And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.” “And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish aught thereof.” “So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt, to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters hasted them saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw. And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick, both yesterday and today, as heretofore? Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants? There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people.” “And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in an evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not diminish aught from your bricks of your daily task.”
This is the picture which God has given us of the bitter bondage of His ancient people, which is a type of the rigid slavery of sin and Satan. The land which had been their asylum in the beginning, had become to them an iron furnace and a place of oppression.
Through all the succeeding centuries the language “I am the Lord the God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” has been the strongest and most vivid picture of our redemption from the power of Satan, and this present evil world.
To us, as to them, it began with a scene of innocence and blessing. But soon another king arose over our once holy and happy Eden; and the prince of this world holds his captives in a thrall more perfect, and a servitude more debasing than Pharaoh or Israel ever knew.
The brick fields of Zoan are fitting emblems of some of its rigors. The very material of which the brick is made suggests the idea of the earthly and perishable. The symbol of God’s enduring work is not brick but stone. The heavenly house is founded upon a rock, and its separate materials are living stones. But the houses of Egypt and Babylon are built of clay, and symbolize the transitory and earthly character and issue of all that pertains to this present evil world.
The poor votary of Mammon is spending all his strength to build a house which will crumble, like himself, into dust when a few more years shall have passed away.
The aggravation of this bondage, however, was that the oppressor demanded the severest tasks, without even supplying materials or resources. This is exactly what Satan does with all his victims — demands that they shall make brick without straw.
He is the great master of an evil conscience; and he loves to lay upon the troubled heart the yoke of the law, quite as well as he does to break its obligations. One of his favorite methods of crushing his victims is to demand of them an impossible righteousness, and then to accuse them and condemn them and drive them to despair because they have not fulfilled it,although he knows that they are wholly unable to do so.
How dreadful is the bondage of a soul conscious of its sin and shortcoming, constantly desiring to do better, and indeed, rushing into a thousand resolves and purposes of right doing, and yet sinking deeper into the captivity of corruption, and beaten for every failure with the cruel rod of an accusing conscience, and a remorseful despair. How different His gentle sway, who commands nothing without also giving the power to fulfil it; and who says to the weary and sin-trodden world, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The figure reaches its climax when it is added that the wages of this pitiless service was literally death. The cruel decree not only demanded that the race should be crushed and prostrated by these severe exactions, but also that it should be ultimately extinguished, by the consignment to a cruel fate, of every male child.
So our hard master not only seeks our service, but has determined upon our utter destruction. Nothing less than the blood of our soul will ever satisfy his fiendish hate and malignity. He is not satisfied with our physical death, but his sting strikes us with an eternal wound, and smites with an eternal death. What fools men are. They are building what they think are their treasure cities; but like the piles of ancient Rameses and Pythom they pass into the hands of others, and the wretched toilers go down to an eternal grave. “Thewages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This cruel bondage is as unrelenting as it is severe. Pharaoh has no idea of letting his captives go. He may make a little compromise, and consent that they shall go for a few days into the wilderness to worship God; but they must not go very far away. In no case must they go out of Egypt; and even if they go they must leave their cattle and their children as hostages. So the world holds men. It has no objections to a moderate amount of religion, so long as it does not separate us from the world, or lead us very far from its practices and spirit; and like Pharaoh it always insists on holding our family and our property. Where Satan has not all the hearts, he generally controls a large part of the capital, even of the professed people of God. Parents who themselves would not dream of indulging in doubtful association and pleasures, allow their children unrestrained liberty in the enjoyment of the world.
It is a blessing when God makes the bondage so bitter that His people awake to the realization of its meaning, and cry like Israel of old for deliverance. Like them the cry will be met, not only by the Lord’s mercy, but by the enhanced severity of their trials. The nearer the hour of deliverance came, the more terrific was the heat of the iron furnace. And so it is, often, that in the very depths of despair the morning breaks and the deliverer comes to us. “When the tale of bricks is double, then cometh Moses,” is the beautiful proverb already referred to, in which the sad story of Israel crystallizes its hope; and many a soul has found it true in the experience of salvation or providential deliverance.
Let us stop and ask ourselves what all this means for us. Are we in the brick fields of Egypt, or in the free and happy tents of the redeemed? Are we building the house of sand which will crumble into decay and ruin in a little while? or are we building not only on the rock, but also of the precious, indestructible materials of gold, silver, and precious stones, which will not only stand the test, but shine the brighter in the flames of the final day?
Are we serving that cruel master, the world, who deceives us by his fair promises, and makes us think we are building palaces for ourselves, and then snatches them from the crumbling fingers that can hold them no longer, and repeats the story of the world’s deceiving promises in the lives that come after us?
Are we the wretched slaves of a tyrant who is not only using all our strength for his own selfish ends, but who is slowly and inevitably crushing us to an eternal death; who has determined not only to destroy our lives, but to devour our immortal souls? Or are we under the bondage of an evil conscience, and a law that can no longer save or sanctify, wasting our lives and spending our strength for nought, in a futile endeavor to keep our resolutions, and reform our lives, overcome our passions, and fulfil the demands of that law; and then with every failure sinking deeper into helplessness and despair? Blessed be God! for us the hour of redemption draweth nigh. The rigors of our bondage are but the last frantic, convulsive efforts of our tyrant to hold us. The Great Deliverer has come to bind up the brokenhearted; to preach deliverance to the captives; to set at liberty them that are oppressed; to deliver us from the power of darkness and translate us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Only let us recognize our true condition; let us take His side against our oppressor; let us not, like them, refuse Moses when he comes to set us free; let us lift up our cry to heaven, and the answer is already spoken. “Behold the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me, and I have seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. I have surely seen the affliction of my children which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows, and am come down to deliver them.”
SECTION II — The Ten Plagues.
The first stage of the deliverance of Israel was the judgment of God upon their oppressors. And the plagues of Egypt are types of the dealings of God with our spiritual adversaries in the great work of redemption, both in its inception, and final consummation.
We have already seen the principle of salvation by destruction vividly illustrated in the story of the deluge, where Noah and his family were saved by water. The destruction of Pharaoh is a similar illustration of the same principle. The ten plagues of Egypt were directed not only against the persons and property of the king and nation, but more especially against the devil-gods and deified naturalism of the land.. “Against all the gods of Egypt,” God says, “He will execute judgment.” The ten successive plagues, which filled the river with blood, and the land with swarms of frogs, flies, locusts; which smote the cattle with disease, the fields with hail and fire, the sky with darkness, and all the homes of Egypt, at length, with death, were not only tokens of God’s displeasure against the wicked tyrant and the corrupt people, but a still more direct and fatal blow at the dragon-head of him who was the real lord of Egypt; the Prince of the powers of the air; the Ruler of earth’s ungodly nations; and the God of this world.
The Nile, the flocks, the beetles, the cattle, the sun, and the King himself, were all representatives of the Divine principle, and objects of idolatrous worship. And they were all in turn smitten in helpless judgment by the hand of Heaven, that Egypt might know that they were but the mockeries of a false religion, and the counterfeits of the true God, who was about to magnify Himself in the redemption and history of His chosen people.
These plagues foreshadowed the judgments which began to fall upon the head of Satan, even in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, and which are to each their culmination in the plagues of judgments of the last day.
The first three of these fell alike both on Israel and the Egyptians; implying that to a certain extent, even the people of God share the sufferings and retributions which sin has brought upon the earth. But the last seven were exclusively confined to the Egyptians, and seem to contain a prophecy, or at least a prefiguring shadow of the seven last plagues, which a little while are to fill up the cup of earth’s calamities, and immediately precede the personal advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rev. 16.)
The doom of Pharaoh in the Red Sea is the type of the final overthrow of Satan and his earthly viceregents at the opening of Christ’s millennial reign. Not always will right be on the scaffold, and wrong upon the throne. “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse; but there is an end to the wickedness of the wicked, and his rod shall not forever rest upon the lot of the righteous.” The chain is forged, and the sword is whetted which are to find and smite the tyrant and oppressor of the ages; and soon the cry will rise again: “The accuser of our brethren is cast down. Rejoice, O ye heavens, and be glad, O ye inhabitants of the earth. Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” As on the farther shore of the Egyptian sea they sang the song of Moses, they shall finish the refrain in a grander chorus, and sing the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb before the sea of glass, saying, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name for thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Rev. 15: 3-5, 19: 6.)
Section III — The Paschal Lamb.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” “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. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And 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, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.” (Exodus 12: 1-14.)
Thus did Jehovah mark the starting point of their national history by this crimson token of redemption. So for the church of the New Testament, and so for every redeemed soul, the beginning of months is the cross of Calvary, and the shed and sprinkled blood. The Paschal Lamb was but the summing up in one enduring ordinance of all the sacrificial types which had been already instituted for nearly thirty centuries.
The selection of the lamb on the tenth day of the month, and its being kept until the fourteenth, suggest unmistakably the coming of Christ in the fulness of time, and the three and a half years of his public ministry after he was set apart to his redeeming work by his baptism and while waiting for the accomplishment of his sacrifice. The death of the lamb before the whole assembly of the children of Israel reminds us of how he was delivered up by the national council of his own people, and formally condemned to death at the hands of the Romans. The very time of its death corresponded exactly with the sacrifice of Calvary. The sprinkled blood expresses our personal application of the merits of his death; and the efficacy of that blood in averting the stroke of the avenging angel, is fulfilled in the security into which redemption brings us, and the complete justification and acceptance of the soul that has found refuge under the precious blood.
The flesh of the lamb reminds us that Christ is not only a substitute for us, but the very substance and subsistence of our spiritual life through his living union and communion with us.
As it was eaten that same night that it was slain, so we must feed on Christ from the moment that we accept him.
The unleavened bread helps us to remember that our most holy faith leaves no place for the indulgence of sin, but requires our turning from all iniquity if we would claim that redeeming blood. And the bitter herbs spell out the story of repentance and contrition in the life of every forgiven soul. This, then, was the ground of their redemption, and this is the purchase of ours. “We have redemption, through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” “not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, 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;” “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion forever and ever.”
Have we learned to blend the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb? Are we resting under the precious blood? Are we feeding upon the flesh of the Paschal Lamb? Is our bread unleavened? Are our feet sandaled, our staves in hand, and our pilgrimage begun? “Are you sure the blood is on the door?” An old Hebrew legend tells us this was the cry of a little girl that first Passover night. “Father, are you sure?” They looked and found it had been entrusted to another and neglected. With eager hands it was quickly sprinkled, and the little heart could rest while waiting for their journey to begin. O if any one who reads these lines is still in Egypt and under the black wing of night and judgment, haste thee to apply it. The gentle Lamb stands with bowed head by your side. For a little longer he offers his bosom to death, and his blood to wash away thy sin. One cry of penitence, one look of earnest longing, one touch of simple faith, and you shall have passed under the protection of his death and life. The one shall cancel all your guilt; the other shall quicken and keep all your future life in covenant love and care. And this hour will be to you the beginning of the months of your eternal history; and shall not be forgotten even when before the sea of glass, you sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
Notice most emphatically, that the safety of Israel did not depend upon their personal feelings or merits, but on the attitude they took with respect to the Lamb, and the blood. And so, beloved reader, your eternal future absolutely hangs upon your relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Out from under the blood you are lost whoever and wherever you may be. Under its sprinkled canopy you are as safe as an angel, and as dear to God as his only, well beloved Son.
SECTION III — The Passage of the Red Sea.
“And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and overtook them encamping by the sea. 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: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord. And Moses said unto the people, 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 forever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 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 unto them on the right hand and on the left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared: and the Egyptians fled against it; and 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. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on the right hand and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14: 8-31.)
Such is the sublime type of our salvation, repeated afresh in every new and great deliverance which comes in the life of faith. The principles are ever the same. God alone must deliver, and we must let Him, ceasing from our own works, implicitly trusting Him, and fearlessly obeying and following Him. This is the beautiful figure of the committal of faith, when the soul first comes in trembling fear to Christ for salvation. Pursued by its sins and its bitter adversaries, it sees no way before, and there is no retreat behind. Then comes the blessed word, “Stand still and see the salvation of God.” Our first act must be to cease from our own efforts to save ourselves; the next to keep our eye upon God; and then the third, to go forward, not in the old and restless way of the self-effort, but in simple obedience to His leading, and in confidence in His promise. There may seem no pathway but the raging sea; but the soul may commit itself securely to Him, and at once step out into the darkness of the inevitable future and it will find a pathway for redemption and victory.
So we must act in the great crises of difficulty and danger that meet us along the pathway of life. Our first expressions are usually those of distrust and fear, like poor flying Israel; and our greatest danger is that we shall become so agitated and active in our wild efforts to save ourselves, that God cannot really help us. Therefore His word again is to stand still. We must absolutely stop all our contriving, fretting and rushing hither and thither, and let the Lord take charge.
Next we must get our eye on Him, and see the salvation of the Lord, and know that He will fight for us; and as we do this we must continue to hold our peace. We must not begin again the outcries of fear or impatience; we must rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Then will come the moment to go forward, and our going shall be safe and effectual. There may be no pathway visible. It may be stepping into the cold floods for a moment. But we shall find dry land as we advance, and on the farther shore shall have a song such as they only know who have learned to trust in the dark, and sing in the night.
“March on then right boldly, The sea will divide, The pathway made glorious, With shouting victorious, We’ll join in the chorus, The Lord will provide.”
The passage of the Red sea was not only a beautiful symbol of the committal of faith, but also of death and resurrection. Hence it is called by the Apostle Paul, “baptism unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” It expresses the radical idea of baptism very vividly — namely, death and resurrection life. It was a seeming grave, as our baptism is; and yet, like ours also, only a seeming death; for they found the solid ground beneath their feet. And yet it was really death to their enemies. And so as we become united to Christ in his death and resurrection, the only things that die are our spiritual enemies. And on the farther shore we see the Egyptians as helpless corpses, unable ever to harm us again.
Thus God permits us to bury our sins, our past lives, our old selves, and even the world of Egypt which has enslaved us, and debased us. This is the glorious meaning of the cross of Jesus. And all who have really accepted it in its real meaning can sing
“I’ve passed the cross of Calvary; I’m on the heaven side.”
Again, beloved, where do we stand amid these ancient figures of redemption? Have we ceased from our own works and accepted the salvation of the Lord? Have we gone forth in a full committal of faith, and begun like them our Christian pilgrimage? Have we died to sin, and recognized our guilt as buried in the depths of the sea? Nay, have we died to the spirit of self and the world, and left the spirit of Egypt forever behind us? Are we living on the Canaan side of the cross? Have we learned the secret of deliverance in the narrow places of trial through the stillness of faith and the interposition of God? Let us go forth from these meditations with a clearer view of our complete redemption, our line of eternal demarcation and separation from the world, our real resurrection life, and our glorious prospects as we now begin amid the teachings of these ancient types, our Christian pilgrimage.
SECTION V — The Song of Moses.
It only remains to add in conclusion, that the song of Moses and of Miriam on the farther side of the Egyptian sea was the key note of the song of salvation in every redeemed soul; the song of deliverance which every visitation of God’s providence inspires; and the song of him in which all these notes shall yet be gathered up amid the choirs of glory.
Have we learned that first song, Isaiah 12: 1-2, “O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.”
Have we learned the song of deliverance, which is first the Berachah song going before the redeemed like the choirs of Jehoshaphat; and then bringing up the rear with praise for accomplished blessing? And shall we have our part in that grander chorus where the multitude that no man can number, out of all kindreds and tongues and peoples and nations shall sing and shout, “Salvation to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and blessing.
We have here a picture of the pillar of cloud and fire, the guide of the Hebrew pilgrims through the wilderness, as it led them through many a changing scene of trial and education. All this is a picture of our life as the Holy Spirit leads us through the wilderness by ways we have not known. It was customary, as we learn from history, for ancient armies to be preceded by just such a signal as this. Alexander the Great was accustomed to send before his army vessels of fire that sent up pillars of smoke and lurid cloud that the army might see which way they were marching. We know this to be true of many of the ancient Egyptian armies. So it was natural for the Israelites, it was not unnatural or rather it was preternatural, for it was only suggested by men’s customs, but was infinitely higher and greater. The whole account of this Divine figure is particularly sublime and instructive.
It is a little difficult for us to take in the picture. When they were on the march it appeared, probably, like an enormous cloud of smoke, visible to all in the pathway, and moving on with majestic form like some heavenly being guiding their path; and when the camp was to halt, the movement would cease; and, instead of becoming a leader in their march it would spread like a curtain, over the camp, becoming a heavenly pavilion sheltering them from the desert sun, and seeming to spread the wings of God’s very motherhood of God about them; making them feel as though they were hidden in the secret of His tent. What a beautiful spectacle it must have been when this began to droop, and then spreading on every side, like a mother bird spreading abroad her brooding wings, shutting out the rays of the sun, and becoming better than the shade of the palm trees, or even their desert tents. They knew they might sit down under its shadow or find the heat of the burning desert became suddenly as cool as a summer day overcast by the grateful clouds of heaven.
And again as the night came on and the march was weary, and protracted day after day, and they feared they might lose their way, it became literally a light around and before them affording the cheer and safety which light always brings. And when they feared that enemies might be around them, or behind them, as indeed they were when the Egyptians pursued them, it went behind and stood like a rampart with artillery and garrisons of heaven, and looking terribly down on their foes with a fiery anger which forbade them to approach God’s protected ones.
If you trace this figure through the Scriptures, you will see that all the references we have made are warranted. He spread it above them like a cloudy covering to shade them from the heat of the day, and to lead them in the darkness of the night.
And sometimes from the midst of the pillar would come the voice of God. Often we are told God spoke to Moses and one time God spoke to the children of Israel out of the midst of the fiery cloud. It was the type of God’s presence with his ancient people, and, in the New Testament, of his presence through the Holy Spirit, and the Lord Jesus Christ with His Church and in the hearts of His children. Thus this precious third person of the Trinity ever becomes the guide and guardian of our pilgrim life, and our hearts are turned to Him with gratitude and holy confidence. May that Blessed Teacher fold us in the shadow of His presence, that we may know by living experience what all this means, that we shall not have to wonder about, it, but each shall say, “I know it for myself as well as the preacher does.” As a dear old lady said last night in one of our meetings: “I can’t keep still; He is singing in my heart!” Standing there, apparently a foot higher than her ordinary stature, and her face shining like the glory of the ancient cloud, she said, “You don’t need to tell me about that; I know it.” It is the voice of the Shepherd; it is the wing of the mother dove; it is the presence of God; it is the Holy Comforter; it is that which has come to you; it is that which is in your heart; it is that of which He said: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; He will joy over thee with singing.” Let us draw a few lessons from this figure. It was a preternatural symbol. It did not depend on any of the laws of nature. It was not carved like a pillar of stone. It was not an embroidered banner, such as armies carry at their front. It was something not made by hands; it was a battle-flag presented from the ranks of heaven, and had no touch of earth about it. Indeed, it was contrary to the laws of nature. There it hung in the skies without any pole to support it. It walked in midair independent of the laws of gravitation. It was a supernatural token of the living God, who does not need to go by our rules; does not need to be dependent upon our ideas of things, or our modes of working; but when the Spirit of God goes before you it is not always a presence regulated by natural laws; it is a presence which will sometimes overleap what you thought and intended. It was not an easy way for the children of Israel to go through the land of Arabia; and the way you are led may not be the way you would have gone. But it is not accomplished by your provisions or your precautions, or your reasonings. If our lives are divine, their leadership will be divine, and our pathway divine; and we will frequently go where man would not dare to go alone; and where we would not expect to be sustained, were we judging by the light of our own reason, or the principles of our own sense and judgment. It is a Divine guidance, a supernatural presence, independent of all but God’s own infinite power and will.
Again: We see in this pillar of cloud and fire the mingled elements of light and fire, which have all their natural symbolical significance. First, there was light; the light of truth; the light of personal spiritual vision; the light of His presence; the light that shows us the truth, and then the way that we are to walk. Himself the Light, Christ comes to bring us all our light, and also the sight to see the light.
Again: The cloud as well as the light suggests something about God. Cloud is the opposite of light; the cloud hides the light, and the breaking of a cloud reveals the light. It suggests to us the idea of the shadow that hangs about His Presence — the mysteries which we cannot always penetrate or perceive, and the fact that the leadings of the Holy Spirit are not always to be perfectly understood!
There is not only light, but there is veiled light; light that comes to you in clouds and thick darkness, light that comes to you with its dark side as well as its bright side. Is it not true that He leads you by a way that you have not known? Is it not true that your life is hid with Christ in God? that you will not always see what He means, and you will not always behold His unclouded face? When you look up for the light, lo it is a cloud. Is there not a dark side to the Holy Spirit? Does he not sometimes hide you in the shadow? Does He not sometimes take you where it seems very dark? You asked God to show you joy; instead of joy, it was deep humiliation and tears; and you did not know until afterwards that was His blessed answer. But when you yielded and followed, the pillar of cloud became a day star of light.
Not only is He represented as the light and the cloud, but the fire. Fire is more than light. The fire has warmth as well as light. Fire is the element of intrinsic purity and mighty power, that gives us a sense of the living forces that are able to consume the evil, destroy the adversary, and endue us with God’s own might. God is a consuming fire as well as an illuminating presence. The Holy Ghost baptizes the willing heart with fire; a fire that consumes all that you would gladly lose; and quickens and purifies all the energies of the soul and clothes us with God’s infinite power and righteousness.
Again: The pillar of old preceded them as their leader. So the Holy Ghost tells us we shall be guided by His presence. The Christian that does not understand this, is losing much that is most precious in his experience. God has told us He will go before us; that we will not be safe without Him: and that He will make us know His voice. Have you learned this blessed secret?
Again: The pillar of fire not only preceded them, but followed them. It went behind them, and stood as a wall of terror and defiance to their foes. God is not only our guide, but our guardian; and we might rather have the Holy Ghost defend us, than all the pens or bayonets of earth. This is His blessed word, “The Lord shall be thy rearward.” In ancient times the shepherds were accustomed to build fires in the desert to keep the wild beasts away: so He says, “I will be a wall of fire round about, and the Glory in the midst:” The fire may burn awhile, but Joseph comes out of prison at last. The tempter may triumph for a while, but David sits for fifty years on his throne, and praises the Lord that has kept him so marvelously. “They that trust him shall never be ashamed.” Take the Holy Ghost for your leader and your defender. Leave your trials and your vindication to Him; and He will take care of them, and now if you will, leave them, utterly leave them there, and walk on in helplessness and obedience.
This fire not only went before and behind them, but it went in the midst; for we read that while they were passing through the Red sea, the fire just went through the camp, for a moment enveloping the whole company, and then taking its place behind. This is a beautiful picture of how the Holy Ghost comes through our midst, not only walking before and behind us, but coming into our being, possessing every faculty of our nature, and becoming the vital impulse of all our power.
It is beautiful to notice the time that He did this. It was not at the beginning; but in the very crisis of their life, when they were going down into the dark floods pursued by foes from behind and about to take the hardest step they had ever taken. But at last a power they had not known came among them. It entered the hearts and bosoms, became one with their inmost lives; they could feel the conscious baptism on their whole being and they were not afraid. What a beautiful picture of the Holy Ghost in our lives. At first He is away ahead. We see Him as a doctrine. O, how that doctrine does shine out when first we learn the truth about the Holy Spirit! When God first showed me this blessed reality of the Third Person of the Trinity, it seemed I could never preach about anything else, or pray about anything else. And I could scarcely feel patience with others because they did not always talk about it.
There was a time when this Blessed One seemed to stand as a great lurid light against your sky. You were looking at Him, and following a little way off, as near perhaps as you dare. But there came a time when it grew so hard and dark: and then a voice said, “Go into this dark and angry flood; step into the Red sea.” And as you stepped in you could hear the chariots of Pharaoh behind, and it seemed as though there were but a step between the soul and wreck. Then it was that the doctrine of the Holy Ghost seemed to disappear; and instead of that, in your very heart of hearts, the very depths of the soul His presence came, the cloud moved from before and passed right through your being, and it has seemed to pervade and cover everything from that time; a conscious life that is part of all your existence. Do you remember that scripture in Corinthians where the Apostle says “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bound or free, and have all been made to drink into one spirit?” He baptizes you until you are buried as in an ocean, and then you begin to drink of that ocean until you are saturated with it. But it is in the hour of difficulty, when all the resources fail, when even He cannot be an object for you to look at any longer, but must put His arms about you and take you closer. O, dear friends! have you ceased to look at the Holy Ghost, have you ceased to trust the Holy Ghost to do things for you, and even to be your guardian and have you come to take him in his indwelling, all-pervading life? to see him less and have him more and just partake of all the fulness of his life?
Again: This Holy Spirit was not only the Leader and Defender, the Baptizer and the Indweller, but He was also the spirit of rest. Many times he did not march, but stood still; and then He commanded them to stop and took them into the secret of His presence, and bade them wait. And so with you, there will be times when you will not see your pillar. There will be times when Jesus will be in the hinder part of the ship asleep. There will be times when you will be so empty, you will feel as though you never had anything in you, but are an empty shell. There will be times when you will not have any place to go, or any of the restlessness of natural excitement. Ah, that is what tests some Christians so much. They get on well in the cavalry charge, and when there is action, but to make them be still and wait on God, they fail; they break down; they cannot hear the voice which bids them rest. But in the pilgrimage of God’s ancient people, we are told that when the pillar of clouds rested, the people rested; at its going they went, and rested at God’s bidding. The trouble with some of you is, that you have gone before the pillar. There are a great many times when God wants us to keep still. A great deal of the Christian life consists in the little word of three letters, n-o-t. Read the ten commandments, and almost everything in them is “thou shalt not.” Read the story of the Christian life in that marvelous 13th chapter of First Corinthians and you will find it full of the things that love does not do. So the greatest work of the Holy Ghost is to call a halt, and quiet his children, and teach them to be dead to their own activity, and work and plans. We must learn to allow the pillar of cloud and fire to rest; and then get quiet ourselves under His shadow from the heat of the day. So the Lord shall be thy keeper and thy shade. Now the Lord is never your shade unless you are still. When they were marching the pillar was not a shade. Every little while He saw they needed to be sheltered, and rest a little. So He made them stop. And if you are going to know the Lord as a keeper, you will have to know Him as a shade. Then it goes on to say, “The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night,” and then the next comes, “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in.” Ah, now you can march again. This beautiful psalm is the psalm of the pilgrim: the Lord leading you, and the Lord overshadowing you, without slumbering or sleeping; and so keeping you from this time forth, and even forevermore.
And then again, this pillar was most glorious at night. When the darkness fell and the lights of earth were gone, it loomed up there like a celestial palace in the sky, or like the brilliance of the jasper throne. It hung over them in darkness by day, but only by night was it bright. And so you have found His presence brightest when every joy had fled; and how the song has just burst out in the night, into loud hallelujahs. It was when the sun was set and a horror of great darkness fell on Abraham, that a burning lamp passed before him. It was when the disciples had climbed the rocky heights and it was the midnight hour, suddenly there shone a light above the brightness of the sun, and His garments became exceeding white, and a voice said, “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” These are the hours of blessing. O, beloved! turn them into Transfiguration mounts with Jesus in the midst.
Again: This ancient pillar sometimes spoke to them. Out of it came the voice of God. So this is not a silent presence. “And the sheep follow Him for they know His voice.”
Finally: It was a constant presence. He took it not away all through the wilderness, and even when they turned aside for a little time it was withdrawn, but again he restored it and said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” “He took not away the pillar of cloud by day, or fire by night.” “He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” “He led them through the waste howling wilderness: he bore them as on eagle’s wings.” “As a flock goeth down into the valley, so the Spirit of the Lord rested upon them; so He led them by His own right arm, to make for Himself a glorious name.” Thus God led them ever; and even when they refused to go into the land of promise, after a little while He forgave them, and went with them through the wilderness, in the way He did not choose. And so this long suffering Holy Ghost for two thousand years, nearly, has been treated by the church of God as disobediently and yet He has not taken away for a day that illuminating presence. Through all church history He is with His people, and will be until Christ comes. He has been with you in your Christian life; even if not fully in you, he has been before and behind you.
This leads us to another thought. If not directly scriptural its lesson is at least most true. The pillar of cloud and fire led the children of Israel only to the Jordan. And when they entered the promised land with Joshua, it accompanied them no farther, but from that time forward, the presence of God was veiled between the cherubim, and behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies. Is there no teaching in that for us? May it not show that during the wilderness life, the presence of the Holy Ghost is perhaps more marvelous, more wonderful, more startling; some might say has more of stupendousness and glory about it, but when we get nearer to God, it is an inner presence, not an outer. It is visible, not to the eye of sense, but in the chambers of the heart even where we enter the holy of holies, and dwell in the secret place of the Most High.
Have we not seen something like this in our own experience? At the beginning God led more by sense. There was more of that which the little child needs, object lessons, and bold pictures and scenes and a great deal of nursing. But when we get into the inner presence of God, when we had consecrated ourselves, utterly and unreservedly, when we had become His priests and kings, and gone into the tabernacle of Jehovah to dwell in His pavilion; then, the pillar of clouds was not seen in the sky, but His presence was more gloriously within, like the Shekinah presence in the ancient temple. When you pushed aside the curtain and stood within the holy of holies, then you could see the glorious manifestation, not a cloud reaching up to heaven, but an ever-burning flame between the cherubim, where, until his people deserted him in the days of Ezekiel, He revealed His glory not as the God of heaven riding on the clouds, but as the God who loves to dwell in the very secret chambers of the lowly spirit. Quiet, perhaps, and unknown to the world it may be, but it is a presence that fills the heart with constant rest and satisfaction. So, beloved, there is something better for you than even the visible presence. There is a place in your heart where He will come if you will take Him. If you will cross the Jordan and get out of the wilderness if you will be willing to die in the floods that separate you from yourself and your past; if with Joshua for your leader you will pass in, and live by faith and not by sight; then you will find that inner place, then you will find the holy of holies in your heart, where God will dwell with His own love and glory, and you shall know the meaning of such verses as this: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” “I will be to them a little sanctuary.” “A man shall be a hiding place for the wind and a covert from the tempest like rivers of water in dry places; and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Have you come into all this? Come this day into this inner chamber; let the pillar of the cloud and fire come a little nearer; let it descend from the clouds to the heart; let not God be to you somebody away up there, but somebody right here; not somebody you see in the book or the vision, but My presence in your bosom, in your being; the life of life, and love of love. Moses said, “Wherein shall it be known that they are thy people, and wherein shall we be separated from all other people of the earth, except it be in this, that thy presence goeth with us; if thy presence go not with us, carry us not up.” God had said, “I will send an angel; I will give the same power as though I were present.” “O, not so, my Lord, if thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.” And He said, “My presence shall go;” and that was not enough. “Lord if you have heard my prayer in this, if I have found grace in thy sight, Lord, I beseech thee to show me thy glory; not only thy presence, but I want this Shekinah inside, this inner presence.” And the Lord said, “Yes, you shall see it; they can see the cloud, but come in, Moses, and I will hide thee in the cleft of the rock, and I will make all my glory to pass before thee.” And he came and revealed the name of the Lord, a Lord God merciful and gracious, keeping mercy for thousands; that was the inner revealing of God.
Dear friends, when He thus comes to you, and today I believe he will so come to many of your hearts, it will be through faith. When Joshua passed over the Jordan, his great promise was this: “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.” His was to be a life of faith; he believed in the unseen God, and God was revealed. Take Him today by faith, and so He will be revealed in you.
As I passed out of this room on Friday, one came and spoke to me, to whom I had spoken before, when her heart was very heavy and longing for His presence, and I had asked the Lord to show her just what it meant. She came to me Friday and said, “I have found it; the Lord came to me and said, ‘Are you willing to trust Me by simple faith? Are you willing to receive me with a heart that knows no joy, no sensible sign of my presence, and to trust Me without fear? Are you willing to be withered?’” She said, “Yea, Lord.” And then she said all the terrors, all the darkness fled; and such tides of gladness just swept into her being. So let us recognize that presence, even if we do not see it in the shining signal above us. It is hidden there. Don’t you know that they of old could not always see the Shekinah? but it was always there. So trust Him; and when you go from this place, follow Him. For that is the secret of His eternal leadership whom God hath given to them that obey him. This is the secret, the joy of the Holy Ghost. The Lord help you to yield, believe, obey, and rejoice in all the joy of the Holy Ghost.
“And 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 harnessed out of the land of Egypt.” Ex. 13: 17-18.
“So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah; for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes,I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And 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: 22-27.
SECTION I — The Pathway of Trial.
We have here a picture of the pathway through which God led his ancient people immediately after their redemption. It is symbolical, of course, of the pathway of our own pilgrimage, even as their redemption was the emblem of our redemption from the bondage of sin and misery.
We are told here that the Lord led them not by the way of the Philistines, which was near, “but about by the way of the wilderness of the Red sea.” So we infer that God does not always lead us by the nearest way, and certainly not by the easiest way, as he calls us to Him. And this is the type of the trials of our Christian life. A reason is given: “Lest they repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” God could not trust his people to go the easy way, and so he had to lead them the longer way, and discipline them.
There are many other things about the way He led them, which apply to us. The first was that He might have them apart with Himself, and train them for the future. And so God has to take all His children apart to teach them. Our dear Lord had to go apart into the wilderness forty days before He began his ministry. Let us not wonder if we share His life. Moses had to go forty years apart before God could use him. And Paul went three years into Arabia, where he was separated to God, and then came forth to do his Master’s work. When the gardeners of this city are preparing their beds, they go out and find black loamy earth, and then they can raise almost anything in the ground that comes from the virgin soil. And so when God wants to raise spiritual harvest He says, “I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her, and I will give her vineyards from thence,” that is from the soil that comes from her wilderness experience. So, beloved, if you had an easy path you would become a coward, and run away every time you saw a Philistine. The people that have no trials and discipline are just like this, they are soft and cowardly. And the one that God wants to make strong to undergo the journey to Canaan, he has to make hardy by discipline and training. He leads you by the hard way that you may be harnessed, may be trained as a soldier to fight the battles of your life, educated for your work by the very things you are going through now.
Another reason he led them through the wilderness, was to show them what worthless creatures they were. In Deuteronomy he tells them very fully, in the eighth chapter, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no.” That was another reason why He led them through the wilderness. If they had gone the short way, they would have gone in with floating banners, and the idea that they were a wonderful people; but when God led them this way, they soon discovered themselves. They would have found it out later, when they came into Canaan, and would have been defeated by it. But God had to show it by the way of trial, before they could come to their future inheritance.
And so God leads us through the wilderness to show us what we are. There are people that can go through a hard march all right, but when they have to go through the hard little things, they break down. They will bear severe pain; or undertake some great service; or seem marvelously useful in some public enterprise that gives them an eclat of success and applause. Let them go through a desert march, or where Sherman’s army had to cross the continent, or Napoleon’s army had to go through the Russian campaign, or Woolsey’s army in Egypt, and they go through all right. But the least little thing defeats them. They become sour and distrustful and ungrateful; and if they do not go back to Egypt, they do not deserve any credit for it, for they would go if they could; and they blame Him bitterly because he brought them out.
Beloved, it is a wonderful thing to find out that God is not trying to show you how much you are, but how little good you can do by yourself. It was the most extraordinary discovery I ever made in my Christian life, when at last I fairly found out that what the Lord wanted of me was to have a tremendous lot of failures, until I broke completely down and gave up, and then had Him work it out for me. I do not mean that I gave up, but I gave up trying it myself. I had been looking to Him occasionally, but he wanted me just to depend upon Him all the time, and to look to Him for everything. So He leads you through the wilderness; He wants to humble you, to prove you, and see if you will keep the commandments, or not.
Another reason is to show how little this world is worth: How little it has that can supply an immortal soul, and how God can be the supply of the soul. He took them out into a barren wilderness where they had not anything to support the three millions of people for a day; and for all those years he supported them on the sands of Arabia, day by day spreading their table, and making the water flow from the rocks, and meeting their complaints and recriminations with blessing. They did not get their support from the desert. There was not any water there to supply them, nor any bread to sustain them. Modern researches have endeavored to explain the manner and method by natural laws. There are little plants in the desert; a few grains can be picked up under the tamarisk trees, a sort of balsam that drops from the branches sometimes; but it is not enough to support a single life for a day. And it is ridiculous to try to explain the Bible this way. The boundless and permanent supply shows that it was from the hand of God. This was intended to show that God can supply all our needs Himself. We read in Deuteronomy, “He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not,” that is, which is not a product of earth. He did this to show them that God was enough for their supply. This shows us that God leads us through the narrow places so that when everything fails us, He can do it for us. God leads some people through that kind of suffering, so they can look the devil in the face and say, “God led me through this place, and nothing ever can be harder than the way he led me.” He put Paul up as a sort of spectacle or gazing-stock. He said, “We have had all sorts of suffering; we have been sunk in the sea, and stoned until we have not a bit of vitality left.” And then he says, “Though sorrowful we are always rejoicing.” God wanted to show that His grace was sufficient. When the desert affords no food, and all is a waste of desolation, then God will make it blossom as the rose.
Now, beloved, if God leads you through trying places, don’t say “it is because God wants to destroy me.” It is that he may show you that he is able for that, and he can create a supply that would have never been known, if you had not had that need. So turn your dark cloud into a background for a rainbow, and just begin to praise Him, and rise through it to a deeper knowledge of His character. Will you take these lessons to yourself? It is the very way by which He is to educate you. How little you can depend upon your resolutions, and plans; but He is enough for your trials and difficulties, and even for the weakness and worthlessness of your poor unreliable nature.
Now, let us look briefly at their trials, and then at the wonderful way in which God met them. The first was, no water. The second was, bitter water. And the third, threatening sickness. We are not told they had sickness, but the healing implies it. God leads them into the wilderness of Shur, and they seem to be threatened with a famine. Then they come to a fountain in the oasis; they go to drink, but turn from it in disgust, for it is foul and bitter. And then they turn in disappointment and anger upon Moses, and upon God, and reproach them for having brought them on their journey. It is just like positions that come to us; we reach places where we seem to be shut in on every side. Perhaps some of you are there now. God wants to teach you that the old way is not to be the way any longer. And you must look to Him and not to the springs of earth, henceforth.
And then they came to water, and they said, “We have it at last,” and lo! it was bitter. Do you not know what that is? Do you not know what it is after you have turned to some old friend, and leaned on some arm, to find, suddenly, that it becomes different from what it used to be? Your old friend does not understand you. And those things in which you used to joy have no pleasure now. Perhaps the thing you looked to becomes the opposite of what you sought. Perhaps the very thing that comes to you as a deliverer, becomes the saddest trial of your life. God has to let it be so. Our first resource is to go to them. Instead of looking up, we have hunted in the desert to find springs, and found many, and God had to turn them into gall, and show us that the only real help could come from Him. And then there came sickness, or threatened sickness. And so it has come to us. O how God feels for poor suffering men and women, especially those that carry heavy burdens under the strain of infirmity. How — as I have gone among the humble ones that toil for bread, as I look back upon what a pastor finds in the lives of those he lives among — how I have felt Christ must weep for the tired women that crowd our cities, that have the responsibilities of their children, and sometimes their support, and yet live such weary, suffering lives through physical disease. O how I have thanked God when I have seen His help coming to these, and found that it can lift their burdens off their bodies as well as their souls. There is many a poor mother working all the day, and half the night, and carrying in her body some hidden disease. And it was upon such as these that Christ looked with compassion, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He healed them, and said to them in words that are not exhausted yet, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
SECTION II — The Branch of Healing.
Let us now see the provisions of His grace for them. First, we have the sweetening of the bitter water. He lets them find its bitterness, and then He turns it into sweetness. “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what shall we drink?” And he cried unto the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, which, when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet. The bitter waters are not taken away, but they are neutralized and turned into a source of nourishment. You know what this means, dear friends; you know the difference between the sweet water that was always sweet and the bittersweet, more wholesome, and more delightful to the taste of the mature Christian heart. That is what God does; He lets the bitter come, and when we have eaten the little book which was bitter in the mouth, in our inner being it is sweeter than honey. There are chastenings that seem hard and bitter, but afterwards they bear the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Do you not know what it means to yield yourself to God, so it seems a real death to put your dearest on the altar, and raise the hand to strike, and when it is done, O the blessedness of knowing that you pleased God; the ineffable sweetness of His words, “Now, I know that thou lovest me, because thou hast not withheld thine only child.” He seems to say, “I know what you feel; I understand you as no one else, and you understand me as you never could have done.” O the delight of being with Him in the dark places — alone with Him: and having His communications of love and grace, and saying, “Thou hast known my soul in adversity.” And then, at last, to find the very things you thought the gates of death become the gates of heaven. The very thing you thought would break your heart turns into songs of joy, and pathways open up that never could have come but for this obedience, this sacrifice of yourself to God’s will.
How does this sweetness come? It comes by casting the branch of healing into the waters. And this branch is always at hand. God does not have to create it. It was growing by the spring. It is always growing near the trial, and you can always find the branch that will turn the sorrow into joy. How, sometimes, He has shown us a verse that we never saw before, and lo! our trial was turned into sweetness, and we arose in victory and praise. How often when you have felt as you must sink you have found a blessed promise, and have cried out, “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory?” Sometimes, when struggling with your wicked heart, He has given you a vision of His victory and with His coming the battle has ceased, and like the disciples you were at the land whither you went. We have all got verses marked in our Bibles that bring back whole chapters of life’s history, and which you would not exchange for all the world.
You can go to London, and read there on the towers, written by the fingers of martyrs and prisoners who have languished in the Tower, such promises. You can go to Rome and see them in the ancient catacombs, promises which enabled them to declare that the insults and torments of their persecutors were robbed of their sting, just because the Lord Jesus Christ had made His Word real, and had caused them to triumph over suffering.
Dear friends, have you learned to use the branch that grows beside your door, that turns your tears to joy?
SECTION III — The Covenant of Healing.
And we have not only this branch of healing, but the covenant of healing. “There He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of those diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee.” So not only did He provide for the trials of the wilderness, but for the physical infirmities of life.
Here we see first, that this Divine healing is to be from Him alone. “I will do it.” It is to be a continuous thing. It is in the present tense. It is “I, the Lord thy God am healing.” Day by day, He declares “I will be the strength of your bodies.”
Again: it is to be by obedience. “If thou wilt diligently walk in my statutes.” It is necessary that we shall both hear and obey. And a great many of our sicknesses come because we are well-meaning, but we do not understand God. We go into the forbidden path without meaning to, and our diseases have come again. So he bids us listen as well as do.
Again: there is to be a distinction between you and the world. The Lord wants to put a line between the world and the Egyptians: “I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians.”
We see further, that this was a covenant and an ordinance for them. So this is just as much an appointment of God as redemption. And if you do not accept it, you are going to rob your life of one of its sweetest supports. We do not plead for any favorite idea, but we stand on God’s ancient covenant, and God forbid that we should turn it aside. I do not see how any candid man can. The only way that any one can try to explain this is by saying that this passage referred to the plagues of the Egyptians. But that would be ridiculous, because they had not feared any of the plagues of Egypt; they had not been subject to them. They had been kept from them, and now it would seem absurd for them to need this promise. Forty years later, God renewed the same promise and covenant again, in stronger words, “I will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon thee, but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.” And we know that he did not put the plagues of Egypt on their enemies then.
And then you notice just another word in this ancient ordinance of healing. “There he proved them.” It seems that this was to be a kind of test in our Christian lives, whether we would trust God, or go to man. It seems sometimes as though God wants to show us whether we have a real trust in him, or are making believe, because the things we trusted for are a long way off. He proved them to see how far they made God real. I have found, and I think many of you have found, that when sickness and suffering come, and you have to find whether you have a living God, or not, it searches your soul; and when you have got hold of Him, it makes God intensely practical thereafter in your life.
We do not want anybody to think that this principle of God’s healing should be crowded upon any soul, or that you are to get into any bondage of conscience; God wants you to be fully persuaded in your own mind. But if you will take this ancient Scripture, and trace your Bible through, you will find one uniform teaching — that God met his people with all-sufficiency for all their trials; and that He undertook to be for their bodies what He was for their souls — Jehovah Rophi, the God that changeth not.
Dear friends, do take this into your lives; you that are struggling under infirmity and debility; how much you need this Christ to breathe into you His strength every moment. No words can tell how near it brings the Savior to your life, to feel that every breath you draw is very part of His vital being. How sanctifying it is; how it makes you walk with Him in constant obedience; and how it seems to give you double strength. The strength that we get from Christ seems to go so much longer and farther. I wish I could make you feel as He makes me feel, in a busy life that grows busier every day. This supernatural strength is delightful. It almost seems as though one could not stop to sleep. It is not human, it is His; and every breath seems to accomplish more than mere earthly power. The things we do in this Divine physical strength go farther, they reach the hearts of men; and God seems to set them going through eternity. This is “a statute,” a Divine law, and you cannot experiment with it. You must take it with the certainty that it is just as solid as the Rock of Ages. And if you take it, it will keep you until your life work is done. It will not keep you forever. There will come a time when you can say “I have finished my work.” But until it comes, there is strength for you, according to all the measures of your needs.
SECTION IV — The Wells and Palms of Elim.
There is yet one more picture here, the wells and palms of Elim. They come just after the waters of Marah. “And they came to Elim where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters.” This is a sweet break in the monotony of the picture; an oasis in the waste of desolation. It seems to rise before us with the soft verdure of loveliness and rest; and as we read the passage it is like a very Eden of coolness and repose; the very name Elim speaks of rest and freshness. It is the type of the times of refreshing that God sends us after weary seasons of suffering trial. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
The wells tell us of supplies of water, and the palms of freshness in the midst of barrenness. There were twelve wells, and seventy palm trees. I love to think of the twelve wells as standing one for every month; teaching that God has some new revelation of Himself, some new supply of grace for every changing season of life. And then the seventy palms tell us of a blessing for every year. Seventy years seem to be the average of human existence, and so there are seventy palms and twelve wells — a well for every month, a tree for every year. They tell us that all our life long we may be fruitful, that there is fruit to be borne in youth, and also in old age. It does not mean that everybody ought to live for seventy years; but as that is God’s measure of life, so God has as many palms as He has years. He has something for us to do at the beginning, and something for the end. Beloved, let us come to drink of these wells. Shall we call the first the heart of the blessed Jesus himself? Surely, that is where we want to begin. And shall we call the second the blessed Comforter, the Holy Ghost, ever running over with joy and living water? Shall we find the third in the Father’s everlasting and infinite love? Shall we find the fourth in this blessed Word of God with its endless supplies for every kind of need? Shall we say the next is the well of salvation, with water enough not only for our salvation, but for all the world’s! Shall we call the next the well of grace, where we can come with our buckets every morning and fill them there? Then we have the well of holiness; the well of healing; the well of joy, bubbling over, and ceaseless in its flow; the well of prayer where we can continually come, and not find it too deep, or say like the woman of Samaria, “We have nothing with which to draw;” side by side with this stands the well of faith; and, perhaps, best of all is that well which, like one of the geyser springs, is continually rising even above the level of the ground, and sending forth new fountains on every side, we shall call it the well of praise. And so God bids us come and drink at all the wells. As the garden of God has its twelve manner of fruits, so we have these twelve fountains of blessing. We need never wonder at the freshness of His supplies of grace.
Some, again, apply this to the twelve tribes; it is blessed to think that there was a well for each one.
The seventy palms tell us of an infinite variety of fruits. The very fact that the palm tree grows in the desert, shows that the Christian can grow anywhere. The palm wants the desert sun. It will not grow in the rich black soil. It wants the desert because it grows up and it grows down; it strikes it roots below the sand heap; and it sends its succulent leaves up, and if there is a breath of moisture, the palm tree can suck it in. And so God says that we are to be like palm trees in this, that we can grow in the hardest soil, and find what we need in Him. If you have Christ in your heart you can grow anywhere. You can be a happy Christian in society and at home. You can be happy in uncongenial society, in the workshop, in the boarding-house, or wherever you are. It is not true that we have got to be ruined because our surroundings are evil. If you have the roots, and the right kind of leaves, you can make the desert a garden; and the people will encamp around you.
The palm tree has an infinite variety of fruit. They say they can make almost anything out of it. Out of the roots you get sago and arrowroot, and many of the most delicious and valuable articles of commerce. The very fibers they weave into many useful objects. The sap yields delicious juices. Then we have the fruit, the date, cocoanut, and many others. The palm produces about a hundred staple articles of commerce. And so if you are a palm tree, you will be good for everything; not only tall, stately, and nice to look at, but you will have a shade for the people around you, and you will have practical and substantial utility about your life. And, moreover, like this ancient tree of Elim, you shall keep growing and multiplying year after year, until in youth and old age you shall have fulfilled all the ministry of a consistent and beautiful life, and it shall not have been one, but seventy, palms.
But if we have the palm trees, we must have the wells; and if we have the palm trees and the wells, we must go by the way of Marah.; we must start by the Red sea and follow the pillar of cloud and fire; and we must not be afraid of the wilderness. O shall we not follow on, hearkening to His word till we shall come to the waters of Elim and encamp there and sweetly sing:
“I’ve found a joy in sorrow, A secret balm for pain, A beautiful tomorrow Of sunshine after rain. I’ve found a branch of healing Near every bitter spring; A whispered promise stealing O’er every broken spring; An Elfin within its sunshine, Its fountains and its shade; A handful of sweet manna When buds of promise fade.”
Dear friends, God help you to turn into life this desert region. It is so real, I am sure it is real to you. And I dare tell you in His name this morning to follow Him. You shall have the wilderness, and the waters of Marah; but there is here a branch that will make it sweet; and O such blessed resting places by the way; and bye-and-bye, not Elim’s palms merely, but the tree of life that is in the midst of the garden, and the water clear as crystal, and all the beauties of the paradise of God.
And bye-and-bye there shall be the river clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, the tree of life with its twelve manner of fruits that yielded its fruit every month, and the tabernacle of God with men, where the tents never will be folded, the encampment broken up, or the lonely desert ever return again. Happy day! All hail! Amen.
1 Cor. 10: 3, 4, and 13: “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.” “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
These three verses give us the substance of three important incidents in the Book of Exodus, in the 16th. and 17th. chapters, describing the giving of the manna; the opening of the Rock in Horeb; and the conflict of Israel with Amalek. These three things, I say, are all summed up in these three verses. “They did all eat the same spiritual meat,” seems to be the manna. “They did all drink the same spiritual drink,” leads us back to the rock and its flowing rivers. And the last verse quoted, reminds us of the conflict and victory which they obtained in Rephidim as the type of our conflict and victory over our Amalek.
We will look a little at God’s supply for our spiritual hunger, thirst and temptations.
SECTION I — The Manna.
First, then, the manna needs only a simple exposition, and the key to every exposition, I think, your own heart and experience must furnish. You will not understand this unless you know something of this hidden manna which Christ gives to him that overcometh. We read that some of this manna was put into a golden pot and laid up before the Lord to be kept for future generations. And this teaches us that the real substance of this manna is kept for us through all the ages. For Jesus says, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.”
1. The first thing we notice is, that this was supernatural bread. It did not grow from the soil of the desert, but was somehow sent by the power and wisdom of God and given to them from above.
And so our spiritual life, beloved, must be sustained from unnatural and supernatural causes. A Christian cannot subsist on his own strength. A Christian is more helpless than a worldling. And the nearer you get to God, the more we are dependent upon God, and the less able to draw our life from the old sources. You will starve upon the husks of this world unless you have learned to feed upon this manna.
Let us talk to each other’s hearts today. Are you living on the spiritual bread? Have you something in your life which is more than the breath of the oxygen and the carbon, which is more than the nitrogen of the food, and the phosphates and ingredients of that which is called bread? Is your soul feeding on something more than the thoughts of men, and the affections and fellowships of life? Is your body upheld by something better than its own cohesive forces and elements? A poor lump of dust, how readily you fall to pieces; how you hunger and how you thirst, if you do not know something of this. O, you have begun to follow Jesus, are you trying to live on the old comforts? You cannot do it. You must be constantly refreshed; you must be constantly comforted; you must be constantly fed from the love of God; from the thoughts of God; from the life of God. For He does not only give us His thoughts, He gives us His very heart’s life.
2. I learn another thing: It was simple of bread; there was no variety. They did not start with their different courses, and various dishes, and end with dessert; but they had manna for the first course, and the second course, and the dessert. It was all manna; and they got tired of the sameness.
And so the Christian has only one kind of manna. That is the trouble today, they want variety. And if you will read the columns of yesterday’s Herald, you will see there enough dishes set forth to satisfy a French cook. I read of a church the other day that had been killed with that kind of food in six months. You cannot live on such things. God feeds his people on one kind of bread; it is Jesus Christ. It may be presented in a thousand forms, but it is Christ; a living Christ; a redeeming Christ; a faithful Christ; an overcoming Christ; the Christ in whom, and for whom you live; Jesus only. Are you satisfied, or are you getting sick of this one kind of Bread? I am so glad that the dear friends who gather here, have not been drawn by dainties. I sometimes say to my friends when they speak of this little flock, and of the insincerity of Christians, and their desire for earthly things, I say, the little flock that comes here is not drawn by any such things, any human agencies, splendid rhetoric, or oratory, or music; but they have simply Christ, I trust, the living Bread. And it is a joy to think that one is surrounded by such, for only as they love it will they come to hear it.
And did you ever notice that God said to the Hebrews that the reason He gave them this kind of bread was to prove them and see what kind of people they were? “Then said the Lord unto 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.”
You can prove God’s children by their tastes. If they love God and his Word, you can depend on them. He says again in Deuteronomy: “Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at the latter end.” Dear friends, if you have no taste for prayer and worship, and the Word of God, you will be sure to break down. Your love for God’s Word, is a test of your spiritual character and faithfulness. And you will never love God’s Word until it fills you; you will never care for the Bible, until it becomes bread to your hearts. A lady said to her friend, ” I cannot like the Bible as you talk about liking it; it does not seem real to me as it seems to you.” And her friend said, “the reason is, it never speaks to you. Sometime when you are in trouble,” and she was all broken down then, “you ask the Lord to lead you to some verse that He will speak to you particularly.” The very next day her face was shining when she met her friend and said, “O, He has given me this word;” it promised her healing; and before the week was gone, she was indeed cured. And she is in a Western city today, among scores and scores of those that have been helped by her simple testimony, testifying just as fully as I am preaching to you today; and when I was there last I was met and welcomed by hundreds of Christians drawn together by her life and testimony. Six months before she had not any interest in the Bible; but she took the promise and lived upon it, and then she was interested.
God wants you to turn His Word into manna for yourself, and the manna is just Christ and His personal life.
3. And yet, although this manna only consisted of one kind of bread, it contained all that was necessary for the nutriment and support of their life. God just concentrated in that little round coriander-like seed all the elements of nutrition. Just as the chemists tell us that the milk we drink contains in it all the forms of nutriment necessary, so the manna included everything. How beautifully it teaches us that Jesus Christ is everything. I am so glad that you do not have to get Christ today, and then the next week hunt up some different Gospel, and some new sensation. But it is one thing, and that thing includes all others “As ye have received theLord Jesus Christ, so walk ye in him.” It is the same as when you first tasted it; it will be so through all the years to come; and Jesus Christ will be the very same Jesus through all the ages of eternity.
Dear friends, do you believe that in that blessed Redeemer there are all the supplies of your life, for pardon, for sanctification, for wisdom, for redemption, for service, and that you can just take that personal Savior, and He will become to you everything that you can ever need for comfort, victory, or for blessing to others?
4. Again: this manna was a very insignificant looking thing, a thing that would be very easily overlooked. So Christ is a root out of a dry ground and despised of men. And this Bible is a very common looking thing in many houses, and many think it isa very dry book. But only gather its manna and it will be, as we are told about this manna, as sweet as oil and honey.
This manna had to be gathered every day, or it would become corrupt and breed worms. There are hearts, too, that are corrupting, and their very religion has mortified and turned to an open sepulcher, because the people have not maintained their communion with God. They are living on the old manna of a century ago. The sweetest and purest truth will become infected and unclean, if you do not constantly live on a present Christ, and renew your communion every week and every day. You cannot live on the blessing of this morning, you must still drink afresh, and feed on the Bread of Life, just as the Passover must be eaten on that day, and everything that remained was burned with fire. You will learn that this daily abiding in Christ is the secret of your Christian life.
It is very beautiful that the manna fell on the dew. They found it in the morning, imbedded or lying in the sparkling dew; a little grain of manna, and a trembling drop of dew. You know the dew is the type of the Holy Ghost, the gentle Comforter that drops upon us His promises and His commandments, as if they fell fresh from heaven itself.
5. Again: the manna and the Sabbath are strangely linked together. This chapter tells us about the Sabbath. For the first time since the creation we find it still observed. You know that a little more than a month later, the Sabbath was given in the ten commandments; but here before the commandments, we find the Sabbath existing. It seems as though God would show us that spiritual food and spiritual rest must go together. The Sabbath is the type of the peace that passeth understanding. The people that are feeding on Christ, are having Sabbath rest; such people are not agitated by the troubles of life, but can stand the tempests of evil, and the trials of life and not be moved because their hearts are established in Christ.
Dear friends, have you learned the meaning of this? We read this morning such strange and mighty words as these: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” Do you know what that means? Jesus Christ a living being, feeding your very being, as if a living soul were breathing life into you every moment, sustaining you inwardly and outwardly! O may the Spirit reveal Him to you. This alone can satisfy and sanctify. This alone can make you strong for service. And this alone, is Christianity. It is not the brain feeding on human thoughts, or Christian doctrine. I say deliberately, that all the Bible reveals is husks and not bread without this experience. One of the most distinguished of the German commentators, who wrote on every book of the Bible said, “I have written about them all. I have explained them all. I understand them in some sense, but I know nothing of it in my heart.” That was not Living Bread; that was feeding on husks, and on straw, and not on the kernels of His Word. Or that was feeding, if I might change the figure, on the raw wheat, and not on the flour. It is not the Bible only, or the church only, but Christ making it all personal; and there is the same difference between the letter with Christ in it, and without, as between the letter I pick up on the street and know nothing about the writer, and the letter I get from the friend I love. There is a person behind the latter. There is a person behind this page. As you read it this morning, does it glow in your heart?
SECTION II — The Water.
We turn to the second verse: “They did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” The people had come to Rephidim, which was one of the oases in the Arabian desert, a place where ordinarily there were fountains. Indeed, travelers tell us today there are fountains there. It was a place of rest. They supposed they would find water as usual; but instead they found the stream dry, the trees withered, and everything desolate and barren. And so the people burst out into wild clamors. They did chide with Moses, and murmured against the Lord. They said, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” And God, instead of meeting them with judgment as they deserved, met them as He ever did. He told Moses to call the elders aside. They were responsible men that could bear witness of it, as the disciples could afterward tell of the resurrection of Jesus. He took these men with him to the place of the fountain, and there before the rock the pillar of cloud and fire took its stand, towering above it, and Moses took the rod and smote the rock, cleaving it asunder; and instantly there poured from it a stream of water, and spread through the camp, and through the oasis, until the people, with eager cries of gladness, were struggling for it and drinking its flowing tides. Eastern travelers tell us how the caravans do when they come to water, they are so delighted; the horses plunge in, and the people crowd upon one another into the stream, until their cries of delight are mingled with shouts of alarm, as they trample each other in their eagerness. And so here they brought their suffering cattle and they all drank and drank. And it would seem that this fountain never closed, but the waters continued to pour forth, until it became a living stream. For Paul says they “drank of that Rock that followed them.” It went along as they went along; and though sometimes it could not be found above the ground, they could dig down and find it, they could open a little cavity, and it would burst forth again. And so there was water all through the desert from this opening in the rock. They drank of the Rock that followed them, and it was the same spiritual rock, it was Christ. Water is one of the symbols of spiritual things. We see it in Genesis in the story of poor Hagar. We find its preciousness again in the reign of Ahab, and the life of Elijah. Christ tells the woman of Samaria of the well of water springing up unto everlasting life. And John speaks of the river clear as crystal that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb, and to which the Spirit and the Bride say come, and of which all who will may take freely.
For us, this means the fulness of salvation. More specifically it means the work of the Holy Ghost. The bread is the type of Jesus, and the water of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost is referred to under this image of water in His refreshing grace. Flowing around us in the ocean, above us in the air, the moisture that fills the atmosphere, and without which life cannot exist, one of the most important ingredients that constitute the physical universe, water is the vivid symbol of His Infinite and Illimitable grace. It tells also of the freeness of the Holy Ghost for all who will receive Him without money and without price.
Notice, first, that this water comes from the riven rock. The rod of the lawgiver had to strike the rock before the water came. And God had to smite His Son before the day of Pentecost and the joy of the Holy Ghost could reach our hearts. Not only was the water started, but left flowing, and ever since that the Holy Spirit has been in the church. He is here today; He is for you today. There is no limitation of the fulness of His blessing to those who will receive.
Not only did the water continue to flow from the rock, but through the desert; a channel was prepared for it; and when thechannel was not there, it flowed beneath the ground. And so the Holy Spirit does not travel in aqueducts but everywhere. Traveling through Italy first, I was struck by the vast aqueducts of the country, lifted up like our elevated tracks. If I had been thirsty I could not have reached them. God’s water flows in all places. The great peculiarity of water is that it flows down. It will go as high as its fountain head, and as low as the neediest. And so the Holy Ghost goes through your desert life; into the hard place of your life; into your weary round of toil and down to the lowest depths of sin and misery. The men and women before me have a struggling life. I am glad that I know something of work, and Christ knows more. I do not believe that a lazy, indolent man can taste of the full joys of His grace. Christ walked the whole circle of our life Himself, and so these streams flow through your common life. Some of you are going from here to cook your own dinners; tomorrow you are to pass through hours of trial, of toil and business, with all its pressure, and its monotony. It does not matter much, if you have the Divine supply and you can have it for the morning and afternoon and evening,as well as in the hours of sacred service. I do not know anything I am more thankful for, than the sufficiency of Christ for the twelve hours of the day and the twelve hours of the night. I am sure I should have died long ago if I had not found in Him a continual refreshing and delight. I do not believe in merely getting through. I do not believe in riding in an emigrant train; you can have a palace car all the way. God will make it easy for you. He loves to see you put your hand on the hardest things, and find them easy through Christ. This living water is for the desert, and not for those glorious eminences. You dear school girls, it will make your brain clearer, and brush the cobwebs from your mind. And it will help you, toiling women. How God’s heart goes out to you. He knows what a life you are living. But He will go with you everywhere.
Now we want to tell the world about this sort of grace. We do not want a religion of silver slippers, or kid gloves. But we want it to be practical heart work. I think I sometimes seem extravagant when I talk about this side of Christianity, but it has been so real to me, you must indulge me.
SECTION III — Conflict and Victory.
And now one more lesson; and that is, the conflict with Amalek. I am so glad that God does not let the battle come until you have got the bread and the water. If Amalek had come before the manna fell, and before the rock was opened, I am afraid he would have had his own way. But God fortifies you for the battle by filling your life and heart with His sufficiency.
In the first place, this battle with Amalek stands for the temptations that come to us from the flesh. Amalek was a descendant of Esau, and Esau was a man of the flesh. The whole race of Amalek includes the Canaanites; it was at least a branch of theCanaanites. It stands for that in men and women which is animal; but it stands not only for the coarse appetites of the animal, but for the tastes and desires and ambitions which are fleshly, and not pure and heavenly. We can have a business that is earthly, and we can have a business that is consecrated. We can have joys that take hold on the earth, and yet are rooted in God, or we can have these things all center in the earth. Do you know what it is to have an earthly intellect as well as an earthly lust? Amalek stands for all this.
It seems Amalek came a long distance. He came unprovoked; he was not attacked by Israel; but he came himself, because he hated this new way, and he wanted to destroy it before they got to Sinai and the Tabernacle. And you do not know where the campaign will begin; perhaps on the way home today; sitting at the dinner table; or in some of the things that will meet you before night. He will perhaps be along to close up the Lenten season. So Amalek came to fight with Israel. And it seems to intimate here, that Amalek will come until the end, because it says God will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.
Another thing I want you to notice, he came not where the pillar of fire was; he does not come there; but he came behind, in disguise, in strategy. And we are told in Deut. 25: 18. “How he met them by the way, and smote the hindmost of them, even all that were feeble behind them, when they were faint and weary; and he feared not God.” It is so like his sneaking way. He came and fought the weary. If your face is set steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, he will not be there. If you are away in front, you will not see him. But if you are doubting, and lingering behind and compromising with the world, afraid to trust God with all your heart, you will find him. He came and fought the hindmost. Don’t get feeble; don’t linger behind; do not take back seats in Christ’s house; always press forward. Where God promises anything, say that is for me. If God commands anything, say, Lord, I will do it. When your faith is weak, or your hope, the flesh is apt to get control by its desires or its fears.
He is the type of our earthly adversaries that come in the world around us, and come often with combined and tremendous power, O how easy it would be to prove this, by turning back the leaves of your life. Dear young friends, what has blighted you? it is the flesh. What has sapped the springs of your life? O if I could tell of the young men that come sometimes to tell me the story of their wreck, it would make your heart ache. Perhaps it was unhallowed reading, to gratify their fleshly taste, not very grossly at first, the book that pleases, the sensational columns of those devilish newspapers; it makes one sick all over to read the headlines.
“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest. And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the words should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
These beautiful words recall our thoughts to the mount of fire in the ancient wilderness, and they claim for us in the Christian dispensation all that was gracious and permanent in that awful and yet glorious manifestation of God; and leave out all that is dark, terrific and temporary.
In our review of the history of Israel, we have come at last to Sinai. We have followed them across the Red sea and through the wilderness; we have seen them led by the pillar of cloud and fire; fed by the hands of God; refreshed by the streams from the desert; and made victorious over their enemies by the banner of God. But now, the scene changes. I know nothing more vivid and impressive in their history than the strange alteration in the manifestation of God’s presence at this time. Hitherto it has seemed as though a gentle mother had spread out her pinions and covered them with her feathers. But suddenly she becomes to them a form of terror. The voice that had been all gentleness, and longsuffering and love, the God that had borne with them in their disobedience and frailty seems to change in a moment; and as they look at Him this morning, enthroned upon that fire-crowned mount, He is a living terror. The mountain is all in flame. It seems to be rocking in a perpetual earthquake; quivering in the throes of dissolution; covered from top to bottom with the thickest darkness and smoke; while the lurid flames are flashing on every side. And more terrific than all, the deafening roar of the trumpet; and as it seems the mingling of the trumpets of a thousand angels, is sounding on their ears and making their hearts to quake.
Even Moses, accustomed to see God’s mightiest manifestations, called to his work from the burning bush and able to stay with God in the mount forty days, said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.”
What is the meaning of this sudden change? What is the meaning of this hour? Up to this time He had met their murmurings with water and manna. But now, the message is, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the law to do them.” “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” “Thou shalt not touch the mount. Nay, if a beast touch it, he shall die.” “Let the priests also which come near to the Lord sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.” Nor can the people hear His word. “Speak thou with us,” they cry, “but let not God speak with us lest we die.”
Is not this a strange and awful change, as you contrast it with a week ago, as you contrast it with His gentle dealings with Abraham and Isaac, and the children of Israel through the desert? What was the meaning of this sudden coming down to the mount, and assembling them before the throne of His immaculate purity and inexorable law? There must be some deep significance for them, and for our lives. Yes, beloved! it was necessary that these lessons should be taught, and taught in this way. And it is necessary in your life and mine that the very same experience must come. And it is the experience that comes to every soul that becomes thoroughly disciplined and established in the life of holiness. I believe this is the very picture of God’s dealings with many of us.
First, He took us out of Egypt, forgave our sins, and led us through the wilderness with such a gentle hand. We thought there never could be any deeper experience; we thought the work of our inner salvation was complete; we thought we were so free from sin we should never know temptation again.
As we now look back to our early experience, and see how free it was from temptation and doubt, we have wished that we could go back to the days of childhood, and return to that simple faith in God. But there came a time when out of the depths there arose the terrific forms of temptation that we never dreamed was there. And as they came the face of God seemed darkened, and there came the revelation of God in His majesty and holiness, as He comes to search the heart, and show us things we did not think were in us. Then we became discouraged, and went to work to make ourselves better. And when we sought to rise in our own strength, we were knocked down again, by the hands of the law, and became so discouraged that we even doubted our conversion. John Bunyan gives us a vivid picture of this. It is after Christian has left the City of Destruction, and is on his road to the better land. Suddenly he gets out of the way, and as he tries to get back he meets with Moses, the man of stern face with no ray of mercy in his countenance. Moses says, “Where have you been? What have you done?” And as Christian begins to tell his sin, Moses knocks him down. He cries for mercy, but Moses says he has no mercy, it is his business to give the law, and to judge by the law. Christian rises again, and is knocked down again. The lightnings gather on the mountain; he begins to despair, when good Evangelist comes along and shows him the blessed way: and so he gets back again but not by the hand of Moses.
And so with us. Our disobedience terrified us. We felt ourselves weaker and more helpless than ever. God was only showing us His own face, and our hearts: and He was showing us all this that He might lead us to something better than we had before. He was showing us all this that we might get rid of the evil that was in ourselves, that we might get the strength of Christ in our hearts; that we might get the power of the holy Ghost in our souls: that we might go forth to be saved, not by our works; to be sanctified, not by our attempts, but by the power of the Spirit of the living God, living and triumphing in our souls.
When we get past our Mount Sinai, we know ourselves better, and we know God better. I believe this was the object of God’s revealing Himself on Mount Sinai. It was first, that they might see God. They did not know Him. They had been trifling with Him. I do not believe any man can know himself, or be strong for true service, until he has seen something of the true majesty and glory of God; until upon his spirit there has fallen, not the vision, for men cannot see that in its fulness, but the revelation of God in His infinite purity. So it was with Isaiah. He was not ready for his work until in the temple yonder he beheld the vision of God’s glory, and said, “Woe is me, for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” So with Job when he cried: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” And so with Paul. His ideas were all confused and wrong until in the way to Damascus he saw Jesus, and was smitten and slain and altogether changed forevermore. There comes a time in a man’s life when he gets the thought of God, and sees his own egotism, and pride, and self-will. God lets him see himself, and then He reveals Himself, and God and His will henceforth are all; and the opinion of everybody else is insignificant. So it was necessary that they should see Him who was invisible, and that mighty face should cover all the sky and blot out everything else.
And not only must we see God, not only must we see Him in his holiness, not only must we see Him as a consuming fire, but we must see Him as the God of love. And I do not believe we can ever appreciate the love of God, until we have had back of it the vision of his majestic holiness. It is when your very soul quivers in the fire of his purity, and you say, “how can I stand in such a presence?” It is then that Jesus comes and fills you and lets you come into that very purity. It is then that the love of God is so seen; it is when you have seen his justice and righteousness and his inexorable law, when you see that He will not accept anything less; that He will by no means clear the guilty; and that He hates sin with eternal hatred; it is then so blessed to know Him as your reconciled God, holy as Sinai, and yet satisfying for you every demand of His law through Christ who fulfils every requirement. It is blessed to look at His righteousness, justice and ineffable purity, and think “how will I ever attain to that;” and then say, “Thy holiness, O Christ, is mine; thy purity thou givest me; thy very self thou bestowest on thy child; thy cloud in which thou art enshrouded, I wrap around myself; and then, in thy glory and purity, I come into God’s presence.”
I do not believe this glory ever seems the same to those that have not had the searching of His infinite purity.
Beloved, how has it come to you? Have you tried to make God a little easier with sin? Have you wished that God were just a little less rigid, and would lower the standard? Or have you let the standard be the very highest, and asked Christ to lift you up to it? God wants you to rejoice in His holiness. He does not want you to regret that he is so pure, but to remember that if there were any speck of sin allowed by Him in the universe, it would go to pieces in a moment. God does not save you by relaxing his purity one bit, but by bringing you up to it. He brings us to the heights of Sinai, and enables us to stand amid its very fires in the robes of His own spotless righteousness.
So we read a little later, that these people who were not permitted to come nearer, and who stood back because God was so holy, yet later could be received into His very presence. God said to Moses, “Come thou and the elders into the mount.” And we see the very people that were not permitted to let the soles of their feet touch the base of Sinai, ascending that hill; going higher and higher with Moses, where the sun is shining on them with all its cloudless glory, until the clouds are below them, and they enter within the very canopy of heaven. There is no lightning now, no stroke, no judgment; but lo, they sit down on the mount, and God prepares a feast for them; and we read that “they did eat and drink, and saw God. And on the nobles of Israel He laid not His hand.”
They were visiting with God, and yet they were sinful men. They were in the very same mount which Moses and they had stood back from. What was the difference? O, this time when they went up, they had the blood on their hands. They had slain the sacrifice at the foot of the mount; they had sprinkled the blood over them; and with this token, they could draw near.
God was not any less holy; but that blood meant that full satisfaction had been rendered. Nay, more, that they themselves, ceremonially at least, and as types of us spiritually, had been purified by the very life of Jesus, for the blood had been sprinkled upon them, and was the very type of the living blood of Christ. I wish you could understand the meaning of Christ’s living blood. I wish you could see something more than the drops of death that sank down into the ground at Calvary. That was not all the blood. I thank God that he shows us that Christ has blood that is not dead. Christ has blood that is as full of life as that in your veins. That blood He will put in your heart; and when He puts it in your heart, you will have His life, and His nature, and you can go into the very presence of God. It is not only that he died for you, but he lives in you today. And so we can come in where the Shekinah cloud is shining, and feel no spot of sin, without fear look into His face, and lean upon His breast, and hear Him say: “Thou art mine. Thou art all fair, beloved. There is no spot in thee.” Why? Because the blood of Jesus Christ covers you; because the blood atones for your sins; and the life of Christ fills your heart.
You sit down with God and eat, and drink, and see His face, and over you spreads the sapphire cloud of heaven and the banner of His love.
I am glad, beloved, that He is not less holy, but brings us into His very holiness, to meet Him there.
Again: Not only was that ancient mount designed to show them God’s holiness, and the necessity of it, but to show them their utter unholiness. God never gave the ten commandments with the idea in His mind that men were going to keep them in their own strength. It seems a bold thing to say, but I say it reverently, God never gave the ten commandments with the understanding in his mind that men were able or willing to keep them, until they got something better than they had in their nature. He wanted them to be kept, but He knew men could not keep them, until they had the Holy Spirit in their hearts, until they had the nature of Christ in their hearts. He gave them to show men what they could not do, and how weak they were. Paul says that righteousness could not come by the law. He says that the law made nothing perfect. It was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. I do not mean that God intended them to break His law, but he knew they would, and when they said, “All that thou sayest unto us we will do,” God saw them in anticipation dancing around the golden calf, and He may have smiled when he heard that promise, and said, “Poor children, you do not know yourselves.” And so He brings many a solemn test to let you know what you are. He holds up this standard of righteousness to show you how far you are from it.
This revelation of sin comes to every heart. We see Job pleading his own righteousness, and telling Eliphaz and all those miserable comforters he was as good as they were; and that it was almost a shame for God to treat him as He was treating him. And when he got through, and had written his own autobiography, then God came in a moment, and said: “Job, look at yourself,” and Job looked, and gave a great cry, and said: “I have been talking words without knowledge. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Then Job saw his worthlessness; and was ready for a better righteousness.
Dear friends, do you not know what you might do if God would let you? God had to let Peter down head foremost, to show him what Peter could do. He let Abraham tell a lie, that he might see that in the lineof his very faith he was weakest. Paul says he too had a very happy time for a while. “Iwas alive without the law once. I thought I was good.” Suddenly there came a great trial, I do not know what it was; something that touched Paul’s pride;you know what it is when something comes and touches your pride. You say “I will not,” and God has to come and make you do it. “The commandment came and sin revived and I died;” that made him worse. The very moment he saw it was necessary to be done, he disliked it more than he ever had before. He found his heart was so weak and erring, hejust gave a great gasp of despair, then he died, and God lifted him up to a better life in and through Christ.
I have not time to dwell on this thought.The purpose of God dealing thus with us, is to show us how wicked our hearts are, and how much we need the power of the Holy Spirit in us, or we shall certainly fail,in the things we mean to do.
And so, I come to the third lesson of thelaw. It has shown the people what God was, and how He would not lower His standard; and how wicked they were, and how sure to do wrong in their own strength. The next thing was that it should be a kind of panorama to hold up the picture of Jesus,and show them what He was. You know that from the moment the people broke the law, God went to work to show them that there was One coming, who would keep the law; a man, like themselves; and that glorious One would become the end of the law for righteousness. He would stand as their substitute and atone for their sins. He would bear the wrath of Sinai which they deserved. He would save them from the curse of the law; and having done that, would go to work and teach them to obey the law. He would put the law in their hearts and enable them to keep it. Nay, better than that, would come down into their hearts and live there, and living there, would keep them; would be their righteousness, their wisdom, their life. He pardons me for having broken the law. Then He comes into me and enables me to keep the law. He not only does away with my mistake, but He says: “Now I will undo it. It is all pardoned; I have suffered; it is all settled, and now let us go on together, and make it right. I will come into you myself. I will put into you another Spirit. I will put my Spirit in you. I will write my law there; I will make you love it; I will put the desire there, so it will be natural. I will make it spring in your breasts. This is thecovenant I will make with you after these days. Not the covenant of Sinai which they break, although I was an husband unto them,” saith the Lord. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days,” saith the Lord, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts;and will be their God, and they shall be my people. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
So they got a new law. I am glad that Moses let the first ten commandments break. He let them fall out of his hands, as he came from Sinai; he got discouraged when he saw the people, and said there is no use in having a law. Well, I am glad it broke. God gave a better. He said in a few days: “Moses, come up again. I will give you another law. But I will not trust it to you to keep. I will put it in the ark of the covenant.” And so after that, the law was in the ark. So Christ hides the law in His heart, and puts it in our hearts, so that the things that once we hated, we now love.
A dear friend said the other day, it seemed as though there was someone else living in her. Some one seemed to be with her all night, and praying in her heart even when she slept.
O weary hearts, there is something that will come in and be a living strength and victorious life. It is Christ dwelling within you. And so, in the New Testament, the anniversary of the giving of the law was turned into Pentecost. For on the anniversary of that very same day that awful word came down from Heaven, “Thou shalt, and thou shalt not,” on that very same day the Holy Ghost came clown into men’s hearts and said, “I will enable you to keep the law,” for the Holy Ghost is our law. And so we read in the New Testament, “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Now, dear friends, let us spring into this new covenant, and let the Lord’s supper today be the heavenly seal. For not only does he say, “I will put the law in your hearts,” but he says, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”
And so we close with that triumphant picture, “Ye are not come unto the mount that might not be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and. darkness, and tempest. But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” I do not know how near they are; but we are very near to them.
Let us add, “see that you refuse not Him that speaketh;” this mighty salvation, this mighty indwelling, inworking Christ; but receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, a kingdom of grace and of power, let us have grace, not our own efforts, our own desperate struggles, but the grace whereby we may be enabled to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. He does not say, “let us try our best,” but let us have the grace of God to do it; and it will keep us, and enable us to so appropriate His holiness and love, that those words will not affright us, “our God is a consuming fire.”
The gold is not afraid of the fire. The paper would be afraid, but the gold says, “come on. I can come into your midst; you will not harm me.” The paper burns; the gold grows brighter and ever burns on. Burn on them, O celestial flame.
“Refining fire go through my heart, Illuminate my soul; Scatter thy light through every part, And sanctify the whole.”
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Gal. 3: 24, 25.)
We looked in the last chapter at the dispensation of the law as it was especially significant and symbolical of God’s spiritual order in dealing with his children under the Gospel. We shall look now at that which immediately followed the law; growing out of it like a flower growing out of the bosom of a glacier, namely, the types and symbols of the grace of God, so beautifully revealed to Moses by the Lord, and through Moses to the people, after the thick darkness and fire of Sinai had passed. There is no part of the Bible that has so many pictures of the grace of Jesus as this. It has been almost hidden by the thick clouds which are but the curtain of His glory, and behind which there are such visions of grace and beauty.
The law was our schoolmaster: let us this morning sit in the school and have the Master present the lessons. It was a Kindergarten school, not an adult one. It was for the infancy of the church, and so all its lessons are object lessons, and all its pictures painted upon the canvas, or drawn upon the blackboard, and interpreted by the New Testament writings.
I will look with you this morning at five of these object lessons of spiritual truth as they were given by God through Moses for his ancient people, but still more for our learning on whom the ends of the world have come.
THE ALTAR OF EARTH.
The first of these is at the foot of Sinai, before the smoke has cleared away, or the reverberation of the thunder has ceased to terrify the people. This first picture is very beautiful, but you might overlook it, it is so small. The wise have overlooked it; the moral have overlooked it; the deists and the rationalists have overlooked it. The poor sinner sees it, and how he rejoices after he finds it. How glad he is after that awful fire and tempest, and that voice that says, “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of law to do them.” How he rejoices as he looks at the base of the mount, and there at its foot behold this little object which I am going to show you, and which is so full of Jesus and His grace. Here in the very chapter that contains the ten commandments (Ex. 20: 24) we find it. How different it is. The others are all, “Cursed is he that continueth not.” This is, “I will bless.” The other is, “Thou shalt do.” This is, “Thou shalt sacrifice.” The other is, high above our reach: this is down low and everybody can get at it. “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep and thy oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.”
I suppose that you have overlooked that a thousand times. You have read the ten commandments, and did not see this. You saw the awful law but did not see God’s provision for the men that break it.
This is the first picture. The schoolmaster comes and touches the canvas with a few strokes, and you see this rude altar of common clay. If built of stone it is to be the simplest stone. There were to be no graven tools used in its construction, no figures cut on it as on our fine churches, and there were to be no steps. Some poor and feeble old sinner might come along, and not be able to get up there.
It is the picture of the gospel. It tells them in the first place, that Jesus Christ is going to come to this world to die for the men that are going to break this law. It is an altar where blood is flowing, where death is expiating sin by suffering, where the victim bleeds for the sinner. Then it is a place of great simplicity. It is the salvation that comes down for love of the sinner. It is the salvation that does not require him to carve it out with a chisel. Enough if he can heap a few stones together, and there offer the lamb of sacrifice that can take away his sins. Ho does not need to go up, or climb into a better state and make himself good; but anywhere and anyhow you may come just as you are, and call upon Him that says, “And him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.”
Thanks to the old schoolmaster for this beautiful picture. O beloved, do not forget its lesson for yourselves and yours. And as you meet the poor and lost, lead them gently to Him. Thank God, I see men here today that have found Him who a week ago did not know Him. They thought it would be an awful task to find Him; they thought they would have to work themselves to some higher place, that they had to fulfill the law ere they could be saved. But they have seen that Christ has died to take their sins away, and all they have to do is to come and take Him. O, tell the lost and discouraged ones to build their altar anywhere, and go at once to Him. You do not need a temple at Jerusalem. You can find it on South street, or the Five Points mission, anywhere in your little room in the tenement house, anywhere that the poor sinner may be. No stairs to climb. “But whosoever will, let him take the Water of Life freely.”
“Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above.) Or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” “That if thou shalt confess with thy month the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Beloved, are you this morning a poor guilty sinner? Have you known the law of God and broken it? Are you standing, conscious of your wrong, and hesitating what to do? O, you do not need to come as far as this altar, but just where you are sitting in your seat, you can lift your heart and say, “O, Lamb of God, I come.”
THE HEBREW SERVANT.
The next picture, for we have to hurry as the canvas is withdrawn, is just as beautiful, but perhaps not so easily understood. It is in the next chapter (Ex. 21: 2-7.) “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”
That is, the servant is to be liberated and go, if he likes. He is a slave, you know; but he is at liberty to claim his freedom. But here are his dear wife and children whom he cannot leave without a breaking heart, for they belong to servitude by the conditions of their birth. He has his choice; he can stay with them and share their burdens, or go out selfishly into liberty. But he is a noble fellow; he says I do not want to leave them, and I will not. So the law provides that they can make a covenant. And he goes to his master and plainly says: “I love my wife and my children and my master, I will not go out free.” Then he and his master go to the judges, and the master fastens the awl in his ear to show that he is bound over forever, and is his voluntary slave. The understanding was that it was a willing servitude, and as such, he was honored. This may seem to you a simple thing in the Hebrew code. But as we read the Bible, we see it again and again repeated as the type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, when coming to this world to suffer for you and me, uses this very language describing his coming. He says, “Lo, I come: I delight to do thy will, O my God. Mine ears hast thou bored, thy law is within my heart.” Thou hast nailed me to the door. Thou hast made me a slave forever. Thou hast made me a slave of love.
You and I who are called to be the bride of Jesus, the very wife of the Lamb, for that is the picture of the church in the Scriptures, were poor slaves, bound over by our sins to a condition of bondage and servitude. Jesus Christ, the blessed Bridegroom, is free. Had he chosen, he could have stayed in heaven. He was under no obligation to come down and be bound under the law, and endure the ignominies and suffering of the world. What would He do? Would He stay with His Father and the angels in that glorious kingdom? He said “I love my wife and children. Mine ear hast thou bored. I will take up the burden of the law. I will take up the sins of the people. I will take up the tasks of the heavy laden. I will be the righteousness which they cannot provide. I will do for them what they cannot do. I will bear their burdens, and fulfil their obligations.” So Jesus Christ was bound in the place of a servant for you and me. And God in speaking of Him says, “My Chosen Servant in whom I delight.” So He says Himself, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” And that is the reason why He was laden and crushed by our weight of sin, He was made a slave for us. He bought our liberty by the loss of His own. As the former picture was the picture of His sacrifice, so this picture is that of His righteousness, His obedience for us under the law, and His assuming for us all the burdens of our state of helplessness and sin.
Stop a moment, beloved, and ask do you understand this for yourselves? Has this been real to you? You and I were under tremendous obligations; have we taken Christ for them? You and I were born under sin; have we taken Him as our Savior? We Were heavy laden; have we let Him take our guilt? Have we thought what it meant to give up all for us? Let us say here to Him. “I love my Master. I will not go out free.” Let us be like the slave girl in New Orleans, when her master said, “Go, I have bought you.” She said, ” No.” He said, ” I bought you to set you free.” She said, “I will not go; I will be your slave, for you redeemed me.” And so, beloved, He became a slave for us that we might be willing servants for Him. It is easy to talk about it; but would you go for thirty-three years and drudge your life away for an enemy? Would you become a menial in the kitchen, a toiling slave of the brick field for some one that had never done anything to make you love them? He did it for you and me. He was tired for us. He endured the privations of life. He had no place to lay his head. He was driven from his childhood’s home, about to be hurled over the precipice and finally was hung on that cross outside of the city for our sins. Shall we not say, “I love my Master. I do not want to be free from my Savior.” As Paul said, “I am His bond slave.” He became a servant for me, I will serve him with loyal love. Come, beloved, and let Him fasten you to the door, and the pain that pierces your hands and feet will be sweet; and there will be a joy that selfishness never knew, as you look into His face and say, “I love Thee. Every drop of blood loves thee. Every fiber of my flesh loves thee. Every thought wants to be thine.” If you ever want to know a joy sublime just say this from the bottom of your heart. I have said to troubled hearts, “Give yourselves to God;” and I have seen faces flash with glory, when they could say; “I am thine. I give myself unreservedly for thee.”
You know what the old English pillory was. A man nailed to a post by his ear. Christ was pilloried for you. O let us return His love.
THE VISION AND THE BLOOD.
The schoolmaster has given us two pictures. Here is another we will just refer to, for we spoke of it in the last chapter morning. It is the story of the blood. The altar tells us of the sacrifice, the servant, of Christ’s righteousness and His service for us. And this third picture tells us of our access, and our nearness to God, coming into the most intimate fellowship with Jesus. It is in the 24th chapter of Exodus, verses 5-12: “And Moses came and offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And he took half of the blood and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”
What a beautiful picture. It was the same mount that was smoking yesterday; but it is serene today, calm and heavenly, like the very gates of glory. And now, Moses and these men are going up that awful mountain; and as they go there is no awful lightning, or muttered warning of terror. They have got basins of blood in their hands; and are all sprinkled with blood as they go. And as they pass the skies get clearer, as a sapphire throne, and as the body of heaven in its clearness. And lo, as they get up to some sequestered nook of the mountain, they pause and behold a table is spread. I do not know what was on the table, but it was the bread of heaven. And the God of Israel was there. Perhaps it was the softened fire cloud of the Shekinah. There was something they knew to be the presence of God. They sat down around it, “And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” They looked up and it was as clear and blue as the sapphire of His palace. And their hearts must have thrilled as ours shall when we sit down at the banquet of the Lamb. It all meant that the curse was gone, and that the blood had put away the sin; and that the blood sprinkled upon them was the very life of Jesus. They were the sons of God. They had been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and could come as near as they liked. And we can have this blood sprinkled upon our hearts, His very life and nature is in us. We can come fully into the mount. We can eat and drink, and it will be the very gate of heaven.
Beloved, do you understand it? The first is the altar of sacrifice where he died. The second, is the servant taking your task. And the third, is the blessed Intercessor bringing you into the immediate presence of God. The blood shed and the blood sprinkled bringing you nigh.
The exposition of it in the New Testament is this, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say his flesh; And having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Beloved, are you living there? Have you come thus near?
And now, we have only time for a few moments to refer to one more picture. Again the wondrous schoolmaster changes the scenery ,and we look at the canvas and see on it the picture of a little house of skins and boards, a rude tent, but as we look within, it is very beautiful. Outside it is just common boards, and a few rough badger skins for a roof; but inside, it is all glorious. It is hung with costly embroidered curtains of richest colors, and a flashing lining of gold reflects the light from every side. Every article of furniture and the few simple things in this building are all magnificent. We pass in, and as we come to the first opening we enter the court, an altar of sacrifice, and here is the great basin full of water where they washed. We come up to another hanging curtain, we enter that, and are in the building itself. On the left are the golden candlestick and the table of bread. And before us a little altar from which incense and fragrance rise. This is the tabernacle. And had we been permitted to look in once a year, we would have seen another set of curtains drawn aside for a moment. We would have seen the splendidly robed person of the high priest go in, and as we looked in we would have caught a glimpse of the little ark containing some precious relics; and above it the cherubim, and between their wings the heavenly light was the very eye of God. And that Shekinah arose above the tent, until it became the pillar of cloud and fire.
This is the last picture that we will look at. It was the picture of the blessed Christ. It is the most instructive of all the types in the Bible.
I have told you that the other three pictures present Christ to us in different aspects. A sacrifice for sin, a provision for our righteousness, and our access to God; and I think this last picture is the sweet thought of home. It is a house; and the idea was that God was going to be the home of the children. He was going to make for them a home in this homeless wilderness. He was going to spread for them the Father’s table wherever they were. Through that trackless, homeless desert with its loneliness, He was every night to pitch his tent and be to them a sanctuary and a rest wherever they were. O, I think it was of that Moses sang one day when they had been going on so long, and they had been dropping, dropping, dropping to bleach upon the sands as they passed and leave their bones on the desert. He got so tired He said, “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as asleep; in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told,” etc. And then as he saw the tabernacle with its sweet refuge and rest for the weary, he thought of the God whose wings were spread over it; and whose bosom was within to shelter them, and he sang; “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all the generations.”Or, as it is in the more beautiful Hebrew, “Lord, Thou hast been our home in all the generations.” And the next Psalm, I should not wonder if Moses wrote it, it is so beautiful, and fits so perfectly with the ninetieth Psalm. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Yes, there is a home for you. We may, even here, dwell at home and sing, as we are going home, ” Abide with me from morn till eve, for without Thee I cannot live.”
That home had three departments. First, the porch outside. And in that porch there was provision for the guilty to put the uncleanness off their souls and off their garments. There was a fountain where they left their stains. But that was not home; that was only the porch. What a pity that so many Christians live in the porch. They do. Lots of Christians never get any farther in. They sit where the servants are, and the scullions. A great many Christians come to Jesus to get their sins forgiven so as in some way they could go to heaven. But it is not the Father’s house.
Putting aside the next curtain, you go in where God’s chosen servants always dwell. It was called the tabernacle. There was the golden lamp, and table of bread fresh every week; and the sweet altar of perfume, exquisite and homelike all the time. There they fed on God’s bread, and breathed the sweetness of heaven. It was where God’s children banqueted on His love. Some of you understand this. You know what it is to go in with Christ into the inner chamber, and have a light shine on your heart, that is not revealed to the world. To such, it is meat indeed, and drink indeed. You are in the secret place of the Most High; dwelling under the shadow of the Almighty. That is what Christ meant when he said: “Abide in me, and I in you.” Do not be so foolish as to dwell in the court. Suppose the prodigal had said, “Let me dwell in the kitchen, I do not want to go in there;” that would have been an unworthy thing; and if he had appeared to be so unworthy that father’s love would have been checked. You are nothing in yourself, but Christ has provided the sacrifice, and he wants you to get the benefit. It would be a very foolish thing if you went to some great store in this city, and deposited a hundred dollars, and said, “Mr. X can have all he wants,” for me to go down and say, “I don’t feel free to take this; I will only take two dollars and seventy-five cents’ worth,” and go off. The merchant would say, “It will do me no good, you might as well have the good of it.” And so, beloved, Christ has paid for the very luxuries of grace; He has paid for the best seats in his palace, do not let him feel that his fulness was wasted.
Then there was a third chamber beyond this so glorious that they of the old dispensation could not go in; could not even look in. But when Jesus died on the cross, the curtains of that inner chamber were rent asunder; when His heart-strings broke, then there was a great rent opened, and they could see it open; the curtains burst asunder in a moment, and every one could look in and see the holy of holies. Even heaven itself is now opened up to you and me, opened up so you can look in and not be afraid; so you can look in as He goes in before. You can look in and see your seat prepared, and know that you shall go in where the Forerunner has gone; may not only look in, but you can live under its light and glory; making your pathway a little heaven as you go. Blessed, blessed home! it tells us how the Christian is not merely a toiling servant, but a child at home. And it spreads its curtains for you when there is no other comfort and joy, and you can abide with Him until the time comes when it shall be said, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men; he shall dwell with them. God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more sorrow or crying or death. For the former things have passed away. And He that sat on the throne said, “It is done; I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of life. The Spirit and the Bride say come; and whosoever is athirst, let him come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”
Come home, dear friends; come home to God’s love, and stay at home. God grant that may be true for you. “Blessed are the homesick; for they shall find a home.” There is one. Are you tired today? is your soul lonesome? is it weary? come to Christ. He has got more than pardon. He can love you until you can feel it warm your heart, and know that it is not you, but He, that loves your love back again. Eye hath not seen, nor have we dreamed what it will mean bye and bye. God be your home, and give you the blessing of Him that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High.
We bless God for the old schoolmaster, but we say “good-bye.” Lord, it is good to be here on the mount, there is no man but Jesus here. The ministry of Moses is gone. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.” We have been looking at the pictures on the blackboard, and while we looked the Master has stepped in. He is here. O that we may go forth in His presence.
We will find it is not the Tabernacle now, it is a person, it is Jesus. And so we retire into the secret of our hearts, and say:
“Blessed, gentle, holy Jesus, Precious Bridegroom of my heart, In thy secret, inner chamber, Come and whisper what thou art.”