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he had the slighest chance he would still try to bring back the people. And so it happened. Recovering from the terror caused by the death of the first-born, and hearing the direction the Israelites had taken, Pharaoh resolved to pursue them. A proverb says-Whom God wishes to destroy He first drives mad. Sin is the greatest madness. Pharaoh might have known by this time that God could open up a way of escape. But he never thought of that. He simply thought, I have them now, and I shall pursue them. Notice, also, that Moses would have been the most foolish man possible if he had led the people where they now were of his own accord. He would have been leading them to certain ruin. The very fact that he did lead them in such a direction, is a clear proof that he was acting under God's command. And so learn that we must not shrink from our duty, however dark the road may appear, when once we are sure that God is leading us. He will make all clear in the end.
II. The Dilemma, (ver. 10-18.)-The Israelites naturally blamed Moses. They were fairly caught-escape was impossible. We need not wonder at their murmuring. Even Moses did not know what was to be done; but his faith did not fail him. He could say, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God.” And so he betakes himself to prayer. He knew the power of God, and that He could make a way out of their difficulty. What mighty power is this!—faith and prayer. These two can do anything. All things are possible to him that believeth. Then notice the strange command-Go forward. But where to?. The Red Sea is in front, and forward we cannot go. Now this is God's command still-Go forward. Forget the things which are behind, and reach forward to those that are before. Egypt is behind, your enemies are behind, and the glorious land of rest is forward, yonder across the sea. But God never gives an impossible command: and when He tells the people to go forward. He makes a clear path for them.' So here, go forward, and stretch thou thy rod over the sea. All is plain now. The path is clear.
III. The Passage, (ver. 19-31.)-Go over the story, and note_these points. The pillar of cloud removes to the rear. It gave light to the Israelites, but darkness to the Egyptians. So now, the self-same Gospel is a savour of life to some, and a savour of death to others. Then the Red Sea was safety to the Israelites, but destruction to the Egyptians. Between the two crystal walls of water Israel passed safely to the other side, but this same water drowned the Egyptians. So the waters of the flood saved Noah, but destroyed all the rest. How terrible the thought, that the blessed Gospel, which brings salvation to some, brings death to others! What is it to you?' Notice also God's looking on the Egyptians. That look troubled them. God was their enemy, because they were enemies of God. The face of God is set against them that do wickedly. The Egyptians would gladly have escaped from that look, but it was too late. The Israelites are safe; the rod is again lifted; and with the lifting of the rod the waters close in, and all is still. Read Revelation vi. 14-17, and learn how all will fare who are enemies of God.
Subject to be proved—Prayer and Faith Overcome Difficulties. Memory Exercise-Shorter Catechism 1.-Psalm cxxiv. 2nd version, 1, 2. Golden Text—"Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”—Isaiah xxvi. 4.
NOTES.—Trust-what does it mean? Illustrate by some siinple incident. A child learning to walk feels confident when holding its father's hand. It trusts him. Are you not afraid in this storm ?-No; my father's at the helm. There was trust.
The object of trust the Lord, and why?-just because He has all power, and may be trusted. Speak of false trust-leaning on a reed for support-walking on slippery ground coated with snow. These trusts will betray us. But in the Lord Jehovah is strength, everlasting strength; or, as it is in the margin-the rock of ages. This trust will never fail. Hence the words, trust in the Lord for ever. Even in the dark valley His rod and His staff will sustain us.
Lesson 106.—January 11.
ISRAEL HELPED AT MARAH.—Exodus xv. 22-27. Note the connection. The Israelites had crossed the Red Sea; they had celebrated their great deliverance in the triumphant song of Moses; and now they imagined that all difficulty was over. They were free, and freedom had no trials. So they thought. But they were speedily taught that freedom needs stern discipline.
Remember, also, they were a horde of slaves, fresh from the task-master's lash-an undisciplined rabble. Keeping this in view, we need not wonder at their conduct.
Their history was written for our example. Their deliverance from Egypt typified a greater deliverance. How many, rejoicing in their deliverance from the bondage of sin, and of their new-found faith in Jesus, forget that the battle of the Christian life is only then beginning, and become fretful and downcast if they meet with unlooked for trials.
Now, go over the narrative in ver. 22-26, and learn these, among other lessons :
1. From the Red Sea into the wilderness, (ver. 22.) Even so. This is God's way still. From the mount of privilege back to the duties of life, to a wilder. ness, it may be. Grumble not if so it be; He knows where He is leading us, and He will make the bitter sweet.
2. No water, and even when they came to water they could not drink of it; it was bitter; it was marah. This was almost worse than no water. It was tantalizing to be thirsty, to see water, and yet to be unable to drink of it. Now this was a sore trial-for thirst is a very imperious master. Now, it is often even so with God's Israel. They have come to some spot in their journey, and they say, “Here is my rest." But, alas, it soon proves bitter. God makes it bitter, to prove them.
3. Murmuring. The beginning of discipline. Of what temper are they? Are they fit to be led straight into the land of rest ? Alas, no. A long, hard, stern training must precede that. For they murmur at the very first difficulty. All murmuring must be driven out of them before they can become God's soldiers and do His work in Canaan.
4. Marah sweetened. It may be noticed that the Lord does not express direct displeasure here. He has pity such as a father has. He knows their weakness; and so, on the cry of Moses, in answer to prayer, He sweetens the water. Note -here you have the secret that will sweeten all the bitternesses of life. Bring them all to God in prayer. Moses cried-God sweetened. Go, and do likewise.
5. Note particularly verse 26. You have here the key to all these seeming crosses that happen to God's children. They do not come by chance. They are sent for a purpose. They are sent to prove us—to test us—to see what manner of spirit we are of. And note the blessed promise attached to submission-freedom from those things that cause murmuring. Pride, that will not bend to God's will, is the root of most of our trials. Submit, be humble, and the Lord will be our healer.
6. Shade-a glad blink in the wilderness journey-shade and refreshment, a veritable oasis. God gives these still, only don't linger too long about them. Take the needed refreshment to be the more strengthened for what is before you.
Subject to be proved-God's People should not Complain.
Memory Exercise-Shorter Catechism 2.—Psalm cxxiv. 3, 4. Golden Text—“O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.”—Psalm cxxxvi. 1.
Notes.—Thanks—a common enough expression, often used without much meaning. Still, a pleasant word, implying some sense of gratitude for some service rendered, for some benefit conferred. Contrast it with thanklessness. You do a good turn, and the recipient cares not-you feel hurt.
Now, this text calls upon us to give thanks unto the Lord, and gives the reasons why:
(1.) He is good. Give plain examples of His goodness for which we ought to give thanks. He supports us, He feeds, He gives us health, home, friends, &c. Then rise to higher spheres : He has given us affections, émotions, judgment, &c. Then higher still: He has given us wisdom, heavenly wisdom, Jesus Christ. Surely these deserve thanks.
(2.) His mercy endureth for ever. A man may be good, but changeable ; God changeth not. He is continually doing good, and worthy of continual thanks.
Lesson 107.—January 18.
ISRAEL FED WITH MANNA.—Exodus xvi. 1-36. 1. The Circumstances, (ver. 1-11.)-The people were in the wilderness, in the peninsula of Sinai, a barren, rocky desert, with no food, with the certain prospect, to all human appearance, of speedy starvation. No wonder that they murmured. Their case was very hard, and we must not judge them hardly. Moses, as in all similar circumstances, betakes himself to God, who promises supplies of food.
II. Quails and Manna sent, (ver. 12-36.)-Go over the story, and bring out the simple meaning first. Quails were a kind of partridge. Manna came in the morning, and had to be gathered ere the sun was hot. Picture the scene-eyery morning the ground all round the camp was covered thick with what seemed hoar frost, and the people might be seen crowding out, each with a vessel in his hand, gathering the day's supply. Now, note these things about the manna :
(a.) It was evidently the gift of God. He gave it, there could be no doubt about that. It was bread from heaven, Thus were they taught to trust in God for their support, and to look also for that spiritual bread which He alone can bestow, and of which this was a type, (John vi.)
(6.) It fell every morning save Sabbath; and they had to gather it daily, save on Sabbath. What was kept overnight corrupted. How beautifully were they thus taught what our Lord has taught us, when He said, “ Give us this day our daily bread!” We are very apt to forget our dependence on God. His mercies come so often, that we take them as a matter of course. This is ungrateful. God would have us remember Him as the giver of our daily mercies and daily blessings; and He loves gratitude. Let us try to live as entirely and always dependent on Him.
(c.) The manna did not fall on the Sabbath. This was a clear miracle. It could not be by accident that none fell every seventh day. But provision was made for this. A double portion fell every sixth day, and was quite sweet and fresh on the seventh. Here was a whole series of miracles. But the main point to notice is God's regard for the Sabbath. He blessed the Sabbath day, He ceased working on that day, and He wishes His creatures to have this rest.day. And observe this was before the giving of the fourth commandment; and so, clearly, the Sabbath was from the beginning. How do you use the Sabbath ? Do you regard it as God's day, as a day of blessed rest and refreshment, and as a foretaste of that rest which remains ?
(d.) A memorial of this was kept through all their generations. An omer full was laid up. God does not wish His mercies forgotten. He likes them to be remembered. If He gives us mercies, He expects us to remember them.
(e.) This manna was a type of Christ. He was the true bread that came down from beaven, (John vi.) These Israelites did eat the manna and died. He gave life to the world. Whosoever eateth this living bread shall never die. And just as the Israelites had to go and gather the manna, and eat of it, so we must go to Christ and feed on Him. The manna was all round the camp, no lack of it; but an Israelite would have died unless he went out and gathered. So Jesus Christ is freely offered to us; He offers himself; but we must come to Him, receive Him, and make Him our own. The analogy may be carried out into many other points. The judicious teacher will easily expand the ideas here given.
Subject to be proved—We should keep the Sabbath Holy.
Memory Exercise-Shorter Catechism 3.—Psalm cxxiv. 5, 6. Golden Text—"The eyes of all wait upon Thee: and thou givest them their meat in due season.”—Psalm cxlv. 15.
NOTES-One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible. Try and realize the simple picture. Every creature looking to God for food, and He supplies it. Give simple illustrations-birds, beasts, man-all depend on God for daily food. Notice the words, wait upon; they mean, look to. Many a time we look for help from a friend and are disappointed. It is never so with God. Wait on the Lord and He will supply all thy need. Shew how this applies to spiritual food as well as e
manna--the bread of life-comes down from heaven. Look unto me and be ye saved; whosoever looketh shall not perish.
Lesson 108.-January 25. ISRAEL'S VICTORY OVER AMALEK.—Exodus xvii. 1-16. Verses 1-7.--"No water for the people to drink.”—The Lord had begun their spiritual discipline by trying their faith, first with hunger, then with thirst. The agony of thirst is more difficult to endure than that of hunger. Travellers in the desert tell of the sufferings caused by the want of water; and we can recall from our reading the misery of the shipwrecked mariner adrift at sea, in boat or on raft, with “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink;"—for the attempt to slake the thirst with sea-water brings on delirium. The children of Israel were, doubtless, for the time in a sore plight. But their murmurs were rebellious, ungrateful, and unreasonable.
Miracle upon miracle had been wrought for them-first, their deliverance from Egypt, and their passage through the Red Sea; second, the conversion of bitter into sweet water at Marah ; third, the daily provision of food, in the form of quails and manna ; and fourth, the standing miracle of the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, to remind the people that the almighty power and fatherly love of God were pledged for their protection and sustenance. And yet
They found fault with Moses, whom God had appointed to be their leader and lawgiver, accusing him of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them with thirst, (ver. 2, 3 ; see also their complaint more at large in Numbers xx. 3-5.)
They "tempted the Lord,” dishonouring Him in His servant, distrusting His providence, and even doubting His very existence amongst them, (ver. 7.)
Notwithstanding the fury of their complaints, (ver. 4, “They be almost ready to stone me,') Moses answers them with characteristic meekness, “Why chide ye with me?” (ver. 2 ;) and instead of answering their violent folly with angry protestations and upbraidings, resorts for direction to the throne of grace, (ver. 4.) 'When the people closed their ears to his mild remonstrance, the Lord heard his cry, (ver. 5, 6.) Moses is made the agent in another astonishing miracle. He smote the rock, and water gushed out! (See also Num. XX. 6-11.) “The presence of the God of Jacob turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters,” (Psalm cxiv. 7,8.) With what delight and amazement would the thirsty multitudes of Israel witness the water springing from the flinty rock; and how they would rush to quench their burning thirst at the refreshing stream! Surely shame and remorse would arise in their hearts at the thought of their faithless and ungrateful distrust of God's presiding care over them!
This rock, with its fountain of water, was a type of Christ. “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ,” says Paul, in 1 Cor. x. 4. The entire history of the children of Israel-their bondage in Egypt, their emancipation, their journeyings in the desert, and their entrance into Canaan, in like manner shadowed forth God's dealings with the Church in all subsequent times, as with every individual believer.
We pause and wonder as we read of the perversity of the Israelites on this and many other occasions. But let us look into our own hearts, and we shall find the sources of their ingratitude, forgetfulness of God, rebellion against His will, and discontent with His providential dealings, deeply seated in our common sinfal human nature.
Christ is the smitten Rock, to which the sin-sick weary soul is invited to repair, that it may drink of the water of life freely. Every one that thirsteth receives this invitation, (Isa. lv. 1 ;) and Christ himself confirms it, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” (John vii. 37; iv. 14.)
Verses 8-16.—The Israelites had their faith further tried by war.—The Amalekites were the posterity of Esau, and had a hereditary grudge against the descendants of Jacob. Reference is made in Duet. xxv. 17, 18, to the dastardly manner in which the Amalekites fell upon the rear of the Israelites, slaughter. ing the aged, the infirm, and the weary; the sin of attacking, without provocation, the most helpless and exposed of the multitudes of Israel, having been aggravated by Amalek's “fearing not God.” Moses entrusted the command of the army to Joshua, who is, for the first time, named in this connection, (ver. 9.) Johsua's army, inexperienced in war, must have fought at some disadvantage, notwithstanding the courage and skill of their commander. The victory was won by the power of prayer. Moses prayed while Joshua fought; and victory only wavered between the contending hosts when prayer languished; for the upraised arm of Moses, the rod of power in his hand, was a continued appeal to God, as well as the symbol of victory to the Israelites. “ Jehovah-nissi,” — meaning, “The Lord my Banner,”-inscribed on the memorial-altar raised by Moses, ascribed the glory of this victory to the God of Israel.
Subject to be proved—God Protects His People.
Memory Exercise-Shorter Catechism 4.–Psalm cxxiv. 7,8. Golden Text—"The Lord of hosts is with us ; the God of Jacob is our refuge." -Psalm xlvi. 7.
NOTEs. -The Israelites' confidence in war-a very strong ground of confidence, or rather two. 1st. The Lord of hosts—the God of battles-was with them; the Lord was on their side, why should they fear ? 2nd. Their father's God was their refuge-their fortress-evidently suggested by some of those strongholds so common in Palestine.
Now, every one may have this same confidence; and if so, how safe and how bold he may be ! Shew how. Enemies attack us-dangers beset us-where is safety? The Lord of hosts is on my side, that should be enough for me. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.
Lesson 109.-February 1. ISRAEL RECEIVES THE LAW AT SINAI.—Exodus xix. 16-25; xx. 1-21. I. Read carefully xix. 16-25, and notice the solemnity that accompanied the giving of the Law : among other things these :
(a.) The appearance on Mount Sinai, (ver. 16-18.)
(6.) The position of the people, (ver. 16,) and the strict injunction not to touch the mountain, (ver. 21, 23, 24.)
(c.) The effect on the people, (ver. 16.)