[From the authors book Gleanings in Exodus, pp. 118-122. Photograph by Clive R. Tindle.]
So Moses brought
Trial and humiliation are not the end of the Lord (James 5: 11), but are rather the occasion for fresh displays of the Fathers long-sufferance and goodness. The wilderness may and will make manifest the weakness of His saints, and, alas! their failures, but this is only to magnify the power and mercy of Him who brought them into the place of testing. Further: God has in view our ultimate wellbeing that He may do thee good at thy latter end (Deut. 6: 18); and when the trials are over, when our faithful God has supplied our every need, all, all shall be found to be to His honour, praise, and glory. Thus Gods purpose in leading His [redeemed] people through the wilderness was (and is) not only that He might try to prove them (Duet. 8: 2-5), but that in the trial He might exhibit what He was for them in bearing with their failures and in supplying their need. The wilderness, then, gives us not only a revelation of ourselves, but it also makes manifest the ways of God.
So Moses brought
Hosea 6: 2, - After
three days (i.e., after three millenniums, 2 Pet. 3: 8) he will
revive us (Israel); on the third day
- (the third millennial day) he will restore us,
that we may live in his (Christs) presence.:
with Acts 7: 5, - He
[God] gave him [Abraham] no
inheritance here [in the land of Canaan], not even a foot of ground.
But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess
N.I.V. That promise can only be kept and made good
by God at the time of Abrahams resurrection out from the dead. Keep
in mind, - Abraham is in that blessed section of Hades
/ Sheol, called
It is only when the Christians faith lays hold of his oneness with Christ in His death and resurrection, recognizing that he is a new creature in Him, that he becomes conscious of the wilderness. Just in proportion as we apprehend our new standing before God and our portion in His son, so will this world [age] become to us a dreary and desolate wilderness. To the natural man the world offers much that is attractive and alluring; but to the spiritual man all in it is only vanity and vexation of spirit. To the eye of sense there is much in the world that is pleasant and pleasing; but the eye of faith sees nothing but death written across the whole scene change and decay in all around I see. It has much which ministers to the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, but nothing whatever for the new nature. So far as the spiritual life is concerned, the world is simply a wilderness barren and desolate.
wilderness is the place of travellers, journeying from one country to another;
none but a madman would think of making his [eternal] home there.
Precisely such is this world [while
lying under the curse of God]. It is the place through which man journeys
from time to eternity. And faith it is
which makes the difference between the way in which men regard this world. The unbeliever, for the most part, is content
to remain here. He settles down as
though he is to stay here forever, Their inward thought is,
their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all
generations; they call theit land after their names
(Pel. 49: 11). Every effort is made to prolong his earthly
sojourn, and when at last death claims him, he is loath to leave. Far different is it with the believer, the real
believer. His home is not here. He looks for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is
God (Heb. 11: 10). Consequently,
he is a stranger and pilgrim here (Heb. 11: 13). It is of this the wilderness speaks.
And they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water (v. 22). This is the first lesson which our wilderness-life is designed to teach us. There is nothing down here [during this age] which can in anywise minister to that life which we have received from Christ. The pleasures of sin, the attractions of the world, no longer satisfy. The things which formerly charmed, now repel us. The companionships we used to find so pleasing have become distasteful. The things which delight the ungodly only cause us to groan. The Christian who is in communion with his Lord finds absolutely nothing around him which will or can refresh his thirsty soul. For him the shallow cisterns of this [cursed] world have run dry. His cry will be that of the Psalmist: O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is (Psl. 63: 1). Ah, there is the believers Resource: God alone can satisfy the longings of his heart. Just as he first heeded the gracious words of the Saviour, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink (John 7: 37), so must he continue to go to Him who alone has the Water of Life.
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 (v. 23). A sore trial, a real test, was this. Three days journey in the hot and sandy wilderness without finding any water; and now that water is reached, behold, it is bitter! How often this is the case with the young believer, aye, and with the old one, too. We grasp at that which we think will satisfy, and only find bitter disappointment. Has it not proved so? Have you tried the pleasures, or the riches, or the honours of the world, and only found them bitter. You are invited to a gay party. Once this would have been very delightful; but now, how bitter to the taste of the new nature! How utterly disappointed you return home. Have you set your heart on some earthly object? You are permitted to obtain it; but how empty! Yea, what you expected to yield such satisfaction only brings sorrow and emptiness (C. Stanley).
we have said, the wilderness
accurately symbolises and portrays this world, and the first stage of the
journey forecasts the whole! Drought and
bitterness are all that we can expect in the place that owns not Christ. How could it be otherwise? Does God mean for us to settle down and be
content in a world which hates Him and which cast out His beloved Son? Never!
Here, then, is something of vital importance for the young
Christian. I ought to start my
wilderness journey expecting nothing but dearth. If we expect peace instead of persecution,
that which will make us merry rather than cause us to groan, disappointment and
disheartenment at not having our expectations realised, will be our
portion. Many an experienced Christian
would bear witness that most of his failings in the wilderness are to be
attributed to his starting out with a wrong view of what the wilderness
is. Ease and rest are not to be found in
it, and the more we look for these, the keener will be our disappointment. The first stage in our journey must proclaim
to us, as to
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? (v. 24). Very solemn is
this. Three days ago this people had
been singing, now they are murmuring.
Praising before the
what was the cause of their murmuring? There can only be one answer: their eye was
no longer upon God. After the wonders of
Jehovahs power which they had witnessed in
And he cried unto the Lord (v.
25). Moses did what
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 (v. 25). Moses
did not cry unto God in vain. The
One who has provided redemption for His people is the God of all grace, and
with infinite long-sufferance does He bear with them. The faith of
The form which Gods response took on this occasion is also deeply significant and instructive. He showed Moses a tree. The tree had evidently been there all the time, but Moses saw it not, or at least knew not its sweetening properties. It was not until the Lord showed him the tree that he learned of the provision of Gods grace. This shows how dependant we are upon the Lord, and how blind we are in ourselves. Of Hagar we read, And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water (Gen. 21: 19). So in 2 Kings 6: 17 we are told, And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. Clearly the hearing ear, and seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them (Prov. 20: 12).
And what was it that the Lord showed Moses? It was a tree. And what did this tree which sweetened the bitter waters, typify? Surely it is the person and work of our Blessed Saviour the two are inseparably connected. There are several Scriptures which present Him under the figure of a tree. In the 1st Psalm it is said, He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in His season, His leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever He doeth shall prosper (v. 3). Again, in Song of Solomon 2: 3 we read, As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste. Here is the second great lesson of our wilderness-life nothing can sweeten the bitter cup of our earthly experiences except reposing under the shadow of Christ! Sit down at His feet, dear reader, and you shall find His fruit sweet unto your taste, and His words sweeter than the honey or honey-comb.
the tree also speaks of the cross of Christ: Who His own self bare our
sins in his own body on the Tree (1 Pet. 2:
cross of Christ is that which makes what is naturally bitter sweet to us. It is the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3: 10), and the
knowledge of its beginning that, what suffering can not sweeten!
remember here that these sufferings of which we speak are therefore sufferings
which are peculiar to us as Christians.
This bitterness of death
in the wilderness is not simply the experience of what falls to the common lot
of man to experience. It is not the
bitterness simply of being in the body of enduring the ills which, they say,
flesh is heir to. It is the bitterness
which results from being linked with Christ in His own path of suffering
here. If we suffer with Him we shall also reign
Marah then is sweetened by this tree; the cross, the cross of shame; the cross which was the mark of
the worlds verdict as to Him the cross it is the sweetness the
struggles. If we endure shame and
rejection for Him, as His, we can endure it, and the
sweet reality of being linked with Him makes Marah itself drinkable (Mr. Grant). A beautiful illustration is furnished in Acts 16. There we see Paul and Silas in
the prison of
There He made for them a statue and an ordinance, and there
He proved them and said, I 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 (vv. 25, 26). It is very important to mark the context
here. Nothing had been said to
principle runs throughout the Scriptures and applies to every dispensation: blessing is dependant upon obedience. Israel were to be immune from the diseases of
Egypt only so long as they hearkened
diligently to the voice of the Lord their God and did what was right in His
sight! But let us be clear on the
point. The keeping of His commandments
has nothing to do with our [eternal] salvation.
separate word is called for upon the closing sentence of verse 26: For I am the Lord that healeth
thee. This has been seized upon by certain
well-meaning people whose zeal is not according to knowledge. They have
detached this sentence of Scripture and claimed
the Lord as their Healer. By this they
mean that in response to their appropriating faith God recovers them from
sickness without the use of herbs or drugs.
From it they deduce the principle that it is wrong for a believer to
have recourse to any doctor or medical aid.
The Lord is their Physician, and it is distrust of Him to consult an
earthly physician. But if this Scripture
be examined in its context, it will be found that instead of teaching that God disdains
the use of means in the healing of His people, He employs them. The bitter waters of Marah were healed not by
a peremptory fiat from Jehovah, but by a tree being cast
into them! Thus, in the first reference
to healing in the Bible we find God deliberately choosing to
employ means for the healing and health of His people. Similarly, did He bless Elisha in the use of
means (salt) in healing the waters at
And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and three-score and tem palm trees, and they encamped there by the waters (v. 27) This does not conflict with our remarks upon the previous verses. Elim is the complement to Marah, and this will be the more evident if we observe their order. First, the bitter waters of Marah sweetened by the tree, and then the wells of pure water and the palm trees for shade and refreshment. Surely the interpretation is obvious: when we are walking in fellowship with Christ and the principle of His cross is faithfully applied to our daily life, not only is the bitterness of suffering for His sake sweetened, but we enter into the pure joys which God has provided for His own, even down here. Elim speaks, then, of the satisfaction which God gives to those who are walking with Him in obedience. This joy of heart, this satisfaction of soul, comes to us through the ministry of the Word hence the significance of the twelve wells and the seventy palm trees; the very numbers selected by Christ in sending forth His apostles. (See Luke 9: 1- 10: 1!) May the Lord grant that we shall so heed the lesson of Marah that Elim will be our happy lot.