Lecture 11 - Spirit and Flesh

(Exodus, chap. 17.)

"BREAD shall be given him, his waters shall be sure," says the prophet
of salvation. We have seen how the first part of this was fulfilled to
delivered Israel; we are now to see the fulfilment of the rest; with
deepest significance in their application to us, as those upon whom
"the ends of the ages have come," and for whom their accumulated wealth
of blessing has been reserved.

In the gift of water, as of bread, we find the stamp of grace. It was in answer to the people's murmuring that it was sent.

"And the people did chide with Moses,.. . and the people murmured
against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up
out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?
And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this
people? They be almost ready to stone me. And the Lord said unto Moses,
Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel,
and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and
go: behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and
thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that
the people may drink."

Grace is a mightier triumph over sin than is judgment. When we look
through the figure to the reality, how mighty is the triumph here! For
the interpretation we have the 7th chapter of John, as the 6th has
already interpreted the manna for us.

In this 7th chapter the Feast of Tabernacles had come - the remembrance
of that wilderness - journey past, of which the manna speaks as of a
present thing. Divine power has brought them to the land, but, alas,
Israel has not recognized the Hand that has led them there. Himself is
there, but unknown, unrecognized - He is not the Master of the feast,
but the witness of its hollowness. Thus He goes not up at first, but
after it has begun, and not openly, but in secret. Then in the last,
the great, day of the feast, in which its mockery would become
apparent, "Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto
Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out
of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." And the inspired
historian adds, "This Spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe
on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because
Jesus was not yet glorified."

Thus if the manna shows forth the Lord upon earth, in humiliation and
rejection, the living water depends upon His exaltation and glory. If
men are to be recipients of the Holy Ghost, His blessed life on earth
alone suffices not for this: the work must be accomplished for them
which alone enables them to receive, or God to give, this unspeakable
gift. The glorification of Jesus in fact begins in the very depth of
His humiliation. It is on the night of His betrayal - the traitor
having been dismissed to do the terrible work to which he had sold
himself, and the cross being now in near and full view - that the Lord
says to His few faithful ones, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and
God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also
glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him" (John 13:
31, 32). Thus, in the cross, the Son of Man was glorified, and all the
bright display of divine perfection shone out there. What manifestation
of power could so exhibit God in His innermost nature, as where for man
He stooped to human weakness and more than human suffering? What
judgment upon sin could so tell out His holiness as where in atoning
sorrows "righteousness and peace kissed each other?" Nowhere was sin
seen so evil - nowhere God so supreme in goodness.

Hence if God were glorified in the Son of Man after this fashion, God
must, as the result of this, glorify Him In Himself. Christ's present
place is the witness of what that work is to God. He is exalted to
heaven that all may see and rejoice in it. And, upon earth, the descent
of the Holy Spirit as the divine seal put upon the men who are the
fruit of His work, is as complete a testimony to the efficacy of His

In view of all this, this scene in Exodus becomes most significant.
Here Horeb, "the dry place," yields water. The Lord Himself is there.
He stands upon the rock which is to display at once His power, His
sufficiency and His grace. The rod which had smitten the river smites
it - the rod of power in behalf of His people - and the streams gush
out in abundant supply for all Israel's thirsty multitude. The smiting
of our living Rock has created for us a spring of refreshment and
satisfaction as inexhaustible as the eternal source from which it
comes; and its source is in God Himself - the God whose name is love.

The type of water is pregnant with instruction, as that which supplies
man's strongest craving, and deepest necessity. Thirst unsatisfied
kills sooner than hunger; nor can hunger itself be really satisfied
where thirst is not, at least in a measure, met. A glance at the need
to which water ministers will enable us to understand this.

Without water most fruitful soil is unable to yield nourishment to the
rootlets of the plant, which will die of drought in the midst of
abundance. Water dissolves the nutriment, and supplies it in a shape
suited to be taken up and assimilated into sap and juice. In the plant,
and in the animal body, every constituent part is saturated with water,
which alone enables it to fulfil its function and take its place in
living relation to the whole. How perfect and beautiful an expression
thus of that constant ministry of the Spirit, with which for due and
healthy life we must be "filled," and by which alone we are enabled to
absorb and digest all spiritual food!

From the beginning of all true life on earth it was so. Every one who
has preceded us upon the path of faith has been sustained of the Spirit
as born of the Spirit at first. This is not peculiar to Christian
times. Yet the streams from the smitten Rock have in them that which is
peculiar, and we should learn surely to appreciate and thankfully
acknowledge the distinctive grace that has been shown toward us. All
streams carry with them the witness of their source to the soil through
which they flow. The Spirit of God is come down to us, is the fruit of
accomplished redemption and of our acceptance, and the Spirit of
adoption is within us, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. A new relationship
to God, in and through His Beloved, such as could not have been known
before is now made consciously our own. "At that day," says He, in
anticipation of it, "ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in
Me, and I in you." Thus the Spirit ministers Christ, and in Him the
Father; communion with the Father and the Son becomes our portion, and
herein fulness of joy is ours. It may rebuke the littleness of our
apprehension of it to be told that, in result of the Spirit's presence
in us, "rivers of living water" would flow out from us; for the vessel
is not the measure of the stream at all.

The last half of our chapter is the history of another thing. A new foe
appears; one but too well known, and conflict with whom is but too
constant an experience of the redeemed of the Lord.

The new foe is Amalek; we have his genealogy in the book of Genesis. He
was a grandson of Esau or Edom, whose latter name, earned by his
actions, is almost identical with Adam. Esau, the "profane person, who
for one morsel of meat sold his birthright," and when he would have
inherited the blessing was rejected, is thus a representative of the
"old man."
If we compare this chapter in Exodus with the 20th of Numbers, we shall
find a strikingly similar scene in the first part of each, though
separated in time by nearly forty years. The murmuring of the people in
their thirst; the name Meribah (strife) given in each case to the
place; the water brought from the rock to supply their thirst; and
while in Exodus conflict with Amalek follows, in Numbers,
correspondingly, follows a scene with Edom. There are great differences
too, but the coincidences are not meaningless; there is nothing
haphazard in the word of God; and I point them out as confirmation of
the view I take, that Amalek typifies the flesh's will, or lust. The
apostle Peter refers to this, it seems to me, when he says, "Dearly
beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly
lusts, which war against the soul."

"The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary one to the other,

so that ye may not do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5: 17).

"May not" is the literal rendering of this passage - not "cannot," as
the common version reads. The constant opposition between "flesh" and
"spirit" is to hinder the man who has the Spirit from doing what he
would. If it said "cannot," it would deny the power of the Spirit to
control the flesh. On the contrary, the apostle says, "Walk in the
Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." But the flesh
is still there for all that; ready, alas, ever to assert itself. How
solemn in this way to find, when spiritually interpreted, after the
water from the rock, the conflict with Amalek!

We must mark just with what Scripture associates this attack of Amalek.
The connections in Scripture are very important; and the exact
connection we shall find to be this:

"And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the
chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord,
saying, Is the Lord among us or not? Then came Amalek and fought with
Israel in Rephidim."

That is, the moral link as thus given, is not between the gift of the
water and Amalek's onset, but between the unbelief of the people and
this attack.

Let us particularly note that Amalek assaults Israel, not Israel
Amalek. God had not called to this war. He had not said, Seek out
Amalek and destroy him; but Amalek seeks out Israel; and Israel's
unbelief exposes them to the attack. So the apostle does not say, "War
against fleshly lusts," but "abstain" from them - which, if it were
done, no war would ensue; if not, then fleshly lusts war against you:
you are entangled, and need to fight.

This sort of conflict is not a necessity of God's imposing, but the
result of faith not having been in exercise as it should be. Did we
"hold off from" the lusts of the flesh by the whole length of death
with Christ to sin, as we have already seen it - were we actually
reckoning ourselves dead, as we are bound and entitled to do - conflict
of this kind we would not have: dead men neither fight nor are allured.
The apostle similarly presses the force of it by saying, "He that is
dead is freed" (or rather "justified") "from sin." That is, you cannot
charge lusts upon a dead man. This, of course, is faith's reckoning,
but it is a true one. Let us hold fast to this, that we have died with
Christ, and give no place to the flesh and its lusts. This is faith's
prerogative, our privilege, our duty.
This conflict, then, comes from faith's failure, with us as with Israel
in the picture here. Being entangled, we must fight in order to be
free; and this chapter in Exodus may teach us the method of it.

A new leader appears now against this new foe:

"And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with
Amalek. .. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with

Joshua is Jesus. The names, as we know, are the same, and Christ in us
is our Leader now. Christ acting by the Spirit is distinctively what
Joshua represents to us, the Captain of our salvation, who leads us
into the practical apprehension of our portion in the heavenly places
into which He is gone. It is most important to realize that, for
fighting the battles of the wilderness, we want such a Leader. A
positive link with the heavenlies must be sustained in order to have
successful conflict upon earth. Thus the appearance of Joshua fitly
connects with the water from the rock, type, as we have seen, of the
ministry of the Spirit. This tells us too that, while in a certain
sense, wilderness experience may precede Canaan experience, yet the two
must in fact go together for successful traversing the wilderness
itself. We want the positive enjoyment of what is ours in the heavens
in order to be really pilgrims and strangers upon earth. And this we
shall find all through these types henceforth.

Joshua, then, is our leader; but even Joshua's success is dependent, as
we see directly, upon Moses being on the hilltop before God, and the
holding up of the rod of power - God's rod, as it is significantly
called here - before Him. If Moses' hands are kept up, Israel prevails;
but if Moses' hands are let down, then Amalek prevails. They put,
therefore, a stone under Moses, and Aaron and Hur on either side hold
up his hands, and his hands are upheld till the going down of the sun.
"And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the

Moses is here also a type of Christ, as he is almost everywhere. And
his position on the mount, holding up the rod of power, speaks plainly
enough of Christ gone in to God, presenting before Him the value of
that work in which divine power has acted in behalf of His people. All
spiritual actings in us depend upon the position Christ has taken for
us. And these supporters of Moses' hands figure, as it seems, that in
Him (not external to Him) which keeps Him in the place He has taken for
us. On the one hand Aaron represents the priestly character of One
"touched with the feeling of our infirmities," gracious and
compassionate; on the other, Hur, "white," speaks to us as the manna
did, of one who fully reflects the light which God is. Here, then, is
mercy towards man, with righteousness Godward: an "Advocate with the
Father," and also "Jesus Christ the righteous."

Thus we prevail: Christ's action in us depending upon His acting for
us; and Amalek is defeated. Blessed be God for this security as to all
His own! It is our only hope and confidence.

But, while all this is surely true, I feel that some will ask, Is there
nothing on our part in defeating the enemy? The question is reasonable
and right. Let us seek to answer it.
In the first place, it is as important as it is plain, that our
dependence is upon Christ all through. Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Hur,
surround us with testimonies of our depend-ence and His care. And he
who knows himself best, will know how needful is this reminding. We are
prone to go in our own strength instead of His, and even when failure
testifies of our weakness, we are still prone to lean upon it as if we
had strength.

Here, Joshua is the Leader, that is, Christ as entered into the
heavenly places. It is occupation with Him there that gives power over
our enemies here, and frees us from the power of earthly things. Of
this the whole series of wilderness types constantly bears witness. We
cannot insist too strongly upon its importance.

Let us remember, too, that it was "with the edge of the sword" Joshua
discomfited his enemies; and the "sword of the Spirit is the word of
God." It is this which "pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul
and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts
and intents of the heart." It is this which enables for self-judgment,
which is really the judgment of the foes of our peace and blessing. Our
Amalek is within. Our battle-ground is that of our own hearts. The
citadel secured, all foes have lost their vantage ground and means of
access to us; God Himself can be manifestly for us; and if God be for
us, who can be against us?

How good to have in this Word what completely exposes us to ourselves,
and the world also amid which we move, and with which our natural links
are! How blessed, above all, is its testimony to my soul that Christ is
for me, loves, is mine own; who not only searches me out, but enables
me to welcome the searching! The light of the glory of God in the face
of Jesus Christ shines down into my heart, and my heart unfolds to
receive it as a flower to bathe itself in the warmth and brightness of
the summer sun. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know
my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in
the way everlasting."

Real dependence upon God on the one hand, thorough subjection to His
Word on the other, these principles with one who knows redemption and
acceptance in the Beloved, are what will carry him safe and victorious
through all oppositions and hindrances. They will enable him to break
through every entanglement and allurement of the "fleshly lusts which
war against the soul." Only let us again remember, and be thankful for
it, that what we are called to is not continual conflict, nor (properly
indeed) conflict at all, but the happier path of those who have died
unto sin once, and in that they live, live unto God;
who reckon themselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God in Jesus
Christ our Lord.
Amalek is beaten off, but Amalek is not destroyed. Israel have gained
nothing by the conflict; and by the victory only a free and
unobstructed road. If we know what this means, let us bless God for it,
and in peace pursue our way. The battle with Amalek was but an episode
in their history, not a day by day struggle, as so many of us find it,
and make it to be. In the epistle to the Philippians, the epistle of
Christian experience, pro-perly so called, the flesh is only mentioned
to say, "We have no confidence in it"; and these "are the true
circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ
Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." May we be more fully such!

We reach in the next chapter the end of the first section of the book
of Exodus; and of this final chapter I can say little in connection
with the story of our redemption. I shall close, therefore, here. We
have followed out, so far as I have been able to read it, the
deliverance of the people of God from the hand of the enemy, a type of
our own from one more dread and mighty. We have traced out briefly, the
provision made for them in the wilderness into which they are now come.

May our hearts prize these wonderful lessons more; and may God make
them to us all that He designed in writing them, and laying them up for