Exodus 12:5-9; 16:14-16; 40:34-38

Isaiah 63:7-9

Numbers 23:21-23

SML  I suggested these passages because they all speak of the journey of the children of Israel in the wilderness. It is striking how many times the journey through the wilderness is spoken of in the Scriptures. It comes into several of the Psalms and several of the prophets, and Paul draws on it in his teaching to those in Corinth when he says all “these things happened as types of us” (1 Cor 10:6), which makes the subject important in our own day for what it can teach us.

Just so that we can be clear about what the wilderness is for us –  I think it is what the world becomes to the believer when the light of Christ really lays hold of our hearts and souls, so that the world is shown up for what it truly is: “Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8). As a result, just as the children of Israel were enabled to move out of Egypt, so you and I are to be enabled to move out, in that sense, of this world. God has called us out of this world, to be a people for His possession (see Deut 7:6; 1 Pet 2:9).

I read first in Exodus 12, where you get the Passover lamb, because it is the Passover lamb, and what we see of Christ in that way, that actually gives power to move in relation to divine things. Christ is to lay hold of our hearts and affections, because of the glory of what He has done and the grace and power that has delivered us.

In Exodus 12 we get this beautiful type of our Lord Jesus. The blood is taken and put on the lintel, and the flesh of the lamb is roasted with fire; it speaks to us of the unmitigated judgement which came upon the Lord as bearing our sins. That is to act as a lever in our hearts and souls. It changes everything for us. It changed everything for these Israelites: they set off out of Egypt, and thereafter things were very different.

I read in Exodus 16 because, once the people got into the wilderness, they found they needed something else to feed on. The Passover was something that was celebrated year by year. It was celebrated in Egypt, then in the wilderness, and it was celebrated in the land. God is never going to allow the greatness of what His Son has wrought, in establishing His righteousness and blessing, to be forgotten. It is something we need to feed our hearts on continually. But then there is food for the wilderness journey, and that is typified in the manna. I think the way that it is described, “granular, fine as hoar-frost” and so forth, speaks to us of the lowliness and meekness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Manna was something that had to be gathered every day. As Christians we need to feed on Christ – His lowliness, and grace, and the features that shone in His manhood, which are so different from the features that are admired in the world. It is intended to deliver us from the pride and self-importance that is naturally in our hearts. Sadly, we see that the manna became distasteful to the children of Israel.  Eventually we find their souls loathed this light bread (Num 21:5). They did not like feeding on it. But it was God’s provision for the wilderness day by day.

In Exodus 40, from verse 34 onwards, we get references to the cloud. The cloud provided guidance for the children of Israel in the wilderness. It is very important to have guidance in the wilderness, because there are no waymarks or signposts. It is desert, and without some guidance from God the children of Israel would soon have got lost. When the cloud moved, the people were to move as well. The wilderness is not a permanent place for the Christian. It is part of this journey from Egypt into the land of Canaan and the purposes of God. We need guidance for that, and I thought we might just enquire how that guidance comes about through the cloud in our own day.

I think in what we read in Isaiah 63 we get a reference to the wilderness journey, and it is very interesting that it starts, “I will record the loving-kindnesses of Jehovah” (v7). Then we read, “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old” (v9). It speaks to us very affectingly of the way God was with His people, despite what they were. It is to convey to us the way the Lord is with His people Himself, in care, in detail, and consideration for us. I think you see examples of it in the Lord as Man here, when, for instance, He said to Peter that He would pray for him that his faith might not fail; when He served the disciples in washing their feet; and in many other ways. I thought we might remind ourselves in that way of the continuing service of the Lord to His own in our present circumstances. Sometimes we find those circumstances not very congenial. I do not suppose the wilderness was a congenial place, but the Lord came in with wonderful grace and mercy and blessing.

I added the passage in Numbers 23 from the prophecy of Balaam because Balaam was called to curse the people, but he was not allowed to do so, and he actually gives us God’s thoughts about things. Whatever Balaam wanted to say, he was not able to do so, and he has to say, even of the children of Israel as they were, that God “hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob.” Why was that? It was because of the way that God had redeemed them. God had done it, and nothing could alter that redemption. Finally Balaam has to express God’s thought of the people, which is, “At this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” When we get to glory, that is what will fill our hearts – what God has wrought: what He has purposed from the ages before time, and has brought to pass, not through any worth or value of ourselves, but entirely through the value and worth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I thought we might look at these passages in that way, and get some encouragement together.

AWGS  It is essential to begin with the Passover in all our histories, and it is interesting to note that the Passover goes right through. Not only was it in Egypt and in the wilderness setting and in the land, but it is in the New Testament, “our Passover, Christ, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). Ezekiel shows it will be there also in the millennial day (Ezek 45:21). The Passover is essential to God’s ways.

SML  I think it is one of the greatest pictures in the Old Testament of what Christ has done. And it was absolutely necessary, because if you took the children of Israel as they were, they were no better than the Egyptians. There was nothing really that was any better, but God had chosen them, and having chosen them, He would redeem them and bring them into His favour in an absolutely righteous way.

AWGS  So in one sense it is the most important of all the sacrifices, the Passover lamb. It stands out as being very important in our histories.

SML  Yes. Paul says, “Far be it from me to boast save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14). That is what the Passover speaks of. “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a yearling male” – as perfect as it could be. When we look on to our Lord Jesus Christ, there was absolute perfection there. In every thing and in every way He was marked by absolute perfection before God. And God the Father spoke about it, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight” (Matt 3:17; 17:5). That was the only time He could ever have said that He found total delight in a Man. It was so with the Lord Jesus. And that perfect life was laid down so that there might be a way of deliverance for you and me.

AWGS  ‘Thy life was laid down in rare fragrance’ (Hymn 498).

SML  The hymn that we sang at the beginning says,
We gaze with wonder at Thy cross,
With all its suff’ring, shame and loss
(Hymn 216).
The contemplation of that is to build up a constitution in the believer, that we might be able to move: just as the children of Israel moved out of Egypt, so we might be able to see that our life is not really in the things of this world, but in the realm of things that the Lord delights to have us in.

GAB  So Christ is the Cornerstone of everything for God, which enabled Peter to say, “Ye are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9; from Ex 19:6).

SML  Peter saw the wonderful value of what Christ had done so that persons had become “a chosen race, a kingly priesthood.” And he speaks so affectingly in the same Epistle of the blood, “To you therefore who believe is the preciousness” (v7; see also ch 1:19). That was the basis for that choosing and bringing into that kingly priesthood.

MJC  Could you say something about the two aspects we see here? The blood is to be shed and to be put on the lintel and the two doorposts. And then they are to eat the flesh roasted with fire, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.

SML  Well, I think the blood is very clearly for God. It was put on the lintel and two doorposts and God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over” (v13). That was the key thing. But the eating of the flesh roasted with fire was to bring home to the children of Israel – whether it did so or not, I do not know, but certainly, in the teaching of it, it is to bring home to you and me – the wonderful character of the Lord as bearing God’s judgement. That is to give us a depth of feeling about what sin is. I speak for myself when I say that we can be very light about sin; we can be very careless about it, and thoughtless. But the feeding on Christ as the One Who was the perfect sin Offering is to help us to see the awfulness of sin before God.

Perhaps when we talk about feeding on Christ, we might just explain that it means thinking about Him, contemplating Him, praying to the Holy Spirit to give us impressions of Christ Himself that might form us spiritually. It is not a literal eating; it was a literal eating of the Passover for the children of Israel, but for us it is fixing our minds on Christ.

OJP  So another important aspect was that it was “a lamb for a house” (v3). It is easy to be part of a large congregation – the whole congregation – and part of the nation. But the household brings it very close home, does it not?

SML  Yes. No doubt the idea in God’s mind was that it should be, as Paul and Silas said to the jailer, “thou and thy house” (Acts 16:31). The thought is that there should be households that know the blessing of being under the shelter of the blood, and formed in their own hearts and souls by eating of the flesh roasted with fire.

AWGS  Say a little as to how the Passover precedes the introduction of the Supper in Luke’s Gospel.

SML  Well, it provides a background to it. The Lord’s Supper brings to us privileges that go well beyond the Passover. But the Passover, speaking as it does of the offering of Christ and what was done there, is the actual basis of everything. We could never enter into the praise of God, for instance, if it had not been for the Passover.

AWGS  So we need to understand, do we, that the Passover lies behind the introduction of the Supper? It is there, and we need to appreciate what the Passover means, Christ having suffered, in order to enter in to what we are engaged in as far as the Supper is concerned.

SML  Yes, I think so. When we remember, at the Supper, what the Lord has done, we remember, too, that what He had in view was to secure something for the Father’s glory, something that is going to fill eternity. These things are very wonderful, but the basis of it is what He did. Then when you come to Corinthians, it is interesting: “Our Passover, Christ, has been sacrificed; so that let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7‑8); as though to remind us of what we were – the malice and wickedness – and to help us to judge that kind of thing in our own hearts, so that we might truly enter into the blessedness of what the Lord Jesus has done.

Now, in chapter 16, we see what actually happened with the food for the wilderness. The wilderness finds us out, just as it found the children of Israel out over the years, as they got into various difficulties in the wilderness. But there was that which was provided for them to eat day by day, as feeding on Christ. It is described here as “fine, granular, fine as hoar-frost, on the ground.” It was there to be gathered up and assimilated. It speaks to us, I think, of the lowliness, grace, obedience and dependence of the Lord Jesus. Those are wonderful features before God. I have often suggested that dependence is the greatest feature of manhood before God, because it is seen so perfectly in the Lord. And yet dependence is something which is despised; people like to be independent. People encourage independence. That was never so with the Lord: He delighted in completing the Father’s work; He rejoiced in obedience. He did everything because it was the will of the Father. That is the spirit that we find so hard to maintain. I suppose we would all admit that we easily slip into self-will and self-pleasing. That is why it is so important for our hearts to be occupied with Him.

AWGS  In the psalm, manna is said to be the food of the mighty (Psalm 78:25). So it is food for the Christian today, to feed upon Christ.

SML  There is a very real parallel with the bread of God in John. It says, “I am the living bread which has come down out of heaven: if any one shall have eaten of this bread he shall live for ever; but the bread withal which I shall give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). It brings out the immense stoop that the Lord actually made. We read, “For the bread of God is He Who comes down out of heaven” (John 6:33).  We need to feed on that coming down if we are to reflect Christ rightly in our wilderness journey.

JGS  Have you any thoughts as to John 6? It is often referred to as feeding on Christ. Food is so important for us today, do you feel?

SML  Yes, indeed. And to feed upon the right food. The Lord says, “I am the … bread which has come down out of heaven.” It makes it so important that He should be the centre of our affections, thoughts and interests. I think that is what is involved in feeding on the Lord, so that what He is becomes characteristic in me. Now, all of us would have to say that we make very slow progress in these things. But the whole point of the wilderness journey was to teach persons certain things. “To humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart” and “to do thee good at thy latter end,” it says in Deuteronomy (8:2,16). The need that we have to feed on the Lord, however slow our progress may be, is something which, I think, remains for all of us all the time.

JGS  It was marvellous that they had food in the wilderness, but the food of the land was even better. It was a land flowing with milk and honey. Christ is very attractive. Well, He should be attractive to us.

SML  Yes, and we need to pray to the Holy Spirit to help us to see Him as attractive, because we do not easily take after the features that shine in Him. There is an order of manhood which God has established in Christ, which is something that is to be formed in each one of us. In eternity it will shine.

MJC  Why do you think heaven is emphasised, both in Exodus in relation to the manna (v4), and also in John in relation to the Lord?

SML  What do you think?

MJC  Well, I wonder sometimes if we think enough about what is heavenly. The Lord came down out of heaven, and we are going up to heaven, and we are linked to a Man Who is in heaven.

SML  Well, I think that is another great preservative in the wilderness journey. And that was really what was in the back of my mind in relation to feeding on the manna. When we look at Christ in His perfect humanity, we see something so very attractive, and that is the Man Who is honoured in heaven. When the Lord washed the disciples’ feet, it says, “Knowing … that He came out from God and was going to God” (John 13:3). And what did He do? Was He filled with pride about the fact that He was going back to a place of wonderful glory and honour? Not a bit of it! He takes a linen towel and He girds Himself and He washes the disciples’ feet, and He says, ‘I have done this so that you might do it, too,’ showing the character of the Man that is honoured in heaven. That stands out against the character of the man that is honoured everywhere else.

AWGS  So the psalmist says, “Satisfied them with the bread of heaven” (Psalm 105:40). Can we say that we are satisfied with the bread of heaven? Our brother has referred to John 6. Well, if we understand John 6, we are well and truly on the Christian pathway.

SML  Well, we are! I like what you say about the bread of heaven – that is the character that is truly to be formed in the believer down here, and will one day become what shines in heaven as a product of what God has done.

APDR  I was just thinking about the manna. “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died” (John 6:49). But the bread that comes down out of heaven gives life. Would you say something about that?

SML  Well, it was what literally happened, was it not? The eating of the manna was something which became repugnant to the people. They said, “Our soul loathes this light bread” (Numbers 21:5). When you get that sort of spirit coming up in your own heart in relation to Christ, you can see that all it leads to is spiritual death. The Lord came out of heaven as bringing a new order of life in Him, which goes through. But what do you say yourself?

APDR  “Unless ye shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His blood, ye have no life in yourselves” (John 6:53). The manna was indefinable: it was like hoar-frost, fine, granular; eluding definition. But, when looked at, it was very finely detailed. Perhaps we are not occupied enough with the fineness of the manhood of Jesus. It meets every situation, does it not?

SML  In its detail, you are thinking, and the blessedness of it. What you say is important. And it was a matter for every day. You were not to collect a lot from one day to eat through the week. It is something that is necessary every day, to be occupied afresh with Him, with the perfection of Christ.

NJC  So it is, “Seek the things which are above, where the Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God: have your mind on the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1‑2). He is the Centre, is He not?

SML  He is the Centre of everything for God, and He needs to be the Centre of everything for us, and that is what will preserve us in the wilderness journey.

DJB  I was just thinking of that further verse in John 6, “He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood dwells in Me and I in him” (v56). That is what the Lord said; how far I know it for myself would be a question. But we do well to hold to the truths of Scripture and then seek to make them our own.

SML  Yes, what would you say is the consequence of that?

DJB  Well, “He … who eats Me shall live also on account of Me” (John 6:57). The true life of the Christian is in relation to the Lord Jesus. That is it!  It is a very solemn fact that it was just at that point that so many went away (v66). It sorted out who the true disciples were. They did not know much, but they clung to the One Whom they trusted.

SML  “To whom shall we go?” (v68). It is really Peter saying on behalf of the others, ‘There is nobody else.’

Now, in Exodus 40 we have the cloud at the tent of meeting. I was not thinking so much of the detail of it, but that throughout the wilderness journey, when the cloud moved, the people moved. And when the cloud stayed, however long it stayed, then they remained static. And I just thought about this in relation to the kind of guidance that we need in the wilderness setting. It is a pathless waste, and that is what we find ourselves in. But this Scripture seems to bring out that the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and therefore wherever the cloud was, the tent was, and the children of Israel were expected to encamp and organise themselves in relation to the tent. And I think, quite simply, if the cloud had moved and some people did not, they would very soon have got left out and lost. Indeed, that perhaps happened to some, because it says their carcasses were strewed in the wilderness (Num 14:29; 1 Cor 10:5). So I thought, what does this actually mean for us? How does this movement of the cloud relate to what we should be doing? Now it seemed to me, in what is presented here, that the cloud does not speak of detailed guidance such as ‘What job shall I do?’ or ‘Shall I live in this house or that one?’, but rather of guidance in the general tenor of our lives, in the same way that the children of Israel had to take account of where God’s tent of testimony was – where He was speaking from.

AWGS  Would you therefore relate this, in measure, to what the Spirit says to the assemblies (Rev 2:7 etc.)?

SML  Yes, I am sure there is a real parallel there; but the cloud, in its bearing on us, challenges us as to ‘What is the bent of my life? Is it related to the things of God, or is it related to me and the world?’

AWGS  So the children of Israel would have been looking at this cloud to see if it had moved. Men like Caleb and Joshua would be an example of this to others.  Now, can we be like them?

SML  The first thing that an Israelite, presumably, would have done when he woke up in the morning was to see where the cloud was. If the bent of our lives is related to the things of God, it will actually provide a way of guidance as to what kind of career I choose, what kind of person I marry, what kind of practical arrangements I have in my house, and so forth. It provides guidance, preservation and blessing, even in relation to the pathless waste around us. I thought it might just have a voice to all of us in that way, that if the bent of my life is to please myself, well, it will not lead to anything very spiritual or anything very much for God or anything of that life which we have been speaking about from John 6, but it will lead to spiritual death and despair. But if the bent of my life is actually to serve God, then it will have a very practical effect on the things that I do and the things that interest me.

AWGS  There was not only a cloud, there was a fire.

SML  What do you see in that?

AWGS  Is not the light also required, besides the cloud?

SML  It would link perhaps particularly with your reference to the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit actually illuminates things for us.

APDR  Would it be right to say that on the Mount of Transfiguration it was the cloud of Shekinah glory? Then, perhaps, when a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9), that was the same cloud; I do not believe it was any ordinary cloud. When the Lord comes on the cloud (Matt 26:64; Rev 1:7), that will not be any ordinary cloud, it will be the Shekinah glory.

So in a practical way there are three things for the believer: (i) to hear Jesus; that is what the Father said, “Hear Him” (Matt 17:5); (ii) to hear what the Spirit says; that is an enlargement of the things that Jesus actually said or that need to be expressed at any one particular time; and (iii) to wait for Christ to come. At the present moment we wait for the Lord to appear. He will come on the cloud.

SML  Yes, that helps greatly. The active looking out for Christ, and waiting for Him, changes our lives according to God. What you say about “Hear Him,” too, is important – the times are evil, and we need to “hear Him.”

SGP  There is a dark background to these Scriptures. When the children of Israel held the first Passover, there was judgement all around. When they went out into the wilderness, what was beyond the confines of their camp was exposed to all sorts of things. In Egypt there was a covering – the blood on the lintel; here we have the cloud covering the tabernacle. We realise that judgement is all around us, and yet what is peculiarly for God is to be maintained.

SML  The cloud actually marked the place where God spoke from. It was over the tent, and the tent contained the Ark and the mercy-seat; then inside the Ark was the pot of manna, and the ten commandments – all these things spoke of God and His requirements, His faithfulness, and so on. The cloud, in effect, directed to the point where God spoke from. It was to be the centre of the children of Israel’s interest as well. That comes home to me, that the things of God should be the centre of my interest.

DJB  Do you have something practical in mind as to discerning the movements of the cloud and what it means, actually, to discern that and act upon it?

SML  Well, I was only thinking that when the cloud moved, any Israelite who desired to be with God, had to adjust his arrangements accordingly. Following on from that it appealed to me that, rather than specific guidance about the detail of decisions, the cloud illustrated overall direction. All the decisions in a believer’s life are to be taken with regard to the interests of the Lord.  That is quite a challenging concept, but it seems to me to be what the movement of the cloud implies. If the bent of our lives is in relation to the interests of God and the things of God, that will actually be a preservation. Is that how you see it?

DJB  Yes, indeed. But I think it is a question that comes up frequently. It is in brethren’s minds quite often as to how they are to know the will of God, and how they are to act in the light of it. I think it is something about which we all need practical help and counsel.

SML  Yes, I am sure you are right. But I did not carry it further in my mind than the thought that, just as the cloud was focused on the place where God had set His name, so if our minds are focused in the same way it will actually help.

APDR  I recall a brother years ago talking about the movements of the cloud. I think he said there were thirty-one movements of the cloud but never once did the cloud stop over a precipice for the camp to be put down. It was never in an unsafe place. The journey from Egypt to the land could have taken eleven days (Deut 1:2), but the children of Israel took much longer than that because of their unbelief. Despite that, in all their ways the cloud went before them.  There are two references to the cloud leading by way of the Red Sea (Num 14:25; Deut 1:40), as though there is a continual need, in our relations with the Lord, to be reminded of His death.

SML  It was particularly necessary, since Numbers 14 tells us that the people were talking of returning to Egypt (vv3‑4).

APDR  It is a safe journey following the cloud. Wherever it goes, it is a safe journey.

SML  Yes, the cloud took care of them. That brings us to the passage in Isaiah 63.

JGS  Have you any thoughts as to the present condition of Israel and the Jews? Because here, there is glory. Where is the glory today, with the Jews and Israel?

SML  It tells us in Romans 11:25 that blindness in part has happened to Israel. Their time is not now. Others have been grafted in. There will come a time with the Lord’s appearing when Israel will become again the head of the nations. But it will be because, as it tells us in Zechariah 12:10 and various other Scriptures, they will look on Him Whom they pierced. And the whole land will lament (Matt 24:30). There will be faith, a change of heart and repentance. But, in the ways of God, for the moment Israel as a nation is set aside. But they are not forgotten; the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Rom 11:29) and they will come into what God has purposed for them. His purpose never changes. That is a wonderful thing.  It does not change because of our behaviour. But, for the moment, the focus of God’s activities is with the Church.

JGS  The glory is departed – Ichabod, is it (1 Sam 4:21)?

SML  You see it in the Lord’s words as He looked over to Jerusalem and said, “How often would I have gathered thy children,” and “Thou knewest not the season of thy visitation;” these things “are hid from thine eyes,” and “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Luke 13:34; 19:44, 42; Matt 23:38). There was an actual turning in the ways of God, and we can all be very thankful for that, because it brought the Gentiles into blessing.

JGS  We can be absolutely, perfectly justified in applying these Scriptures to us. The literal blessings that should have been Israel’s are ours spiritually. What you have taken up this afternoon is very wonderful, that we can apply to ourselves – the centre being the Lord Jesus Christ.

SML  And these things are written for our instruction, Paul says, “upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11).

AWGS  There is a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom 11:5). That is something we do need to understand, is it not?

SML  God has not set the Jews aside for ever by any means. They will come into a position in which Christ is glorified, because that is what God has in His heart. He is going to head up everything in the Christ, the things on the earth – that is the Jewish order of things – and the things in the heavens (see Eph 1:10). They are all going to be headed up in Him, and held for ever for the glory of God.

AWGS  Great things to come!

SML  Yes, indeed.

I think we had better hurry on! I had just a brief point in Isaiah 63, which was the divine grace and care, and the wonderful character of what it says there, that “in all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” If we find the wilderness journey, the journey through life, rather difficult, with all sorts of problems that we did not expect, the Lord says, “I am with you all the days” (Matt 28:20).

AWGS  And so He carries us. Is that like Isaiah 40 – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead those that give suck?” It is something we need to appreciate, the ability of the Lord to carry His own. “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

SML  The children of Israel had to prove it time and time again, and we have to prove it, too, to learn what it is to be dependent and rely upon Him.

SJB  I was thinking, while you were speaking, of two verses from John’s Epistle. One is, “The whole world lies in the wicked one.” But what he says is that “he that has the Son has life” (1 John 5:19, 12). Notice the contrast! It is a great help to the Christian to read John’s Epistles. He says what he saw and what he handled. But he also speaks of what he contemplated. We were not here when the Lord was here, but we can contemplate.

SML  Yes. It is very important to contemplate Christ, and set ourselves to do so consistently; not in any legal way, but as just delighting in the Man after God’s heart, and, as seeing Him that way, so desiring to be formed after Him.

SJB  John says in his Gospel, “Full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

MJC  How does the world become a wilderness to us?

SML  When we are converted, a change takes place.

MJC  Yes – the change is within us, not the world. The world has not changed from that day to this. But we have changed, or should do.

SML  Yes, the world goes on to judgement, and it never improves. It is not going to improve. Sadly, we find many Christians occupied with the idea of improving it and making it better, and you can well understand why they want to. But the world does not improve.

The children of Israel were called out of Egypt to be “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6).  So we have been called out of the world to be “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14).

SGP  It is a touching reference here, “He became their Saviour” (v8), and later on in this chapter we get, “Thou, Jehovah, art our Father; our Redeemer, from everlasting, is Thy name” (v16). Is that not comforting?

SML  Yes – whatever happens, the Lord is over it, He understands. He was tempted in all things that He might be able to succour those that are tempted (Heb 4:15). He bore our infirmities and our diseases (Matt 8:17). There is a mystery about that. But He enters sympathetically into the trials and practical difficulties of His people.

SJB  We have an illustration in Moses, who went out to his brethren and looked on their burdens (Ex 2:11). There was a change in his life at that moment.

SML  Yes, it looks on to what is seen so perfectly in Christ.

Now I read the passage from Balaam’s prophecy because it reminds us of God’s purpose, and what will actually be brought about. The reaction will be, “What hath God wrought!” Everything will be secured for God’s glory, and Christ will be the Centre of it all. The great end will be that there will be a great answer for God’s glory, and everything will be seen as what He has wrought and what He has done for His own pleasure.

We read here that “God brought him out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of a buffalo. For there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.” There is nothing that can be done to overthrow God’s purpose. It is secure and it is firm. He will “head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in Him, in Whom we have also obtained an inheritance, being marked out beforehand according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:10‑11). God is triumphant, and we shall be brought into that wonderful triumph. It is the light at the end of the wilderness journey.

NJC  Is it right to say that the Lord looks at the saints as not of this world?

SML  Yes.

NJC  The Lord said that in His prayer, did He not, “They are not of the world” (John 17:16)? It should be our concern not to be of the world, should it not? So many things easily come in to distract us.

SML  That is why we need to feed on Christ, continually.



10 May 2014