Introduction: It cannot be over-emphasized that, in their desert wanderings and rebellion, the explanation of how God would abide Israel’s continual unbelief is given to Moses and the elders of Israel in an ‘up close and personal’ encounter’ with God’s justice at the Rock of Horeb – otherwise known as Mt. Sinai where the law would later be given. In Exodus 17:1-7, at the ‘Rock’ which was Christ Himself, God exacted the price of Israel’s disobedience on the back of His own Son. By that punishment alone would God’s grace continue to flow to the stiff-necked people of God! May we be reminded in our day also that our standing with God and experience of God’s favor rests on the judicial work of Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross, and applied on our behalf in the Heavenly court-room.
Mon/Tues: read Exodus 17:1-7; 24:1-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:21. Because Jesus our ‘Smitten Shepherd’ was struck for us on the Cross, and still bears the marks of being wounded for us in Heaven, we are to ascend by faith to see God’s grace secured for us in Heaven. Without such a faith-union with our Heavenly Savior and a clear understanding of what He has accomplished for us before the Heavenly Mercy Seat, we cannot possibly experience His saving love in our lives down here on earth. In short, a clear mental picture of Christ smitten as our Substitute at the ‘Rock’ of Calvary, is the first requirement of saving faith. Such an understanding of Christ’s punishment in our place, portrayed throughout all of Scripture, must occur before we can enjoy the other benefits of salvation.
Think for example of the elders of Israel who stood with Moses before the ‘Rock’ in Exodus 17:1-7. Later on in Exodus 24:9-11 these same elders would enjoy the benefits of sacrificial feasting and communion with the living God – much like we by faith enjoy the blessings of God’s Table at the Lord’s Supper. Yet notice the order: the communion with God in Exodus 24 would mean nothing until by faith the transaction for sin was understood at the Rock in Exodus 17! The elders needed to ‘see’ how their God would deal sacrificially with their sin before they could enjoy the worship and presence of God at Mt. Sinai!
Meditate and Pray: Take stock of some verses from two hymns which emphasize such a ‘vision of faith’, focused on God’s sacrificial love:
Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.
Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness. (Hymn # 251)
Amidst us our Belovèd stands,
And bids us view His piercèd hands;
Points to the wounded feet and side,
Blest emblems of the Crucified.
If now, with eyes defiled and dim,
We see the signs, but see not Him;
O may His love the scales displace,
And bid us see Him face to face!
(Hymn # 427)
Weds/Thurs: read Exodus 17:7; Romans 9:1-5, 30-32 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Sadly, God’s people as a whole remained unmoved by the powerful picture of sacrificial love which the elders would have recounted to Israel after they saw Moses strike the Rock. Carnal Israel only cared about outward signs of spiritual privileges. They only would believe that “God was with them” in Exodus 17:7 if He continued to fill their bellies and slake their thirst. Manna, water and circumcision were merely works done for and in their flesh. They did not look beyond these signs to the greater spiritual transaction for sin which took place at the Rock! Though they partook of “spiritual food and drink”, (1 Cor. 10:2-4), they failed to begin with the first step of saving faith, (namely), taking their sins to God for Him to deal with in the Person of His Son, “smitten for them” at the Rock!
Paul’s verdict in Romans 9 is clear. Though they possessed all the outward spiritual blessings of Romans 9:1-5, (“adoption; divine glory; the covenants; the law; the temple and the promises of God, etc.), they failed to begin and end with faith according to Romans 9:32. How tragic!
Meditate and Pray: Let us treasure the gift of real faith – called by old preachers “evangelical” or “saving” faith. Let us resolve to fight for it and defend in the midst of a world which increasingly minimizes its importance. Use Noah Webster’s precise definition of faith in his 1828 dictionary to shore up your understanding of and appreciation for what true saving faith is:
Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God’s testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.
- Being justified by faith. Romans 5.
- Without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11.
- For we walk by faith, and not by sight. 2 Cor. 5.
- With the heart man believeth to righteousness. Romans 10.
- The faith of the gospel is that emotion of the mind, which is called trust or confidence, exercised towards the moral character of God, and particularly of the Savior. Dwight
- Faith is an affectionate practical confidence in the testimony of God. J. Hawes.
- Faith is a firm, cordial belief in the veracity of God, in all the declarations, of his word; or a full and affectionate confidence in the certainty of those things which God has declared, and because he has declared them. L. Woods.
Fri/Sat/Sun: read Exodus 17:7 and 1 Corinthians 1:11-17; 10:1-6. Great spiritual privileges can be enjoyed with no spiritual benefit as long as saving faith is lacking. For example, even though Israel of old was “baptized into Moses” in 1 Corinthians 10:2, they experienced God’s displeasure according to 1 Corinthians 10:5 – most of them dying in the desert because of their unbelief. In the same way, though the Corinthians in the days of Paul boasted in their baptism and who had baptized them according to 1 Corinthians 1:11-16, Paul makes clear that such a baptism means nothing unless it is becomes a sign of faith in the Gospel which Paul preached in 1 Corinthians 1:17.
Meditate and Pray: Use hymn # 528 to reaffirm your faith:
My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary,
Now hear me while I pray;
Take all my guilt away;
Oh, let me from this day
Be wholly Thine.
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire;
As Thou hast died for me,
Oh, may my love to Thee
Pure, warm, and changeless be,
A living fire.