Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Having already covered the heavenly manna in chapter sixteen, we come in this message to the living water out of the smitten rock (17:1-7).
We need to pay attention to the sequence of events in chapters sixteen and seventeen. In chapter sixteen we have a clear picture of manna, and in chapter seventeen, the record of the living water flowing out of the smitten rock. This sequence is not accidental; it is according to the Lord’s sovereignty. The same sequence is found in John 6 and 7. In John 6 we read of the heavenly manna, and in John 7, of the living water. This is a further indication that the sequence of the manna and the living water is according to God’s sovereign arrangement.
In His work of creation God prepared the rock spoken of in Exodus 17 and placed it in exactly the right spot geographically. When the children of Israel came to that place, the rock was waiting for them. In chapter seventeen we are not told that Moses was commanded to look for a rock or to bring a rock to the people. Rather, there is the clear indication that the rock was already there. Just as God had prepared the Red Sea to serve as a baptistry for the children of Israel, so He had prepared a rock, probably a very large one, to serve as a type of Christ in chapter seventeen.
After God created man, He placed him in a garden with the tree of life and a flowing river. The tree of life corresponds to manna, which satisfies man’s hunger, and the flowing river corresponds to the living water, which quenches man’s thirst. In Genesis 2 the tree of life is mentioned before the river. But in Revelation 22, the river of water of life is mentioned before the tree of life. According to Revelation 22:1 and 2, the tree of life grows in the river. Why does Genesis speak first of the tree of life and then of the river, whereas in Revelation 22 the order is reversed? In the beginning stage the tree of life is followed by the river, but in the ongoing stage the tree of life grows in the flowing river.
This is a picture of our spiritual experience. When we first heard the gospel, we received God’s word. To receive the word is to receive manna. After we received the word, the Spirit began to flow in us like a river. This was the sequence at the beginning of the experience of salvation. Now as we go on in spiritual experience, the Spirit as a flowing river brings us the supply of the word, the manna. At the beginning of our Christian experience we have first the word and then the Spirit, first the manna and then the living water. But as our experience of salvation continues, the order is changed, and the Spirit supplies us with the word. Psalm 36:8 says, “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.” This verse refers to the initial stage of the experience of God’s salvation. Here the fatness of God’s house (the word) precedes the drinking of the river of God’s pleasures (the Spirit).
It is significant that the children of Israel had the experience of living water recorded in chapter seventeen after they had begun to eat manna. Immediately after they began to partake of manna, they were led to a place where there was no supply of water. Far from being accidental, this sequence of events took place according to God’s sovereign arrangement. This sequence is part of the accurate and complete picture of God’s full salvation presented in Exodus. As we have pointed out again and again, Exodus is a book of pictures portraying God’s salvation. As we consider these pictures, we need to worship God for His sovereignty. In His creation He made the necessary preparations. Then, at the proper time, He led His people into the place where the rock was waiting for them.
In 17:1 we read that the children of Israel journeyed according to the commandment of the Lord. They did not travel according to their own opinion or choice. The commandment of the Lord was no doubt related to the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, by which the people were led in their journeys. The pillar signifies the Lord Himself, who took the lead and guided the people on their way. There was no need for God to tell the people when to move or where to go. They simply had to follow the pillar. Day and night, a tall pillar stood between heaven and earth. By day the pillar had the appearance of a cloud; by night it had the appearance of fire. In 13:22 we are told that the Lord “took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” According to Numbers 9:17 and 18, “when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. At the commandment of Jehovah the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of Jehovah they pitched” (Heb.). This indicates that the commandment of the Lord is related to the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. Whenever the pillar moved, either by day or by night, the children of Israel journeyed. Thus, through the pillar God silently commanded the people concerning their travels.
In leaving the place where they first ate manna, the children of Israel simply followed the Lord’s leading. They did not move according to their preference, and they did not know where they were going. They just followed the pillar as it led them to a dry place, a place where there was no supply of water, but where there was a huge rock. Here in this place God’s people were to experience His salvation.
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