Exodus Message #28 Ed Miller March 24, 2021 Third Outworking of Redemption – Provision

(Listen to audio above along with transcript below. Both are available for download at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)

I want to bring us back to the verse I selected as the key verse in the whole study of the book of Exodus, Psalm 35:3, “Say to my soul, ‘I am thy salvation.’”  Praise God that I am privileged to tell you that God is your salvation, but it’s not going to mean much unless God tells you, and that’s why it says, “Say to my soul, ‘I am Thy salvation.”  The whole book of Exodus is a story of the Savior and God’s salvation, and we’re now looking at the second part of the book, the outworkings of salvation, and so I can say in terms of these principles, “Say to my soul, ‘I am guidance,’” “Say to my soul, ‘I am your song,’” “Say to my soul, ‘I am your provision,’” “Say to my soul, ‘I am your victory,’” “Say to my soul, ‘I am your possibility for a life of obedience,’” “Say to my soul, ‘I am the One I am to worship and I will enable you to do it.’”  With that in mind, that the Lord speaks to us, let’s commit our time to Him.

Our Father, we thank You again that You have begun to show us and will continue until we get to heaven, to show us that You are indeed our salvation.  Lord, as we meditate in the book of Exodus, take us again to the Lord Jesus.  Enable us to have eyes to behold Him, and then work in us a will to receive Him as You portray Him to us.  Thank You that we can give you this meditation and we do it in the name of our Lord Jesus.  Amen

Welcome again to our study in the book of Exodus, but I remind you that we don’t study any book in the Bible to know that book.  I pray when we’re done we’ll know Exodus a lot better, but we study to know the Lord.  He has given us His word, that we might know Him, and with a heart knowledge.  We’ve begun these blessed outworkings, and in our study we’ve come to the third outworking of redemption.  I’ll review the first two and then we’ll pick up where we left off.

Illustrated by the Shekinah glory cloud, the Lord is our guide.  Guidance is an outworking.  If you’ve been saved by power and blood you can expect the Lord to guide you.  Then, last week we began to look at the song of Moses and the dance of Miriam.  It’s also true if you know the Lord and you’ve been saved by power and blood, He sets the joy bells ringing in your heart.  He gives us joy, and it’s because He is our song.

Before we look at the next outworking, let me give you a clincher to the truth of joy that we looked at last week.  If I’m redeemed by power and blood, I can expect a joy deeper than happiness.  I’m referring to John 15, the great parable of the vine and the branches.  Listen as I read verse 4:5, “Abide in Me and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  I think we’re all aware of that wonderful parable that Christ is the vine and we are invited to abide in Him as a branch abides in the vine.  That’s how we bear fruit. 

I want you to notice John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”  Notice how God connects the truth of abiding with the truth of joy.  They belong together.  Fullness of joy is a by-product of abiding in the Lord.  When we’re saved by power and by blood we’ll experience joy.  If we would abide in Christ we would maintain the joy.  We need to be saved to receive it, but then we need to abide in order to maintain it.

Today we’ll be looking at the third outworking of redemption; provision, illustrated by the manna, the quail and by the provision of the water out of the rock.  Then we’ll follow victory over Amalek, victory over the enemy (that’s one of the outworkings of being saved), and then we’ll look at the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.  You know that’s Old Covenant, so when we look at that we’re going to look at it with New Covenant eyes, and that will be the most practical way.  The final outworking of redemption by power and blood is illustrated by the tabernacle, and that’s the clincher of the entire book of Exodus, because that is worship, and the end of all is to worship the Lord in spirit and truth.  So, those six: guidance, joy, provision, victory, obedience and worship. 

Now we look at the wonderful truth of provision.  I’d like to introduce it with Genesis 22:14, “Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”  I think most of us are familiar with the wonderful title “Jehovah Jireh”.  You might be surprised that only once in the Bible is He called “Jehovah Jireh”.  You would think it would be all the way through, but it’s right here in the book of Genesis.  Though it’s a title describing Him, it’s actually the name given to the place.  They named the place “Jehovah Jireh” where He provided.

It’s a compound word.  Jehovah is the Lord, and Jireh is a word whose root means “to see”, “to observe”.  Before you can ever experience provision there’s got to be prevision, and that’s why they named that place “The Lord Sees”.  So God sees in advance everything we’re going to need.  He’s our provider because He has prevision.  One commentary just says, “The Lord will see to it.”  That’s exactly what happens.

Let me begin right away by showing you how the Lord has arranged the order of this great truth of provision.  The arrangement in the Bible tells a story.  There is a principle here, and once we see that arrangement, then we’ll look at the principles of provision.  As we look at the principles of guidance, we’ve had five or six, there are ten principles I’d like to share from this idea of provision.  Unless you see the arrangement clearly it might be a little confusing.  If you don’t have your Bibles, you’ll miss a little bit if you only have the notes, especially as it comes to the arrangement here, and how the Holy Spirit has put this in order.  Only one of the outworkings, the Shekinah glory cloud, took place before they crossed the Red Sea.  The other five took place after they crossed the Red Sea.  The crossing of the Red Sea is God’s picture in seed form of full salvation.  Exodus 14:30-31, “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.  When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.” 

They had crossed the Red Sea by faith on ground that God had dried up for them; a picture of the finished work that iit’s all done.  The outworkings that follow the crossing of the Red Sea, full redemption, are all found in the Person of Christ.  I need to explain that just a little bit. They are experienced when that union with Him is maintained.  You’ve got to have that union.  Guidance came before they crossed.  That’s different from the other five.  How so?  It’s because in guidance, God is going to guide His people, guaranteed, and you will be guided, even if you are not in fellowship with God.  You are going to be guided at all times.  You aren’t going to have a song if you are out of fellowship, but you are going to be guided.  You aren’t going to get provision if you are out of fellowship.  He is going to guide you, and I think that’s why He put that in front of the Red Sea.  Psalm 32:8&9, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.  Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trapping includes bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.”

Understand what I’m saying.  Guidance never quits, even when you are not in fellowship.  There are two ways to be guided.  You can be guided with His eye upon you, and that’s very pleasant, or you can be dragged along.  You are going to be guided either by His eye or by bit and bridle.  Either way you will be guided.  He’ll either guide you to the land over flowing with milk and honey, or He might guide you back to Egypt, or Assyria, or Babylon.  He’s a faithful God and He’s going to keep guiding you.  I believe that’s why the glory cloud appeared before, because it’s different than the other five.  Even the sin unto death, you are going to be guided.  He takes many people to heaven through that sin because He would rather see them in heaven with Him than on earth sinning.

The other five, the song, provision, victory, obedience and worship are all found in Christ, and as you maintain your union with the Lord, those by-products will be more and more in your life.  The New Testament calls it “fruit”, the fruit of the Spirit, “Abide in Him, and the same brings forth much fruit.”  If you don’t abide, you are like a branch severed from the vine and there will be no fruit.  I call attention to that because now we come to the third outworking.

Exodus 15:22, “Then Moses led 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.”  The reason I gave you that introduction is because we are three days past the song.  Exodus 15:24, “So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’”  Three days and already they are grumbling.  You might think the song was an outwork of redemption.  Yes, if you maintain it, because it’s in Christ.  If you take your eyes off Christ you lose your song, because He is your song.  I take my eyes off Christ I lose my song.  I’m guaranteed I’ll be guided, but I’ll lose my song. 

A month and a half later in Exodus 16:2-3, “The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  The sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”  Notice how they exaggerate about the feast they had when they were slaves in Egypt.  They didn’t have that kind of feast at all.  They grumbled no water and no food.  They were very discontent.  Exodus 16:8, “Moses said, ‘This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning, for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him.  And what are we?  Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.’”  I’m not going to develop it now but just say it; all grumbling is against the Lord.  Every time you grumble, whether who burned the toast, or the weather, or whatever, it’s all against the Lord.  When you grumble you are saying two things.  Number one you are saying, “I deserve better than this,” and number two, “God had nothing to do with this.”  So, you become a practical atheist.  All grumbling is against the Lord.

How does Exodus begin?  Listen to Exodus 2:23-24, “The sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out, and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.  So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.”  It begins with a sigh, a sigh because of bondage.  We got all the way to chapter 15 and we saw that God turned their sigh into a song; by blood and by power.  And now three days later their song is turned back to a sigh, and they are back in the bondage again.  A lot can happen in three days.  A couple weeks and we’ll celebrate one thing that happened in three days.  Our Lord rose from the dead.  But you can lose your joy in three days, too.  In fact you can lose it in three minutes.

How can they lose their joy?  Their bondage with the Egyptians, God took the Egyptians away.  Even now that they are grumbling, the Egyptians are gone.  So, you say that they should have a song.  No, the song is not absence of Egyptians.  The song is the Lord.  It’s the presence of the Lord, not the absence of the Egyptians.  Praise God the absence of the Egyptians is an occasion for singing, but that’s not the theme of the song.  The theme of the song is the Lord Himself.  It’s not deliverance.  It’s the Deliverer.  Praise God if you’ve been delivered from sin and from some addiction, some lust, some anger, some pride, some unbelief.  Praise God for that deliverance.  But if you are just going to rejoice in that deliverance, that song will soon fade away because it’s the Deliverer and not the deliverance that is the theme of the song.  Now they’ve lost their joy.  They are three days out and they’ve lost their joy because they took their eyes off the Lord, and now their song is a sigh again.

I want you to pay attention, and I mentioned this earlier, on how the Holy Spirit has arranged the record in Exodus.  It’s very important, even before you look at what it says, to look at how He’s arranged the record.  The goal of this outworking is to get to chapter 17.  That’s provision, and that’s water out of the rock.  That’s Christ.  The goal is to get to chapter 17.  We’re at chapter 15, so how do we get from 15 to 17?  The Holy Spirit is going to break it up and finally take us to Christ who is the bread and drink of life; Christ who is the provision.  That’s in chapter 17:1-7.  1 Corinthians 10:3-4 actually identifies that, “And all drank the same spiritual food and drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”  We going to look at physical drinking and we’re going to look at manna, physical eating, but the New Testament says that it’s to teach a spiritual food and a spiritual drink from a spiritual rock and that rock was Christ.  Literally it’s water and bread, but it’s a picture of Jesus.

We’ll revisit this truth when we finally come to chapter 17, but for now let me show you the arrangement.  God provides Himself, and that’s our great need.  He’s our water, satisfying our thirst, and He’s the bread satisfying our hunger, but He doesn’t begin with chapter 17, so let’s look at this arrangement.  In Exodus 15:22-27 He talks about thirst and water but He doesn’t get to Christ.  He talks about water stories to prepare you to get to Christ, and then He tells four water stories, and now we look at a whole chapter on food and hunger.  And after you’ve studied thirst and after you’ve studied hunger, then He’ll take us to Jesus.  That’s how He’s arranged it.  We’re going to look at four stories today, water stories, preparing us to get to Christ.  And we’ll look at a whole chapter on manna preparing us to get to Christ, the food and the drink of life.

Jesus is the thirst, the water of life.  Let me read these New Testament verses to guide it home.  John 4:13-14, “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’”  John 7:37-38, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.””  The same thing is true about bread that is true about water.  John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’”

Let’s begin this third outworking of provision.  I’ll try to show how the facts illustrate the great principles.  When I say the first principle I don’t mean of importance, otherwise we would start right away with chapter 17.  This is the first one we’re going to deal with.  Let me state it as a principle.  The Lord is faithful to supply all our needs.  You might agree with what I said, but you might not have heard what I said.  The Lord is faithful to supply all our needs.  What I don’t mean is that you have a need and He’s providing something.  I’m saying that He’s faithful to provide needs.  I need needs, and the Lord is faithful to provide needs.  What He said in Luke 10:41-42, “But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary.”  One thing is needful. 

Somebody says, “Do you have any needs?”  I will never say yes.  I’m not going to say that the Lord is my Shepherd and I have needs or that the Lord is my Shepherd and I lack $350 a month.  That’s not in the Bible.  There’s one thing needful.  You only have one need, and that’s our Lord Jesus and our union with Him.  He will give us needs to show us our need for the one need, and He’s faithful to give us those needs.  Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”  He let you be hungry; He provides your needs.  Hunger was a great need that they needed in order to finally to lead to the single need which is the Lord Jesus.  I need to need Thee, Lord, in love supply, the thing that causes me in faith to cry.  I need needs.

Sometimes we pray, “We need needs; provide our needs.”  1 Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.”  If necessary.  I like KJV, it says, “If need be..”  That’s what you need; heaviness through manifold temptations.  If need be, God will give you those trials.  Matthew 6:11, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Isaiah 30:20, “Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression..”  When you pray for daily bread KJV says it’s the bread of affliction.  “Lord, give us this day our daily bread.”  Well, He may give you the bread of affliction.  Psalm 80:5 “You have fed them with the bread of tears.”   That’s provision!  “Give us our daily bread.”  You might need tears.  You might need trouble.  I might need trouble.  I might need hard times.  Whether He’s giving affliction or privation or tears…  David had to learn that.  Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn Your statutes.”  Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word.”  Psalm 119:75, “I know, O lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”  That’s the first principle.  You can trust the Lord to be faithful to provide your needs.

Let me illustrate it from Exodus 15:22-27.  I’ll break it down for you.  There are four pictures here.  The first is in verse 22, “Then Moses led 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.”  Underscore “no water”.  That’s the first experience; no water.  Then in verse 23, “When they came to Marah they could not drink the waters of Marah as they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.”  Underscore “bitter water”.  And then in verse 25, “Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.”  Underscore “sweet waters”.  And then in verse 27, “Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.”  Underscore “spring water”.  You see where we are now.  Here’s the picture: no water, bitter water, sweet water and spring water.  No water is not Christ, bitter water is not Christ, sweet water is not Christ, and spring water is not Christ.  So, He allows these experiences so that He might create a thirst for the Fountain of Living Water, which is Christ Himself.  Don’t read this “la, la, la”.  The Holy Spirit has put these four stories together; no water, bitter water, sweet water and spring water, in order that we might thirst for Jesus.  This is all preparation.

Let me relate these four water stories to Jeremiah 2:13, “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  These four water stories are cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water.  God’s people have turned their eyes off the Lord and lost their song, and now they are going to these cisterns to try to get satisfied.  They are not going to get satisfied until they come back to the Lord.  When they get their drink in Christ they’ll get their song back, and we’ll see that so wonderfully presented here.   These four water stories are the cisterns that hold no water; broken cisterns.  It’s really the book of Ecclesiastes in picture form.  God allows us to taste the vanity of this world, so that we would hunger after Him.  He allows us to taste the vexation of spirit in this world, in order that we might fellowship beyond the sun in union with Christ. 

Let’s look at each of these and show it’s a preparation to take us to the fountain of living waters.  Exodus 15:22, “Moses led 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.”  Sometimes it’s a great test of the Lord when there’s no provision, when the cupboard is bare and the rent doesn’t come, when you have no gas in the car, or the tires are flat, or the dog dies; when there is no provision, when Elijah’s brook runs dry.  When there’s no provision, He’s just crowding you to Him.  He’s calling you to look to Him.

I’ve often mentioned my friend Pat from Rhode Island.  He’s in heaven now.  I wish you all could have had the chance to know him, because he had some real mental limitations, and yet he had a hunger for Christ that was insatiable.  Those mental challenges did not hold him back at all.  On the level of earth Pat was poverty stricken.  He didn’t have money, he couldn’t hold a job, and he was very dependent.  We had a mutual friend who had MS and for about twenty years he was in a paralyzed condition.  I was with Pat one day and he said, “Let’s pray for Renier, for our friend.”  His prayer went something like this, “Lord, Renier has a wife.  You never gave me a wife.  Lord, Renier has kids.  I never had kids.  Renier has a house.  I don’t have a house.  Renier has a yard.  I don’t have a yard.”  And then he said, “Thanks for nothing.”  But he meant it.  He was praising God for nothing.  He wasn’t saying it in a flippant way.  He said thanks for nothing, and then he ended his prayer this way, “Lord, give me Renier’s disease, so he can enjoy his wife and his children and his house and his yard.”  That’s real thirsting after the Lord.  He had nothing, and that did not hold him back from having everything, because he had the Lord.

You might think Israel was doing fine.  They came out and in three days without water, and I don’t see them moaning or griping and I want to give them an “atta boy”, but the Lord sees, Jehovah Jireh sees what’s in their heart.  So, He’s going to bring it up.  Remember that the wilderness did not create groaner and grumblers and idolaters.  It exposed them; it’s down there.  In order for me to find satisfaction in Christ, He needs to bring up to the surface what is down there.  You would think they were doing pretty good for three days.  God saw what was in their heart, and so He engineered their life in order to bring it up.  There was no water.

Let me give a second cistern.  This time it’s not a mirage.  Three days, they’re not complaining, and there’s no water, and they see a big body of water.  There were 2 ½ million of them, their herds, their flocks, and they are now going by sight, and they see it.  It’s not a mirage; it’s really there.  They are going by sight and they say, “That is what I need.”  They didn’t say, “I need Jesus or their song back.”  They said, “That is what I need.”  Exodus 15:23, “When they came to Marah they could not drink the water of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.”  They call this a disappointed hope.  Sometimes God, in order to bring me to thirst for Jesus, allows a disappointed hope.  It’s right in front of us and then He takes it away.  That’s a tremendous test.  Disappointment I think is a greater test than no water.  If there’s no employment out there, after a while you just say, “I can’t find a job.”  But then if you get interviewed and you think you are going to get a job, and then it falls through, why are you more disappointed.  You didn’t have a job in the first place, but when you had a possibility of a job and it was pulled away, that’s a bigger test. 

I have a list on my computer and every day I pray for this list; single men, single women, who long for a life partner, a Godly life partner.  My heart goes out to them.  Having no girlfriend or boyfriend is a big test for a lot of young Christians.  But if it looks like that relationship would become something, and then it fell apart….  Having no girlfriend is a lot better than a “Dear John” letter.  That will crush you.  When you are looking forward to something and then suddenly it’s snatched away, that’s the Lord, and He allows disappointed hopes to show you there is no joy in what the eye can see.  You lost your promotion.  You thought you were going get an advance.  You didn’t get accepted into the program that you had applied for.  Your health fails.  You didn’t expect that.  Your lottery number didn’t come in (we won’t go there).  We need to walk so carefully when something is appealing to sight.  We need to check with the Lord, because sight is deceptive.

Through the years I’ve had experience with many people who have gotten married, and before marriage, “She’s so beautiful, and she’s the best,” and that can turned to Marah and turned bitter.  Many have seen that.  Some investments look so good and I can get rich quick, and all of a sudden it’s turned to Marah.  Some friendships look like they’re real good, and then after a while…  We need to check with the Lord on those things.

It was bitter because it was not God’s will, because it wasn’t Jesus.  That is God’s will.  Many marriages turn to Marah and many vocations and many friendships.  It’s all part of the Lord crowding us to Himself.  When experiences like disappointed hope will bring out the worst in you, and they began to really grumble here, God needs to bring that to the surface.  He loves you too much to let us go on in unreality, and just appear spiritual.  He’s going to bring that garbage up so that it can be dealt with. 

Notice how the Lord likened the bitterness of the water to the bitterness of their heart.  Later He’s going to be called the Healer, because their hearts were bitter, just like that water was bitter.  So, if you need no water, I promise you that God will provide that for you, if that’s your need.  If you need a disappointed hope, I guarantee that God will provide that, because He is faithful to provide our needs.

There’s another cistern that can’t hold water and it’s sweet water.  Exodus 15:25, “Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.”  Understand the test here.  We must see that bitter water was an apt illustration of the bitterness in their hearts.  He revealed himself in verse 26, “I will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God to do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments, keep all His statutes.  I will put none of the diseases on you which I’ve put on the Egyptians.  I the Lord am your Healer.”  Jehovah Rafah.  This is the first time this title Jehovah Rafa is mentioned.  It will be mentioned another sixty times in the Old Testament, but this is the first.  It’s a Healer in the sense of restore.  I’m not going to deal with the gift of healing and all that.  It’s a story all its own.  This particular problem was bitterness.  They were bitter in their hearts; a complaining spirit.

Notice how it’s healed.  Verse 25, He’s crying out to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree and he threw it into the waters and the waters became sweet.  Since we’re in Exodus, the picture of salvation, I have no problem relating the tree to the cross.  I think it’s the finished work.  If anything is going to heal my bitter heart you better believe it’s the cross.  It was a large body of water to satisfy all of these people.  The critics are saying, “No, there was a special tree with healing in its branches.”  I don’t think so. 

Anyway, if you need no water He’ll provide it.  If you need to be disappointed in something you’ve expect, it’s all designed to take you to Jesus.  If you need sweet water…  Let me tell you what sweet water is.  He’s talking about restoration, by the finished work of Christ on the cross we can be restored.  Hate can be turned into love, and an unforgiving spirit can be turned into a forgiving spirit, and selfishness can be turned to generosity and a proud heart can be made humble and a bitter person to make them sweet.  Do you realize what a miracle that would be?  The Lord is my shepherd and He restores my soul. 

Sometimes when I get to a principle like this it touches my heart because I know the joy of restoration.  There was a time I turned away from the Lord.  I wanted to hurt Him and wanted to sin.  I deliberately went out to try to sin because I was angry at God.  He restored me and brought me back.  It was such a precious thing.  Sweet water is better than bitter water, but it’s not Christ.  He turns the curse to a blessing when He touches my bitter heart and makes me humble again.  It’s an amazing miracle, but as wonderful as that is, that’s only preparation.

Do you think God has joy when He restores a backslidden Christian?  Indeed He has joy!  You know the parable of the Prodigal son and you see the father there.  When the prodigal returned to the father there was a great embrace and hugging and tears and rejoicing and restoration.  “My son was dead, and now he’s alive.”  There was great joy in the father’s house, but it’s sweet water.  That hug can’t go on forever. 

I know a Christian that messed up five years ago now.  He lost his wife, his kids, and it was terrible.  God restored him, and he can’t get past the restoration.  After the restoration there is a party with singing and dancing again.  He’s so busy in the hug that he can’t get to the party.  Joseph when he met Jacob it says they hugged a long time on each other’s neck.  I don’t want to shorten the time.  If God restores you, you hug the Lord and you praise God that you’ve been restored and hang on a long time, but not forever.  The Lord has great joy when you get restored, but it’s a joy He wished He never had.  It’s joyful and He’s happy but He doesn’t want that.  He’d much rather that you never need to be restored.  Sweet water is wonderful.  He turns the curse into a blessing.  He restores my soul.  But let’s move unto the Christian life.  There’s a party to be enjoyed.

Let’s look at Exodus 15:27, “Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the water.”  What was Elim?  Elim was an oasis in the desert; twelve springs of water and date palms.  I’m quite sure when they got to Elim they were relaxed and perhaps they were disappointed when that cloud began to move.  They probably said, “Come on, Lord.  Give us a few more days, and maybe a couple of more weeks here at Elim.”  If it’s bitter and we lose it we gripe.  When they were at the bitter waters, according to some commentators, it was less than two hours to Elim.  They could have been to Elim without griping.  It’s right down the road, right around the corner.  We need to patiently wait for the Lord. 

If you read only Exodus it looks like they went straight from Elim to the wilderness of Sin.  Exodus 16:1, “They set out from Elim and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin.”  But Exodus doesn’t give the whole picture.  Numbers 33:10, “They journeyed from Elim and camped by the Red Sea.”  After they went to Elim they went back to the Red Sea and camped.  In fact, there were several more camping places before they got to the wilderness of Sin.  It looks like they went from Elim to the wilderness.  No, they went from Elim and camped by the Red Sea, and from there to different places until they finally came to that wilderness.  My whole point of telling you that is that when the cloud moved, they were in the place of blessing.  Elim is oasis; it’s Hawaii and date palms.  They are out in the desert.  This is precious and it’s blessing.  God says, “Blessing is not Christ.”  Praise God for Elim and praise God for the springs and praise God for the date palms, but it’s not Christ. 

No water crowds you to Christ.  Bitter water crowds you to Christ.  Sweet water, enjoy the Lord, but it’s not Christ; you need the party.  And now here we are, and I can hear them say, “Please, Lord, let us spend a month at Elim at least, a place of blessing.”  Absence of blessing, emptiness, makes me long for Christ.  Disappointment makes me long for Christ.  Restoration makes me long for Christ.  And God wants us to know that Elim, blessing, is not Jesus.  Some people get all wrapped up, and praise God for blessing.  You’re happy if you are blessed.  We want blessing.  Someone says, “Such a blessing; I have a ministry.”  That’s great, but that’s not Christ.  Someone says, “I want the gifts of the Spirit.”  Well, if you get the gifts, it’s not Christ.  “I want power in my life.”  What are you going to do with it?  “I want signs, and I want wonders, I want to speak in tongues and I want to be able heal people, and I want a baptism.”  God will take you there for a little while, and then the cloud is going to move.  You’ve got to get to the fountain.  My real thirst, my deep thirst needs to be satisfied in Christ.

I want to take a couple of minutes here.  We’ve looked at cisterns that hold no water.  They are not Christ.  I showed you what water is not; not those four things.  Now I want to show you what thirst is not.  There’s a large illustration coming up with the manna and we’ll be looking at that.  Both illustrate, one thirst and one hunger; Christ is the drink and water of life.  Next week we’ll begin the manna.  Let me show you what thirst is not.

Does anyone know the name Marty Nystrom?  I have nothing against Marty.  He’s a song writer and he’s written many beautiful worship choruses:  “You Alone Are My Heart’s Desire”.  I sing his songs and I know his heart and I love his theme, but there is one song that he’s used a rather weak illustration.  I need to show you that and show you what thirst is not.  His theme is right, and I say, “Sing, Marty, Sing.”  But his illustration is a little off. Psalm 42.  He wrote the chorus “As the Deer Pants For Water”.  It’s based on Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?”  The psalmist is describing the condition of his own heart.  That’s where the psalmist is.  He was thirsting like a deer pants for the water brook.  The condition of thirsting was the psalmist’s condition, but here’s my question.  Was he recommending that for others?  He was going through that, but was he saying, “That’s how to thirst, like the deer?”

Let me show you several verses in the Psalms.  Psalms 42:3, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’”  Verse 5, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?”  Verse 6, “O my God, my soul is in despair within me.”  He doesn’t seem very happy there.  Verse 9, “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?  Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’”  Verse 10, “As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’”  Psalm 42:11, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?”

Is that what God desires from a Christian; tears, despair, shattering of the bones, forgetting God, it used to be this and now it’s gone, hopelessness?  Is that the Christian life?  He said, “I’ve come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.”  According to verse 4 he’s desiring the joy he used to have.  He doesn’t have it now.  The deer in this passage is the deer that is exhausted from running after the hunt.  He’s dehydrated.  This is a dehydrated deer and he’s moaning and groaning, ready to faint, ready to collapse.  It’s a desperation, and the Psalmist is saying, “I’m desperate; God is gone.  Where is He?  He’s gone and I’m in despair.  I’m like a deer after the hunt who is dehydrated and is ready to faint.” 

That’s not the way we are to thirst.  That is a wrong kind of thirst.  The thirst God wants is still David, but it’s in Psalm 63:1, “O God, You are my God.  I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Verse 5, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.” 

In this Psalm he’s thirsting from satisfaction, not for it. In Psalm 42 he’s thirsting for satisfaction.  He’s not satisfied and he wants to be.  So, he’s like the deer.  But in Psalm 63 he is satisfied and wants more. “I am completely satisfied in Christ.  I have an appetite; not a hunger. I’ve enjoyed tasting it and I want more.”  Psalm 63:7, “For You have been my help and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.  My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”  There’s a difference between thirsting from rest and thirsting for rest.  I’m suggesting that God wants us to be thirsty from our resting in Christ.  John 6:35 again, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’”  Verse 14, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

As God prepares us to drink from Christ, He’s faithful (this is the first principle), and will provide all your needs.  If He provides nothing, you’ll be panting like the deer for Him.  And if He provides bitter water, that’s not His plan for life, and we need it sometimes, so He disappoints us.  If He restores us, we praise God, but there’s a party and a ring and a fatted calf, and there’s song and music and dancing.  There’s the Christian experience, and that’s what He wants for you and me.  The blessing and praise God for Elim, and praise God for all the Oasis that He’s taken us to, but then we’ve got to say that it’s not the blessing I want—it’s the Blesser.

We’re going to end up with Christ the Bread of Life and the water of Life.  He’s our satisfaction.  One thing is needful; it’s Him.  You might think that’s for the spiritual giant, for somebody who has been to Bible school and knows Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew and all.  No, no; it’s not a dream.  It’s for every Christian.  You can have it.  Isaiah describes when they are just dreaming, and we’ll close with this.  Isaiah 29:8, “It will be as when a hungry man dreams—and behold, he is eating; but when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams—, he is drinking, but when he awakens, behold, he is faint and his thirst is not quenched.”

Don’t think that satisfaction in Christ, the fountain of life and living water, is just a dream and that’s for spiritual people.  That’s for you.  It’s not just a dream.  If you just have it as a dream you are going to continue to hunger and thirst.  May God help us!  Next week, Lord willing, we’ll begin the second illustration.  This is thirst.  Then we’ll look at hunger, illustrated by the manna and the quail.  Let’s pray together.

Heavenly Father, thank You for being so faithful to bring into our lives and allow us to go through these empty cisterns, so that You can bring up in our hearts what needs to be dealt with, so we can be real through and through.  Lord, thank You for the times we’ve had nothing, and thank You for the times we walk by sight and found it bitter.  Thank You for Your restoration.  Thank You for all Your blessings, but our hearts thirst for Christ.  Take us to Christ we pray.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

(audio and transcript is available for download from www.biblestudyministriesinc.com)