I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud, and that they all passed through the sea.
Rock and the Keys! Yet it was done, and done thoroughly, so that the changed body of St. Peter is quite as noteworthy as the changed mind, the same body but functionally subdued to a well-governed organism. During the forty days between the Lord's resurrection and ascension, the man and the apostle emerged from the chrysalis. At Pentecost, what a commanding figure he presents! No haste, no spasmodic action, now, but equipoise and cool wisdom and the courage of repose. In temperament, no less than in official position, St. Peter is the antecedent of St. Paul. And their difference herein, according to providential ordination, was carried out in their training and culture, so that diversity, jealous of its rights in all things, is only self insistent for the sake of prospective unity. Now, St. Paul wishes to put this subject of danger on the bodily side of human life in the strongest possible light for his own benefit and that of the Corinthians. What then? A nation rises before him. By the arm of Jehovah, Egypt has been smitten, the Red Sea has opened a pathway to their triumphant march, and waves and winds have chanted the anthem of a victory in which they had no share. And this nation passed through the sea," and "were all baptized ante Moses," as their mediatorial leader, "in the cloud and in the sea." Nay, more; the typical idea is still further wrought out, and baptism and the Lord's Supper are conjoined. "All did eat the same spiritual meat; all did drink the same spiritual drink;" the meat and drink were from above; the Holy Ghost was present as the source of the miracles and the Divine Agent of blessing; the "spiritual" is insisted on, for "that Rock was Christ." There was a revelation to the senses and there was a revelation to the spirit. To deny the supersensuous element is to destroy the force of the analogy, since it is not a resemblance to the imagination alone, but a real likeness to the reason, Christianity and its sacraments being prominent in St. Paul's view. It was not, then, a mere miracle to the body and for the body. It was likewise a supernatural demonstration, a gracious influence from the Holy Ghost, a prelusive blessedness brought within reach of experience in that dispensation of types and shadows. It was not our spirituality; nevertheless, it was spiritual, since "that Rock was Christ." Our Lord said in his Capernaum discourse, just after his great miracle that fed thousands, "Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." Did not the miracle, wrought so lavishly for the public, wrought without solicitation, seem to the excited multitude a sign that Christ was the national Messiah their hearts craved to have? Next day, he disenchanted them by sweeping away the secular illusion and telling them plainly, "I am that Bread of life." The contrast between the manna of the wilderness and the bread of life was stated and enforced at a time, in a way, under circumstances, calculated to secure its object. It did not effect its purpose. "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him;" and henceforth the popular expectation of a worldly Messiah was a waning moon in a darkening night. And this contrast was recognized by St. Paul even while adhering most closely to the parallelism. On the ground of the parallelism, he argues the eminent privileges of the Jews, the opportunities enjoyed, the Divine manifestation, the spiritual influence secured to the nation in the desert. They failed to understand and appreciate their position. Appetite, lust, idolatry, overcame them; "they were overthrown in the wilderness," and so swift was God's wrath and so overwhelming, that there "fell in one day three and twenty thousand." Here was a supernatural economy; here was a religion that provided for bodily necessities, and even gave "angels' food;" here, at the same time that the claims of a true and proper sensuousness were divinely met, a "spiritual" agency was established and administered - here, in the solitudes of sand and rock, where the chosen people were alone with God, and where neither day nor night was allowed to wear its accustomed face because of the presence of the pillar cloud of glory; and yet amid such displays of the providence and Spirit of God, men fell into idolatry, murmured against God, tempted him, and perished under miraculous judgments. It is not simply a lesson from individuals to individuals. It is a warning from a community to a community. Vice as personal, vice as social, vice as an epidemic in the air, - this is the vice of bodily degradation as it exhibits its raging enormity in lust, fornication, and idol worship. "These things were our examples," "for ensamples," "written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come," the coalescence of the ages in the grand demonstration of Christianity as the completed revelation to mankind of God in Christ. "Wherefore... take heed." We have more light; larger privileges, nobler opportunities, but there is no mechanical security in these things. The crisis age has come, the crisis trial has come with it. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." To encourage their holy endeavours, he assures them that there is no fatality in temptation. Oftentimes it happens that men are morally disabled before the struggle, before an incitement to do evil has fairly set in. By this proneness to believe in fate, they surrender in advance. Remote causes are frequently more potent than proximate causes, and many a man has been the victim of a false philosophy of morals long before he has fallen as an actual prey to Satan. Bodily sins have something in them which renders their subjects uncommonly liable to this destructive belief, and "I could not help it; I cannot help it," are words that easily rise to their lips. But the doctrine of St. Paul is a protest against such a demoralizing idea. "No trial has come upon you beyond man's power to bear" (Conybeare and Howson). "God is faithful." The laws of the universe and their administration, the presence of the Spirit as the universal Helper, and the glory of Christianity as the consummation of the ages, are so many Divine assurances that no man is doomed beforehand to fall into the snare of the devil. Satan himself is only Satan, man's adversary, within certain limits. God holds him in check. At first, the influence of evil takes effect on the involuntary nature, sensations are awakened, passions excited, but it becomes a temptation when these lower instruments are brought to bear on the consent of the will. "God is faithful" to the human will. There is nothing in man which is so constantly quickened and energized as a defensive force. And, furthermore, as a positive and aggressive force, what resources are at its command! If temptation is subtle and insinuating, who knows the number and Variety of the Spirit's secret avenues to the will? There is always "a way to escape," and this way is provided by our heavenly Father, who is evermore answering the prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." - L.
I. THEIR EXALTED PRIVILEGES.
Moreover... all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.
1. The pillar of cloud and of fire. This remarkable body — opaque by day, to screen them from the sun, and luminous by night, was at once their guide, glory, and defence. And what are the ordinances of religion but a directory and means of refreshment and defence?
2. The passage opening for them through the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Surely it can never be that any among this favoured people should ever prove forgetful of their Deliverer! Yet, so it was. And happy had it been for the Church of God if deliverances exceeding it in wonder had never been treated with equal forgetfulness!
3. The miraculous supply of food. "They did all eat the same spiritual meat." "He sent them bread from heaven."And what did they send in return? Murmurs, rebellion, and blasphemies. Then learn —
1. That miracles can neither convince nor convert, except as they are attended with the influences of the Spirit.
2. That benefits may be heaped upon man, etc. Yet he may rebel against the bountiful Donor. What are the verities of the gospel but spiritual bread? Yet in how many instances are such truths rejected; yea, even made an occasion of sin!
3. The refreshing stream issuing from the smitten rock. The water is called spiritual drink, and the bread spiritual meat, yet without spiritual discernment; while the body was nourished the soul perished.
II. THEIR AWFUL DOOM.
1. They incurred the Divine displeasure. "With many of them God was not well pleased."
2. They perished under the Divine wrath: "they were overthrown in the wilderness."
(T. Mortimer, B.A.)
I. THEY HAD THEIR SACRAMENTS.
1. They were all baptized unto Moses. By passing through the Red Sea at his command they definitely renounced Pharaoh and as definitely committed themselves to Moses, and were as certainly sworn to obey him as ever was Roman soldier who took the oath to serve his emperor. When, at Brederode's invitation, the patriots of Holland put on the beggar's wallet and tasted wine from the beggar's bowl, they were baptized unto William of Orange and their country's cause. When the sailors on board the Swan weighed anchor and beat out of Plynmouth, they were baptized unto Drake and pledged to follow him and fight for him to the death. Christian baptism, then, if it means anything, means a line drawn across the life, and proclaims that to whomsoever we have been bound, we now are pledged to this new Lord, and are to live in His service.
2. Israel had also a spiritual food and drink analogous to the Communion. They were not led into the desert, and left to do the best they could on their own resources. He who had encouraged them to enter on this new life was prepared to carry them through. Their food and drink were "spiritual," or sacramental, i.e., their sustenance continually spoke to them of God's nearness and reminded them that they were His people. And as Christ said of the bread at the Last Supper, "This is My body," so does Paul say, "That Rock was Christ."
II. THE MANNA AND THE WATER WERE TYPES OF CHRIST, serving for Israel the purpose which Christ serves for us, enabling them to believe in a Heavenly Father who cared for them, and accomplishing the same spiritual union with the unseen God which Christ accomplishes for us. It was in this sense that Paul could say that the Rock was Christ.
1. Israel did not know that, nor as they drank of the water did they think of One who was to come and satisfy the whole thirst of men. The types simply worked by exciting there and then the same faith in God which Christ excites in our mind. It was not knowledge that saved the Jew, but faith, attachment to the living God as his Redeemer there and then. So every sacrifice was a type of Christ; not because it revealed Christ, but because for the time being it served the same purpose as Christ now serves, enabling men to believe in the forgiveness of sins.
2. But while in the mind of the Israelite there was no connection of the type with Christ, there was in reality a connection between them. The redemption of men is one whether accomplished in the days of the Exodus or in our own. The idea of salvation is one, resting always on the same reasons and principles. The Lamb was slain "from the foundation of the world," and the virtue of the sacrifice of Calvary was efficacious for those who lived before as well as for those who lived after it.
III. THESE OUTWARD BLESSINGS, INTENDED TO BE THE CHANNELS OF GRACE TO MOST OF THE ISRAELITES, REMAINED MERE MANNA AND WATER.
1. Instead of learning the sufficiency of Jehovah they began to murmur and lust after evil things, and shrank from the hardships and hazards of the way.
2. And so, says Paul, it may be with you. You may have been baptized, and may have professedly committed yourself to the Christian career; you may have partaken of that bread and wine which convey undying life and energy to believing recipients, and may yet have failed to use these as spiritual food, enabling you to fulfil all the duties of the life you are pledged to. Had it been enough merely to show a readiness to enter on the more arduous life, then all Israel would have been saved, for "all" passed through the Red Sea. Had it been enough outwardly to participate in that which actually links men to God, then all Israel would have been inspired by God's Spirit and strength, for "all" partook of the spiritual food and drink. But the disastrous result was that the great mass of the people were overthrown in the wilderness. And men have not yet outlived this same danger of committing themselves to a life they find too hard and full of risk. Conclusion: The practical outcome of all Paul utters in the haunting words, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." If determined wickedness has slain its thousands, heedlessness has slain its tens of thousands. Through lack of watchfulness men fall into sin which entangles them for life and thwarts their best purposes. Every man is apt to lay too much stress on the circumstance that he has joined himself to the number of those who own the leadership of Christ. The question remains, How far has he gone with his Leader? Whoever takes it for granted that things are well with him, whoever "thinketh he standeth" — he is the man who has especial and urgent need to "take heed lest he fall."
(M. Dods, D.D.)
I. THAT GOD RULES BY UNALTERABLE LAWS. As under Moses, so under Christ. Then people sinned, and punishment followed; and so as surely as we sin will judgment overtake us.
II. THAT SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGES ARE NO GUARANTEE OF SECURITY. The Israelites were privileged — where are they? The Corinthians were privileged — but where are the Corinthians now? England is a great nation; but as surely as her laws vary from the Divine code will her glory wane. A Church may have great activity, a fine ritual, and a popular ministry, but as certainly as that Church forgets God, "Ichabod" may be written upon her walls. The individual Christian may have conquered sin in various forms, but as soon as he begins to say, "I can do it," in that moment he shows his weakness and his fall has begun.
III. THAT SATAN IS NOT OMNIPOTENT (ver. 13) He may try his worst, but there will come a time when God will say, "Thus far, but no farther."
IV. THAT NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS. God and idols can never agree. Some of the Corinthians partook of the Lord's Supper, and then joined idolaters in their unhallowed feasts.
1. They did this probably —(1) Because they thought as an idol was nothing, there could be no harm in the act.(2) Or from some lingering feeling of superstition connected with the old forms of worship.(3) Or because they wished to avoid the jeers, and, perhaps, persecution of their old companions.
2. But the Christians who attended those sacrifices would be supposed to engage in the same worship (ver. 21). And just so now; in order to receive the Divine benediction men must be straightforward and true. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
V. A MANIFESTATION OF TRUE GREATNESS (ver. 24). Some men think it a sign of greatness when they carry their point in opposition to every one else. The apostle says true greatness is seen when self is light as a feather compared with the interests of the other. The concluding verses illustrate his meaning. Here, then, is a principle for the guidance of life. The true Christian may go anywhere, and do anything that his own conscience does not condemn; but the moment he is in danger by his liberty of leading others astray, abstain from the act, even if you deny yourself.
VI. DO NOT MAKE RELIGION OBTRUSIVE, BUT ALWAYS ACT RELIGIOUSLY (vers. 27, 28).
VII. "WHATSOEVER YE DO, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD." This is the supreme end of life, and the only right motive of action; indeed, this principle includes all others
(A. F. Barfield.)
I. A SACRED BAPTISM. "Baptized unto Moses."
1. It was not an immersion. The Egyptians were immersed and perished; Israel "walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea," and did not so much as wet their feet.
2. It was a baptism of infants as well as adults. Paul says "all" were baptized. "About six hundred thousand on foot, beside children," made that passage.
3. It was a baptism of deliverance from their oppressors. It put the sea between Israel and Egypt, and drowned their pursuers. Every oppressor is gone from him who enters fully into what his baptism signifies and pledges (1 Peter 3:21).
4. It was a baptism into a transcendent change. It transferred Israel from the land of Ham and blackness to shores bordering on the primitive homes — from cruel slavery to blessed liberty — from nothingness to an independent nation. Their baptism was to them a new birth, the beginning of a new style of existence. In all the poetry of this people we find a glad recurrence to these waters as the scene of their bringing forth into the new life unto God.
II. HEAVENLY BREAD. "Did all eat the same spiritual meat?" The manna —
1. Was a direct product of God. It came down from heaven. Christ (John 6.) appropriates it as the type of Himself, sent of the Father, to give His flesh and life for the life of the world.
2. Was a new and miraculous sort of food, distantly resembling something in nature, but far above nature — "bread from heaven," "angels' food"; existing prior to this appearance, and now a marvellous type of our Saviour.
3. Was the sustenance of Israel for all their pilgrimage. Christ is the sustenance of all spiritual life.
4. Had to be gathered and appropriated in its season — each day for its needs, a double portion before the sabbath , but people had to go, collect, appropriate, and use it, or perish. Spiritual life requires constant renewal in our going to Christ and our appropriation of Him.
III. SPIRITUAL DRINK.
1. It was from a rock — a literal rock at Rephidim and in Hebron, yielding plentiful waters. "That Rock was Christ." Rock connects with unchangeable Deity. "Who is a rock save bur God? "And when Paul connects that rock with Christ, he connects Christ with eternal Godhead, as well as makes Him the only source, medium, and outlet of the saving waters of life for thirsting and perishing men.
2. It came through the smiting of that rock.
3. It attended them continually. Wherever they were they could find these waters. The Rock is ever near; and in all the wilderness of this life, wherever a soul thirsts for Him, there the Fountain flows.
4. It was free to all Israel. Salvation is for every one who will take it.Conclusion: It thus appears why the apostle did not wish the Corinthians to be ignorant concerning the fathers.
1. The most vital things of saving religion were involved in those things. To fail in understanding these things was to fail in understanding the way of life.
2. Not to give due heed to our Christian priviliges is to involve ourselves in hopeless condemnation.
(J. A. Seiss, D.D.)there there is a sacrament. What is the lesson, then, which we learn? Is it that God's life, and love, and grace, are limited to certain materials, such as the rock, the bread, or the wine? or is it not much rather that every meal, every gushing stream, and drifting cloud is the symbol of God, and a sacrament to every open heart? And the power of recognising and feeling this makes all the difference between the religious and the irreligious spirit. There were those, doubtless, in the wilderness, who saw nothing wonderful in the flowing water. They rationalised upon its origin: it quenched their thirst, and that was all it meant to them. But there were others to whom it was the very love and power of God.
(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
And did all eat the same spiritual meatI. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH THE FOOD ON WHICH ISRAEL LIVED TYPIFIED OUR SAVIOUR. The manna to which the apostle refers —
1. Was supernatural. And did not this represent that the food of the soul mast descend from heaven? — that the person of Christ should not be produced in the ordinary course of nature?
2. Sufficed for the whole multitude. So Christ gave Himself for the world, and there is not an individual in the wide family of man for whom provision has not been made in the gospel.
3. Had any disdained it because it was common to all, he must have perished in his pride; had any loathed it because it was the same every day, hunger must have been unappeased. So there is but one mode of salvation for the king and the beggar; and as Christ died equally for the mightiest and the meanest, every man, whatever his station, may eat the bread of life, but none that refuse it can hope to escape eternal death.
4. Was ground in a mill, or broken in a mortar; so ere Christ could become the food of the world, He became a curse, and was pressed down by the weight of God's wrath against sin.
5. Was not to be kept. In this God taught that day by day Israel were to look to Him for a supply of their wants. So in spiritual things. We have no stock in hand; but when the necessity arises we must apply afresh to the Saviour. "As thy day so shall thy strength be."
6. It fell only when Israel were in the wilderness, ceasing as soon as they reached the promised land. So here in the wilderness, knowing but in part, and seeing only through a glass darkly, there are intermediate channels through which we must derive every spiritual blessing; but when we shall have entered the heavenly Canaan, then we shall eat of the corn of the land. and need not sacramental assistance. We shall still feed on Christ, but not through outward ordinances. The veil will have departed, and what need shall we have of instituted symbols?
II. HOW CHRIST WAS TYPIFIED BY THE ROCK WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR WANDERINGS.
1. There is a peculiar fitness in the metaphor, which is frequently employed in Scripture. Christ is the foundation on which the Church is built, "a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation." As Mediator, Christ sustains such a relation to ourselves that upon Him must rest our every hope, whilst He has so discharged that office, that no hope thus based can ever be disappointed.
2. But it is not Christ's resemblance to a rock in general that we are required to trace, but to a particular rock. As this rock yielded no water till it was struck by Moses, so Christ must be smitten ere forgiveness could issue forth to a perishing world. It was by the rod of the lawgiver that the rock was smitten, and by what but by the curse of the law was Christ buried? And then gushed from His body a river which ever since has been rolling along the desert of creation, and it is so abundant that the invitation is, "Whosoever will let him come, and take of the waters of life freely."
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
And did all drink... of that rock which followed them
I. IN THE APPARENT UNLIKELIHOOD OF THE SOURCE. The very name of Horeb was "hill of dried-up ground." No wonder there was the incredulous cry, "must we fetch water out of the rock?" To the untaught eye it is thus with regard to Christ. A babe in a manger; a carpenter's son; a wearied traveller; a broken-hearted sufferer; a dying malefactor. Truly He may be called "a root out of a dry ground."
II. IN THE MEANS BY WHICH BLESSINGS WERE PROCURED. The rock was smitten. It is in the working of the same law by which the bark must be bruised if you would have the healing balsam, the grape pressed if you would have the invigorating wine. Christ smitten is the rock whence flowed of old, and flows to-day, all that consoles, inspires, reconciles, saves human life. As Leader, Model, Teacher, Friend, Saviour, our Lord was "made perfect through suffering."
III. IN THE VALUE OF THE BLESSINGS CONFERRED. In the river that broke forth from Horeb for the Jews, and in the influences that proceed from Christ for humanity, there is alike —
1. Exact adaptation to conscious need. Thirst cried for water, sin cries for Christ. Nothing but "the truth as it is in Jesus" can meet the inquiries, the heart-ache, the despair of men.
2. An all-sufficient supply.
(U. R. Thomas.)
I. OF HIS ETERNAL AND UNCHANGEABLE NATURE.
II. OF HIS PAINFUL SUFFERING. The rock was smitten.
III. OF THE COMMUNICATION OF HIS SPIRIT.
IV. OF ITS CONTINUOUS AND ABUNDANT SUPPLY. The stream followed them.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. IT FOUND THE PEOPLE PERISHING WITH THIRST. This is just our condition by nature. We are destitute of all that can refresh or satisfy the soul.
II. IT WAS A MOST IMPROBABLE MEANS OF RELIEF. In countries like our own the springs of water generally take their course along a rocky bed below the surface. But in those sandy deserts the case is far otherwise. Horeb, a vast mass of stone, only increased the desolation of the prospect. And such were the gloomy anticipations of many to whom Jesus offered Himself as their Redeemer. Scribes and Pharisees were offended at His personal meanness — the son of a carpenter! no worldly show! His own disciples were continually stumbled, and "all forsook Him and fled." Learned Gentiles heard with scorn that one executed as a malefactor was to be received as king of the world, Nay, even to this day men will hope nothing, and therefore seek nothing from Christ till they are compelled.
III. IT REQUIRED TO BE SMITTEN ERE IT GAVE A SUPPLY. And how exactly did this action typify the suffering Redeemer! It was not by His miracles nor by His instructions that Jesus provided salvation for us, but by His death, Read Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 13:7. Not only Christ was smitten; but He was to be smitten. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?" etc. Here then let us fix our attention. "Behold the wounded Lamb of God," etc., and say, " God forbid that I should glory," etc.
IV. IT YIELDED AN ABUNDANT SUPPLY. For such a host no ordinary stream of water would suffice; but here was enough and to spare. And such is the supply of spiritual blessings which is treasured up in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:19).
V. IT SAVED THE LIVES OF REBELS IF THEY WOULD BUT DRINK.
(J. Jowett, M.A.)1. St. Paul is warning the Corinthians. He says, "You may come to the Communion and use the means of grace, and yet become castaways. I keep under my body lest I should be one. Look at the old Jews in the wilderness. They all partook of God's grace; but they were not all saved. Spiritual meat and spiritual drink could not keep them alive, if they sinned, and deserved death. And nothing will save you if you sin."
2. The spiritual rock which followed the Jews was Christ. It was to Him they owed their deliverance from Egypt, their knowledge of God, and His law, and whatever reason, righteousness, and good government there was among them. And to Christ we owe the same. The rock was a type of Him from whom flows living water. "Whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give," etc.
3. Herein is a great mystery. Something of what it means, however, we may learn from Philo. The soul, he says, falls in with a scorpion in the wilderness; and then thirst, which is the thirst of the passions, seizes on it, till God sends forth on it the stream of His own perfect wisdom, and causes the changed soul to drink of unchangeable health. For the steep rock is the wisdom of God (by whom he means the Word of God, whom Philo knew not in the flesh, but whom we know as the Lord Jesus Christ), which, being both sublime and the first of all things, He quarried out of His own powers; and of it He gives drink to the souls which love God; and they, when they have drunk, are filled with the most universal manna.
4. Christ is rightly called the Rock, the Rock of Ages, the Eternal Rock, because on Him all things rest, and have rested since the foundation of the world. He is rightly called the Rock of living waters; for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and from Him they flow forth freely to all who cry to Him in their thirst after truth and holiness. To be parted from Christ is death. To be joined to Christ and the body of Christ is life — the life of the soul. Holiness, righteousness, goodness. And why? Because it is the life of Christ. For who is Christ but the likeness and the glory of God? And what is that but goodness? From Christ, and not from any created being, comes all goodness in man or angel.
5. Let the good which a man does be much or be it little, he must say, "The good which I do, I do not, but Christ who dwelleth in me." It is Christ in the child which makes it speak the truth, and shrink from whatever it has been told is wrong; in the young man, which fills him with hopes of putting forth all his powers in the service of Christ; in the middle-aged man, which makes him strong in good works; so that having drunk of the living waters himself, they may flow out of him again to others in good deeds; in the old man, which makes him look on with calm content while his own body and mind decay, knowing that the kingdom of God cannot decay. Yes, such a man knows whom he has believed. He knows that the spiritual Rock has been following him through all his wanderings in this weary world, and that that rock is Christ. He can recollect how, again and again, at his Sabbath haltings in his life's journey, it was to him in the Holy Communion as to the Israelites of old in their haltings in the wilderness, when the priests of Jehovah cried to the mystic rock, "Flow forth, O fountain," and the waters flowed.
6. But if these things are so, will they not teach us much about Holy Communion, how we may receive it worthily, and how unworthily? If what we receive in the Communion be the good Christ who is to make us good, then how can we receive it worthily, if we do not hunger and thirst after goodness? If we do not, we are like those Corinthians who came to the Lord's supper to exalt their own spiritual self-conceit; and so only ate and drank their own damnation, not discerning the Lord's body — a body of righteousness and goodness. We need not stay away because we feel ourselves burdened with many sins; that will be our very reason for coming, that we may be cleansed from our sins.
(C. Kingsley, M.A.)I. THE DESERT.
1. Our sinful parentage is our Egypt, and death our Jordan. What lies between is the desert of our wanderings.
2. Consider what it is that renders a desert formidable. To the dromedary it is what the sea is to a ship; almost what the air is to a winged bird. But not so with man. His nature is not so well suited to those trackless wastes. So we were not made to feel at home here. Many tokens are there that we are only strangers and pilgrims.(1) Now it is a loss of property, now a loss of health, now a loss of friends.(2) But, to say nothing of what is lost, who needs be reminded of the countless prizes which we may sigh for, but have never gained? To no man is life a holiday. To most is it a scene rather of feverish and but poorly requited toil. The one secret of all this suffering is to be sought in the contradiction which is found to exist between our circumstances and our endowments. We are all of us like kings in exile. We have lost our thrones, and are pawning our jewels for our daily bread.(3) But the great burden and the saddest blight of all is our sense of sin. Years ago and yesterday we sinned; and all the period between is dark with remorseful memories. The soul has no perfect rest. And so the world becomes a desert to us.
3. But courage, brother. Even this blank desert is better than it seems. Though it has no waving wheat-fields, it has manna for its morning dew. Though its sands be trackless, there move on always before us the pillar of cloud and fire. But in addition to, and above all, though there be no running streams, there is the rock smitten to assuage our thirst.
II. And THAT ROCK IS CHRIST.
1. What men call pleasure only palls upon our jaded senses. Chesterfield, in his old age, said of the world: "I have enjoyed all its pleasures, and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their loss." As for gold, no wealth ever yet purchased a night's rest. As for power, the Alexanders and Napoleons have all shed bitter tears of disappointment, either conquering or conquered. As for wisdom, from Solomon to Burke, the wisest have been also the saddest of men. As for friendship and affection, even their idols are shivered one by one. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." All around us sweeps the glimmering desert, with no refreshment for us but what is furnished by the gushing rock. And that rock is Christ.
2. But who and what is the Christ we speak of? I challenge man's own aching heart for an answer. What is the Christ thou cravest? Is it only a human brother? Is it only an awful God? Or is it the two united in a sweet but stupendous miracle of love? The answer cannot be doubtful. Annihilate my faith in the God-man, and what then is life? But give me now the God-man, and this dreary desert of my sorrow-stricken, sinful life receives at once its gushing rock. Let redeeming love shoot its beams into the darkness, let the radiant form of the Son of God be seen walking up and down the furnace of our earthly afflictions, and straightway the torturing problem is solved. We take up the line of our march through the desert without murmuring, when we behold the smitten rock moving on before us over the sterile sand. To us now this world is brighter than it would have been without the heavy shadows of sin upon it; for in its sky has been set the Star of Bethlehem. Our own nature has been dignified, as it would not have been but for our fall; for now God's own Son is our brother. Even our life of sorrow is glorified since those shining feet have traversed it so meekly from the manger to the tomb. With this rock in our desert, the desert shouts and sings.
3. But of what avail to us is this smitten rock, unless we stoop to drink? Of what avail to us the presence of this Divine humanity, unless we are consciously related to it by a living faith? To each heart there speaks the voice of mercy. And each heart must answer for himself. What shall our response be? Christ's great central work is not teaching, which rivals the lessons of sages; not example, which rivals the exploits of heroes, but atonement, which scatters the clouds of Divine wrath, and takes away our sin.
4. That spiritual rock, we are told, followed the Hebrews. So, too, shall our Rock follow us. In health and peace and prosperity it shall pour its libations upon our gladness. In sickness, war, and want it shall cool our fevered veins. In death it shall moisten our parched lips.
(R. D. Hitchcock, D.D.)Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18; Isaiah 17:10; Isaiah 26:4)? Only the title of Rock of Israel is given by Paul not to Jehovah, but to Christ. The passage forms one analogy to the words (John 12:41), where the apostle applies to Jesus the vision of Isaiah (chap. Isaiah 6.). Christ is represented in these passages by Paul and John as pre-existent and presiding over the theocratic history. In chap. 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul had designated Christ as the Being by whom God created all things. Here he represents Him as the Divine Being who accompanied God's people in the cloud through the wilderness, and who gave them the deliverances which they needed. We have the same view here as appears in "the angel of the Lord," so often identified in Genesis with the Lord Himself, and yet distinct from Him, in the Being who is called in Isaiah (Isaiah 63:9) "the angel of His presence," and in Malachi (Malachi 3:1) "the angel of the covenant, Adonai," the mediator between God and the world, especially with view to the work of salvation. It is easy to understand the relation there is between the mention of this great theocratic fact and the idea which the apostle wishes to express in our passage. The spiritual homogeneity of the two covenants, and of the gifts accompanying them, rests on this identity of the Divine Head of both. The practical consequence is obvious at a glance: Christ lived in the midst of the ancient people, and the people perished. How can you Christians think yourselves secure from the same lot?
But with many of them God was not well pleasedI. MAY BE INCURRED BY HIS OWN PEOPLE, because of —
II. MAY BE FOLLOWED WITH THE MOST DISASTROUS RESULTS.
1. The withdrawal of His presence and favour.
2. Final destruction.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
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