The Present Truth : November 5, 1896
God deals with us as with children, and teaches us by object lessons. By the things that we can see, He teaches us the things that mortal eye cannot see. So in the water that flowed from the rock, and in the water and the blood, which flowed from the side of Christ, we learn the reality of the life that Christ gives those who believe on Him. Spiritual things are not imaginary, but real. The people in the desert could know that the water that refreshed their bodies came direct from Christ, and from that they could know that He can actually give life. They could not know how, but that was not necessary. It was sufficient for them to know the fact.
If we believe the Word, we may know that we drink as directly from Christ as did the Israelites in the wilderness. He made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water. “In Him all things consist.” The water, which we drink, coming forth from the ground, is as truly from Him as that which gushed from the rock in Horeb. “He layeth up the depth in storehouses.” Psalm 33.7
People speak of the water on the earth as a “natural product,” almost with the thought that it is self-existent. The falling rain and the flowing spring are referred to “natural causes.” Convenient terms are these to avoid giving God the glory. Stand by a stream of clear, sparkling water as it rushes on its way from its birthplace in the mountains. It is ever changing, yet ever the same. Unceasing in its flow, why does it not exhaust the supply? Is there a reservoir of infinite capacity in the heart of the earth that enables the brook to “go on forever,” without ever diminishing the quantity. Is there not something marvelous about that constant flow? “Oh no,” says the man who knows it all, “it is a very simple matter; the water on the earth’s surface is drawn up to the clouds, and these give rain which keeps the supply constantly good.” But who causes the rain? “The Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King; . . . when He uttereth His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth.” Jeremiah 10.10-13. He is the “living God” and the operations of “nature” are but manifestations of His ceaseless activity.
No doubt the Israelites in the desert soon ceased to look upon the flow of water from the rock as miraculous. No doubt many of them never, even at the first, gave a single thought to it, save that it afforded a supply for their thirst. But as it flowed on year after year, and became a familiar thing, the wonder of it diminished, and at last ceased altogether. Children were born, to whom it was as though it always had been; to them it seemed but a product of “natural causes” as do the springs which we may now see coming from the earth; and so the Great Source was forgotten, even as He is now.
Be assured that those who credit everything to “Nature,” and who do not acknowledge and glorify God as the immediate source of all earthly gifts, would do the same in heaven, if they were admitted to that place. To them the river of life eternally flowing from the throne of God, would be but “one of the phenomena of nature.” They did not see it begin to flow and they would look upon it as a matter of course, and would not glorify God for it. The man who does not recognize and acknowledge God in His works in this world, would be as unmindful of Him in the world to come. The praise to God that will come from the lips of the redeemed in eternity will be but the full chorus of the song whose first strains they practiced on earth.
“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3.6. When God directs a man’s ways they are all perfect; even as God’s own ways. “What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him shall he teach in the way that He shall choose.” The man who sees and acknowledges God in all His works, and who in everything gives thanks, will live a righteous life.
Take the gift of water, which we are continually using. If as often as we need water we thought of God as the provider of it, and as often as we saw it or used it we thought of Christ as the giver of the water of life, and remembered that in that water we receive His own life, what would be the result? —Simply this that our lives would be continually subject to His control. Acknowledging that our life comes from Him, we should realize that He alone has the right to order it; and we should allow Him to live His own life in us. Thus we should drink in righteousness. For us truth would spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven. Psalm 85.11. Even the skies would “pour down righteousness.” Isaiah 45.8
This acknowledgment of God in all our ways would keep us from selfish pride, and from boastful trust in our own “natural abilities.” We should continually heed the words, “Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” This would keep us in the right way, for the promise is, “The meek will He guide in judgment; and the meek will He teach His way.” Psalm 25.9. Instead of our own weak, foolish wisdom, we should have the wisdom of God to guide us.
We learn the same truth by looking at the opposite side. Men became degraded heathen simply through not acknowledging God as He is revealed in “the things that are made.” For the gross darkness into which they fell there is no excuse, “because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind [a mind void of judgment], to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness,” etc. Romans 1.21-23, 28, 29
Even so it was with the Israelites, who were in a most wonderful manner permitted to see some of God’s wonderful works, but who did not acknowledge Him in them. “They made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” Acts. 8.40. “Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgot God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea.” Psalm 106.20-22
But this need not have been; it need not be now. God was bringing the children of Israel to plant them in the mountain of His own inheritance, in the place which He had made for Himself to dwell in, the Sanctuary, which His hands had established; and while they were on the way He would have them partake of the delights of that place. So He gave them water direct from Himself, to show them that by faith they could even then approach His throne, and drink the water of life that flows from it.
The same lesson is for us. God does not wish us to wait until immortality is bestowed upon us before we can share the joys of the heavenly city. By the blood of Christ we have boldness to enter even into the Most Holy place of His sanctuary. We are invited to come boldly to His throne of grace to find mercy. His grace, or favor, is life, and it flows in a living stream. Surely, since we are permitted to come to the throne of God, whence the river of life flows, there is nothing to hinder our drinking of it, especially when He offers it freely. Revelation 12.17
“Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be still praising Thee.” Psalm 84.4. If in the things that we see we learn of the things that are unseen; if we behold and acknowledge God in all His works and in all our ways, we shall indeed, even on this earth, be dwelling in God’s immediate presence, and will be continually praising Him, even as do the angels in heaven.
“Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Psalm 92.13-15. “How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light.” Psalm 36.7-9
Eden Here Below
Mark that expression, “Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.” The Hebrew word rendered “pleasure” is Eden. Eden means pleasure, or delight. The garden of Eden is the garden of delight. So the text really says that those who dwell in the secret place of God, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of His house, and shall drink of the river of Eden, which is the living river of God.
This is the portion of believers even now; and we may know it as surely as the Israelites drank water from the rock or we live day by day from the bounties of His hand. Even now by faith we may refresh our souls by drinking from the river of the water of life, and eating of “the hidden manna.” We may eat and drink righteousness by eating and drinking the flesh and blood of the Son of God.
Not now afar, but near;
My soul to thy still waters
Hastes in its thirstings here;
Let me ever
Drink of only thee.”
“Rivers of Living Water”
But God blesses men only that they may in turn be a blessing to others. To Abraham God said, “I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing;” and even so it is to be with all his seed. So we read again the words of Christ, which may be fulfilled to us today and every day if we but believe them: —
“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 He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.” John 7.37-39
As Christ was the temple of God, and His heart God’s throne, so we are the temples of God that He should dwell in us. But God cannot be confined. The Holy Spirit cannot be hermetically sealed up in the heart. If He is there His glory will shine forth. If the water of life is in the soul it will flow out to others. As God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, so He takes up His abode in His true believers, putting into them the word of reconciliation, making them His representatives in Christ’s stead to reconcile men to Himself. To His adopted sons is the wonderful privilege given of sharing the work of His only begotten Son. Like Him they may also become ministers of the Spirit; not merely ministers sent forth by the Spirit, but those who shall minister the Spirit. Thus as we become the dwelling-places of God, to reproduce Christ again before the world, and living streams flow from us to refresh the faint and weary, heaven is revealed on earth.
This is the lesson that God wished the Israelites to learn at the waters of Meribah, and it is what He is still patiently endeavoring to teach us, even though we like them have murmured and rebelled. Shall we not learn it now? “Happy is the people that is in such a case; yea, happy is the people whose God is the Lord.”