we are, it depends upon God. We could not help ourselves. and we cannot do ought for ourselves. Leave all with God, and peace is the result.
How blessedly God spoke here to encourage His people. But did they hear Him? We read, "And Moses spake so to the children of Israel: but they hearkened not to Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage" (Ex. 6:9). The pressure of the enemy was so great that they became hopeless. If you have never yet learned what deliverance is, then let me encourage. you to wait on God, and listen to Him. Do not struggle. Satan is too great a foe. Let God deliver you. In these chapters you will get the way in which you are delivered, from the righteous judgment of God on the one hand, and the power of the enemy on the other hand. Are they to go or not is the question? Of course Pharaoh says he will not let them go, and then God brings in His power to effect His purpose. The various plagues I do not touch on, but in the eighth chapter I want to show you the wiles of the devil. Pharaoh, conscious of weakness, begins to make compromises, hoping still to keep his slaves. The first compromise he proposes is very interesting. "Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land" (Ex. 6:25). Where? "In the land." Do it in the land, says Pharaoh. Could they sacrifice to God in Egypt? Impossible.
What is their answer? "And Moses said, It is not meet so to do … for we shall sacrifice the abomination (the idol) of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?" (Ex. 6:26). No, we cannot worship, or be really for God in the' midst of Egypt, i.e., the world. "We will go three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us" (ver. 27), is the answer of faith. Now that is a very fine statement on Moses' part. It is a principle of immense value for your soul and mine, that if I am going to have God, and be for Him, I must do without the world. You cannot have the enjoyment of His love, if you want to go on with the world.
This firm reply of Moses leads to compromise number two on Pharaoh's part, "I will let you go that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away" (Ex. 6:28). Ah, how wily Satan is. Don't you be too out and out, he says to a young convert: "Ye shall not go very far away." Ah, how many a young saint has the devil tripped up with this kind of word. Do not go very far. Do not be an enthusiast. Listen. The further you go from the world the better, and Satan will never put his hand upon you again if you once get fairly out of Egypt. If you once get fairly into the wilderness, thank God, he will never place his foul hand upon you again. Never, no, never.
But Pharaoh does not yet let them go. God again steps in with deeper judgments, and at length Pharaoh says, "Go, serve the Lord your God; but who are they that shall go?" (Ex. 10:8). Moses is very clear about who shall go. "We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go: for we must hold a feast to the Lord" (Ex. 10:9). All they loved and all they possessed were to go. All for God — was Moses' motto. Christian mothers, converted fathers, do you see this? It is here as elsewhere in all Scripture, the divine principle of "thou and thy house." We are not going to be a divided family, says Moses, and, more than that, we shall take every sheep and every bullock we possess, for all belongs to God. Why? Because redemption puts you upon the ground of belonging to God altogether. I do not think anything could be more plain. This plain reply suggests a third compromise to Pharaoh. First he says, "Let the Lord be with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you" (Ex. 10:10). And then, as if he loved the children, and would save them from evil, he adds, "Not so: go now, ye that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire" (Ex. 10:11). He says, Leave the children. The devil says, Parents, you can be devoted to Christ but let your children be in the world; and many a parent heeds that suggestion, and sows seed that bears fruit in the shape of worldly-minded and worldly-wayed sons and daughters, who break their parents' hearts in later days.
Irritated by the refusal to leave the children, Pharaoh refuses to liberate his slaves till further judgment wrings from him a fourth compromise, to wit, I will let you have the children, but you must leave the goods with me. "And Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed (i.e., let your business be in the world, conducted on worldly principles); let your little ones also go with you" (Ex. 10:24). But faith never wavers, and Moses' reply is splendid: "Our cattle also shall go with us: there shall not a hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither" (Ex. 10:26). Ah, how firm is this man, that God's people belong to God, spirit, soul, and body. It is very refreshing. My heart is quite refreshed as I see the way this man says, We must be entirely for God. Not a hoof can be left behind. We could not leave an ox behind. Everything must be the Lord's. It is a principle of faith. What the Christian is, and what he has, is all the Lord's. "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
When you come to the twelfth chapter you find Pharaoh admitting this principle, as he says, "Go, serve the Lord, as ye have said, also take your flocks' and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also" (Ex. 12:31-32). The very devil himself has the sense that the Christian should serve the Lord devotedly. The enemy of Christ has the sense that the Christian belongs to Christ, and that all he has, and is, should be devoted to the Lord absolutely.
The eleventh and twelfth chapters bring us to another point. What is it? The utter impossibility of any soul having to do with God, save on the ground of death, because death is upon every man, as the judgment of sin. There could be no relationship between our souls and God, save upon that ground. In the eleventh chapter you find God saying, "All the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die" (Ex. 11:5); and then "that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel" (Ex. 11:7). What was the difference? Were not all equally sinners? Surely. The difference was this, that the blood of the lamb sheltered Israel but not the Egyptians — the world. The Egyptians were in opposition to God's mind, and were His foes opposing His work, while Israel is looked at here as being the people of God, standing in the full value of the blood, as God knows its efficacy.
In the twelfth chapter we have the well-known story of the blood of the lamb, the lamb slain instead of the first-born, i.e., substitution (Ex. 12:6). They were to kill the lamb, and to put the blood, not inside where they could see it, but outside where God could see it. It is a striking figure of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will find that there are four very striking types of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. There are many sacrifices pointing on to the work of Christ presented in various ways in the Old Testament, for it is the picture book of Christ. First of all there is this paschal lamb. That is the figure of the death of Christ in substitution and atonement, as bearing the wrath of God due to us. Then the next figure is the Red Sea. That is a type of the death and resurrection of Christ for us. The third is the brazen serpent, the judgment of sin in the flesh, attesting the necessity of new birth. You do not get this truth until the very end of the wilderness journey, when the utter badness, and incorrigible wickedness of the flesh had been proved, after full testing. The fourth is the passage through the Jordan. It is also a striking figure of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of our death and resurrection with Him. Each of the four teaches, therefore, a distinct and different aspect of the truth of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you are not quite clear as to this paschal lamb being a type of the Lord Jesus. If so, reference to New Testament Scripture should assure you, as you listen to four distinct witnesses. When the Lord Jesus appeared on the earth, John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When He died on the cross, the apostle John wrote, "For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken" (John 19:36). This is a direct quotation of Exodus 12:46. Again the apostle Paul wrote, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7). And lastly, the apostle Peter says, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you; who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God" (1 Peter 1:18-21). Your sin and mine did not come in by accident, so that God had to meet an unforeseen difficulty. All was seen and provided for in the bygone ages of eternity. All God's purposes and ways circled round Christ, and the Old Testament is full of figurative truth which found its perfect answer in Him as a man here. When the blessed Lord died, the Roman soldiers "brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken" (John 19:32-37). Scripture must be fulfilled, and the manner of the fulfilment shows us how completely our chapter is a type of the Lord Jesus.
They were to kill the lamb, and then they were to take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood (Ex. 12:7, 22). Further, God said, "The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:13). God was going to pass through the land as a judge, and the only thing that could save the soul from God's judgment was the sprinkled blood. There are a great many souls that miss this point. The hyssop must be used. It was to be dipped in the blood, and in this case the Israelite had to use it himself. If you are going to get any of the value of the blood of the lamb, you must use the hyssop as well. I have no doubt it means this, the soul in the sense of absolute good-for-nothingness availing itself of the death of Christ. People believe that Christ died, and rose, and that He finished the work of atonement, but they do not appropriate the value of His death to themselves. When one gets down in self-judgment, brokenness, and repentance before God, I believe then our souls use that bunch of hyssop. We flee, as sinners of the deepest dye, to Christ. The judgment due to us has fallen upon God's dear Son, and the Lord passes over us in righteousness. The blood upon the lintel keeps God as a judge out. He cannot twice judge — first the lamb, and then the first-born. Peace with Him is the result. Peace with God does not rest upon your feelings. It is the atoning blood of the Lamb, God's own Lamb, put down before God's eye, that is the basis of your peace. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." It is not "when you see the blood." No. It is God who sees it.
Possibly you say, I do not think I appreciate the blood of Christ sufficiently. I am quite sure you do not, but God does. And He says, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." Understand this, that the basis of the peace of your soul with God is that shed and sprinkled blood (Ex. 12:8). But then all the way along you and I are to keep in our hearts the memory of what it cost our Saviour to redeem us. This "the lamb roast with fire" brings before us. That describes the agonies of the soul of Christ on the cross. The 22nd, the 69th, the 88th, and the 102nd Psalms describe the inward experiences of the blessed Lord when He was bearing our sins. Oh, what it cost Him. They were to eat the lamb "roast with fire." "Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof" (Ex. 12:9). You are called to feed not only on the death, but on the moral ways and the beautiful intelligence of Jesus. Knowing what lay before Him, He went steadily on to death. "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth" (John 18:4). And then you feed upon the beautiful, and lovely walk of the Lord Jesus. You have thus material for your soul to feed on all your days. Feed on Christ. "Bitter herbs" carry the thought of self-judgment, because my sin cost Christ His life.
Redemption by blood is a wonderful truth, and the moment the people are under the shelter of the blood, and have fed on the roast lamb, they start on their journey, and we read: "It came to pass that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:41-42).
The blood that shelters them from God as a judge, establishes their relationship with God on the ground of accomplished redemption, and from that moment they are regarded and called, for the first time, "the hosts of the Lord." How much better to be among His redeemed hosts than to be the slave of sin and Satan! How do you stand, and what is your relationship towards Him? Have you yet made a spiritual start similar to that made by Israel? If so, you will follow with interest the succeeding chapters in their history.
We're a pilgrim band in a stranger land,
Who are marching from Calvary;
Where the wondrous cross, with its gain and loss,
Is the sum of our history.
There we lost our stand in a death-doomed land
As children of wrath by the fall;
There we gained a place as heirs of grace
At the feast in the heavenly hall.
So we sing, while we haste o'er the wide world's waste,
Of our home by the crystal sea,
Where the waving palm and the swelling psalm
Fill the air of eternity.
We read our guilt in the blood that was spilt,
And we weep o'er the crimson flow;
But we joy in the grace of the unveiled face
Of a Father-God here below.
And as sons of God, redeemed by blood,
We hasten from Egypt away;
We cross the sand to the pleasant land
And the joys of an endless day.
We were children of night, kept far from the light,
Enslaved by a cruel foe;
But Jesus' pains broke the iron chains,
And redeemed our souls from woe.
Now, as children of light, we walk, and we fight
In a path of triumphant joy;
For our strength in the Lord, whose word is our sword,
While faith is the shield we employ.
Our home is with God, and our path has been trod
By the faithful of ages all,
And us He will bring, as on eagle's wing,
To our place in the marriage-hall.
Then, then we shall sing, as the bride of the King,
Of the blood that has brought us so nigh,
To bask in the blaze of the Ancient of days
At the throne far above the sky.
CHAPTER 2 — SEVEN DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD.
(Ex. 12:8-20, 34-39; Num. 28)
WE have seen already the truth connected with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt in the early part of Exodus 12, which relates to the taking of the life of the lamb, and the putting of the blood upon the lintel and the two side-posts of the door. The importance of all this, however, is so farreaching that I venture to travel over the ground again a little more in detail. It is of the deepest possible moment for every soul to see that this is the basis of all God's dealings with Israel. The blood upon the lintel is what you may call the groundwork of Israel's relationship with God. Although we may get a great deal else that is instructive here, still it is of the last importance to see that there was but one basis of relationship with God, and that is the blood of the lamb offered in Egypt. In the very spot where they had been slaves, there the work of another was accomplished by which God was able, in righteousness, to bring His people out of Egypt, and bring them into the land.
Get clearly in your minds that the passover and the feast of unleavened bread are two distinct things. The passover is Christ's work. The unleavened bread is connected with your walk. And the two things are as distinct as possible, though they are coupled and go together. "In the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of Jehovah. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread he eaten" (Num. 28:16-17). And in the New Testament we have "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast" (1 Cor. 5:7-8). In both these scriptures they are distinct. There is no doubt that the lamb is a figure of Christ, and I am equally certain that the unleavened bread is Christ. Israel was under the shelter of the blood of the lamb, and the angel of Jehovah passed over them. This is the Passover; but then they had a journey to go, and they were to eat of the lamb roast with fire, and unleavened bread, to strengthen them for it.
For us this sets forth that as a guilty sinner I take shelter under the Blood of Christ, our Passover. And then I feed upon the lamb roast with fire, and the unleavened bread, and this brings me into a suited condition for the journey by connecting the heart's affections with all that Christ passed through. Nothing could more strikingly prefigure the sufferings of Christ on the cross, under the judgment of God, than this expression, "the lamb roast with fire!" He passed through the fire of God's judgment. They were to eat it with unleavened bread — setting forth the unleavened perfection of Christ — and with bitter herbs.
You cannot eat "the Lamb roast with fire" without entering into the wonderful truth of the sufferings and sorrows of Christ. God would always have us remember these. If your heart is not in the power of the Spirit of God, practically feeding thus on Christ, you will get cold and formal. Many, many times over in this old Book God put Israel in remembrance of the passover. Year by year He brought it before them. They were to eat it on the fourteenth, day of the first month every year. I quite admit they did not do it. They did it in Egypt, and then once in the wilderness, and then in the land. They were careless.
We too have the opportunity, as the seven days roll by, of having our souls afresh reminded of the sufferings of Christ every recurring first day of the week. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Then comes, "Therefore let us keep the feast." This is a week of holy blessed enjoyment of Christ, feeding on Christ. And what we are feeding on very soon tells upon us. If I am not feeding on Christ, it will be something else. It must be Christ. Unleavened bread, that is Christ. Bitter herbs speak of what we were, and had done. I do not doubt the Spirit of God brings to our souls the sense, it was our sins that brought Him down into death. People sometimes say, Oh, we are past all that. Past that? Ah, my dear friend, you can scarce mean what you say! It is not a question of a person always thinking of his sins. God forbid. What we have always brought before us is Christ as a sweet savour to God.
Numbers 28 shows us what filled up those seven days of unleavened bread. There was the presenting to God daily, every day in perfect number, that which was the sweet savour of Christ in the burnt offerings, although there was not lacking the sin offering on any one day. God never leaves that out. God would never let us forget it. He will always keep fresh in the soul what we were and where we were, and out of what we have been delivered. And although we. are brought into the fellowship of the Father and the Son — that is the delight that God has in His blessed Son — yet He will never let us forget where we were, and what it cost Him to deliver us out of it. It keeps the soul lowly and humble. Our hearts are naturally so full of levity and lightness that we are apt to forget what we were. Not that that is what is to occupy the soul. No. The Israelites were to eat the lamb roast with fire, with unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.
And then remark, "Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire." How careful God is to keep fresh in the soul the sense of the sufferings of Christ. The lamb roast with fire typifies these. If you read the New Testament carefully you will be struck by the frequency with which the Spirit of God speaks of the sufferings of Christ. He suffered. Christ must needs suffer. You search out how frequently, when speaking of the death of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Ghost brings in "the sufferings of Christ." That is the word the Spirit of God presses on our souls. The 22nd, the 69th, the 88th, and the 102nd Psalm are all full of the deep inward experiences of the Lord, when He suffered on the cross. You get the figures in the Pentateuch, the facts in the gospels, Christ's feelings in the Psalms, and the lovely fruits in the epistles.
Let the figure of all this in the types speak to us. You eat the lamb roast with fire. Do not tamper with His death, but have in your soul the sense of what it cost Christ as He went through the fire of God's wrath. God tested Him. We are to eat "his head, with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof" How beautiful. Eat the head. What does it mean? Oh, beloved friends, the head is all the intelligence of Christ. Look at the wonderful intelligence that marked the ways of Christ, It says in the gospels, and "Jesus therefore knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth." He knew all, and yet He went. Eat the head. And then the legs. Oh, feed upon His intelligent devotedness to God, as well as on the beautiful walk of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, The varied presentation of these details in the four gospels makes their diligent study a necessity as well as a delight, and the results of this attention are unspeakably precious, beloved friends, for the soul: we get not merely that which meets our need, but the heart delights to trace the ways of the Lord Jesus.
"And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord's passover." That is a pilgrim character. "Shoes on your feet," ready to go. That is, there were certain moral features that were to mark them, and are to mark us. While thus eating the blood was outside, as a token that no judgment could ever touch them. And there they were inside the house feeding on "the lamb roast with fire." They recognised God's judgment was on the lamb.
But more. They must eat unleavened bread for seven days (Ex. 12:15). Now you might ask me, What is the application of this. We must not allow any leaven in our hearts, our lives, our words, or our ways. Leaven is always the symbol of that which is evil. He who allows it, "That soul shall be cut off from Israel." Does that mean that he shall die? For an Israelite it did; for us it means that one is cut off from communion with God first, and next, if unrepentant, from the fellowship of the saints, and most surely from being in the enjoyment of that which God would give our souls. Now let every young Christian be quite clear about this. You know that Christ has formed a link between your soul and God, that nothing can ever touch it. You have been born of God, and washed in the blood of His dear Son, and you are a child of God, and nothing, by His infinite grace, can break that link. But a foolish thought allowed will hinder communion. The very smallest bit of leaven breaks the link of communion, and I am out of the current of the working of the Spirit of God.
Now we know very well that the blessed normal work of the Spirit of God is to bring Christ before our hearts. If something has come in that has broken this tender link of communion between the Lord and our souls, the Spirit of God makes the soul conscious thereof There comes in a cloud. I must get back and find what was the hindrance, judge it, and then all is right. Nothing can break the link that grace has formed, as a matter of eternal life. But a very small thing can snap the link of communion, and rob the soul of the jay and divine delight that God would give us by His Spirit. Therefore you see the immense importance of the unleavened bread — "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." If I allow a little bit of bitterness about a saint to exist, or grant to my tongue the liberty of a little evil speaking, do not let me dream of communion. I am out of it.
Leaven during the seven days was intolerable to God, and therefore, there is no doubt, that when the passover came round, it was a most necessary and important thing that the master of every house should search it from top to bottom — from attic to cellar — to be quite sure that there was not a crumb of leavened bread in the house. A few crumbs were quite enough to bring in the judgment of the Lord. I think it is very important to ponder this, and to clearly understand why the house was to be swept.
We should not be the worse of what I shall call a new broom. They are reputed to sweep clean. I think, beloved friends, it is a good thing when I get a new broom in to sweep out everything that is not of Christ. Because if you allow leaven to remain in your life and ways you are necessarily cut off from communion. It does not mean that you are not going to heaven, but that you will be out of the liberty and power of the Spirit. And what will be the result? There will be individual deadness and lifelessness, and our assemblies will be dead and lifeless also. We are not keeping the feast. If we were there would be nothing but Christ. It is easy to tell when a brother has been keeping the feast of unleavened bread. He has nothing but Christ for me. If I meet a Christian and he has only some tittle-tattle, I shall get spoiled, and vice versa. You know, beloved friends, you cannot touch pitch without being defiled. Every time I meet you I shall either help you Christward, or I shall hinder you. On the other hand, you will either help or hinder me. The point is, what am I feeding on? God give us to keep this feast.
It is very interesting to see the way in which the Scripture presents it. I am just going to show you one or two verses. "And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this self-same day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever" (Ex. 12:17). How emphatic God is! Again, "Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eats that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land" (Ex. 12:19). There was to be no leaven in their houses at that time. For us, you know, it means the whole pathway. I find myself occupied with the death of Christ, as on Lord's Day morning, I am feeding on the passover. Very well, the Lord says, go and keep the feast of unleavened bread for seven days: and then I find myself there again on the next Lord's Day morning, and so on, and on. It really means this, that the whole of the pathway of the Church down here is a time when there is nothing but the unleavened bread to be fed upon by those who compose that Church.
Now then, see the way in which the Spirit of God brings this truth out, because if you are really want. ing to follow the Word of God, it is wonderful how God will help you. When we come down to the very fact of Israel's going out of Egypt that night, we see that they were hurried out with their bread unleavened. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders" (Ex. 12:34). I think there was no opportunity of its being leavened. "And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual" (Ex. 12:39). There is a wonderful little side-light here. It was not leavened because they were thrust out of Egypt… "I think what God gives us here is this, that if they had not been in such a hurry the leaven might have got in. I will help them to start right, says God. And therefore they were hurried out in such rapidity that they did not get any time to fail in obedience. I will help them, at least, to keep My word for once in their history, says God.
Oh, it is beautiful to see the tenderness of conscience in a young soul when first converted. I quite admit it is not established in grace, but it feels it has such a treasure, such a prize, and it trembles lest it should lose it. I remember hearing a Christian say once, "When I was first converted, I declare I was afraid of my own shadow, for fear that something should come in between my soul and Christ." Tenderness of conscience and exercise of soul really come with the feeding on the unleavened bread. It is the heart delighting in Christ, and feeding on Christ. There is a response to the little light that it has. It desires to follow the mind of the Lord.
I think it is interesting to see how God thus helped Israel to keep His command as regards the unleavened bread, a command immediately repeated in the thirteenth chapter, which speaks of their separation, and their being set apart to God: "And Moses said to the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten" (Ex. 13:3). In my relation to the Church, the family," or the world, is there anything that is not like Christ? It must go. It is very simple. I do not want to escape the edge of the truth. Do you? You see Christ is everything to God, and He should be everything to us. We are in this world to exhibit Christ. Remember this. "Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters. And thou shalt show thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt" (Ex. 13:7-8). Look at the reason given for eating unleavened bread; it is the response of affection, "This is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt." You are not keeping this feast of unleavened bread in order to get saved, no — that is all clear, and secured by the death of Christ — but you are keeping this feast that you might be in the enjoyment of that which is yours. Because, beloved friends, while grace gives me a good conscience by the blood of the Lamb, it is by a tender holy walk that I keep that good conscience.
Now pass on to Exodus 23. There we read: "Three times thou shalt keep a feast to me in the year. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt; and none shall appear before me empty)" (vers. 14, 15). "And none shall appear before me empty." Is not that striking? How am I to appear? With my hands full of Christ, the detail of which, I believe, we shall find given us in Numbers 28, 29. You will do well to ponder these chapters.
Now just look at the sixteenth chapter of Deuteronomy. "Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover to the Lord thy God: for in the month of Abib the Lord thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover to the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place his name there. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it: seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coasts seven days; neither shall there anything of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning. Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God gives thee: but at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt. And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go to thy tents. Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work therein" (Deut. 16:1-8). Note particularly verse 2. Bear that in mind. It is not the place that I choose. There is only one spot, and God chooses it. Query, Am I worshipping in the spot of God's choice, or am I following my own will in this? Observe also verse 3. "The bread of affliction" is a new character given to the unleavened bread. It is a new point, not to be disregarded. It is affliction to nature, it is not a thing I like. It is not what pleases me. It is the bread of affliction, and I am to eat it all the days of my life. Let me never forget this.
Further, nothing of the passover was to remain till the morning. What is the meaning of that? Whatever they could not partake of must be burnt with fire. The death of Christ is infinitely precious to God, it all goes up as a sweet savour to Him. What I fail to apprehend God appreciates. The present moment of our soul's history with God is a most serious one, because our capacity becomes fixed here. Therefore we must go on, and grow by the truth. But mark, it must be Christ, in all His fulness, and all His grace, that our souls feed upon.
God is careful to say that Israel might sacrifice only "at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in." This is a very great principle, beloved friends, as true now as in Israel's day. The Name of the Lord Jesus is the only gathering centre today, and the saint who gathers not simply in that Name, will lack the profound enjoyment of Christ that our God would have our souls taste.
Now let us turn to the twenty-eighth chapter of Numbers, and we shall see what occupies the seven days. "And the Lord spake to Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say to them, My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour to me, shall ye observe to offer to me in their due season" (Num. 28:1-2). And you may say, What is the meaning of that? These two chapters (28 and 29) give us what God calls "My bread." They do not present what Christ is for us, or what Christ did for us, although it is quite true that in these two chapters the sin-offering comes in no less than thirteen times, but it only comes in by the way. The sin-offering is not the point here. It is what Christ is to God. It is Christ in all the sweet savour and fragrance of His life, and in the devotedness of His death, going up to God. It is all Godward, and is, so to speak, Christ presented to God as His bread in the official sacrifices. They were to be careful to offer to Jehovah in their appointed seasons that which formed His bread of the sacrifices.
And now we will look at the seasons. First of all you have the general arrangement of what was to be daily (Num. 28:3-8), weekly (Num. 28:9-10), and monthly (Num. 28:11-15). And then come the seven annual feasts of which the passover was the first. It was on the fourteenth day of the first month; and on the fifteenth day we come to the feast of unleavened bread (Num. 28:17-25). This is what the apostle refers to, when he says, "Let us keep the feast . …" (1 Cor. 5:8). What a wonderful thing to think that the Church is seen before God unleavened, as in Christ. Therefore evil was to be judged:. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person," was the command (1 Cor. 5:13). They could have no fellowship with one walking in sin. He was cut off from the privileges of the assembly. How long are we to keep the feast? Seven days. All those seven days you practically present Christ before God.
"In the first day shall be a holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work" (Num. 28:18). Your soul is in liberty before God. That is the first thing. Nothing legal. There is no "I must be so and so." It is quite true that you are not what you ought to be, but Christ is all in this feast. "I ought to be holy, and devoted, and earnest, and fervent, and worshipful, and rejoicing." Quite true, you ought to be, but I will tell you something else, while you are trying to be all these, you are not happy. Why? Because you are beginning your seven days with a bit of "servile work." No, no, that won't do. You must get first into the liberty of the grace of God. The apostle well says to the Galatians, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." The yoke of bondage is what "I ought to be," and many a dear young convert is under that yoke, and in great bondage. You bring God His bread, and you will be what you should be. It is God feeding on all that Christ was in His life, and in His death, and in the springs of His being here.
In the nineteenth verse, "the burnt offering," gives you His death. In the twentieth verse, "the meat offering," gives you His life. It is, so to speak, our presenting before God all the blessedness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is delighting in Christ, keeping the company of Christ, waving Christ before God, every day of the seven. We must not come empty. What a difference between my coming up empty, to get something for myself, and my coming up full, to present Christ, and wave Christ before God. Anybody can see the difference.
In verse 22, "And one goat for a sin offering to make an atonement for you," God beautifully brings in that which connects itself with the death of Christ for us. He knows very well how our souls are prone to circle round ourselves, so He presents the one goat, but observe, one goat will do to meet the question of what we have been, while "two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year" present the fulness of Christ as the burnt offering.
The point here is not Christ meeting our case, but it is God glorified, and Christ filling the heart of God with joy, and He is saying to you and me, That is what you have to bring to Me. You begin next Lord's day morning with Christ for God; go to work on Monday, but don't take off your first-day suit on Monday morning. In the history of your soul, you have every day to go over the same ground. It is to be Christ on the first day, and Christ all the week, and Christ on the seventh; for of it we again read, "And on the seventh day ye shall have an holy convocation (the assembly): ye shall do no servile work" (Num. 28:25). How much do we bring of Christ to God in our closets and our homes, as well as in the assembly? That is the question. The week begins with the liberty of Christ, and it closes with the liberty of Christ. Really my heart is charmed with this week of unleavened bread. It is feeding on Christ, and nothing but Christ. And I am sure, beloved friends, if we do this it will give tone to the assembly. Oh, you say, The brothers are very dry. Are the sisters full of Christ? Come now. Is there much sap about the sisters? You may say, The brothers are very dry. Yes. Be it so, but how much do we help each other? That is the point. Do not let us forget it.
When we come to the assembly of the saints we are each like a person coming into a dark room, and every person brings in a candle. If the wick is well trimmed, it will give a big light, but if not, or has "a waster" in it, the light is dim, and others will say, He has a candle, but there is not much light about it. Each saint not walking with God comes into the meeting like this, and hinders rather than helps it. God give us to be like well-trimmed lights by His grace. And I am sure if we feed upon Christ, and our hearts are occupied only with Christ, there will be for God that which the Spirit labours to produce, the fragrance, the perfumes, and the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ God has given us all His love, and now He gives us the opportunity of presenting to Him that which is His bread. May we know how to answer to such grace.
Jesus, of Thee we ne'er would tire
The new and living food
Can satisfy our heart's desire,
And life is in Thy blood.
If such the happy midnight song
Our prisoned spirits raise,
What are the joys that cause, ere long,
Eternal bursts of praise.
To look within and see no stain —
Abroad no curse to trace;
To shed no tears, to feel no pain,
But see Thee face to face.
To find each hope of glory gained,
Fulfilled each precious word
And fully all to have attained
The image of our Lord.
For this, we're pressing onward still,
And in this hope would be
More subject to the Father's will —
E'en now much more like Thee.
CHAPTER 3 — SANCTIFICATION: ITS POSITIONAL ASPECT.
THE lessons from this chapter are exceedingly simple, but most important. They are these.
The moment God has a redeemed people, He would have that people understand that redemption puts them on a totally new footing before Himself; and secondly, that their walk and conversation is to be very different to what it was before they were His. The second verse gives you the keynote of the chapter, "And the Lord spake to Moses, saying, Sanctify to me all the first-born, whatsoever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine" (Ex. 13:1-2). The first point is that the believer is sanctified to God. Then you get, thereafter, practical instructions as to the walk. In plain language, if you are a young convert, there is a new walk, a new path altogether, opened up to you. God has saved you for heaven, but you are not there yet, although you can say, "I know perfectly well I am going there." You have a title to be there, it is the blood that secures and shelters you, only do not stop, but go steadily on the road. Because you know you are forgiven, you may think that means everything. It is not everything. It is only the beginning. You have to go on. And you have possibly to go a rough road before you get into that of which Canaan is a type. You have a journey before you, and you will very surely have difficulties in it.
But the point is this, What is the character of the pathway to be, and how am I to get on in it? You separate them to me, says God (Ex. 13:2). I shall then expect them to eat unleavened bread, i.e., to keep "a feast to the Lord" (Ex. 13:6). That is the walk of holiness. They will then judge what will not do for God (Ex. 13:13). The next thing was this: "God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt. But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea" (Ex. 13:17-18). The Lord was their leader. And then the next thing, They took the bones of Joseph with them (Ex. 13:19). They took the bones of their saviour with them (see Gen. 41 - 50). It has a meaning, and you and I, as we are passing on through this scene, are never to forget the fact that we are delivered by the death of the Saviour. That is where the Lord's Supper comes in. So they carried with them all through their wilderness journey the bones of Joseph, who had saved them in the day of famine.
At the close of the chapter we find, "The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way: and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light: to go by day and night" (Ex. 13:21). They had always the blessed sense of the presence of God. It is a figure, I admit. The glory of the Lord, the pillar of fire gave them light by night, and then, when everybody else was in the heat, they had the pillar of a cloud like a huge umbrella over them. Light by night, shade by day, and God for their guide. They were very well off. It is a picture of the way God leads out His people.
But I am going now to speak a little more on the important subject of sanctification. What is sanctification? Holiness. The primary presentation of it is in the scripture before us. It has two sides — the absolute side, and the progressive side. There is the positional side, and the practical side. On the positional side you have the truth of the soul being set apart for God. And then there is the practical change, and holy progress in the walk of the saint. He first learns that he is set apart for God, and then learns to shape his ways accordingly. Where would you begin if you were thinking of the subject of sanctification? I know where I began. I began with myself. I thought, dear me, what an immense amount of change and progress ought to go on inside me. But if I am going to talk of sanctification according to Scripture, I must begin with the positional aspect first, and hence I must begin with Christ. Oh, you say, do you think that the Lord Jesus can ever he altered? No, God forbid. Turn to Scripture and let us hear what it says.
When here upon earth the Lord said to the Jews, "Say ye of him, whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God" (John 10:36). What a remarkable thing that the Father had sanctified Him, Could He ever be more holy than He was? God forbid the thought. It means simply this, the Father had set apart His blessed and only Son, and sent Him into this world in order to bring God to man, to reveal God, and to make God known here. It was a totally new position for the Son of God to occupy. As become a man He is seen in this world. You find another aspect of sanctification in relation to Christ in John 17.
There the Lord says: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:18-19). Where does He sanctify himself. Where He now is. He has set Himself apart in heavenly glory, and, as Man, taken an entirely new position, that He might unite us to Himself there. Where is Christ? In glory. He is out of the world. And what, beloved friends, will take the heart out of the world? Only the knowledge of a heavenly Christ. Oh, yes. That will take your heart out of this world. It will make you a pilgrim.
If you have seen Christ, a victorious, ascended Christ, outside this scene altogether, everything is spoiled for you in this world. He sets Himself apart in heavenly glory that His people might be sanctified through the truth. The Christian is a person who has his heart in another sphere altogether, while his feet are travelling through this world. He is clean outside this world, although, as a saint, he will fulfil the duties of life infinitely better than before. The primary thought of sanctification then is separation, and a new place occupied. In John 10 I see the Lord Jesus taking a new place, as Man here, and in the seventeenth chapter I see Him again taking a new place as Man at the right hand of God, for Manhood has been carried into the very glory of God in the person of Christ. The result is you have a new place, and a new life, because He is there. You belong to a new company.
Now let us come to the development of this subject in the New Testament. In Saul of Tarsus I find the Lord picking up a very wonderful vessel for the unfolding of His truth, and in the very hour of his conversion he gets his commission to the Gentiles — viz., "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). That is what the gospel does. You cannot convert people, but God can do it by the gospel. The apostle Paul got his commission, and the character of his service to the Lord here, and if you are just starting in the Christian life, I would like you, and urge you, to be out and out for Christ. Then He will use you in His service, and it is happy work indeed to be an instrument in His hands of turning sinners "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God," and leading them to "receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified."
But who are the sanctified? All who have received light from God. It will come if you are set for it, and all who get a glimmer of the light never rest till they know they are among the sanctified. The moment Israel got under the shelter of the blood they belonged to God. They were not then quite clear of Pharaoh's land, and before God saved them they were sanctified. Every Christian is sanctified before he is saved. You have thought that sanctification came at the end of the road. Quite a mistake, it is at the commencement. The twelfth chapter of Exodus is shelter, the thirteenth sanctification, the fourteenth salvation, and the fifteenth satisfaction. Shelter comes the moment you trust Jesus. Sanctification is the next thing you learn, and the soul must learn the truth according to the steps in which God puts it That is a step, I am trying, if I can, to help you to take just now. When you believe in Jesus, and have faith in His blood, you receive forgiveness of sins. That act of God is good for ever. You never can lose it, and you never can forfeit it. It is the joy of God's heart to forgive you.
Long ago I thought that if my sins were forgiven I should be the happiest person under the sun, and that that was everything, but there is deeper blessing still in possessing "an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." But you say, How can I be sanctified? That is the whole question, and the answer simple. The fact is that the two things go together, forgiveness and sanctification. The man that is forgiven is a sanctified man. He does not perhaps know it But when he knows it, it will give his soul the most wonderful joy and peace before God. Oh, you say, I find my heart so bad, I am sometimes afraid I am not forgiven. Well, my dear friend, when the Lord forgave you, He knew how bad you were, and He forgave you all when He knew all about you. The knowledge of this last truth will save you from a great deal of distress.
There is no such thought in Scripture as "sanctification by faith," as some speak of, i.e., an act of faith by which the saved soul suddenly becomes sanctified. The sanctification spoken of here the soul receives the moment it has faith in Jesus. Faith in Him places you among the saints. Are you a saint? Oh, I should not like to take that place. Why? Well, of course, saints are very holy persons. That is indeed what they should be, but they are saints first. Who are the saints? All those who are sanctified by the effectual work of the Spirit of God in them, and the work of Christ for them. "Them which are sanctified," include all the Lord's people. Do not let Satan trouble you about your experiences, and raise the question as to when you are sanctified. If you trust the Lord Jesus, and are under the shelter of His blood, you are separated to God, and that means a great deal, for He regards you as His from that moment.
It is a wonderful thing to be separated to God, because, do you not see, when Pharaoh a little later comes out saying, that he is going to overtake those people, God replies that the people are His, and means to deliver them. "Sanctify to me all the first-born, whatsoever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast: it is mine," are His words. So, by-and-by, when "the enemy" said, "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them" (Ex. 15:9), God replied, "They are my people," and smiting His enemy and theirs at once, "the sea covered them, they sank as lead in the mighty waters." Thank God, with all my feebleness and badness, I belong to Him.
If you learn. that you have been thus set apart for God, it will have a great effect upon your soul.
In thus speaking, I am thinking of the lambs of Christ's flock, — those who have just started. I wish the older ones would think a little about them. Suppose we were to try to help them — we old ones, I mean now. Go and give them what will help their souls. Not dry stuff, — advanced theological or ecclesiastical dogma — that they cannot swallow. Feed them on the milk of the Word. "Feed my lambs" is a sweet word of the Chief Shepherd, and to do so is lovely work. I want to get all you dear young people to see that you belong to the Lord, absolutely and irrevocably. You receive the forgiveness of your sins, and sanctification at the same time. In plain language, beloved young convert, you are among the saints — you are one of them. Do not go about talking of what you feel. Faith, not feelings, regulates your position. Having faith, you are in the family of God, and have not only your sins forgiven, but you have an "inheritance among them that are sanctified." Wonderful words. How are we sanctified? By faith that is in Jesus.
The first thing for you to learn is, that you are set apart to God in all the value of the work of Christ, and on this ground He addresses you in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. That letter is addressed to you as well as to the Corinthians. It is "Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2). You have been set apart for God in Christ Jesus. Mark, it is not called to be saints, but "called saints," i.e., saints by calling. Oh, you say, then I shall have to walk very carefully. Yes, that will come presently. You will observe that all believers are looked upon as a sanctified company. We belong to God in virtue of that which the Lord Jesus has done for us. "For of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). He has set Himself apart before God now, and we are in Him. Who is my wisdom? Christ. Who my righteousness before God? Christ. Who is my sanctification? Christ, and He is my redemption also. If you have not a sanctification up to Christ's, you are not fit to belong to the family of God, but since He is your sanctification you possess what you need. You will have to learn this, that what you are is utterly valueless. You died with Christ, and all that you are, as a man in the flesh, disappears from God's eye. We are in Him. Will that do? I could not have anything better, and God will not let me have anything less, "That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31). Now you can boast in the Lord.
In the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians you get the kind of people God sanctifies: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11). "And such were some of you." It does not say that they had all been this. But some of us are convicted. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed." Is not that nice, after getting all this terrible list of sins? "But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." You see, beloved friends, there are two sides to this positional aspect of the truth of sanctification. There is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for us in death, and there is likewise the work of the Holy Ghost in our souls, and the order is striking here, viz., that sanctification precedes justification in the soul's history.
Now if you come to the epistle to the Colossians, you will not exactly find the word "sanctification," but you will find the thing expounded in the way the Spirit of God presents the actual state of the believing soul. "Giving thanks to the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:12-14). So what is the truth? You and I can give thanks to God that we are fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. You will never be more fit for the inheritance of the saints in light than you are at this moment. Your fitness is what the Lord Jesus is. He is your sanctification, and "giving thanks to the Father" is the outcome. Are you doing it? Does your soul go out in thanks to the Father for making you fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light? Fit for God. God is light And you are fit for God. Not in yourself, of course, but through that which Christ is, and Christ has accomplished.
How is this brought about? We will look at the work of the Lord first of all. Turn to Hebrews 2. You get the truth presented in rather a different way there. Yet it is very important. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praise to thee" (Heb. 2:9-12). God is bringing many sons to glory, and in order to it makes the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. That is Christ. "He that sanctifies" is Jesus, and "they who are sanctified," all that are Christ's, and they are "all of one." He does not say what. No one word could describe it. But they are all of the same order — of one Father, one character, one family. What a wonderful thing for the soul to get hold of. Of every believer in Jesus, is it true that they are "all of one."
Amazing grace! Get hold firmly of this, that you, as a believer in Jesus, form one of this sanctified company. Glorious truth, they "are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." I hope you would be ashamed to call him "Brother," even "Elder Brother." He is not ashamed to call us His brethren, but remember, He is our Lord. That is the point for us to take in. In chapter twentieth of John He said to Mary, "Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17). She went and told them, and they all came together. Then came Jesus and stood in the midst, and says to them, "Peace be to you." Thomas was not there on the first Lord's day, but when the brethren told him about the meeting afterwards, he took good care to be there the next time, and when the Lord came in Thomas knew that it was Jesus, and he said, not "My Brother," but "My Lord and my God." That is it. Young convert, never forget that He is your Lord. He calls us His brethren by infinite grace, saying, "I will declare thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise to thee" (Ps. 22:22). He gives us His own place before God, and then leads the praises of the sanctified company.
You will find the basis and groundwork of all this in Hebrews 10, where the atoning work of Christ is unfolded: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (ver. 10). What is it that sanctifies us? It is the death of the Lord. On the altar has been offered this blessed, holy, spotless Victim. All the credit, the value, and the blessedness of that which Christ was in His perfectly acceptable and infinite holiness Godward, that is all yours and mine. He took our place in death, and bore our judgment, thus we get His place in life and glory. Oh, what rest for the soul to see this. I have not to look at, or expect anything from myself any longer. "For by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified." So here I find that I am not only a sanctified person, but I am perfected. It is perfection as to the conscience before God. The conscience of the worshipper is to be the reflection of the value of the offering. If the offering be not perfect, the conscience of the worshipper will not be easy, and vice versa. The offering was not perfect in the Old Testament, God was not pleased, and the worshipper's conscience was not purged. What is meant by "perfect as pertaining to the conscience," is that the full light of God is on me, and it cannot find a spot The offering has been so perfect that it has put every sin for ever away from God's sight. This could not be till Jesus came, "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins," but one great truth of the gospel now is, that the condition of the conscience of the worshipper is the reflection of the infinite value of the sacrifice.
The blood of Jesus has infinitely glorified God about sin, hence your conscience is to be absolutely purged by that blood. By His offering you are sanctified, and more than that, you are perfect as pertaining to the conscience. You will find three beautiful things in this tenth of Hebrews: The will of God, the work of Christ, and the witness of the Holy Ghost. You have the Trinity active in our blessing. The will of God was to have us fit for his presence; Christ wrought the work of atonement for us on the cross, by which we are made fit; and the Holy Ghost came down to give us the witness that we are fit, saying, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (ver. 17). It is not only, beloved friend, that your sins are forgiven, but God says, My memory has been so affected by the blood of atonement, shed on Calvary's cross, that I have not only forgiven your sins, but I have forgotten them. If I offended you, you might forgive me, but you will never forget it. That is what man is. He does not forget. But look at this, when God wants to give your soul deep solid eternal peace, He says, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." Ah, what solid rest does that give.
Then there is the other side of positional sanctification, which I shall just touch on for a moment. That is the work of the Spirit of God. Paul says, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation — through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel" (2 Thess. 2:13). It is not sanctification by the blood, but sanctification of the Spirit. Now there we get the Spirit's work, the separation to God which the Spirit produces in the soul, and there is. no doubt that the sanctification of the Spirit is a most important truth. In 1 Peter 1:2 you get a somewhat similar expression. There believers are declared to be "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." You have there the effective work of the Spirit of God, the deep, real, inward work of the Spirit. If it had not been for the touch of the Spirit of God, we could never have been blessed. What was the first effect when you were touched by the Spirit? Was it happiness? No, the very reverse. See that man, convicted by the Spirit of his sins, he is very miserable. Never you mind, that man is sanctified, and next he will believe the truth. He goes to some preaching place, where he hears of the love of Jesus, and the death of Jesus, and that the blood of Jesus was shed for him. He exclaims, "Christ died for a poor, wicked sinner like me." He believes the truth, and gets peace, and the knowledge of salvation. That is it, do you not see. He will very likely tell you that he was converted that night. But no, there had been a work of God going on in him for some time previously. That then is the work of the Spirit of God in us. We are brought to see ourselves. Then come the exercises and agonies of the new birth. And now that soul begins to learn. He finds himself accepted in the Beloved, and he gets peace.
This may suffice on what I call the positional side of sanctification. God be praised for the grace that gives us this side of the truth, because it puts the soul clear in its relationship to God. Another night we will look at the practical side of the subject.
Eternal ages shall declare
The riches of Thy grace
To those who with Thy Son shall share
A son's eternal place.
Absent as yet, we rest in hope,
Treading the desert path,
Waiting for Him who takes us up
Beyond the power of death.
We joy in Thee, Thy holy love
Our endless portion is,
Like Thine own Son, with Him above,
In brightest heavenly bliss.
O Holy Father, keep us here
In that blest name of love,
Walking before Thee without fear
Till all be joy above.
CHAPTER 4 — SANCTIFICATION: ITS PRACTICAL ASPECT.
WE have considered the subject of sanctification on what I call the absolute, or the positional side of it. Now we will look at the practical or progressive side of it. It is very important to see that there is the positional side, and then the practical side is the logical sequence. But you will never get a saint to enter really into the practical side unless there be first the apprehension of the truth of the positional side. I have a new place before God upon the ground of redemption. And that place is Christ's place. No less. Christ, bearing the judgment of God on the cross, was the measure of your distance and mine from God, when He was made sin, and when God dealt with Him as sin on the cross. You will never learn the badness of your own heart by looking at it. We never get the measure of our distance from God, and the extent of our guilt by looking at ourselves. If I look at Christ in the place where He once was, bearing sins, and made sin, and judged by God, wholly given up by God and cast off by God, in the agonies connected with the work of atonement, — I get the measure of my distance as a guilty sinner from God. When I see Him now where He is at God's right hand, in all the favour and love of God, I learn the measure of my nearness. I learn what I am in Him.
Get clearly hold of this, your sanctification — in the positive thought of it — before God, is not what goes on inside you, but Christ, as, and where He now is. The moment the soul sees that, it gets into liberty. But then if you have this new place, this new life, and relationship (I do not say that you are really in the full truth of it, but if this be your new place), we shall have a new walk.
Very naturally, the moment the truth of its separation to God breaks upon the soul, it will say, Then there will be a new kind of walk now. You have been set apart to God, and His word alone can be your guide for your path as a saint. Heed to it is at the bottom of all progress in sanctification, viewed from the practical side. I have more faith in Scripture than anything I can say about it. You will never get on in your soul if you do not diligently and carefully read the Word of God. Nothing can take its place; nor any amount of hearing what others say about it supply the lack of your own personal study thereof Because, you see, if you come to a meeting, by the end of the week very much of what you have heard is gone from you, unless you study the Word thereafter to gain, in the Lord's presence, the truth for yourself "The slothful man roasts not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious" (Prov. 12:27). The first half of that verse illustrates the history of many a young convert. They have enough energy to turn out to a meeting and listen attentively to a teacher of the Word, but have not enough energy to turn again to the Scriptures in their own room, and get the truth of God wrought into their souls by meditation and prayer. They caught the hare, but were too lazy to skin and roast it, just because it was not "precious" enough to them. You have to get God's truth into your own soul in His presence if it is to be really food to you by which you can grow. The secret of much of the lack of spiritual growth among young Christians — and perhaps older ones too — is that there is not enough dealing with God about the truths of Scripture in our own chambers.
We have to thank God for any help He affords us by His servants, who minister His Word, orally or by stroke of pen. God can help me from a hundred sides, and I think it is a great thing for us to be on the outlook for help to our souls. On the other hand, we must remember the Lord's words," Take heed what ye hear" (Mark 4:24), as well as "Take heed therefore how ye hear" (Luke 8:18). My beloved young Christian, you must get every side of the truth. We want all the truth that God has given us, presented to us in every way in which He is pleased to give it. Why? Because of the varied necessity of our souls.
Now look at the practical side of the truth which we have, in figure, in this chapter. "And Moses said to the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten" (Ex. 13:3). Never forget that God has saved you. Start with this, that a wonderful event has happened in your life. God has taken you out of Egypt. Is not everything changed? Surely! The point is this, when you are brought to Christ and know a heavenly Saviour, your sins are forgiven and you are clear of the world. I do not mean to say it will not seek to attract you. It will. You may be in precisely the same external circumstances after your conversion as before, but nevertheless all is changed, and there is a new life. What was true of Israel in three parts of their history, is true of you and me all at once. They are found in Scripture in three places. They were in Egypt, then in the wilderness, and then in Canaan. It took them forty years to get from Egypt to Canaan, but that was because of their unbelief. We are in the world till we are converted. But the moment I am a converted man, this scene becomes the wilderness to me. I am clear of the world in my soul if I apprehend the Lord's words, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14-16). We are in the same circumstances, but the knowledge of God has changed all, and as we press on we find that we have to learn as we go through the wilderness, what we are ourselves, and what God is. You are set to get to heaven, but if you enter into the truth of Christianity, you will find that the Spirit of God will bring your soul there now, while your feet are treading this wilderness scene. He will bring your heart into the heavenly place, and give you now the apprehension and enjoyment of that which is yours for eternity. That is what the epistle to the Ephesians unfolds.
We are no longer of Egypt, because the blood of Christ has separated us from a world that is under judgment. We find this is a wilderness, where there are pitfalls and dangers, but at the same time the Spirit of God takes us into Canaan in our souls. There is a very wonderful sphere before you. Get into it. "Remember this day in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage," was Moses' word to Israel, and "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1), is the word to us. "For by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten," was God's injunction. What is leaven? It is the symbol of evil. The moment you are upon the ground of redemption, God looks for a different walk. I would greatly desire to get into your soul, just to be what you are. That is it. You be what you are, and you will be a wonderful Christian. What am I? You are a delivered person, you are a child of God, you have the Holy Ghost, and you are in the knowledge of the love of God. These are wonderful things. Remember, you are out of Egypt — the world — and there must be no leaven (ver. 4).
Leaven, in Scripture, always means what is evil. I know that the term has been used in a very false way, as the gospel spreading, and leavening the world. If God uses a figure, He always gives it a definite meaning. The leaven of the Pharisees was hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). The leaven of Herod was worldliness (Mark 8:15). Malice and wickedness are called leaven (1 Cor. 5:8). When the day of the Passover came, the head of the house took care to see that every bit of leaven was swept out. We must do the same. The leaven of malice and wickedness forms no part of a Christian's life. If you are occupied with what is of God, it will lead to a very lovely, holy, and practical Christian life. If I take the figure, I understand it means that when the day of the Passover came round, the Israelite brought a light to bear upon every corner of his house. Every dark cupboard was carefully examined, and he swept out every single crumb of leaven. I really believe that if we let the light of God's Word fall on us, we should find it might sweep out from our hearts a good many little crumbs of leaven. The way to keep out evil is to be occupied with good. Paul said, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8); and a dear servant of God, now gone to the Lord, once said, "For a Christian the secret of peace within, and power without, is to be always and only occupied with good." Will you book that, young Christian? Will you write it out, and stick it up where you can see it every day? It will do you a world of good all the days of your life. God keep us ever occupied with that which is good. I am not to be occupied with, or to feed on what is leaven, i.e., evil in any shape, but on Christ, nothing but Christ.
If you will take the trouble to read God's injunctions regarding the unleavened bread and leaven in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, you will be struck with how, again and again, there is exhortation on these points. If evil be allowed, I grieve the Holy Spirit, and all light and joy is gone. I lose the enjoyment of God's love, and I lose that which He wants my heart to he enjoying, communion with Himself.
Most important is what the apostle says to the Corinthians: "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7-8). The feast spoken of there is the seven days of unleavened bread (Ex. 12:15-20, Ex. 13:6-10). God never supposes that you and I will be occupied with anything but what is of Christ. That is practical sanctification. We are to begin, and to continue walking in holiness, because of that which the Lord did for us. The Israelite kept the feast, and said to his son: "This is done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign to thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth" (Ex. 13:8-9). You show me a person who is walking on these lines, and I will show you a down. right, practical, happy Christian. "And it shall be for a sign to thee upon thine hand." Beautiful, the hand that used to do what the owner liked, that hand belongs to Jesus now. So with the eyes and the mouth. When the priests were consecrated, and the leper was cleansed, the blood was put upon the tip of the right ear, and upon the thumb of the right hand, and upon the great toe of the foot (Ex. 29:20; Lev. 14:14). The moment you are redeemed, you are looked upon as altogether belonging to God; the eyes, the mouth, the ear, the hand, and the foot are all His servants.
But our chapter teaches another striking lesson, as to what to do with what God cannot use. "And it shall be when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware to thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee, that thou shalt set apart to the Lord all that opens the matrix, and every firstling that comes of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord's. And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the first-born of man among thy children shalt thou redeem" (Ex. 13:11-13). What is the meaning of that? It is very simple. Can you devote an ass to God? No. Break his neck. You have something that you were very good at before you were converted; can you use it for, and devote it to the Lord? No. Have you broken the ass's neck: have you judged and set the thing aside as unfit for the Lord? I do not know what the thing is in your history, but you know. The point is this, we used to belong to the world, but now we belong to Christ. What I have, and what I am, all belong to Him. You cannot use some acquirement for the Lord. What is the result? You break its neck, so to speak. Whatever would be a hindrance to you, judge: do not spare that ass. Break his neck. If you can redeem it, do so. If not, break its neck.
"And it shall be when thy son asks thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say to him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage: and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that opens the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt" (Ex. 13:14-16). Whatever I have is the Lord's, and if I cannot devote it I judge it, and this others can see. If your ways are changed that is manifestly seen by those round about you. Many young Christians lose a great deal of blessing because they do not take a decided, bold stand for Christ when they are converted. If you confess Christ, out and out, it will save you an immense amount of trouble. If you do not, you will escape persecution, but you will not have the support of the Lord, nor the comfort which the Holy Ghost would like to give you. You art not in a state to have it. By our cowardice we may save ourselves a good deal of what we do not like, but at the same time we rob ourselves of the triumphs and victories God would lead us to, were we faithful.
Let us now glance at a few verses in the New Testament. Every epistle speaks of the practical side of holiness. Look first at Romans 6. What do I find? "In that he died, he died to sin once: but in that he lives, he lives to God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:10-11). Everything is connected with Christ, and you are in Christ, alive from the dead; hence "Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6:12). Sin is no longer to govern you. Sin was the will of your old mind, and governed you while living, but being dead you escape from its mastery. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Rom. 6:18). You are doing the right thing now. All your members, your eye, your tongue, your voice, your ears, your hands, your feet, your mind and strength, all that marks you as a man here, are to be servants to righteousness, to holiness. That is sanctification. Holiness and sanctification are the same word in Scripture. You begin to walk in a holy way. "For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life" (Rom. 6:20-22). That is practical holiness. And what is the end? Everlasting life. That is beautiful fruit. It is worth while going in for this.
Suppose we go to the first epistle to the Corinthians. We saw that this epistle is addressed to saints by calling. We are told in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, that "the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." You are a holy people, and God dwells in you. If God dwell among His people, what must be the next thing? Everything that is unholy has to go, no doubt about that. And therefore when you come to the sixth chapter, 19th verse, we read: "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
Pass on to the second epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:16-17): "Ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing: and I will receive you." If I touch an unclean thing, it will soil me. Is there any harm in this? Well, it is not a question of the harm, but it is a question of what will suit the Lord. The point is, How can I walk here to please Christ? I will give you another question to put at the back of yours. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus do this? Oh, He would not. Then I do not think you and I can. Note now the blessed promise to the separate ones: "And I will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (1 Cor. 6:18). You will get the sense of it. He is my Father, and I am His child. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (1 Cor. 7:1). That is the practical side of the subject. "Perfecting holiness" is really walking in the footsteps of Christ.
In the Galatians and Ephesians you have injunctions which lead to sanctification, but the word does not exactly occur in either of them. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25). That is part of the practical holiness of the Christian. "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). Holiness is the great mark of God's people, God's house, and God's Spirit. If you read the epistle to the Philippians you will find that it describes the man who is in the enjoyment of a most blessed, holy walk before God. In the epistle to the Colossians we get a most practical unfolding of the truth (Col. 3:12): "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another." Fancy God addressing You as a holy person. Is it not remarkable that the Lord should address you and me as "holy and beloved." There is the thing in its practical outcome.
In the next epistle you have more about the practical use of the word sanctification than in any other. "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13). What is the meaning of that? That you might so walk here that there should be nothing the Lord would have to change but your body. Paul desired them to be in such a state as the Lord could set them in for ever. Again: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification … that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour … For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness" (1 Thess. 3:3-7). That is intensely practical, and the power for it is found in 1 Thess. 3:8. There is the power for a holy walk. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Again: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 3:21-23).
Just one word as to the epistle to Hebrews. Very remarkable is the way in which they are addressed in Hebrews 3:1, "Wherefore, holy brethren," etc. Is that the way God addresses us? It is, and as a consequence the heart is at once checked. It is not what I practically am that is the point there, but what I am in Christ. The sense of this will act on the soul. How it pulls us up. Look also at Hebrews 12:12-14. That is a very remarkable piece of instruction: "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather he healed." If I do not make straight paths, I shall make a crooked path, for myself and some one else. Then, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Very simple, but nothing could be more plain or practical. I am to follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Of course I believe this is true as a matter of communion, and if I am not walking in the enjoyment and love of the Lord, and in holiness, I am not very happy. Do you know the secret of happiness? Happiness always follows holiness. If you are going to be a happy Christian, you will have to be a holy one. That is it. You cannot have happiness if you do not go in for holiness.
Why should you be holy? 1 Peter 1:14-16 tells us, and further enjoins us not to be living like when we were in Egypt, "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." That is very simple, beloved friends. When I come to his second epistle, he says to us: "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11).
The apostle John thus addresses us: "Beloved, now are we sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3). He makes Christ's life, walk and ways, the standard of our ways. That is practical sanctification. Similarly, I find in the Revelation that the blessed Lord, in giving encouragement to those in Philadelphia, says, "These things says he that is holy, he that is true" (Rev. 3:7). He says, do not forget that I am the Holy and the true One. There is also what is very beautiful when we look into eternity in chapter 21, "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). It was not a great city. Men like what is great. Babylon is called "that great city," but God looks for what is holy, and finds it in the Church. We get a blessed picture of eternal purity in that chapter.
And now, as though God would press holiness upon our souls, we read lastly in Rev. 22:11, "He that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that Is holy, let him be holy still." Holiness is always to mark the saint, and if you will trace out the scriptures which thus present sanctification in its practical and progressive aspect — for we ought to be more holy today than yesterday — you will find that they will help your soul in this direction.
As Thine, Thou didst foreknow us
From all eternity;
Thy chosen, loved ones ever,
Kept present to Thine eye;
And when was come the moment, —
Thou, calling by Thy grace,
Didst gently, firmly draw us
Each from his hiding-place.
Thy Word, Thyself reflecting,
Doth sanctify by truth,
Still leading on Thy children
With gentle heavenly growth.
Thus still the work proceedeth,
The work begun by grace,
For each is meet, and training,
Father, to see Thy face.
CHAPTER 5 — SALVATION.
THERE is a very striking comment in the New Testament upon this passage in Israel's history. I will read it. "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned" (Heb. 11:29). It is the striking contrast, beloved friends, between the pathway of faith, and the pathway of nature, the pathway of the man of the world, in plain language.
Now if you ponder this bit of Israel's history, you will see that there is beautiful evidence of the energy of faith, although it was mixed up with a great deal of fear and trembling. God's Word always describes things exactly as they are, even in a figure like this, and you will find in this 14th chapter what absolutely answers to your own experience. What we have in figure here just illustrates what you know in your own soul's history — what all of us have known, I believe.
We learn, through these figures and types, that which God has for the blessing of our souls now in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. You must understand that today everything is taken out of type, and all is found in a Person in Glory. Nevertheless the types are all designed by God to teach us precious and wondrous truths. As I said previously, there are four outstanding types of the Lord Jesus in Israel's history. First, the slaying of the lamb; secondly, the passage through the Red Sea; thirdly, the brazen serpent; and lastly, the passage through the Jordan. They are four figures of Christ's death, and they all teach totally different truths.
God is holy, hates sin perfectly, and cannot put up with it in anybody, not even when it was laid on His own blessed Son, who bore it vicariously on the cross. It must be judged. But the lesson of the Red Sea differs greatly from that of the blood upon the lintel, In that case it does not go beyond the truth that God, as a judge, is kept out. If, through grace, you have been led to trust in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the very holiness, and the righteousness of God, make it absolutely impossible for Him to judge you. I may be quite clear as to that, and know my sins are forgiven, but still encounter real soul-difficulties. What about Satan's power? Although Israel was perfectly safe as far as God was concerned, they were by no means assured as far as Pharaoh was concerned (Ex. 14). It was a question as to whether those people really belonged to God or to Pharaoh. The Red Sea settled that point.
I was greatly struck lately with a remarkable scripture, in Isaiah, where it speaks of Israel in a day to come, when God will again deliver them. "For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward" (Isa. 52:12). That is what they did in Exodus 12. They were like a lot of timid frightened creatures, flying from an angry foe. Being "thrust out of Egypt" (Ex. 12:39), they went out with haste, and it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled" (Ex. 14:5). They were not moving out at a stately pace. They went out for what I may call dear life. They fled for refuge, fearing the pursuing foe. By-and-by it will not be in haste, for they will have learned then, that it is not a question between themselves and Pharaoh, but a question between God and Pharaoh as to whom they belong.
Perhaps some one is saying: — I thought I was converted, but now I don't think I can be, for I get into a great state of fear and doubt at times. You will find great comfort in the way in which the truth is brought out in this chapter. The moment a believer is under the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is sheltered. And the same blood that shelters him sets him apart to God. Hence you belong to God, spirit, soul, and body. You are not your own, for you are bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). You belong to the Lord, but you are still in the world, and God would lead you out, as He led Israel out of Egypt. "He led them forth by the right way" (Ps. 107:7). "It came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up by five in a rank out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 13:17-18).
They might have got up to the land in eleven days' journey or thereabout (Deut. 1:2). But why were they not led that way? They were not yet fit for war, and the Lord said, If they meet the Philistines on the road, and see war, they will return to Egypt, so He led them round by the way of the wilderness. They had never seen war, nor did they see it till they had seen God's power. I will tell you what they did see. They saw "the salvation of the Lord." He loves to teach you first, what the triumph of Christ is, how completely and absolutely the enemy's power has been broken. You have to learn this, that you cannot deliver yourself. Weakness marks us, and weakness was confessed by them as "they went up by five in a rank" (Ex. 13:18, margin). Do you know how — forty years afterwards — they went into Canaan? It was "marshalled by five" there too (Joshua 1:14, Joshua 4:12).
What is the meaning of five? In Scripture five is the numeral that is always connected with weakness, e.g., "Five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" (John 6:9). What good were five? I do not doubt that five is the expression of weakness. And what God has to teach us is, that in ourselves we are the expression of utter weakness. We have no strength either in the commencement or end of our journeyings, but we do not learn that all in a day. When they are going to get into the heavenly land, they got in by fives. You have no strength either to get out of Egypt or to go into Canaan. God must be our strength, and is so when we are consciously weak. "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).
This statement as to the five comes up first when they were to go through the Red Sea, with crystal walls on either side — their lateral defence from the foe. When they come to Jordan, what do I find? The "five in a rank" is maintained, though, as you know, there was not a drop of water within thirty miles of them (Joshua 3:16). As they went through the Red Sea the waters were a wall on the right hand and on the left. Who could go in there? Nothing but faith. Nature might attempt it, and did, but only to meet judgment. It is a very serious thing to try, in the power of nature, the path of faith.
But we read that Pharaoh "made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: and he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them, … and he pursued after the children of Israel" (Ex. 14:6-8). The whole power of the enemy is in exercise to hinder their escape, but every single bit of that power was broken by God in the moment of the deliverance of His beloved people. God led them on, and "brought them forth also with silver and gold; and there was not one feeble person among their tribes" (Ps. 105:37). How secure they were! "The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: he took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people" (Ex. 13:21-22). Have you not too heard Him say, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). Oh, beloved, He led His people then, and He leads His people now, if only they will let Him.
God first brings them down to the edge of the sea (Ex. 14:1-2). He must teach us, as a practical thing, our own weakness. You ask, What is the meaning of the figure of the Red Sea? It is the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for us, and our sins. I never shall be clear of the enemy until I know a risen Christ. Many a believer goes all his days saying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). You will never be delivered till you get your eye upon a risen Christ, and know that in His death and resurrection you are connected with Him. That is, that what is true of Christ is now true for you. By grace I am united to Christ. In figure I learn that the death and resurrection of Christ was for me. If He died, I died. If He is risen, I am risen. I must accept death, as the judgment of God upon man. But what liberty, what blessing for your soul, when you see all this true of yourself in Christ's death and resurrection.
We do not learn that all in a minute, but if we do learn it we can truly say, Oh, happy man that I am, for I have learned through grace, what the love of the Lord is, and what the victory which He has gained for me. Romans 7 is the experience of many a person, who is really a believer, and hence a child of God, but it is the experience of an undelivered soul. The delivered soul says, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." "Who shall deliver me?" is the piteous query of the undelivered, and no doubt there is many a person who is going through that experience. I quite admit it is experimental. You must know it in your own soul. And you are not delivered till you are delivered. Do you understand that? When are you delivered? When you give up trying to deliver yourself. Take Jonah as an illustration. There he was in the belly of the great fish. When did he get delivered? When he had given up all hope of delivering himself, then deliverance came. Read Jonah 2. He was in great misery. He prays (Jonah 2:1); he cries (Jonah 2:2); he promises, "I will look again toward thy holy temple" (Jonah 2:4); he moralises (Jonah 2:8); he sacrifices, he vows (Jonah 2:9); but he is in the belly of the great fish still. At length he says, "Salvation is of the Lord," and immediately he is out on the dry land (Jonah 2:10).
That is the way Israel went through the Red Sea, on dry land. Dry land is where Christ is. Christ in resurrection, Christ in acceptance, and life, and glory before God. Christ the Victor. That is dry land for a Christian today. I am in Christ. I am not in Adam. That is what I understand by "dry land." Every hindrance is gone, and all the power of the enemy is broken.
"And the Lord spake to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, and against BaalZephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness has shut them in" (Ex. 14:1-3). Pi-hahiroth is part of God's ways with us, to teach us the utter uselessness of the flesh. A young convert often says, "Now I am going to do good, and I shall be a different person, and I shall live a different life." There is a great deal of self-confidence about us until we learn we can do nothing, and that God must do everything. It is a very remarkable thing that the meaning of the word Pi-hahiroth is "The gate of liberty." When you have the sense, I have not one bit of strength to deliver myself, it will be all right with you. So was it here. Pharaoh's servants told him that the people fled; he thereupon made ready his chariots, and went after them with a high hand (Ex. 14:5-8). So the devil is determined to follow and overtake you. He is not going to let you be the devoted servant of the Lord Jesus, if he can help it.
We read in verse 9 that Pharaoh overtook them: "And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid" (Ex. 14:10). The condition of Israel much resembles the doubts and fears that have gone through our souls, and their next words show that their hearts and ours are exactly alike. Do you know that you have a heart that could actually take you back into the world, even supposing you are converted? "And they said to Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (Ex. 14:11-12). When they were on the road to Canaan, what unbelieving language! Could we so speak? Did your heart never say in hours of pressure and temptation, After all it is a pity I professed Christ? If so, my friend, you will yet be sorry that you indulged in such unbelief.
I think God let Israel pass by Pi-hahiroth that they might learn how He can open "a gate of liberty," and that they might taste the triumph of His deliverance. God, and God only, could deliver them. That was the point (Ex. 14:13). Moses' answer is splendid. He was a dear man, a character I love with all my heart. You go and read the history of that man. I hear that once he lost his temper, and only once. But still, as a servant, he was a beautiful servant. He was the mouthpiece of God, and it is a wonderful thing if you can be the mouthpiece of God to poor trembling souls. Hear what he says: "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Ex. 14:13-14). They were to see God's salvation that day. This is the first time, save one, that you get the word "salvation" in Scripture. The first time you get it is in Genesis 49:18, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." There it is waited for, here it is sent. What is God's salvation? The blood of the Lamb has met all His claims, His power has crushed the power of the enemy absolutely, and His people are brought to Himself, just to enjoy Him.
"Stand still," was the word heard that day. "The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." You get into your soul the wonderful fact that Christ has gone into death, and tasted death as the judgment of God upon man, on the cross. He has gone into death, and, beloved, He has come up out of it, and there He is alive before God, and by faith now walking in His footsteps, you go through on dry ground into resurrection scenes. There is no death or judgment for you. It was all exhausted by God's beloved Son.
But to know this you must "go forward" as Israel was bidden to do (Ex. 14:15). They obey, the "pillar of fire" forming their rearguard, for "the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these; so that the one came not near the other all the night" (Ex. 14:19-20). As they started the light was before them, and the light drew them on. But what is the next thing? They have a backward look for a moment, and they find that between themselves and the foe, God has put Himself He seemed to say — Come on, Pharaoh, you may touch them if you can, you may put your hand upon them if you can. And were they safe? Indeed were they. They were safe under the shelter of the blood, but now they are to learn that they are saved. I am safe when under the shelter of the blood of the Lamb, I am saved when the power of the enemy is broken, and I learn that I am before God in all the value of the work of His beloved Son.
The angel going behind them was most gracious. If the light had been in the front the rear would have been in terror. Fancy six hundred thousand of them, and only five abreast. The first five would be saying, We are all right, but the last five are not very safe. But God comes in between the last five and the enemy, and oh, how safe were all, as the light of God beamed over their heads. The electric light of our day is dim to the light God's host had that night. Everybody saw the pathway perfectly plain. That is clear.
Young Christian, this is your God, the God that loves you. That is the kind of Saviour who has come to take up your case, and to carry you out of this world right into glory. Do you think there is any chance of Satan getting you? No, no! See what follows. "And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left" (Ex. 14:21-22). Their way is opened. What lay before them? I see them marching forward, and what is it to? Apparently to certain death. Another step, and they go into these black dark waters of death. They accept death, and find it to be life and liberty. You must accept death. The waters of the Red Sea, or Marah, or Jordan, all tell one truth. There is only one way for my soul getting to God, and that is through death. I have to accept the death of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ for me.
What a wonderful sight, as they step out now; they hear the word "Go forward," and lift their foot to put it down on what seemed impossible to bear them — water. It is the acceptance of the sentence of death. Now for us the wonderful truth is that Christ has gone into death, and utterly annulled it. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15).
And now you ask me, How can I apply this truth to myself? Well, they were to go in, every one of them. There was not one of them that had not got the sense, I will have to go into that sea. But when they came to the spot, what was it? "Dry ground." The step was taken in the energy of faith, for we read, "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned" (Heb. 11:29). The latter clause of that verse is very striking. You will find there are people who seek to occupy the place of the children of God. We live in a day of great imitation. All unreal souls should remember that every Egyptian was drowned in that sea. It is only faith that can tread that pathway, and faith went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground. I doubt not Pharaoh thought, I shall now get at them. His great object was to overtake and to destroy, God's to deliver and save, and how safe they were as they went through these immense walls — crystal walls — reared by God. just so we taste the wonderful love that let His Son pass through death and judgment for us. And now He is risen, and we are risen in Him.
I do not doubt that the truth unfolded in type in this chapter finds its New Testament answer in Romans 6 and 7. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:11). It is our privilege to reckon that which the Lord Jesus passed through as ours. It is all ours. His death and resurrection were ours, and His victory over every enemy was for us.
In our chapter the way God checks, and overcomes the enemy, is very interesting. Pharaoh gets a solemn warning as the lynch-pins of his wheels all fly out, and receives an unexpected check by the taking off of his chariot wheels. The effect is electric. "The Lord looked to the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, and took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians" (Ex. 14:24-25). The tables are completely turned. It is not God's people fleeing now, but their enemies who fly. The former are on resurrection ground really, while death and judgment overwhelm all their foes, for "the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them" (Ex. 14:26-28).
Some of our learned infidel friends would fain believe, and try and persuade us to think that Pharaoh was not there personally. The 136th Psalm clears away that fog of infidelity, for it says the Lord "overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea; for his mercy endures for ever" (Ps. 136:15). Let all doubters look at that lovely little commentary, or summary of God's ways in mercy with Israel. It is all God, you see. I believe that proud king came to his end there. I love to think how completely Satan has been overthrown, because Pharaoh is the type of Satan. God's thought is to bring His people out of this world. If you are a worldly Christian, do you think you will have the enjoyment of the Lord? No! you may have the sense that God will never judge you, but you are not clear of Satan, and you will have doubts and fears, because you have never cleared out of Satan's territory — the world.
What God wants is that you should give up the world. There were two men that gave up Egypt in this chapter, Moses and Pharaoh. Moses gave up Egypt voluntarily, "By faith he forsook Egypt" (Heb. 11:24-27). Pharaoh gave it up because he could not help it. He came under God's judgment, like many another sinner who has had to give up the world by death cutting him off from it, and having nothing for eternity, he has lost all — his own soul included. Where are you and I in this matter? Are our hearts clear of the world, and set on Christ, and on the things of Christ? That is where they ought to be.
The next thing we read here is, "Thus the Lord SAVED Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore. And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses" (Ex. 14:30-31). Salvation is a very big word in Scripture. When I am "saved" I am clear of the enemy, and I am out of this scene in spirit and heart. I am a delivered man, in resurrection surroundings. When Israel looked, and saw all their enemies dead, they doubtless said, There is no road back to Egypt. The road was closed in. And my dear fellow-Christian, if you fancy you have found a road back, you are a very wretched man. You are not really back, you can never belong to it again, and you must come under God's judgment — governmentally. You are a person to be pitied. Oh, learn what it is to be with Christ on the sunny banks of resurrection.
Of the Christian it is said, "And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:10). It is a fine thing for the Christian to see this, up far above the angels there sits a Man, and I am in Him, and He is the delight of the Father's heart. He is in a sphere of heavenly joy and blessedness, and I am complete in Him. It is only faith that touches that sphere. He has died, and He has risen, but He has died and risen for me, and now He has taken, as Man, this new place before God, and that is my place.
Oh, how freely must Israel have breathed that morning! How prepared, too, were they to sing a song that morning, when they saw all their enemies dead on the sea-shore. God loves us to sing. A Christian is looked upon as a person who sings. And we may well sing. They saw that morning every enemy gone, and deep, rich, solid peace filled their souls. Now where were they?, In the wilderness. What had they there? Two things. They had God, and the sand. There was not even water or bread. They were to learn God, in that wilderness. And that is what we have to do. We have to learn the grace, the love, and the sustaining help of the Lord, while withal we have to learn what we are ourselves. They began with God, and God was everything to them. So is He to us if we will only let Him be what He is.
Come sing, my soul, and praise the Lord,
Who has redeemed thee by His blood;
Delivered thee from chains that bound,
And brought thee, to redemption ground.
Redemption ground, the ground of peace!
Redemption ground, oh, wondrous grace!
Here let our praise to God abound,
Who saves us on redemption ground!
Oh, joyous hour when God to me
A vision gave of Calvary:
My bonds were loosed, my soul unbound;
I sang upon redemption ground.
CHAPTER 6 — THE SONG: SATISFACTION.
THERE are a good many songs given to us in Old Testament Scripture. This is the first, just as the Song of Solomon, I suppose, is the last. This is the song of redemption. The Song of Solomon is the song of reciprocal affection. Both are beautiful in their place. And I think we all should seek to sing each of those songs. It is our portion.
In this song, which is beautifully simple, and very refreshing to the spirit, God is everything, and SATISFACTION the result. Even though you and I may have been a good long time on the wilderness journey, yet we can turn back with joy and gladness to re-echo this song. There are many here who have just set out on the road, and I want to point out to such how suitable it is that you should sing. Observe, there was no song in Egypt. You must be out of Egypt before you can really sing to God. It is not a question of people having the vocal capacity, but the state of soul which warrants such a song, so you must not" join the choir" till you are saved. Then you will find yourself in it without joining.
I think it must have been a wonderful thing for God that day, when six hundred thousand men noticed this verse: "And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left" (Ps. 106:10-11). Beautiful touch of God's Spirit, as to what God did then. And you would have thought as you read the next verse, "Then believed they his words; they sang his praise" (Ps. 106:12), they will be sure to go on brightly, joyously, and happily. When you were converted you thought that. You dear young people, perhaps you thought you would never have a difficulty when you were converted. Is it not striking, the next thing you read? "They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel" (Ps. 106:13).
Let us now follow Israel's steps in the wilderness, the place where we, as well as they, are tested, and where we have to learn what we are, as well as what God is, revealed in Christ. "And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter, therefore the name of it is called Marah" (Ex. 15:23). That is, I believe, practically speaking, if death has delivered us, we have to taste death. What has delivered us? The death of Christ, and we have to accept death. We do not like it. In our circumstances we often have to taste death, for death is rolled in on us. Here we often meet with that which we cannot drink. Perhaps you have such a cup just now. You say you cannot drink it. No, you cannot drink it bitter, but if you connect it with Christ, if you put the cross in, you will be able to drink it.
"And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?" Christ always said, no matter what was in the cup, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" How different these two queries! "And Moses cried to the Lord: and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet" (Ex. 15:25). It was another miraculous intervention of God. I have no doubt it typifies the cross. It was a tree, and we know that Jesus suffered on the tree. If sorrow meets us, cast the tree in; connect the cross with it, and God's love therein displayed, and that the bitterness of expiation was borne by Christ, and all will be sweet to you. When the tree was cast in, the waters were made sweet And so we read, "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us" (Rom. 5:3-5). You connect the cross with the sorrow which perhaps just now is breaking your heart, and all will be changed and sweetened. What was the cross? It was the revelation of the love of God to me. Is He less loving today in His dealings with you and me than He was the day He gave His blessed Son to die for us? You have just to see that all His dealings are the acts of perfect love. It is sweet when love gets in, and you can then drink the water, no matter how bitter previously.
The next thing was, "They came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm-trees: and they encamped there by the waters" (Ex. 15:27). That is beautiful. They were tested, and they murmured, but God does not chasten them. No matter what you are passing through, if you take it from God, it is accepted as from Him, and blessing is always the result If you take the cup from the devil's hand, you will have to drink it with the devil. But if you take the cup from God you will have God's company, and God's support. Elim is a lovely picture of the tenderness of the ways of God with His people, in the very opening step of the wilderness pathway. When we are converted we are in the same circumstances outwardly perhaps, but all is changed in our souls, for we are no longer slaves of sin in Egypt, but saints of God rejoicing in the freedom wherewith Christ has set us free, and on our road to glory. Refreshment from God meets us at every step, just as He brought Israel to the twelve wells of water, and the seventy palm-trees. These are the very picture of what you would call grace in its fulness giving refreshment and shade. Twelve wells are the completeness of refreshment. Twelve in Scripture is the number expressing completeness in the way of human administration. Seventy palm-trees suggest the perfection of care, in giving shade. The Lord sent out twelve disciples, and then He sent out other seventy (Luke 9:1, Luke 10:1) to minister blessing, and one cannot but connect these numbers at Elim with the twelve and the seventy there. I think then that the twelve wells and the seventy palm-trees are the perfection of the love of the Lord in His desire to meet the need of His people.
Refreshment and shade, are wilderness mercies, and Israel found Elim a very beautiful place, doubtless, but they could not stop there, and you and I have to pass on. When we find an Elim, the very thing that suits our hearts, we would like to settle down, but that God will not permit, and we must again take the road. In Exodus 16 they "came to the wilderness of Sin." There is no mention here of a most pregnant fact, recorded in Numbers 33:10. "And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red Sea." Oh, you say, I thought they had done with the Red Sea for ever. Why were they there again? just because they had lost, if I might so say, the sense of the mighty power of the hand that had opened the Red Sea for them. In three days they were murmuring, and wondering what they were to do. God turns the bitter water into sweet, brings them to the twelve wells and the seventy palm-trees, and then says, Go and have another look at the way by which I have brought you out of Egypt.
Ah, beloved, God would turn our hearts back, again and again, to the wonderful truth of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do well to turn back in the history of our souls to that moment, which the Spirit of God would never have us forget. Read the history of Israel, and note how often God says to them, "Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee" (Deut. 15:15). He would always keep fresh in the soul the sense of what His grace is.
Led by God, they pass from the Red Sea into the wilderness of Sin. A very remarkable thing, that the name of the place indicated what came out — sin. "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness" (Ex. 16:2). It is a very striking thing, how this word "murmured" comes in repeatedly in their history, yet God meets it in grace. "And the children of Israel said to them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the Lord to Moses, Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. And Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the Lord has brought you out from the land of Egypt: and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord; for that he hears your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we, that ye murmur against us? And Moses said, This shall be, when the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the Lord hears your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord. And Moses spake to Aaron, Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he has heard your murmurings. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud" (Ex. 16:3-10). What a contrast, man's murmuring and God's goodness. It is very often our circumstances which produce this growling at Him. It is the voice of unbelief!
We generally find out where we are, by a murmuring spirit. Nothing is more easy than for a murmuring spirit to get into the heart of a saint, or an assembly. Oh, the mischief that is done by a murmuring saint! Hence the solemn injunction, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer" (1 Cor. 10:10). Where was the first outbreak of evil in the New Testament? Not long after the Church of God was set up, a man and a woman agreed to tell a lie. They wanted to appear more devoted than they really were. God would not have that in His assembly, and they were cut down (Acts 5:1-11). Then we read, "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration" (Acts 6:1). Grace cured that murmuring splendidly, as it appointed seven Grecians (not an equal number of Hebrews and Grecians) to look after the assembly's funds, and deal with the poor. The murmuring was really against God, and not against the servants of God. Every bit of murmuring, when we fairly examine it, is not against the circumstances, nor the saints, but is always the outcome of downright unbelief towards God. That is the point.
And that is the lesson we learn here, in the wilderness of Sin. It is met by the words, "Come near before the Lord: for he has heard your murmurings" (Ex. 16:9). Ah, He does not judge them. On the contrary, He lets His glory draw near, that the very light of His presence might shine in on this murmuring people. They had said, "Would to God we had died" (Ex. 16:3). My dear friends, which was better? to toil at the brick-kilns of Pharaoh, or travel in the desert with God? Who for a moment could have any difficulty as to that? They had forgotten their bondage. All they remembered was what they had fed upon. They were away from the flesh-pots of Egypt. But they had not yet learned the sufficiency of the fulness of the hand of God. How does the Lord treat them. Oh, look at His grace! "And the Lord spake to Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak to them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp; and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar-frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said to them, This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat" (Ex. 16:11-15).
What is the bread, beloved? Why, it is Jesus. This manna is Jesus. Bread from heaven." The Lord Jesus said to the Jews, "Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven" (John 6:32). What a beautiful answer to murmuring is God's tender action. Here were those people all murmuring, and the Lord steps in and "rains bread from heaven" for them. I will ask you to read the sixth chapter of John, because you will find it is manna. There are only two things we find Israel fed on in the wilderness — quails and manna (Ex. 16:13-16). When they got to Canaan they had "the old corn of the land."
What is manna? Manna is Christ in this scene, come down from heaven, passing humbly through this scene, and living just exactly as man should live here for God. He tells us Himself what the manna is. But we do not understand it We say as they did, "Manna," "What is it?" But then you and I cannot feed upon that manna unless we come to it through death. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53). Manna, therefore, is Christ humbled, as He was in this scene. "The old corn of the land," is Christ glorified. You and I have to eat both. Because, although we are in the wilderness, we are going to heaven, we are on our road home to God, and the Spirit of God carries our souls into heavenly places now. You must eat both.
The person who only eats the manna never touches heavenly ground. And the person who is only occupied with what is heavenly, and neglects the study of the humbled Christ, and does not appropriate His death, will not walk in the fulness of the truth, nor the grace of Christ. For courage and power you must have your eye upon a glorified Christ. But to walk like Christ in this scene, in all the circumstances and difficulties that we have to walk in, we must keep our eye on Christ as a lowly, humble man in this scene. I find a perfect pattern in the pathway and life of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ as He went through this scene. A pilgrim feeds upon manna. A soldier feeds upon the old corn of the land. You will find that the person who only feeds on "the old corn of the land" may be rough, hard, rude, and practically graceless in his ways. Then the one who only feeds upon the manna, the life of Jesus, you will find very lowly, gracious, and tender, but he does not know much about a heavenly Christ, and so lacks energy and boldness in the faith.
What we want, beloved friends, and, thank God, what He has given us, is all truth. We want Christ for our souls in every aspect in which God has presented Him. If you read in the Gospels, you get the unfolding of what the manna is. Read them over and over again. They are God's food for our souls as we pass through this wilderness scene. Was not He tempted? Yes, just as we are. How did He maintain Himself? By simple dependence on God. He is the food of our souls, for it is Christ alone that we have to feed upon down here.
There are many important principles in this chapter (Ex. 16). Every man was to get the manna for himself. He was to get a full measure, and he was to get it early. If he did not get it early, he did not get it at all. And he was not to keep it till the morning. I must gather the manna, gather Christ, early in the day, to be suitably fed for the day. I can only gather Christ out of Scripture, so that is what makes the reading of the Scripture, and the study of the Scripture, so important. Feed on Scripture. That is the way to get on. Read the Word of God, because if you read the Word it will feed your soul.
You must not forget that you still have the flesh in you, and the flesh likes the onions and the leeks of Egypt as much as ever. You, however, by sovereign grace, are a new creature in Christ. You have a new nature, and that feeds on Christ, and nothing but Christ. Am I set to feed the old man, or to feed the new? That is the point, do not you see? The only thing that will feed the new man is Scripture, or that which may help me to understand Scripture. Let me just say, be careful what you read, but read. Paul said to Timothy, "Give attendance to reading" (1 Tim. 4:13). Wise counsel! He valued reading, hence to the same man he wrote, "When thou comest, bring with thee the books, but especially the parchments" (2 Tim. 4:13). Those who read nothing but the Bible are usually the most ignorant people I know. It seems pious to say, "I only read the Bible." In reality it is pride of heart, for we must remember that God has given many precious servants, who, by stroke of the pen, have unfolded His truth. Bear that in mind. It is very important to read, but I say again, be careful what you read. Books, you know, are great companions. But at the same time, it is important to bear in mind how the contents of a book will leave their mark on you. A book which the Spirit of God did not write will feed the flesh, but it will not feed the life of God in you. Scripture detects me, judges me, and feeds me. Read Psalm 119, and note how 174 of its verses extol the value of the Word. Be careful to get the manna, and get plenty of it.
We read in Numbers 11:9, that "when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it." That, I take it, is the care the Spirit of God has for the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It never touches the ground, though on the ground. Christ was on the earth, but was not earthly. He was the heavenly upon earth. It is the beautiful care of God's Spirit with regard to the incarnation of God's own dear and blessed Son.
At the close of Exodus 16:33, we read, "And Moses said to Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations." And we also read of "the golden pot that had manna" (Heb. 9:4). This is Christ again, the eternal memento in glory of that divine vessel which contained a perfect, humbled, human life on earth. The Jesus who was down here, is the Jesus who is up there; and the Jesus whom the Holy Ghost would have you fix your eye upon, is the Jesus who walked down here, and said, "Follow thou me."
The sixteenth chapter of Exodus thus presents the food of God's people in the desert. This we must ever gather from the written Word. Hence, the more you have of the Word of God the better. By-and-by in the course of your life you will perhaps come to some difficulty, and you will say, I really do not know what to do. If you had the Scriptures pervading your mind, you would know what to do. "Then remembered I the word of the Lord" (Acts 11:16), saved Peter from error. The Word of God teaches us our road for every bit of the pathway here. The book of Proverbs is immensely interesting, and of great value in this respect. I commend it to your careful study, while at the same time I would urge you to have no favourite portions of Scripture. Read it through, and study it carefully, and prayerfully. Because otherwise, you will not get into the breadth of the truth of God. Oh, how unspeakably valuable, then, is the Word of God. Well, that is the sixteenth chapter.
But you have the other side of the truth, which comes out in chapter 17. Again they were murmuring. "The people thirsted there for water; and murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" (Ex. 17:3). They were ready to stone him (Ex. 17:4), but God's grace was paramount. "And the Lord said to Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand and go. Behold, I will stand before thee thereupon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel" (Ex. 17:5-6). What was that rock? just turn over your Bible to Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, "They did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:3-4). I do not know that you and I would have said that, "That Rock was Christ," but it was. What you have here, is another figure of the cross. It is the death of Christ, with most lovely consequences. "He smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed" (Ps. 78:20). This without doubt represents the Spirit of God. You have the manna, Christ, in the sixteenth chapter. And now in the seventeenth, the gushing waters are the figure of the Spirit of God, that came down from an ascended Christ in heaven. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)" (John 7:37-39).
Not only have I Christ to feed on, I have the Spirit of God. Therefore, my friends, see how fully God has furnished us for the pathway, yea, for the battle, and the conflict of the pathway, which immediately follows. Wherever they went, the overflowing streams followed them (1 Cor. 10:4). I do not think the rock moved, but that which came from the rock followed them. Behind, in their track, that shining river came right along. Morning by morning down came the bread, and day by day the water followed them. It was the care of God, exercised in a miraculous manner.
We too are the subject of miracles of grace all along the road. All we have to do is to be simple, childlike, and confiding. God keep us from murmuring. There is nothing so deadening to the soul. The Lord give us more sweet, simple confidence in himself. The death of Christ has delivered us from the hand of the enemy, you have Christ to feed on, and you have the. Holy Ghost dwelling in you. You are well off!
And now see what follows. The moment there has been refreshment from God, the enemy comes in like a flood. The enemy always tries to oppose your spiritual progress. It is not until you have received the Holy Ghost, that there is any real conflict going on. "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim" (Ex. 17:8). Amalek is a type of the flesh. You read the Epistle to the Galatians in connection with this incident here, and you will get help. "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:16-17). The flesh and the Spirit are contrary one to the other. You have now really two natures. You want to do right, and the flesh opposes. If you allow the flesh, you would do what would not please the Lord. But if you are in the power of the Spirit, you gain a victory. The gaining of the victory was dependent upon Moses.
"And Moses said to Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword" (vers. 9-13). When it was a question of Pharaoh, the word was, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Ex. 14:13-14). God does all the fighting if it be a question of delivering you from the power of Satan. But when it is a question of the flesh — and mark you, you have always the flesh in you — then there must be conflict, and, "Fight with Amalek" is the order. What is the power for the conflict? It is the Holy Ghost. The very fact of the conflict shows that the Holy Ghost is in me. It is not a question as to whether I am saved or not, but it is a question as to whether the will of God is to be wrought out, or whether the flesh, which is always trying to hinder me, is to stop me in my course as a Christian.
Observe what follows. Moses prays, and Joshua fights. Here is the first time you read of Joshua. You get a great deal about him afterwards. I have no doubt that Moses' praying is figurative of our Lord's present intercession on high, and that Joshua is a type of the risen Christ in the energy of the Spirit of God. If you walk in the Spirit you are bound to get the victory. When I make provision for the flesh, then I am defeated. This may lead a young believer to doubt his conversion, or that he is really saved. This is a great mistake, for Israel never go back into Egypt, though they were carried to Babylon. You never can be anything but a child of God. You may go down to Babylon, i.e., get into the world morally, but will come under God's hand there, but you are still His child. I may choose to take my own way, and He may have to send me a prisoner, so to speak, to Babylon, but I am always God's child.
The conflict between the flesh and the Spirit within us is a sign that we are converted. "And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed" (Ex. 17:11). We are dependent on the continual intercession of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Do you think His hands ever hang down? No! Do they ever get weary? Impossible! "He led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50). He was seen to go up into heaven with His hands uplifted in blessing, and so they are to this day. Oh, no! His hands never get weary. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies; who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33-34). Again, "He ever lives to make intercession for us" (Heb. 7:25).
Amalek was defeated that day (Ex. 17:13-16), but God remembered his wickedness. "Remember what Amalek did to thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God has given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God gives thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it" (Deut. 25:17-19). Saul was told later to exterminate him, but he did not do it fully (1 Sam. 15). The point is this, the flesh must go. But what a blessed thing! You have the Spirit of God in you, and you have Christ on high for you. We are a well-cared-for people (Ex. 17:15-16).
"And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi," i.e., The Lord is my Banner (Ex. 17:15). You will be a worshipper now. I think that is what leads the soul into worship. The Lord is my Banner! If the Lord is your Banner, victory is certain. Well, that is the way God opens up the history of His people. Clean out of Egypt, and tested in the wilderness. The more you are tested, the more you learn what God's grace is. You have Christ to feed on, and the Spirit of God to sustain you, and carry you on to victory, coupled with the wonderful truth of the intercession of the blessed Lord Jesus, now at God's right hand. Happy people are all those who walk in these precious truths.
Thou art my bread, Lord Jesus,
Evermore I live by Thee:
Thou art my wine, Lord Jesus,
For Thy blood was shed for me.
Ere my race, my course be run,
Ere the crown of life be won, —
Thou art my bread.
Thou art my wine, mine exultation,
Thou art the strength of my salvation.
Thou art my strength, Lord Jesus;
Power and praise belong to Thee:
Thou art my song, Lord Jesus,
For Thy grace sufficeth me.
Till the tears of time be o'er,
Till the tempter tempt no more, —
Thou art my strength:
Thou art my song in tribulation,
Thou art the horn of my salvation.
Thou art my light, Lord Jesus,
And I love to gaze on Thee;
Thou art my life, Lord Jesus,
Thou did'st give Thyself for me.
Though the lesser lights may pale,
Though my flesh and heart may fail, —
Thou art my life:
Thou art the sun of God's creation,
Thou art my light and my salvation.
Thou art my hope, Lord Jesus,
I am waiting here for Thee;
Thou art my gain, Lord Jesus,
Thou art all in all to me.
Thou my joy, my peace, my light,
Thou my life, my hope, my might, —
Thou art my praise;
Thou art my Lord, mine adoration,
Thou art the God of my salvation.
CHAPTER 7 — SUSTENANCE: THE MANNA AND THE WATER.
(Ex. 15:22-27, Ex. 16:1-36, Ex. 17:1-16.)
IF we did not know the incorrigible evil and the deep unbelief of our own hearts, we might perhaps wonder a little at that which is recorded in these chapters. But the fact is, Israel were like us. They found it very difficult to trust God. And you and I, as saints, find it very difficult to trust God. In view of the difficulties of our pathway, God has told us all this for our comfort and encouragement. You will observe that what comes out is this, the murmuring of the people only brings out the grace of God. That is at this point of their history. You will have to notice that they are under pure grace, right up to Sinai. It is nothing but sovereign grace. They are on the ground of atonement, and nothing but grace comes out.
You will find it makes all the difference in the history of your soul, whether you are before God in the sense of what His grace is, or whether you are before Him in a legal condition, thinking of what you ought to be. Grace is the discovery to my soul of what God is in every possible circumstance. We saw how this multitude made the heavens ring with a song of praise to God, as they saw all their enemies dead upon the seashore. I wonder if you have ever opened their mouths and sang this beautiful song. Depend upon it heaven listened that morning. They were very happy that day. They had a right to be. Was it not a beautiful song. It was a lovely song. And what was there in the song? Well, there is a peculiar absence of a great deal that is found in what you and I are wont to sing. Nineteen-twentieths of our singing is about ourselves. This redemption song from first to last is all about the Lord.
But I hear a sorrowful voice saying, I cannot sing, for I am very miserable, and I fear that I am not converted. You would not be miserable, my dear friend, if you were not converted. If you were still dead in your sins you would be insensible. Why are you wretched now? Because there has been an action of God's Spirit in your soul, and you have had a glance at the value of the cross, but then, instead of keeping your eye resting on Christ, you have been looking into your wretched miserable self If I were you, I would drop all that, and get into the spirit of this beautiful song.
Israel sighed, wept, and groaned in Egypt, but they could not sing. Even in the twelfth chapter they did not sing. Why? Because they were not in liberty, but the moment they were, out comes the song. So will it be with you, the moment you learn the fact that the cross, the death, and resurrection of Christ are for you, and that in His death and resurrection you are dead and risen, you will not then be able to help singing. The song will burst from your lips spontaneously without a bit of effort. This gives us the true thought of worship. A religious service will in all probability be a great deal about ourselves. But that is not worship. Worship is the overflow of a full heart. No one can worship unless he be in the sense of the liberty of God.
Let us now briefly listen to this new song of redemption. It begins with, "I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea" (Ex. 15:1). It celebrates His victory. How does it finish? "The Lord shall reign for ever and ever" (Ex. 15:18). It proclaims His glory. This song begins with the sense of the grace and power that has delivered, but it closes with the glory. It takes us right into the glory. Faith enjoys the salvation that it has found in the Lord, and faith takes a flying leap right over all the difficulties of the way, saying, "Thou hast guided them in thy strength to thy holy habitation" (Ex. 15:13). There is faith's confidence, that what grace has commenced it will finish. Doubting friend, take up this language, and let your doubts go. They are the fruit of unbelief It is Satan diverting the eye from Christ. You let the eye rest upon Christ, and all your doubts will go, and you will be occupied simply with God, and with what Christ is.
Note how this chapter opens. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song," etc. (ver. 1). Really the state of many a professing Christian today would find its expression, not in the word they "sang," but they "sighed." Oh, my dear friends, I believe our lack of joy is a great sin. It is a very serious matter, because it is a positive testimony against Christ, to His enemies. Instead of being a testimony for Him, oftentimes we are a testimony against Him, and a kind of encouragement to half-hearted sinners to go on with the world. The reason of this poor state is because our souls are not in the joy of this song. Listen again to the words, "I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously." It is the first outburst in Scripture of real worship, and is based on the fact that "He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea." All the power of the enemy is broken. And if you look back for a moment and see what is connected with the cross, the death and resurrection of Christ, you will see that the power of the enemy has been absolutely crushed, and we stand in the victory, deliverance, and acceptance of Christ. Christ is all. What joy fills the heart when that is seen. What joy filled the heart of the prodigal when he got the sense of the Father's love (Luke 15).
There is music and dancing in our chapter (Ex. 15:20), and you have music and dancing in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. I want you to get into the spirit of the beginning of the chapter. In the end of the chapter we find that Israel murmured. It is true that the song of the fifteenth of Exodus did die away, but did you ever hear of the song of the fifteenth of Luke dying away? "They began to be merry," it says. And we never hear of it ceasing, and we must live in the spirit of our dispensation.
What is Christianity? It is the knowledge of the Father, and the Son, with the Holy Ghost dwelling in the body of the believer, and setting him up in this scene in the power and spirit of Christ, that he may live in this scene as the Lord lived. Christianity is the repetition of the life of Jesus, in the life of the Christian. I cannot therefore allow myself any comfort from this chapter if I am a bit dejected. No, no! That might be overlooked in that day, when God was testing the flesh, as He was, but when I come to the full expression of the truth of the day we are in, you get Christ as the pattern. Did you ever hear Him murmuring? No, never! Even in the darkest day, we hear Him say, "I thank thee O Father" (Matt. 11:25). Always subject, always obedient, always peaceful. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you (John 14:27). Always joyful is also our normal state. "These things write we to you, that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:4). Ah, beloved, we have a perfect pattern in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us follow Him.
Observe the way their soul's vision is filled that resurrection morn: "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation" (Ex. 15:2). I think, beloved friends, that some of us will have to put it this way: "The Lord was my strength and song, but now I am so weak." Israel says here, "The Lord is my strength and song." Is there not refreshing vigour about that note of the song? Do you think that as you and I get older, we are to get colder? As we go on are we to become feebler? Away with such unbelief. Let me show you an old convert. Four years in a prison, cut off from everything, and all Asia turned away from him, listen to what he says, "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). It was Paul the saint. He writes as a saint, not an apostle there. What can keep a saint right? The company of Christ.
Brethren, let us get a little more into this element of joy. We want it. You usually see young Christians very bright. Should we older ones be the reverse? God forbid! If we see one joyful and bright, we should judge ourselves if we are not the same. "The Lord is become my salvation" is a fine note to sing when we have learned our own absolute weakness and incompetence. His heart was filled with gladness as those voices rang from the borders of the Red Sea. Shall He not hear ours also? They saw that the road back to Egypt was blocked. They had heard the word, "Stand still." They had seen God come in and deliver them in that marvellous manner, and now they turned, and gave to God all the praise, and all the thanks. Further, they say, "He is my God." It is a nice thing when the soul is able to say that with distinctness and clearness. And more than that, "I will prepare him an habitation" (Ex. 15:2). That to me is the most lovely bit of the whole chapter. The moment I am upon the ground of redemption I am fit for His company, and He loves to have my company. "I will prepare him an habitation" is faith's apprehension of God's ultimate purpose. They seized the thought that God was going to dwell with them (see also Ex. 15:13). Mark, it is His strength that brings you out of a defiled world, and it is to a holy habitation He leads you (see also Ex. 15:17). They seem to say, Lord, you will never be content till you have got us in your own company.
Ah, but you say, we have not got there yet. No, beloved, but is it not a wonderful thing, that while you and I are here, God can dwell with us. How few of God's people ever rise to this. The scripture says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). "In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). It is an immense thing for the soul to see that, and that it is only upon the ground of redemption. God visited Abraham. He paid him a visit, and then retired. But when I come to this chapter, what is the first thought that comes into their hearts? They say, He will come and dwell with us. We shall have His company permanently.
Are we not going to dwell with the Lord by-and-by? Certainly, but here you have the thought of God now dwelling with us. God's people are now formed into a house, the body of Christ, by the presence and indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and that only upon the ground of redemption. The thought of this you have in this chapter, "I will prepare him an habitation." The way is clear for God to dwell in our midst. Before the moment of our going to dwell with Him, comes the wonderful truth of His dwelling with us (see John 14:16-17). Our going to be with Him is all certain of course, but, before we go to dwell with Him, He comes and dwells with us. This is made good, and known only by the Spirit of truth, as the Lord said, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth … he dwells with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17).
Further," If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). This is not only in the assembly, mind. It is individual. It is a wondrous privilege which the soul has now, and I believe it to be conditional on our practical state of heart. You will see in a previous verse Jesus says, "He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father. and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21). What is the meaning of that? You keep His commandments, and He will pay you a visit. But He says also, "If a man love me he will keep my words." What is the difference, beloved friends, between keeping His commandments, and keeping His words? There is a very great difference. There are many things that come to you and me in the form of a command in Scripture, and there is also a great unfolding of God's thoughts, His wishes, His words, and what would please Him. You set yourself to keep what you are commanded to do, and you will get a visit from Him. But if you love Him, and treasure His words in your heart, you will do always that which pleases Him, and you will secure His company abidingly. How blessed is such a privilege. May we seek it fully!
It is of the last importance that Christians should be instructed as to the indwelling of the blessed Spirit of truth, both individually, and likewise in the assembly. The moment you are upon the ground of redemption, you will find that God has a people. We are saved to be part of a people, God's assembly. Do you observe that God had a people here? "Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed" (Ex. 15:13). He has that which He can call His own. Now it is the Church of God. We are only a bit of it. God's Church in any place today is composed of every saint of God therein. We ought to be together, and we ought to be clean separate from the world. But we are not. Today you see where the Church is, alas, all divided and separate. Scripture shows us what God's thought for her was — to walk together as His people. It is always good to get back to the beginnings of things. You go and read the Scriptures. Get back to the Bible, and read what God has written. Whatever you may hear me say, or any other man say, do not believe one word of it till you go back to Scripture and test it. What we want is to get back more to what God has said, and to take our thoughts from what God has said.
Moreover, this song celebrates that it is not only a people that are redeemed and purchased, but a people brought right home to God. They rejoice that every enemy has melted away, and every opposer is "as still as a stone till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased" (Ex. 15:16). Is not that beautiful? They are God's people. Wake up, fellow-believer in Christ, you are one of God's people. It is a wonderful thing when the soul gets the sense of this. What God has begun, you may depend upon it, He will carry on to the end, and by-and-by the top-stone will be laid in glory with great shouts and rejoicings.
The secret of much of the darkness among God's people today is, that they are reading the New Testament through the dimness of the Old Testament. What ought we to do? Read the Old Testament with the light that God has given us in the New. It is a profound mistake to read the New Testament through the Old Testament. Everything was in type, shadow, and figure in the Old Testament. But it is all out of type now. Everything is wrapped up in Christ, a living Man at God's right hand. And I am in Him, and you are in Him. As far. as the practical ways of a saint down here are concerned, whether individually, in the assembly, for worship, or whatever he connected with God's people here, what is the secret of power? Only the Holy Ghost. And therefore you can easily see the folly of the present day in going back to the Mosaic ritual. You are behind the times. You are all out of date. Everything now must be in the power of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps this is never more true than in song.
A redeemed, rejoicing people, with God in their midst, have the sense that they are a delivered people; they know they are God's people, and they know they are sure to get to the spot He is leading them to. But there is something more than that They have this sense, holiness belongs to this company. "Who is like to thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders" (Ex. 15:11). They had a deep sense that "holiness becomes thine house, O Lord, for ever" (Ps. 93:5). Do not let us forget it. I hear some one say, I am not happy. May I ask you a question? Are you holy? Ah, that searches me. It ought to search us all. It is not that sin is not in us, but that does not give a bad conscience, if it be not working. Holiness is the soul walking in the light, and in separation from the flesh, the world, and from the things that do not suit God.
But supposing I am making provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. If I am walking in the flesh, I shall not get the support of the Spirit, nor the comfort of the Spirit. "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14), is the injunction. If I do not, my joy will go, and I shall inevitably lose my brightness. And what is the secret of this? I have not been holy. Happiness walks just one foot, and one foot only, behind holiness. The secret of a happy life is a holy life. It is very simple. "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). You walk with Christ, and you will become holy. Do not try to he holy. The moment you try to be anything, it is not of Christ. There is no effort in Christianity. Walk in holy fear, and your heart will be kept in the company of Christ. It is a beautiful thing when a soul walks in that kind of holy fear. You walk with Jesus, my friend. Tell everything to Jesus. Have no secrets with Him. If you are in weakness, go to Jesus, and tell Him about it. Count on the heart of Jesus, and the strength and love of Jesus. He has no reserves on His side, do not let us have any reserves on our side. You will be happy then.
But more than this, holiness leads to such confidence in God that the soul can triumphantly say, "The people shall hear, and be afraid" (Ex. 15:14). Will you meet enemies? Plenty of them. What will happen? They will all go down before God. Every difficulty becomes a new opportunity for God to display His power. The Lord comes in to show Himself strong. My friend, is all the world against you? God and you are a match for them. God and I together are invincible. All the difficulties will disappear, because you will have the strength of the Lord. "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
The song closes very beautifully: "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in; in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established" (Ex. 15:17). They are a holy people on the road, and they are going to the sanctuary. That is the spot where there is neither enemy nor evil occurrent. And, beloved friends, we are going to it, and what ought to mark us by the way is holiness.
"The Lord shall reign for ever and ever" (Ex. 15:18), is the triumphant conclusion of faith's song, and the reason thereof is very blessed. His glory and their deliverance are based on the same thing — "For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea" (Ex. 15:19).
They got back to the starting point. It is very interesting to notice that the end of the song is the beginning of it. The older a saint gets the more his soul enters into and enjoys the simplicity of the grace of God.
Miriam and her fellows ring out the chorus of this redemption song, "with timbrels and with dances," saying, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea" (Ex. 15:21). The chorus is not on a level with the song itself, for Miriam is a type of a soul that never gets beyond the thought of escape. She has not a note about getting into the land. She rejoices in what had been done in destroying the foe, but breathes not a word about getting into the land. It is very striking; she never got in. She died in the wilderness (Num. 20:1). In the history of her soul, she never got over Jordan.
It is our privilege now to pass in spirit to where Christ now is. And God will sustain us, and keep us, and carry us on, a bright living witness for Himself Oh, you be for Christ in this scene. Are you a young convert? Be out and out for the Lord. It is His purpose to carry you in. You may be a Caleb, or a Joshua. They fully followed the Lord. They were the only two that got into the land (Num. 14:26-30). Had I met these two men, forty years after, and said, Were not you among the men that stood on the shores of the Red Sea and sang that song? Yes, we sang that song, and are not we here, two witnesses to the truth of what we sang? Ah, it is beautiful to see this. And I believe there will be many a saint in glory by-and-by, whose history has been something after the pattern of a Caleb, and a Joshua. They had been kept and sustained by God the whole way along, and they had fully followed the Lord. May God give you to fully follow the Lord Jesus Christ, for His blessed name sake.
O patient, spotless One!
Our hearts in meekness train,
To bear Thy yoke, and learn of Thee,
That we may rest obtain.
Jesus! Thou art enough
The mind and heart to fill;
Thy patient life — to calm the soul;
Thy love — its fear dispel.
O fix our earnest gaze
So wholly, Lord, on Thee,
That, with Thy beauty occupied,
We elsewhere none may see
CHAPTER 8 — THE SERPENT OF BRASS, AND THE JORDAN.
(Num. 21:1-18; Joshua 5:1-15.)
WE will now look at the truth connected with "the serpent of brass," and "the Jordan." They are two aspects of the death of Christ. Each presents the truth in an entirely different way, but still a way in which it is of the last importance for our souls to get hold of I think in the serpent of brass we have the wonderful truth of how God gets rid of me, for Himself, and in the Jordan, we have the truth of how I can get rid of myself, in my own experience.
The purpose of God for Israel, as given in the book of Exodus, was, that He would bring them out from Egypt, and bring them into a good land and large, a land flowing with milk and honey. It is an immense thing for the soul to ever deepen in the apprehension of God's purpose, and that, no matter what comes in, God's purpose will not be frustrated. Spite of all the opposition of Pharaoh, and spite of the many compromises that Pharaoh suggested, God brought them out, and spite of Israel's failure in the wilderness, He brought them into Canaan.
First of all comes the truth of the blood on the lintel, redemption by blood. That is the aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ by which we are secured from God's judgment, as sinners, and we feed on "the lamb roast with fire" — the sufferings and death of Christ — our souls entering into that which is expressed in His death.
Then we have the passage of the Red Sea. That we have seen is the truth of the death and resurrection of Christ for us and our sins, the power of the enemy absolutely broken, God's salvation manifested, and the people brought to rejoice in it. The Red Sea, I believe, is the death and resurrection of Christ for our sins, as for ourselves also. And it is a great thing for a young soul to see this, that I am clear of the enemy's land, that I am brought right out from that land by death and resurrection. You touch the same truth in a certain way when you come to the Jordan. It is a great thing for my soul to see that I am before God in connection with Christ, dead and risen. It is what you get in the epistle to the Romans. I believe, what the Red Sea teaches me, as well as the epistle to the Romans, is, that I am taken into death to escape all that was against me. By death — Christ's death viewed as mine — I escape everything that oppresses me as a man in the flesh. In Romans 5 you escape from association with the first man — Adam — death breaks the link; in Romans 6 you escape from sin as a master; and in Romans 7 you escape the condemnation that is connected with an infringed law.
It is very striking to notice that you see Israel as a company go into the Red Sea, but you never see them come out. They did come out, but it does not say they did. I think the reason is this, that when you come to the Jordan, you do not read of them going into the Jordan, you see the ark going in, but you see them come out. The fact is this, the Red Sea and the Jordan coalesce. To bring them out of Egypt and to bring them into Canaan was God's purpose.
But, you say, the wilderness came in between. Yes, but that was not part of the purpose of God. It was in His ways, but His purpose was to bring them out, and bring them in. The forty years in between became the occasion of learning what they were, and gave occasion also to learn God's ways of grace. If you look at the eleventh chapter of Hebrews you will be struck with this. "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned." That is, nature could not walk in the pathway of faith. And what is the next word? "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days" (Heb. 11:29-30). You have no mention of Jordan. Why? Because the journey through the wilderness, with Jordan at the end, was not the path of faith, it was the path of failure. When God recounts the history of the life of faith, you have the Red Sea and the fall of Jericho put together. They go side by side, and the forty years in the wilderness is not as much as mentioned.
Well, delivered by the sovereign grace of God, and brought out of Egypt as we have seen, it took them forty years to enter Canaan. Their journey was divided into four stages. The first, with which we are all pretty familiar, is from the banks of the Red Sea till they come to Sinai (Ex. 15 - 19:1-2). In that stage of their journey they were under pure sovereign grace. If they come to Marah, where the waters are bitter, God turns the bitter water into sweet. When hungry, He gives them bread from heaven. If they say, We are dying of thirst, He smites the rock, and out comes water. If they have an enemy to meet, there is Moses interceding for them on high, and Joshua leading them on to certain victory in the valley below. There we have the energy of a risen Christ, by the Holy Ghost, leading God's people to victory.
The first stage takes you to the middle of the book of Exodus. The latter half of the book is occupied with the instructions connected with the setting up of the tabernacle, in which God was to dwell. Leviticus gives to us the manner of their approach to God. Christ is presented in all these types and figures as the basis of all worship. That is the great subject of the book of Leviticus.
When you come to Numbers you get the itinerary of the people of God through the wilderness. The chapter I have read is really in the last stage of their history. They are getting toward the close of their journey when the story of the serpent of brass comes in. To connect our subject I will glance briefly over the early part of the book.
The first ten chapters of the book are occupied with marshalling them, and getting them ready for the journey. The book of Numbers opens with, "And the Lord spake to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt" (Num. 1:1). The first thirteen months, the first stage of their journey, was occupied in getting from the Red Sea to Sinai, where you know, in fatal folly, they put themselves under law. They abandoned grace and took upon themselves the responsibility of walking before God, consenting that their blessing should depend upon their own behaviour. We have all, however, to learn as we pass on that the only secret of blessing is the grace of God, in connection with His purpose.
Well now, in the first ten chapters of Numbers, I repeat, you learn the way in which God marshalled them, gathered them round about Him, and how He Himself was in their midst. When you come to chapter 10 you read, "And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony" (Num. 10:11). That is, in twenty days they are all put in order. God was then in their very midst, but Moses, like the rest of us, wanting something down here for the eye to rest on, as a guide through the wilderness, turns to Hobab and says, You be eyes for us. "Come with us … leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes" (Num. 10:29-32). The child of the desert refuses to be their guide, and in tender grace the Lord says, I shall go before you, and the ark of the Lord becomes their guide. The pillar of cloud had been their guide before, but the Lord, in His beautiful grace, now goes before them Himself "And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them" (Num. 10:33). This was beautiful grace, beloved friends, in meeting failure.
And now you come to that which is a very sorrowful bit of their history. The second stage of their history was very short, but very eventful. It embraces Numbers 10:11-36, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. They reached Kadesh very quickly (see Num. 12:16, Num. 13:26).
It was only an eleven days' journey from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea (Deut. 1:2), but there was an immense amount of dreadful failure in those few days. In the eleventh chapter you find them saying, "But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes" (Num. 11:6). That is, in plain language, they got tired of Christ Ah, beloved, are any of us tired of Christ? Do I want something besides Christ? That is the first failure.
The end of the chapter shows that the Lord gave them quails, in answer to their murmuring, and then dealt with them in His government (Num. 11:31-34). "He gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel" (Ps. 78:29-31). You will all, I am sure, be struck with this comment of the Spirit of God, in the Psalms, upon this scene. I believe really what we want we get. If I want flesh, God will give it me, but discipline and leanness of soul with it. The hand of God in government was upon them here really. It was not like the first case, in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, where they asked, and God gave them quails. Then they were upon the ground of pure grace, but now, being on the ground of responsibility, He acts differently. There it was sin met by grace, here it is sin judged in government.
Then in the twelfth chapter of Numbers the priest, Aaron, and the prophetess, Miriam, rise up against Moses, who was king in Jeshurun — God's representative. When you come to the next chapter they send out spies to see what the pleasant land was like, and to see by what way they should go (see Deut. 1:22-25). I quite admit God permitted the spies to go, for He did not thwart Israel in their unbelief Hence He said, "Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel" (Num. 13:2). They sent up these spies, and as unbelief always brings trouble to the unbeliever, I daresay you have noticed that this mission was the way Arad knew that Israel were coming, and went out to fight against them (see Num. 21:1). Unbelief always brings sorrow. The next thing is that when the spies come back the congregation will not believe what is told them.
First of all the report is very good, and the bunch of grapes — taking two men to carry it — attested the goodness of the land, and then they said, "The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature" (Num. 13:32); that is, the land did not give plenty of provision. Caleb and Joshua stood up for the truth, and were nearly stoned (Num. 13:30, Num. 14:6-10). "They despised the pleasant land" (Ps. 106:24) is the next step. They did not want to go on. It is like a heart now that does not want to go to heaven.
Next they say, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt, or would God that we had died in this wilderness. And wherefore has the Lord brought us to this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?" (Num. 14:1-4). Let us go back, they say. Oh, could you suppose it after all the grace shown to them? But, beloved, we know what our own hearts are. Have we never wished to turn back? Ah, every heart in this hall knows how often there has been a turning back. God's answer was this: You say you wish you had died in the wilderness — you shall die in the wilderness. "As for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness, and your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness" (Num. 14:32-33). Says God, You will have to die, only it will take you forty years to do it, "After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years" (Num. 14:34). They must know death.
Then the fifteenth chapter comes in. Did you ever study the fifteenth chapter of Numbers? It is a beautiful chapter. Why? Because God's purpose shines in it as clear as ever, spite of the sin of the people. It opens thus, "And the Lord spake to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I give to you" (Num. 15:2). Ah, it is lovely! I get the Lord giving directions as to what shall be when they get into the land, as though there had never been a murmur, or any failure. It is a gem, that chapter. It comes in as the expression of how God's purpose is never upset. No matter what the people's sin is on the road, God carries out His purpose regarding them. A perusal of the chapter will let you see how beautifully the truth comes out in that way. That chapter takes you to the end of the second stage of Israel's journeyings.
And now in the third stage the Lord makes them wander for thirty-eight years in the wilderness, and when you come to the twentieth chapter you will find that they have got back again to Kadesh. If you trace their journeyings you will find that they consist of aimless wanderings up and down the peninsula of Arabia, from Kadesh (Num. 12:16, Num. 13:26) to Kadesh (Num. 20:1), and no real progress made. What a picture of many a saint now, who has rebelled against God, and never really got on in his soul.
In this third stage you have the rebellion of Korah (Num. 16), which leads God in grace to manifest who is His priest (Num. 17). The only way in which a feeble people can be brought right through the wilderness to God's Sanctuary is by grace and priesthood. Oh, how much we, as Christians, owe to the priesthood of Christ! How we are maintained by that blessed One! In the eighteenth chapter you have instructions as to the maintenance of the priests, and in the nineteenth chapter you have the story of the red heifer, or how, in the wilderness, defilement can be met and cleansed.
And then, when you come to the twentieth chapter, again there is no water, and there it is that Moses and Aaron break down, because they did not glorify God. God bade Moses go and speak to the rock. He was told by God to "take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock" (Num. 20:8). He was to take the rod of priesthood. It was not judgment that was to be expressed, but grace through priesthood. It is priestly grace that puts a heart right, always. "And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice" (Num. 20:9-11). That was not the rod the Lord bade him take. He smote it with the rod that he had smitten Egypt with, the rod of judgment. That is a figure of the death of Christ, undergoing the judgment of God. There can be no repetition, even in type, of that. God's answer was this: "And the Lord spake to Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them" (Num. 20:12). Thus, you see, Moses and Aaron break down on the road, and the latter dies (Num. 20:28). Then the next thing is that there is opposition on the part of Edom, and Israel, humbled at last, gives way.
And now in Numbers 20:22 they begin the fourth, and last stage of their journey, which occupied about one year or so. Then in the twenty-first chapter we have another outbreak of evil, and the story of the serpent of brass. It is very simple, but I do not think that we learn its truth at the beginning of our Christian pathway. Oh, you say, is it not about the new birth? Well, it is connected with it in John 3, but there is something deeper than merely meeting the need of a poor sinner. What comes out here is, that the flesh is incurable and incorrigible. They murmured, "and the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died" (Num. 21:6). But then as they turned to the Lord, and owned their sin, He bade Moses make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole, and when a bitten man looked upon it he lived (Num. 21:5-9). There, in type, is the wonderful truth that Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin. It is the spring of a totally new life. Our Lord, in the third chapter of John's Gospel, connects it with eternal life, and I do not doubt that the things that are in figure in this chapter are brought out in the doctrine of John 3 and 4. The first man is incurably bad, cannot be mended, and must go from before God's eye. He must go in death, in judgment, that is the point That is to say, there is nothing in you or me that will suit God. All that we are must go in death, and there is brought in that which is entirely and absolutely new. It is Christ, as Son of Man, lifted up, in John 3:14-15, and, as a consequence, through faith in Him, not only new birth, but eternal life, and in the fourth of John you have the water springing up to eternal life, i.e., life in the power of the Holy Ghost rising to its source — the Father — in worship.
Look again for a moment at the serpent of brass. The thing that did the mischief was the fiery serpent, and what cured them was a look at a fiery serpent. Sin brought in death, and only by death is sin put away. Sin in the flesh is incorrigible, incurable, and ineradicable. What then can be done with it? God tells us: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). That is the serpent of brass. What I am, as a man, has been utterly condemned in the cross of Christ, and absolutely set aside from before God in death. It has gone from God's eye in the death of His blessed Son, an immense thing for the soul to see. Why? Because until this is learned, there is self-confidence, and an endeavour to improve the flesh. Hence, very often, we have to learn by very painful and prolonged practical experience and failure what a poor good-for-nothing thing man is. When I learn the truth of the serpent of brass I find that God has got rid of me, in the cross of His Son, and only Christ remains.
Next you get, "And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the Lord spake to Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye to it" (Num. 21:17-18). That is in type what the Lord said to the woman at the well, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that says to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. … Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:10, 13, 14). What is that? Why, beloved friend, it is the Spirit of God in the bosom of the Christian, in the soul of the believer, now leading your soul up in the enjoyment of eternal life into that which is yours in heaven, although you are still in the wilderness. "Spring up, O well; sing ye to it." That is the Spirit of God carrying the heart now into the enjoyment of heavenly things, that really are our own. It is the energy of the Holy Ghost in the Christian. It is not a bit of use for me to tell you to get rid of this thing and that. You will never do it. What we want to know is the unhindered energy of the Holy Ghost. He will occupy us with Christ, He will bring Christ to us, and tell us of Christ. "Gather the people together, and I will give them water." Oh, how God loves thus to set His people up in the energy and power of the Holy Ghost.
You do not get the serpent of brass until the close of Israel's wilderness history. It is a long time before we learn that God has set us aside, and aim to set ourselves aside. Oh, what battles and struggles have souls gone through in trying to get rid of the flesh. I see here, with deep relief and thankfulness, that aspect of the death of Christ in which all that I am, as a man in the flesh, is gone, and that I am replaced by the Man of God's heart, the Man out of heaven, the Lord from heaven. And it is He in the energy and power of the Spirit of God that leads the soul on.
The final effort of the devil to prevent them entering the land is given in the section (Num. 22 - 25) which introduces Balaam. He is hired to curse them, but really he blesses them, and in his remarkable prophecies shows that they are God's people; separated to Him (Num. 23:9); justified by Him (Num. 23:21-23); seen of Him in order and beauty only (Num. 24:5-9), and destined to victory and glory with Him (Num. 24:17-19). He always wins who is on God's side.
Balaam was a wicked man, but he knew God would judge evil, specially in His people, so he "taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication" (Rev. 2:14).
He tried to corrupt them by mixing with the world religiously and socially. Some fell into the snare, and came under God's judgment.
How many of God's people today are caught in the same way!
In Numbers 27 the daughters of Zelophehad indicate that at length there is a desire for the pleasant land, instead of despising it. They claim their father's portion, and God honours the demand of faith. He ever loves to give. Hence "the Lord spake to Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right; thou shalt surely give them a possession" (vers. 6, 7).
The spirit that moved these women did not animate the whole congregation, for in Numbers 32 the children of Reuben and Gad ask that their families and flocks may not be carried over the Jordan, now in full sight.
They actually fell into Pharaoh's snare. They did not want to go over the Jordan. They saw that the land of Gilead was a nice place, and they said to Moses, If you will allow us, we will leave our wives and little ones and cattle here, and we will go over and help you to fight and then return to them. Ah, it was a very sad thing, beloved. They are like souls that do not go in now for heavenly things. It is important for the soul to see this. Hear what they say: "And bring us not over Jordan" (Num. 32:5). Oh, beloved friends, God keep us from ever breathing a word like that. Put into plain language, it is, I do not want to enter now into heavenly things. Ah, they had dropped right down into that which Pharaoh proposed, and Moses refused. In very sight of Canaan they say, We will settle down where we are. They were not content with a tent, they wanted a house. Yet when the devil tried to hinder them through Balaam, he said one of the truest and loveliest things about them: "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel." These tents had been forty years on the road, and the dwellers therein were going to get into the land, and Balaam felt that they would get in. But, alas, these two tribes were tired of the tent, and said, We will settle down. "We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones" (Num. 32:16). God let them have their way, and they were the first to be carried into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29). Ah, beloved, what a lesson as to world-bordering and its results!
Now turn to Joshua, and you will see the way in which we are brought into the blessing that is ours. Joshua is the Old Testament equivalent for Ephesians, just as Ephesians is the New Testament Joshua. You will find in the opening chapter, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given to you, as I said to Moses" (Joshua 1:3). It is no good for me, therefore, to say such and such things are mine. It is quite true they are mine in Christ, but they are not mine experimentally unless I put my foot on them. It is a great thing for the soul to see that it is heavenly. God has called us to heaven. To heaven we belong, and everything that is ours is in heaven. We are pilgrims passing through this scene, but are viewed as belonging to heaven.
To enter into Canaan Israel must cross the Jordan, and they were simply to follow the ark. "Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near to it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Joshua 3:4). Of course I need not say, the ark is Christ. It is Christ who has gone into death, as passing through the judgment of God, really ending man's history, and overcoming the power of death. In verse 14 they struck their tents in the wilderness for the last time. They had the pilgrim character about them to that moment.
It must have been a wonderful moment when they came to Jordan. It was a wonderful time when they came to the Red Sea, as we have seen. That was a very little strait, and they went in by fives, so also here. When it was a case of going into the Red Sea, it was a narrow path. The waters stood up as crystal walls. But when they came to Jordan there was not a drop of water within thirty miles. Jordan is death. So with us, all that I shrunk from is gone if I see that death is annulled by Christ. Jordan is death, not my death, but Christ's, and mine with Him. It is not only death, but it is my getting the sense that Christ has gone into death, and annulled it, and overcome it. If you take your map and look for Zaretan (Joshua 3:16), you will see it was some thirty miles up the river, and there God kept back the waters. There was nothing but dry land in sight, and we read, "The priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan" (Joshua 3:17).
The lesson from this for us is simple. If the heart is set for heaven, it is easy to get in. It is wonderfully easy to get into the land if you are only set for heavenly things, for God takes every hindrance away, and He loves to get His people's hearts to dwell in the enjoyment of what He has now made theirs in Christ.
"And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the Lord spake to Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man; and command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging-place, where ye shall lodge this night" (Joshua 4:1-3). It was the testimony of where the ark had been. I do not doubt that the twelve stones are the memorial. It is like what the Lord's Supper is to us.
But further, "And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there to this day" (Joshua 4:9). The putting in of these twelve stones expressed the whole of the company. What we were, so to speak, is all under the waters of death. I learn that in the death of Christ I am free to say good-bye to myself. I am a person dead and risen, and I have life in a risen Christ, but God would always keep alive in my memory the way in which I have been brought into blessing and association with His Son. To this end I think we are greatly helped in the Lord's Supper. "And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal" (Joshua 4:20). They remained as the eternal witness of a finished work, just as the Lord's Supper speaks to us.
And now the next thing is they are consciously clean over Jordan. And, beloved, it is an immense thing for the soul to be consciously sure of this. It is a person who can truly say, I know I am dead and risen. Experimentally? Yes, certainly. The point is, I have deep in my soul the sense that I am in association with Him who is risen. Through grace we are occupied with a risen Christ all the week round, and then, at the Lord's Supper, for an hour our hearts are afresh touched with the sense of His death and all that it involved for Him and us.
When Israel reached Gilgal a new lesson was learned. Gilgal was the place of self-judgment. There they were circumcised (Joshua 5:2-9). You cannot cut off the flesh in the energy of the flesh. They were a dead and risen people in figure, ere they were circumcised. And you will never find a Christian able to walk practically in the power of what this brings out, until he knows that he is before God in the life of Another. Where do we get this truth? I think you have it in Colossians.
Now, young Christian, look at the third chapter of Colossians. The second chapter says, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col. 2:11). I accept for myself the circumcision of Christ. I am set aside. I accept it. You are in newness of life now. What is the next thing? "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God "(Col. 3). How definite! Where Christ is. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Note, it is earth here, not exactly the world, that is Egypt. If my affections are on the things of earth, clearly, I am not heavenly. That is the point. I can find worldly Christians, and earthly Christians, and again I can find souls that are heavenly. Ah, what a cheer it is to come alongside of a heavenly person.
And now the next word is, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God… Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:3-6). That is, that I am to practically keep all that is of the first man in the place of death. That is our Gilgal. "And the Lord said to Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal (i.e., rolling) to this day." They set aside that which is the mark of a man who is living for this world. For a heavenly man to be worldly is his reproach. He needs to go again to Gilgal. And you will observe afterwards that Israel always had to return to Gilgal. So must we. After victory or defeat, Gilgal — self-judgment — is our only recourse, if we are to progress in the divine life.
"And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month, at even, in the plains of Jericho" (ver. 10). They are out of Egypt, and in Canaan. The promise of God is faithfully kept, and His purpose carried out; though as yet nothing of Canaan is possessed, nor any victory gained. I have often thought how Caleb and Joshua must have enjoyed that passover. They had eaten it in Egypt, and, moreover, they had kept the passover in the wilderness (see Num. 9:1-14); but I am sure they enjoyed this one a great deal more than the first, or the second. When they ate the second they might have said to each other, "I like this much better than the one in Egypt. We were rather in fear of Pharaoh then, but now he is gone, and we are on our way to the land." Yes, but even then they were not in it. There was what was better in store for faith. But now they sit down and eat the passover in the land. They eat it in heavenly joy. So do we, if divinely taught. Our souls, fully enjoying heavenly rest and association with Christ, feed on that which is the first thing that gave us the sense of the grace of our God. I believe Caleb and Joshua thoroughly enjoyed that passover, and if you and I are really over Jordan we shall enjoy the Lord's Supper in a wonderful way.
"And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the self-same day" (Joshua 5:11). Yes, they had reached Christ in glory. It is Christ, now known in glory, the soul feeds on. The third chapter of Philippians is the old corn of the land. It is Christ known where He now is. "And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year" (Joshua 5:12). But for us to eat the manna is most important. It is Christ humbled in human life here, and we as pilgrims, finding ourselves in the circumstances that He passed through, feed on Him and His ways of grace. That is manna. If I do not feed upon the manna, I certainly shall not be a steady pilgrim (a pilgrim is one who is going to a fixed point), and if I do not feed on the old corn of the land, I shall not be a vigorous warrior. We need both. They had both, and both the manna and the old corn of the land are to be our daily food. "Unleavened cakes and parched corn" they partook of there, and may God give us to feed on the same, and thus enter more and more into the enjoyment of what is our own, as risen with Christ.
"And it came to pass, when Joshua came by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went to him, and said to him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said to him, What says my Lord to his servant? And the captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so" (Joshua 5:13-15). The captain of the Lord's host is the Lord himself. With drawn sword in hand He would now lead them to victory; but "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy," reminds us that holiness becomes His presence now, just as when He came to redeem His people (Ex. 3:5). If I am going to enter into heavenly joys and associations with Christ, and he led to victory, there must be, so to speak, the putting off of the shoe, the withdrawal of the foot from what has touched the earth. If you take the shoe off, the foot will be clean, God will have holiness in those that draw near to Him.
It is wonderful what God, by His Spirit, will bring our souls into, if we but yield ourselves to Him. The man that knows most about heaven will, perhaps, say the least about it, but he enjoys it and lives there
Here, then, we shall conclude our study of Israel's early history. They are in the land that flows with milk and honey, feeding on the old corn thereof — that which grew in the land — and have the Lord Himself as their leader to future victories.
May God guide us each to answer to this in the history of our souls. We are to know ourselves risen with Christ; then we feed on Christ, and are to be led by Him to victory over all enemies who oppose our acquisition and enjoyment of heavenly life and blessings.