The Lord Showed Him A Tree - Part IV
— “And Miriam answered them, Sing you to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea.”
The phrase, “And Miriam answered them,” seems to imply that the men would sing a refrain, and then the women would answer by singing the refrain again. Whether they did this while dancing, or whether some danced and some sang, we aren’t told.
At any rate, their worship and praise proclaimed the Lord as the triumphant One in every capacity.
The writer of Psalm 149 said:
Praise you the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints. Let Israel rejoice in Him who made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name in the dance: let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth …” (Ps. 149:1-6).
“So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water” (Ex. 15:22).
God tests faith in order to strengthen and enrich it.
Israel journeyed three days in the wilderness and found no water. When water was found, there was an added trial - the water was bitter, which is a type of this world and what it has to offer.
Not to be thankful (Rom. 1:21) and to murmur lead to greater sins. Israel murmured, and their unbelief deepened as they murmured.
The smitten tree was cast into the waters, and the waters became sweet, which is a type of the Cross of Christ being placed into the bitterness of our souls. Thus, life may be sweetened if in the energy of faith, a crucified Saviour is introduced into it.
The healing mentioned here refers not only to the physical healing of the body but, as well, the spiritual healing of the soul.
The refreshment enjoyed at Elim suggested that which would come at the advent of Christ. The Lord sent out 12 apostles and 70 others to revive His weary inheritance with the tidings that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand.
As previously stated, we must understand that the Lord led the children of Israel into the wilderness. To be sure, this particular wilderness was about as inhospitable as anything could ever be.
A MATTER OF SOVEREIGN GRACE
Regrettably, the wilderness experience is needed by all Christians. First, the trials and testings of the wilderness make manifest the evil of our hearts and the incurable corruption of the flesh. These trials and tests are necessary in order that we may be humbled.
Second, the entrance into the inheritance itself is also solely a matter of sovereign grace, seeing that there is no worthiness and no “good thing” in us.
While the wilderness may, and will, make manifest the weakness of God’s saints, as well as our failures, this is only to magnify the power and mercy of Him who brought us into the place of testing. Further, we must understand that God always has in view our ultimate good.
So, we find that the “wilderness” gives us not only a revelation of ourselves, but it also manifests the ways of God.
After the Red Sea crossing, the children of Israel went “three days into the wilderness,” which speaks of resurrection, for Christ was raised from the dead three days after His burial (I Cor. 15:4).
And yet, despite the resurrection type, we find that almost immediately, they met with testing - no water, at least that which was usable.
While the world may look very attractive to the unbeliever, to the man of faith, it is simply a wilderness - barren and desolate. No one thinks of making his home in such a place, and neither should the believer become too attached to this world. It is merely the place through which man journeys from time to eternity, and it is faith that makes the difference in the way in which men regard this world.
GOD ALONE CAN SATISFY THE HUMAN HEART
The wilderness having no water is the first lesson that our experience is designed to teach us. There is nothing down here that can in any wise minister to that life which we have received from Christ. The pleasures of sin and the attractions of the world no longer satisfy. It is quite the contrary. These things that formerly charmed us now repel us. The companionship we used to find so pleasing has become distasteful. The things which delight the ungodly only cause us to groan.
In fact, the Christian who is in communion with his Lord finds absolutely nothing around him that will or can refresh his thirsty soul. For him, the shallow cisterns of this world have run dry. His cry will be that of the psalmist: “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Ps. 63:1).
God alone can satisfy the longings of the heart. That’s why Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink” (Jn. 7:37). So must he continue to go to Him who alone has the Water of Life.
We are going to find that the first lesson the Lord taught the children of Israel was the lesson of the Cross, just as He taught this lesson to the first family (Gen., Chpt. 4).
“And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah” (Ex. 15:23).
The word Marah actually means “bitter.” Whether Israel gave it this name, or it had already been given this name, we aren’t told; however, the likelihood is that it had borne this name for some time. This is a test of faith, and as we shall see, Israel didn’t meet this test too very well.
In a sense, every single thing that comes the way of the child of God is a test of sorts. Of course, some of these tests are of far greater magnitude than others; nevertheless, everything is a test, and we must look at every situation in this light.
How will we react? Will we trust God or murmur and complain?
Great blessings tell us who God is; adversity tells us what we are!
“And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Ex. 15:24).
Three days before, the children of Israel were rejoicing on the shores of the Red Sea. Now, some 72 hours later, they are “murmuring against Moses,” which speaks of complaining, and which was to very soon cause them tremendous problems.
Murmuring and complaining present a lack of faith, but the problem was not so easily recognizable.
Probably one could say without fear of exaggeration that the children of Israel had faith, but it was in the wrong object. It seemed to have been in Moses. When everything was going well, he was their hero. At the slightest adversity, the tables turned.
As we shall see, and as the Lord would teach them, their faith had to be in the Cross of Christ. Lacking that, their problems would multiply, and fast. There is only one way to live this life, to walk in victory, to be what God wants us to be, and to have the joy of the Lord, which is the more abundant life promised by Christ. That way is to understand that everything that comes to us as believers comes totally and completely by and through the Cross of Christ. As we’ve already said innumerable times, and will continue to say, the believer must anchor his faith in that great sacrifice. Then the Holy Spirit will work mightily with him, and with the Holy Spirit being God, there is nothing He cannot do. The believer is then guaranteed success; otherwise, the believer is guaranteed failure (Rom. 6:3-14; 8:1-2, 11; I Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Col. 2:10-15).
THE BITTERNESS OF SOUL
The bitterness portrayed here proclaims not only the condition of this present world, but also what it produces. There are untold millions of people who have suffered bitter experiences in life. Many of these have suffered sexual or mental abuse as a child, which has left them emotionally disturbed. As a result, there is bitterness of soul, which, without the help of the Lord, that person cannot shake off. Or, life has dealt the person a bitter blow, with the individual harboring unforgiveness, etc., which occasions bitterness.
To be frank, these are not isolated situations. The problem is actually pandemic. In much of this, many actually hold a grudge against God. They feel that He could have prevented whatever it was that happened, and in their heart of hearts, they harbor resentment against Him.
When we get to Verse 25 of Chapter 15 of Exodus, I’m going to tell you how to have total and complete victory over this terrible problem. In fact, that which we will relate to you is the only manner of victory, with there being no other. However, I want to first deal with the manner in which the world attempts to address this problem, which sounds good to the carnal ear, but which, in reality, is of no help at all.
From the world of humanistic psychology has come the phrase “inner healing,” which, as stated, sounds good to the carnal mind and ear. To be frank, there definitely is such a thing as inner healing, but not in the way that humanistic psychology proposes.
While all psychologists, I suppose, will use the term inner healing, mostly, each of them has a different interpretation as to how the problem is to be addressed - all of it wrong simply because what they are proposing is not the Word of God.
Sadly, many of those who refer to themselves as Christian psychologists actually propose for this malady that the individual in question forgive God.
Whatever nuance or direction the psychologist might take, almost all of them will seek to delve into the past, as it regards the individual whom they are trying to help. As it should be understood, psychological teaching, which actually had its beginnings in Sigmund Freud, who was inspired by Satan, has no miracle drug, etc., that can be prescribed for the individual. They have only one thing, and that is talk. If talk can set the captive free, then Jesus came down to this sinful world and died in vain (Gal. 2:21).
So, they get the individual to regurgitate all of the happenings of the past, which is totally unscriptural. Concerning the past, Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind, reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
And then, if that direction does not seem to be fruitful, the psychologist will actually make up things and plant them in the person’s mind and try to convince him that that is what happened, whatever it was. However, we should understand that talk has never healed anyone, as ought to be obvious.
As stated, then we have so-called Christian psychologists telling people to “forgive God.” In the first place, God has never done anything untoward toward anyone, so to tell people to forgive Him only exacerbates the problem, putting the person on the road of falsehood and wrong thinking.
One Christian psychologist uses as his therapeutic tool the practice of “visualization.” What is that?
The patients (victim in these circumstances) are urged to visualize certain things. They are to lie quietly with their eyes closed and visualize themselves standing by a babbling brook in a beautiful meadow with tall, stately trees around them. The scene is beautiful and peaceful. They are then to visualize Christ walking toward them, speaking softly to them, and then putting His arms around them and, thereby, healing them of all their problems.
Once again, there is nothing of this nature in the Bible. In fact, this is bordering on witchcraft. In some circles, it’s called “white magic.”
The Scripture plainly tells us, “For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
So, what is the answer to the terrible problem of bitterness of soul?
“And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them” (Ex. 15:25).
For the answer to this dilemma in which Israel now found herself, i.e., “bitter waters,” Moses “cried unto the LORD.”
Let me first of all say, and do so strongly, that there is no help outside of the Lord. As well, he doesn’t need the advice or the counsel of Freud, or any worldly wisdom for that matter. In fact, the Holy Spirit through James plainly said, “This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.”
He then said, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:15, 17).
Peter said, “According as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet. 1:3-4).
So, the Lord has the answer to whatever problems we might have, whatever dilemmas in which we find ourselves, etc.
THE LORD SHOWED HIM A TREE
One doesn’t have to be a Bible scholar to figure this out. The Lord was showing Moses that the answer to his dilemma was the tree. In fact, the Lord was using the tree as a type of the Cross.
I remember years ago mentioning this subject, and some brother after service tried to tell me how that the chemistry was changed in the water by this particular tree, etc.
The truth is, the Lord, by His miracle-working power, turned the bitter waters sweet. The tree, as far as its chemistry was concerned, had nothing to do with it. The Lord was using that to show Moses that the answer was found in the Cross.
Now, listen to this: The Lord had showed Israel that the “Passover” delivered them out of Egypt when nothing else could. It was a type of Christ and what He would do for us as our substitute on the Cross. The Red Sea crossing portrays the believer entering into the great sacrifice of Christ, as described in Romans 6:3-5. All of this constituted the salvation process, one might say.
Now that they were delivered from Egypt, no longer under the slave master’s whip, and no longer slaves to that despot in any fashion, the Lord would show them that the Cross was the answer to their salvation. As well, it was the answer to their sanctification.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
So, the first thing that the Lord portrayed to Israel through Moses was the Cross of Christ, implying strongly that this was their answer through the wilderness and into the Promised Land.
He’s saying the same thing today to the modern believer. It was the Cross that got them into salvation, or rather their faith in that finished work, and it is the Cross that will effect their sanctification, in other words, how we live for the Lord on a daily basis. It is the Cross alone.
Peter said, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:30).
Paul said, “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher” (Acts 13:29).
The apostle also said, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
Peter also said, “Who His own self bear our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed” (I Pet. 2:24).
So, the Holy Spirit through Moses referring to the tree is picked up by both Peter and Paul, using the same terminology, which applies to the Cross.
THE TREE WAS PUT INTO THE BITTER WATERS
The believer is to appropriate the benefits of the Cross, which the Lord intends, and to do so on a continuing basis, even day-to-day. I’ll tell you how to do that in a moment.
Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself (deny his own ability, strength, etc.), and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23).
When He spoke of denying oneself, He wasn’t speaking of asceticism, which is a denial of all things that are pleasurable, etc. Unfortunately, many Christians have come to the conclusion that if it’s something enjoyable, then it’s a sin. No, that has no bearing on what Jesus is saying here. That’s what Satan would like to get people to believe, but it simply isn’t true.
Living for God is the most exciting, thrilling, wonderful, and glorious life that one could ever live, and we’re not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14).
Now, notice that He said that we must take up our Cross, and even do so on a daily basis. Let’s look at the first part of this statement.
TAKING UP THE CROSS
“Taking up the Cross” simply means that we understand that everything we need, in fact, everything we receive from the Lord, all and without exception, comes to us through the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, it’s the Cross that makes it all possible, and we are speaking of what Jesus there did.
The word daily means that we are to appropriate these blessings afresh and anew every single morning. The Prophet Jeremiah said, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:21-23).
Now, the manner in which this is done, or the how that we appropriate these benefits, is all by faith. What do we mean by that?
None of this is a physical or material thing. It is all in the realm of the spiritual, and it is all acquired strictly by faith.
When we say “faith,” always and without exception, we are speaking of the believer having faith in Christ and what Christ has done at the Cross. Paul said, “Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
This is the believer evidencing faith in Christ and what Christ has done for us in the sacrifice of Himself.
Every believer talks about faith; however, most believers do not understand that for our faith to be recognized by God, its object must always be the finished work of Christ. Let me say that again:
It’s the object of our faith that is so very important. In fact, every human being on the face of the earth has faith, but it’s not faith that God will recognize. The only faith that He recognizes is faith in His Son and our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and what Christ has done, which is all proclaimed by the Word of God.
Almost every Christian will talk about having faith in Christ, but let the reader understand that we must comprehend the fact that it is always Jesus Christ and Him crucified (I Cor. 1:23). In other words, if we try to divorce Christ from the Cross, we are, in effect, according to the words of Paul, preaching “another Jesus,” which the Lord, of course, cannot honor (II Cor. 11:4).
Millions profess to believe in Christ, and the truth is, they aren’t properly aligning Christ with the Cross. No, Christ certainly is not still on the Cross, but rather seated by the right hand of the Father in heaven (Heb. 1:3). In fact, we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).
What Paul is talking about, and what Jesus was talking about as it regarded taking up the Cross daily, are the benefits of what Christ did on the Cross. I am saved because of what He did at the Cross. I am baptized with the Holy Spirit because of what He did at the Cross. I am healed because of what He did at the Cross. I am victorious because of what He did at the Cross.
In fact, everything I receive from the Lord is all made possible, and without exception, through what Jesus did at the Cross. So, He must never be separated from the Cross. If, in fact, He is separated accordingly, which, regrettably, many, if not most, churches do, then pure and simple, we have accepted another Jesus, which is put forth by another spirit, which projects another gospel (II Cor. 11:4).
If it’s not “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” then it’s not the gospel!
So, by faith, we put the Cross into the bitter waters of our lives.
This article will be continued in the May issue of The Evangelist.