The Present Truth : October 29, 1896
“Rock of Ages cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”
“And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people strove with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why strive ye with me? Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord? And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said.
Wherefore hast then brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses, Pass on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smile the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the striving of the people of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?” Exodus 27.1-7
We have seen that in the manna God was giving the people spiritual food. In like manner we read, with reference to the event just narrated, that they “did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that Rock that followed [margin, “went with”] them; and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10.4
Water is one of the things most essential to life. Indeed, it is life. It constitutes two-thirds of the human body. Without a proper supply of water, both animals and plants soon cease to exist. Those people in the desert would soon have perished, if water had not been provided for them. It was therefore life to them. Everybody who has suffered from thirst can vividly realize how the spirits of the children of Israel revived, and new life sprang up in them, as they drank of that fresh, sparkling living water that gushed forth from the smitten rock.
“And that Rock was Christ.” Many times the Lord is represented as a Rock. “The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer.” Psalm 18.2. “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Psalm 92.15. “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” Deuteronomy 32.3, 4. Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which the church is built—the “living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,” upon whom, if we come to Him, we are “built up a spiritual house.” 1 Peter 2.4, 5. Both prophets and apostles built on Him not only as “the chief corner stone,” (Ephesians 2.20), but as the entire foundation, and the only one that can be laid. 1 Corinthians 3.11. Whosoever builds not on Him, builds on the shifting sand.
The rock, which the people saw in the desert, was but a figure of the Rock, Jesus Christ, who stood upon it, but whom they did not see. That flinty rock could not of itself furnish water. There was no exhaustless supply stored up within it, which, once given vent, would continue to flow ever fresh and sweet. It had no life. But Christ, “the Author of Life” stood upon it, and it was from Him that the water came. We do not need to theorize, for the Scripture plainly tells us that the people drank from Christ.
This must have been evident to every one who gave a moment’s thought to the matter. Indeed, the water was given as a direct answer to the unbelieving question, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” By supplying them with water out of the solid, flinty rock in the dry and barren desert, the Lord showed the people that He was really among them; for none but He could have done it.
But it was not simply as a guest that He was among them. He was their life, and this miracle was designed to teach them that fact. They knew that water was their sole hope of life, and they could not help seeing that the water, which revived them, came directly from the Lord. Therefore those who stopped to think must have seen that He was their life and their support. Whether they knew it or not, they were drinking directly from Christ, that is, receiving of His life. With Him is “the fountain of life.” Psalm 36.9
It made all the difference in the world whether or not the people recognized Christ as the source of their life. If they did, if they drank in faith, they received spiritual life from the Rock. If they did not recognize the Lord in His gracious gift, then the water was no more to them than it was to their cattle. “Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” Psalm xlix. 20. But when the people with their superior abilities did not recognize God in His gifts any more than their cattle did, they showed themselves even less discerning than the cattle. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.” Isaiah 1.3
In view of the miracle of the water from the Rock, the Lord Himself, —we can better understand the force of His words when He afterward thus expressed the greatness of their sin in departing from Him: “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2.12, 13
The Psalmist said of the Lord, “He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” His life is righteousness. Therefore those who live by faith in Him live righteous lives. The water, which came from the Rock, in the desert, was for the life of the people. It was Christ’s own life. If, therefore, in drinking it they had recognized the source whence it came, they would have been drinking in righteousness, and would have been blessed with righteousness; for it is written, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5.6. If we thirst for righteousness, and are filled, it is only by drinking in the righteousness for which we thirst.
Jesus Christ is the fountain of living water. So when the woman of Samaria expressed surprise that He should ask her for a drink as she came to draw from Jacob’s well, He said to her: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” And then, as she still wondered at His words, He added, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4.10-14
This living water may be drunk now by “whosoever will.” For “the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22.17
This water of life of which all are invited to drink freely, is the “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22.1. It proceeds from Christ, for when John saw the throne, from which the water of life comes, he saw “in the midst of the throne” “a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Revelation 5.6
If we look to Calvary we shall see this made still plainer. As Jesus hung upon the cross, “one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” John 19.34. Now “there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one.” 1 John 5.8, R.V. We know that “the blood is the life,” (Leviticus 17.11, 14), and that “the Spirit is life because of righteousness;” (Romans 8.10); therefore since the Spirit and the water and the blood agree in one, the water must also be the water of life. On the cross Christ poured out His life for mankind. His body was the temple of God, and in His heart God was enthroned; so the water of life, which flowed from His wounded side, was the same water of life that flows from the throne of God, from which we may all drink and live. His heart is the fountain opened “for sin and for uncleanness.” Zechariah 13.1
It is the Spirit of God that brings this water of life to us; or, rather, it is by receiving the Holy Spirit that we receive the water of life; and this we do by faith in Christ, who is represented by the Holy Spirit. On the last day of the feast of tabernacles, “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.” John 7.37-39
The Holy Spirit received into the heart brings to us the very life of Christ, even “that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” 1 John 1.2. Whoever willingly receives the Holy Spirit receives the water of life, which is identical with the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin. This would have been the portion of the Israelites in the desert, if they had but drank in faith. In the rock, which Moses smote, they had, even as did the Galatians in Paul’s day, Jesus Christ “evidently set forth crucified” among them. Galatians 3.1. They stood at the foot of the cross of Christ as really as did the Jews who flocked out from Jerusalem to Calvary. Many of them did not know the day of their visitation, and so perished in the wilderness, even as the later Jews did not know the crucified Christ, and so perished in their sins in the destruction of Jerusalem. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” John 1.12
The Israelites, in the days of Moses, had no excuse for not knowing the Lord, for He made Himself known unto them by many mighty miracles. There was no excuse for their not recognizing Him as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” for they had daily evidence that He was their life; the smitten rock continually spoke to them of the Rock of their salvation pouring out His life for them from His smitten side.
The ransomed of the Lord are to come to Zion with songs, but they are not to be forced songs. They will sing because they are happy; because nothing but song will express their joy. This joy is the joy of the Lord. He feeds them with bread from heaven, and makes them drink of the river of His pleasures. That is, He gives them Himself. But when the Lord gives us Himself, there is nothing more to give. “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8.32. God gives Himself to us in giving us His life in Christ; and this was expressed to the Israelites in the giving of the water of life, which came from Christ. Therefore we know that everything, which the Gospel of Christ has for men, was there for the children of Israel in the desert.
We have already learned that the promise to Abraham was the Gospel. The oath, which confirmed that promise, is the oath that gives us strong consolation when we flee for refuge to Christ, in the holy place of God. It was to assure the Israelites of the free grace of God, and that they could drink in the life of Christ, if they would believe, that the water came from the Rock. It was to assure them that the blessing of Abraham, which is the forgiveness of sins through the righteousness of God in Christ, was for them. This is shown by the words, “He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. For He remembered His holy promise, and Abraham His servant.” Psalm 105.41, 42
Jesus Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Revelation 13.8), “who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” 1 Peter 1.20. The cross of Christ is not a thing of a day, but stands wherever there are sinners to be saved, ever since the fall. It is always present, so that continually believers may say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” Galatians 2.20. We have not to look backward to see the cross, even as the men of the most ancient times had not to look forward to see it. It stands with its outstretched arms spanning the centuries from Eden lost till Eden restored, and always and everywhere men have only to look up, to see Christ “lifted up from the earth” drawing them to Him by His everlasting love, which flows out to them in a living stream.
The Real Presence
In their murmuring for water the people had said, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” The Lord answered that question in a most practical way. He stood upon the rock in Horeb, and gave them water that they might drink and live. He was really there in person. It was His Real Presence. He was there nonetheless because they could not see Him. And as He was giving them evidence that He was not far from every one of them, so, if they had felt after Him by faith they would have found and received Him, and His real presence would have been in them as truly as was the water, which they drank.
In the manna, the bread from heaven, which the Israelites were eating every day, and in the water from the Rock Christ Jesus, we have the exact counterpart of the Lord’s Supper. The bread and the water were not Christ, even as the bread and the wine cannot by any means be changed into the body and blood of Christ. It would be of no use even if they could be thus changed, for “the flesh profiteth nothing.” But they showed the real presence, to all who had eyes of faith to discern the Lord’s body. They showed that Christ dwells in the heart by faith just as freely as the emblems are received into the body; and that just as really as those emblems are assimilated, and become flesh, so really does Christ, the Word, become flesh in all those receive Him by faith. Christ is formed within by the power of the Spirit.
God is not a myth. The Holy Spirit is not a myth. His presence is just as real as He Himself. When Christ says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him,” (Revelation 3.20), He means it for an actual fact; and when He says, “If any man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” (John 14.22), He does not intend to deceive us with a phantom. He comes in the flesh to-day as really as He did in Judea. His appearance then was simply to show all men the possibility and the perfection of it. And just as He comes in the flesh now, to all who receive Him, so He did in the days of old, when Israel was in the wilderness; yea, even in the days of Abraham and Abel. We may weary ourselves in speculations as to how it is possible, and die in spiritual starvation by this means, or we may “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and find in His presence satisfaction and “fullness of joy.”