Chapter 2

WHEN DID HE SAY IT?

 

HE tabernacle was set up when Israel had failed to appreciate grace, and needed to be taught the holiness of God.

 

Jehovah had now taken up Israel on the strength of the covenant of grace He had made with Abraham in those memorable words -" In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." (Gen. 15:18.)

 

It was all grace, no conditions whatever: and now God's time had come; Egypt's cup of iniquity was full, and it must be dashed to the ground; her day of mercy was over, Israel's day of mercy had come, and we hear the Lord saying, in blessed words of comfort, "I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, . . and I have remembered my covenant." How precious! He heard their groaning, He remembered His covenant. Will He undertake for them? will He carry out and make good the covenant? Yes, He surely will; and not only that, but, in principle, He repeats that covenant to them-all pure grace, and all based on His "f wills." Let us notice these J wills-seven in number-of Jehovah. If He wills, who can withstand His will?

First, "I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians." Is the reader of these lines unsaved, and groaning for salvation- longing for deliverance? Oh, listen to these emancipating words !-" I will bring you out." Have you formed habits that hold you fast? Are they a scourge, a burden to you? Is there a restlessness in your soul? Like a wounded deer, do you groan for rest, and there is none? Like a worm under the foot, are you crushed to the earth again and again? Are you about to give up in despair, looking for light where all is dark, longing for rest and finding nothing but unrest, sighing for deliverance yet experiencing nothing but bondage? Do you crave for something to satisfy, and all the cisterns are dry? You have prayed and wept for mercy, but, alas! you have not obtained it; and now you are about to harbor hard thoughts in your heart about God. Y6u think,-His ear is heavy that it. cannot hear; His arm is shortened that it cannot save. Oh, poor, weary, storm-tossed soul! look up; listen to His voice, as He says, "I will bring you out." This blessing is indeed for you, but you are trying to obtain it in a wrong way. What could Israel do to bring about their deliverance? Just what you can. Listen to Jehovah's voice ringing out, in wonderful grace-"I will." Then believe, and rest in His unchanging grace and word, and joy and peace will be yours-NOT by praying, nor crying, nor longing, but by believing. "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy AND PEACE in BELIEVING." (Rom. 15:13)

Second, I will rid you out of their bondage." Not only burdened, but in cruel bondage! A young man once said to me, "There is no use in my trying to be a Christian, or to lead a Christian life. I have tried to give up drinking, and other evil habits; but I cannot: I am overcome again and again. I want to, but I cannot." Is not this the cry of many, trying all the time to do in their own strength, and in their own way, not in God's way and strength? Oh, poor soul! let me take you by the hand and lead you to Christ. Believe on Him, trust Him, and you will be able to say, as one said to me, after he had simply trusted the Lord, "Why, all these things left me; I did not have to give them up.

Look at that oak in the early spring, how it retains its old leaves. You would have a most burdensome task to pluck them all off, one by one; but wait. The sun shines, the rains fall, the sap begins to flow gradually through all the fibers; a new life is infused, and in a few days the old leaves are all gone, dropped to the ground. Did the tree have to shake them off? Did it have to hire or beseech some higher power to shake them off? Oh no! All it had to do was to receive the provision God had made for it. Dear reader, will you receive the pro. vision God, in grace, has made for you? Listen: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Believe in Him now, and eternal, divine life is yours. Then, when this is brought in, the evil habits which belong to the old, carnal, life will drop off, and you will be able to say, Thank God ! He has brought me out of bondage.

Third, "I will redeem you with a stretched-out arm, and with great judgments." In the case of Israel, God's judgment fell upon two things: first upon the lamb; then, upon their enemies. Judgment must fall on the lamb, to end the wrath of God against the people's sins, so that all who took refuge beneath the blood of the lamb were saved from wrath and judgment: it fell on that which was a type of Christ. Now we have the reality, Christ Himself: God has provided a Lamb; wrath has fallen upon Him; sin has been atoned for; and all who take refuge beneath that s6~-sheltering, wrath protecting blood can truly say, I have not been redeemed with silver and gold, nor any other perishable thing, "but with the precious blood of Christ." Standing on the heaven side of the cross, we can turn round, as Israel past the sea, and look upon our conquered foes. Christ has met everything that was against us, -nothing passed over lightly; all, all divinely met; all the righteous claims of God's throne satisfied. This is what we learn in the resurrection of Christ; it is God's declaration of His perfect victory over all our foes and His foes-the flesh, the world, and the devil. The world is thus now under judgment (John 12. 31); Satan, its prince, is also (John 16.11); the flesh is condemned (Rom. 8. 3). Thus the one sheltered by the blood of Christ is a redeemed creature. Man, before the fall, was an innocent creature; after the fall, a depraved creature: when saved, he is a redeemed creature, and is going to be a glorified creature: then we shall enjoy the redemption of Christ in all its infinite fullness, and sing, "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Rev. 1:5.)

Fourth, "I will take you to me for a people." Here we have them brought to God, to be a people for God. Their new relationship brought new responsibilities: being brought to God, they were now to walk with Him; and "can two walk together except they be agreed?" Their wills must be lost in God's will. He knew the desert and their needs for it, and He had infinite resources in Himself to supply every want. They must now learn to walk the path of obedience, and to remain in the place of absolute dependence upon Him for everything. If they continued thus, they would find rest to their souls. Rest as to wrath and judgment they had,-the blood on the lintel gave them that. Rest as to their enemies they also enjoyed,-they had seen them swept away by the power of God. But rest as to circumstances they must now learn,-was to be enjoyed only by obedience and dependence upon God. How many of God's people, through legality, fail to enjoy even rest of conscience- freedom from all fear of wrath and judgment. How many more still fail in the possession of that deliverance which comes by realizing the perfect judgment of all our foes as declared in Christ's resurrection-and ours of course. (Col. iii. '-4.) But, alas! how few and far between they are who enjoy rest of soul. They are chafed and worried about the circumstances of the wilderness. They do not walk in dependence. They have a will of their own and cannot "keep rank ; " there is in them a "double heart." (I Chron. 12:33.) You that are not so, hear again the sweet words, "I will take you to me for a people." Will He let the ship in which He sails with them sink? Surely not. Will He supply their need? Yes; they are His people. "Yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord."

Fifth, "I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am the Lord YOUR GOD which bringeth you out from under the burden of the Egyptians." He was to be their God: they were to know Him, who bad saved them. The wilderness lessons are not to prepare us for heaven as so many think. They are to acquaint us with the God who has saved us, and with whom we are going to spend eternity,-an eternity whose bliss will be according to the measure of the acquaintance we have made with Him.

Sixth, "And I will bring you in unto the land." He had brought them out and He would bring them in. Despite their wanderings, short-comings, and failures; here they could rest- He would bring them in. "For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. . . . Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom. 8:29,30.) -all golden links that bind God's people to His heart.

Seventh, "And I will give it you for an heritage." The land, with all its hills and valleys, its cities and plains, a land flowing with milk and honey: here is their title deed to it from Jehovah Himself. Now notice, there are no conditions mentioned: it is all grace. They were not called to raise a finger, to strike a blow. Jehovah was going to do it all. He had undertaken for them, and this was enough. All He asked of them was to trust Him. Here the heart could rest with the fullest assurance. Happy people! loved and chosen of God, brought to Himself, clasped in the loving embrace of His blessed I WILLS.

"By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2: 8, 9.)

On the strength of this, He took them up, delivered them from Egypt, swept their enemies away, brought them to Himself, and led their march across the desert. They murmured in three days at the waters of Marah, which were bitter: He sweetened them for them: they murmured for meat, He gave them quails: they murmured for water, He caused the water to flow from the flinty rock. Thus He teaches them what grace is, and how truly they are under it. But their legal hearts fail to appreciate it, and to learn its lessons. He therefore gives them the law amid the "thunder and lightnings "issuing out of "the thick cloud upon the mount." (Ex.29.) Then God gives to Moses His orders concerning the Tabernacle and all the specifications of its service. The people are now to learn the awful holiness of God. "Our God is a consuming fire." They would not learn otherwise Who it was that walked among them, and had chosen them for His own, and so now the enclosure,-the curtains, the veil, shutting them out and shutting God in, would teach them the needful lesson. Stubborn and self-righteous, the terrors of Sinai must teach them how far sin puts men from God, and in the host of details in the Tabernacle service, which all speak of Christ, they are to learn in patience the way back to Him.

Beloved, "all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the; world are come." It is by grace we are saved, purely by grace, as we have seen, and may see all through Scripture; but the grace that saves brings us ~n such a relationship with God that we must now learn what His holiness is, to enable us to walk with Him, and worthy of Him. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:11-14)

III.-WHY DID HE SAY IT?

FIRST, Because God's great desire is to surround Himself with men; to dwell in their midst; to have them on the most intimate terms with Himself.

What blessed intimacy is seen between God and man in the garden of Eden in these words: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam, to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof"! (Gen. 2:19) How refreshing to look upon such a fair scene as this holy intimacy! God making living creatures, man calling them by name God setting His seal of approval on what man did, man rejoicing in the works of God's hands! What blessed communion, without a jarring note! God seeking His creature's good and comfort, man seeking God's glory and enjoying His presence!

But alas! sin came in, and marred all this Man was put at a distance from God; yet God's desire remained the same; and we see blessed evidence of this in His dealings with man from Eden to this day. Outside of Eden, He companies with Enoch over three hundred years. Again, when the earth was filled with violence through man's sin, and the ark was ready, we hear God saying unto Noah, "Come thou and all thy house into the ark." (Gen. vii. I.) He. did not say Go, but "Come," implying that God was within, and wanted the man who had found favor in His sight in with Him. In the Patriarchal Age also we see how He talked with men: and now, here in the wilderness, when His people are living in tents, thus declaring themselves pilgrims, God says, I will be a pilgrim with you; make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in your midst. Later, when they were brought into the Land, and lived in ceiled houses, He said, "Make Me a house;" whereupon they erected the Temple, and Jehovah filled it with the glory of His presence.

 

But alas! alas! sin disturbed God's rest each time, and He was constrained to depart. Then we see Him coming down, in the person of His Son, to dwell among men and do them good; but He was pursued from city to city, from hamlet to hamlet; He could find no rest; He could say, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." (Matt. 8:20.) They crucified Him, and covered Him with shame between two malefactors; but God raised Him up and covered Him with glory on His throne. And now, through the infinite value God sees in the work of Christ on that cross-in His blood shed there-He has sent down His Spirit, and by His Spirit dwells in the Church, in the midst of His heavenly people, never to leave them until He takes them to be with Himself. In the Millennium He will dwell in the midst of His earthly people; but never will His great desire be fully realized and gratified until we reach the eternal state. God will then dwell in the midst of His people indeed, when all in heaven. and all on earth will be gathered about Him and He will be all and in all. His rest will then be absolute and eternal, when He shall have the redeemed of all ages gathered around Himself, on the most intimate terms-the last sigh given, the last tear shed and wiped away by His loving hand-rest, sweet, eternal rest, for God and His people.

 

Oh, dear reader, are you one of His? Have you been washed from your .sins by the cleansing blood of Jesus? If not, I beseech you, come to Him at once: He says, "Come unto me, all .ye that labor and are heavy laden, and. I. will give you rest." .(Matt. 11:28) This. is. how you can get rest for your conscience. There is no. rest for the wicked : they "are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest." (Isa. 57:20) Oh, how can you rest, with the sins of your life upon you !-eternity before you !-heaven, with all its blessedness, where there is an eternal rest for the people of God !-hell, with all its anguish, where there is an eternal restlessness! for there is NO REST IN HELL. Oh, listen to the Saviour of sinners, as He stands, with arms outstretched to receive you, crying, "Come unto Me; I will give you rest!" You say, What is it to come to Jesus? Well, it implies a turning from your works to rest implicitly in His work on the cross-a turning from yourself to Himself, and trusting Him absolutely for the salvation of your soul. Come with all your sins in this way, come just as you are, and then you will be able to sing:

 

"I came to Jesus as I was-

Weary, and worn, and sad;

I found in Him a resting-place,

And He has made me glad."

Second, It was given to teach them the holiness of the One who had come down to dwell in their midst: hence all these walls shutting them out and shutting God in.

Third, It was given to teach them their sinfulness, and their unfitness on account of this to enter God's holy presence.

Dear reader, have you considered the holiness of God, and how your sins have unfitted you to come before Him? Yes, your sins have placed you at an awful distance from Him.

When Isaiah, the most perfect man in Israel, was brought into God's presence, and saw the holiness of His person-saw the seraphim, who had never come into contact with defilement of any kind, veil their faces with their wings and cry; "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!" then was wrung from his heart the cry, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." (Isa. 6:5.) When he saw the holiness of God, the righteousness of His throne, the profound reverence of the heavenly intelligences on the one hand, and on the other his own sinfulness and the sinfulness of the people with whom he lived, he saw also the awful distance there was between his soul and God, and he cried out," Woe is me!"' In the preceding chapter he had pronounced six woes on six different classes in Israel but when brought into the Lord's presence, he pronounced the seventh woe upon himself 'His neighbors' sins troubled him no more, but his own did. These must be attended to at 'once; and, thank God, they were, but not by Isaiah. How could he put then away? Could he sweep them away by the power of his hand? or wash them away by his tears? or have them removed by any of his efforts? Ah no! but, thank God, if a sight of the 'holiness of the Lord and the righteousness of His throne, and a sight of his own unfitness for the presence 'of one so holy, led him to pass judgment upon himself and take his place in the dust, it also brought him low enough to see another thing, and that was the altar, and the provision of the altar. The live coal had done its work; the sacrifice bad been consumed; and nothing remained but the live coal itself: this was applied to Isaiah's lips, and the sweet and blessed assurance given, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged." (Isa. 6:7.) The look of' anguish passes from his face, and three comes instead the light of holy joy as he believes what is said to him.

 

Oh, dear unsaved one! that altar is Christ; the sacrifice consumed on it by the live coal is a type of Christ's work on the cross FOR YOU; and the live coal is a type of God's holiness consuming that which is contrary to His mind. When Christ was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), and bore in His own body on the tree (I Pet. ii. 24) the sins of all who accept Him, it was then God did His "strange work" of judgment upon Him, and He was led to cry out," My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He was then "cut off" that we might be brought home and bound to God's heart of love forever. It was then the coal of fire reached His heart, and He could say, "My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." (Psa. 22:14) The fire, that should have been your portion and mine throughout eternity, was His at this awful moment. Yes; the coal has done its work, its "strange work;" the sacrifice has been consumed -all, all has gone up to God. He "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom.4:25; 5:1) The live coal, type of God's holiness, lies NOW upon the altar, waiting, anxiously waiting, for you, sinner, to take the place Isaiah took, and pass Judgment upon yourself, as he did; and the very instant you do, it will purge you from every sin, and every stain of sin; for the word of God declares, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." ( John i. 9.) "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things." (Acts 13:38,39.) Isaiah knew his sins were gone because the seraphim said so. You can KNOW that YOURS ARE GONE because GOD SAYS SQ. Oh, I am exceedingly anxious that, before you lay down this paper, you may believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved! Time is short: "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh." Oh, sinner, do not trifle with divine things! flee, flee to the outstretched arms of your Saviour!

 

Fourth, It was to teach Israel that the only way of approach to God was through a sacrifice, and that such a one as God should appoint. Man had no choice in the matter; be was. called upon to submit to. God's judgment in it all, and bring the God-appointed sacrifice.. God, in His infinite love, has appointed, and also provided, a sacrifice for us-His only begotten Son. As such, Jesus has been offered up, and accepted of God; and now God is waiting for you to accept Him -by Him to enter into God's presence, and be reconciled.

 

Do not dare think of approaching God in any other way. Cain tried that, was rejected, and eventually left the presence of the Lord, with God's curse upon him. "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain." (Jude '3.) This is what is to characterize professors in the last days of this dispensation. We see it everywhere-men and women trying to get into God's presence with some goodness or merit of their own: "Woe unto them! they have gone in the way of Cain." Abel came with a sacrifice, and offered it up by faith; God accepted it, and Abel was accepted in it. That sacrifice was a type of Christ. Come, then, to God with Christ-with Christ only. You will be accepted in Him; and the measure of His acceptance with God will be the measure of yours also-accepted IN The Accepted One.