We have before us now the completion of Israel's
deliverance out of Egypt. Not till they crossed the sea were they fully
delivered. Indeed, salvation is not spoken of until they come to it. It is
manifest that salvation, as typified in the things we are considering, implies
much more than deliverance from wrath and condemnation; and yet this is the
sense in which we habitually use it. Here, at the sea, the question is no more
between the people and God, but between them and their enemies. The question
with God was settled on the night of the passover - fully and entirely settled.
The question here was the old, the first question, that of servitude to Pharaoh
or of liberty, but which they had learned could not be answered first. This
question God Himself now takes up on their behalf, and they find God for them
in a more manifest way than ever yet. Already, from the time of the passover,
God was with them; but how vividly the Red Sea makes this manifest to them.
If we look at the doctrinal part of the epistle to the Romans, the first eight
chapters, we shall see that the first part of it (to the middle of chap. 5) is
occupied with the blood of Christ and its effects. There we see that the
righteousness of God itself, which that blood-shedding declares, provides a
place of assured shelter. We are "justified by His blood," which in its effects
reaches on to the final judgment of the world, and assures us that "much more
shall we be saved from wrath through Him." The certainty of final salvation is
argued (triumphantly settled, let us say) from the simple and blessed fact of
present justification. All possible charges are then repelled; judgment is
rolled away for ever; and with our standing in present grace, and glory as our
confident expectation, we are enabled to glory even in tribulation also,
conscious that it, as all else, is working together under God's hand in
blessing to us.
This is essentially passover truth: sheltered from
judgment, eating the lamb, and equipped for the journey. But now in the next
part of the epistle, from chapter 5: 12 onwards, the question of practice at
once comes in:
"What then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may
abound?" "Shall we sin, because we are not under the law but under grace?" and
when the discovery of the hopeless evil of the flesh is made, one question
more: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this
All through this part the question is as to the dominion of sin,
from which we are delivered by death, and brought into a new place beyond it:
"That the body of sin might be annulled, that henceforth we should not serve
sin." It is by death we are "made free from sin;" we have died with Christ, and
"the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law
of sin and death." Thus the divine method of deliverance is given us.
we must look more closely at this, and in detail. By God's grace, may those who
listen to me now, trace, if they have never done so before, the steps of this
deliverance, and make it their own. It is a wonderful and real thing, and we
cannot take for granted that those who have peace with God have this
Peace with God we have found already in the 5th of Romans;
yet, in the 7th chapter, we find the cry of, "I am carnal, sold under sin!" It
is no longer peace with God that is in question; but sin in my nature as a law
of sin; this is the subject debated upon. And though souls yet ignorant of
peace may pass through this experience, and thus naturally mix it up with the
question of peace, the two things are in Romans kept quite apart. Let us not be
afraid then to entertain this question: Have we passed through this experience?
- for experience it is, and we must pass through it as such. 0 friends, have we
learned that song of salvation as having passed through the sea, untouched by
it? Is Egypt finally and for ever behind you? Happy indeed if it be so! Bondage
to Pharaoh!- Does it not cease on the night of the passover? In a most
important sense it does. Chains are broken, and a real start is made. God is
with them; never can His claim to them be cancelled, nor the enemy retain
possession of His people. In a true sense, therefore, their slavery ceased that
night; the stroke of judgment upon Egypt became the means of their own escape.
But passing from God's point of view to that of the people, with whatever "high
hand" they may start, we soon find them trembling again before their old
tyrant, and in such fear that the actual presence of God with them does not
remove it! Shut in between the desert and the sea, with Pharaoh's chariots and
horsemen in full pursuit, their cry is a cry of despair. The question between
them and their old enemy has to be taken up afresh by God in their behalf, and
to be ended finally. God fights for them; and they do nought but "stand still
and see the salvation of the Lord."
And so with a soul who has learned the
safe shelter of the blood of Christ - seen the judgment of God rolling past;
the chains broken off his hands; the question of deliverance from sin's law
really settled. God, who has definitely called him from sinnership to
saintship, will not fail to make him what that word imports. As in the type of
the leper (Levit. 14: 14-18), if the blood first sanctifies, or sets one apart
to God, the oil cannot fail to be put upon the blood: the power of the Holy
Spirit is there to make real and actual that to which the precious blood has
redeemed him. But it does not follow that he comes into the proper realization
of this at once. Alas, the first teaching of holiness has to be, "That in me
(even as a believer), in my flesh, good does not dwell;" and for deliverance
from sin in ourselves we have to learn the painful and humbling lesson of
thorough and continual weakness.
When one has just learned the blessed fact
of justification by the blood of Christ, and seen the shadow of death turned
for him into morning by faith in a risen Saviour, whose death has made
atonement for his sins, it seems indeed to him as if sin could no more put
shackles upon his enfranchised soul. The joy of this deliverance seems as if it
would be power from henceforth. Joyfully he starts with God; for God is indeed
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to
lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, to go
by day and night; He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the
pillar of fire by night from before the people."
Thus the path is begun
with full provision for mastery over the difficulties of the way. By day, by
night, they are to make continued progress. So led, so cared for, His presence
with them, what progress should theirs bel Alas, in a few days all seemed to
have failed. Instead of a short path out of Egypt, by the way of the
Philistines, with no sea to obstruct their way, they are turned round by "the
way of the wilderness of the Red Sea." In a new way they must learn deliverance
from Egypt's dominion, and out of its territory. They find themselves on the
border of Egypt with the sea in front, the desert around, and all Egypt is
poured out after them! Do we not hear the cry, "0 wretched man that I am! Who
shall deliver me?"
Did it not look as if God had deserted them? And we, in
whom God has created holy desires after holiness, have to learn that these
desires can only be truly attained in God's own way - to turn away in utter
helplessness from ourselves to Christ - and Christ not in power, but in death,
where "our old man" was put away, buried out of sight.
At peace with God
through the precious blood of Christ, yet how many think that as to inbred sin
(the sin that dwells in us) there is no effectual deliverance! Their "mind" is
indeed changed. With the mind they serve the law of God, but with the flesh the
law of sin. They do not see that they have reached the border of Egypt, and
that though further progress seems impossible, God is at hand to give such a
deliverance as to make their hearts sing of it forever.
The Red Sea is the
border of Egypt which represents the world away from God. If we ask how men
pass out of the world, the universal answer is, "By death." And our Shepherd
has made by His death a dry path for us through death, as the rod of Moses made
a dry path for Israel through the sea. The "strong east wind" of adversity
blowing through all the awful "night" of His distress, cleaved the way for us
through the waters of death, through which, by faith, we pass out of sin's and
the law's dominion, as Israel out of Pharaoh's rule. Let us trace this
experimentally, for it is experience we have now to do with. Let us follow the
actual track of a person whom God delivered from bondage to sin, and whose
history is the type of an actual and realized deliverance.
Let us get
before us then this soul just started on the path with God. Full of the
precious reality of escaped judgment, his bonds fallen off, the joy of his
salvation is too much in his heart for the world to have place there. He almost
thinks, in his earnestness and self-ignorance, that he never can fall into sin
again. But as time passes, it begins to change: his joy becomes less absolute;
the world begins to have more reality and power; he realizes the fact that he
has still within him, child of God as he is, a nature which is not all "new."
He realizes that sin is in him still. Things presented by the world awaken
lusts within, and there begins a struggle of which those who know it realize
its painfulness. The old enemy is reviving, gathering strength, and putting on
the old chains again; and the soul sinks in dismay at the return of what it
thought almost gone for ever. Israel's despairing cry finds its answer in the
groan over a body of death which passes its power to deal with, whether to
improve or cast aside: "0 wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the
body of this death?"
It is "between Migdol and the Sea" that Pharaoh comes
upon them. We have seen what the Sea is; what is Migdol? It means
"watch-tower;" often a military post, as the natural accompaniment of a border
region. Did jealous eyes watch the escaping hosts of Israel? Egypt was not
friendly now, and a watch-tower in an enemy's country is not a place of help or
refuge, but a stronghold armed against them to the teeth.
And the New
Testament gives this view. In the 7th of Romans, which is the key to the
situation here, we find Migdol (the law) looming threateningly enough to the
soul seeking to escape from sin's law. However strange it may sound to us,
Scripture it is that says, "The strength of sin is the law." Yea, even because
"the law is spiritual." But, says the one whose experience it is, "I am carnal,
sold under sin."
Men will have it that because the law is spiritual it must
be power for spirituality, power against sin. But Scripture decisively says,
"Without the law sin was dead; for I was alive without the law once, but when
the commandment came, sin revived and I died; and the commandment which was
ordained unto life, I found to be unto death; for sin, taking occasion by the
commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me!" Is not this just the position
between Migdol and the Sea, where Pharaoh overtook Israel? Do you know this
position? If you have but reached thus far, it will explain itself much better
than my words can do? Indeed, if you have not reached it, it will be impossible
to explain it. The questions, objections, reasonings, which fill this part of
Romans, show the difficulty with which souls apprehend the true power of the
law of God. Think of one seeking to obey the divine commandment, finding that
the sin he is seeking to subdue, is slaying him by the law he is seeking to
keep! That the law instead of being the strength of holiness is actually the
strength of sin (1 Cor. 15: 56).
Let me remark here that it is not now a
question of justification or of wrath; that was all settled before. No; the
point now is entirely how "we should bring forth fruit unto God;" a question of
being "delivered from the law that we should serve God in newness of spirit,
not in the oldness of the letter." This is what so many find hard to
understand. That the law cannot justify is comparatively simple; but that it
hinders fruit-bearing is hard to realize. As sure as Migdol was in the enemy's
country, and that Israel must be out of it to escape attack, so must we be out
of reach from the law to escape its condemning power. Under the law,
self-occupation ends with the discovery of an impracticable body of sin and
death, from which I, "wretched man," see no deliverance. I cannot improve this
flesh in which sin dwells. I cannot bring about the spiritual state I long for,
which would satisfy me. God gives me no help at achieving self-complacency. I
desire the consciousness of holiness; but His law gives me the consciousness of
sin! Whence then can deliverance come?
Now then let us look at the type
again. Mark that God does not arm Israel's hosts and lead them out against
Pharaoh. He strengthened not their arm to bring salvation to them. They have,
instead, to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." So with us in the
antitype of this memorable struggle. God does not call us to fight against the
flesh and subdue it. He neither points nor leads us in that direction at all.
"What other course?" many a heart might ask. Ah, God's thoughts are not as our
thoughts, nor His ways as our ways. So now: as Moses' rod is lifted up over the
sea, the east wind rises, and as the night falls the waters are divided from
shore to shore! How strange this pathway! How impossible for aught but divine
power to effect! People of God, this is your escape from the enemy! Know you
this path, beloved friends? See you what it means? Your deliverance is by the
way which Christ has made - quite out of Egypt to the other side.
"night" of Christ's unequalled sorrow, as the wail of the east wind of
calamity, has opened for us the path of deliverance. That precious death is
ours! Do you understand? We are dead by it, dead with Him, passed out of the
condition of men in the flesh. It is not merely that our sins are gone: blessed
be God, they are, every one of them; but that is not all - myself, my miserable
self, is gone! The death of Christ has put me away as a man in the flesh, as a
child of Adam. I have died with Christ. His death has ended my history before
God. In Him who has passed through death, I have passed through it; my standing
now is in Him alone!
This is true of every child of God. It is what is his
from the first moment of faith in Christ - not a matter of progress or of
attainment, though there is an attainment of it too. What is ours already, we
are called to apprehend as our own; thus it is that we find the passage of the
Red Sea not taking place on the passover-night, but after several stages of
journey beyond this. To enjoy the blessedness of the place, we must in fact
have reached it experimentally - must have come by way of Migdol through the
Sea. May some of you travel it with me now for the first time, and prove for
yourselves the blessed end of Pharaoh's, of sin's, tyranny forever.
with Christ! In Christ beyond death! May God teach us all these two lessons.
The self I was taking up to improve and cultivate, He has set aside forever by
the Cross. To cultivate the flesh is of no use, for "it is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be."
Some may turn upon me, and say, "But,
sir, I am a child of God, I am not all flesh, I am born again, I have a new
nature." And so had he a new nature, who cries, "0 wretched man that I am! Who
shall deliver me from the body of this death?" It was his new nature that made
him groan so! "I delight in the law of God," he says, "after the inward man;"
"With the mind I myself serve the law of God." Yes, but that did not hinder his
having to say also, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the
law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my
members." Thank God for a new nature; but deliverance is another matter. Is
there not a law in your members warring against the law of your mind? Are you
not learning impotency rather than power?- the strength of sin rather than the
holiness you seek?
You have a new nature, and think you have something to
cultivate. I do not deny it; but do you understand what is its cultivation? The
principle of the new nature is faith. Faith, hope, and love are its
characteristics. Do you not see that all these require, not self-occupation,
but occupation with Christ. You take up the law to help you, and the law tells
you just what you must be and do, but it gives you no power for it. Power is in
the Spirit, which we receive through faith in Christ. Thus grace, not law, is
the way of holiness. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not
under the law, but under grace."
"Israel who followed after the law of
righteousness, did not attain to the law of righteousness. And wherefore?
Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law."
These principles are essentially different. You must come away from the place
between Migdol and the Sea. You must follow Israel's path through the waters
before you can know deliverance from Pharaoh and from Egypt. You must learn
death with Christ, and leave yourself as it were in the Sea, and take your
place as in Christ; then you will find, to your unspeakable joy, you have left
your enemies also in the waters.
What a moment for Israel when they looked
back in the dawn of the morning from the other shore, and saw the dead bodies
of their enemies upon the waters and upon the shores! What a victory, for which
they had never lifted a hand! And what rapturous joy to the soul that has
apprehended Christ's death as its own, when in the light of resurrection it
sees how God has delivered him from the rampant evil he could not meet or
control! "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Christ, that the
body of sin might be annulled, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
Notice that it is "in the morning watch" that "the Lord looked unto the host of
the Egyptians, . . . and troubled the host of the Egyptians." And this also,
that "the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared, . . . and the
Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea." Christ is "raised from
the dead by the glory of the Father." Here is the morning for us. His work
accepted - Himself accepted as the representative of His redeemed people, and
in Him is now our standing; in Him is our happy place, and Himself is the
object of our hearts and happy service. Faith, love, hope, twine around Him
their tendrils, and flourish there. Here the new nature expands and develops
and bears fruit - fruit which is not for her own taste or enjoyment, but for
Christ. When will Christians give up the thought of feeding upon their own
fruit? When will they give up seeking satisfaction in their own attainments?
When will they learn that self-consciousness and self-occupation are the
antipodes of holiness, instead of essential features of it? When will they
cease to loiter between Migdol and the Sea, and pass to the other side, away
from Egypt and its bondage?
Blessed be God, He has given us the title to
turn away from self. The self we would cultivate He has set aside by the Cross;
and the faith which characterizes the new nature, turns ever away froni self
towards Him in whom It delights. Be content to be nothing; God has made Christ
all to us - sanctification as well as righteousness. We grow up to what we have
before us. We learn the manners of the company we keep. "We all with open face
beholding the glory of the LORD, are changed into the same image from glory to
glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit," as the margin of our Bibles more truly
Our Lord has called us to be His own. We are not "in the flesh;" we
belong not to Egypt, but to Christ. May the wonderful type we have been looking
at instruct many a soul in this. How great the confirmation and clearing of our
faith it will produce, as this last verse teaches:
"And Israel saw that
great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the
Lord, and believed the Lord, and His servant Moses."