The Book of Exodus: Our Journey to Canaan
Crossing the sea is baptism, the second birth. When a child is born, it does not mean he will live. Indeed, he needs a care program, of feeding (Manna- the body of the Lord), water (the side of Christ- the rock), guidance and leadership (the Holy Spirit) and faith that God is always present. Such a spiritual atmosphere provides the newborn child with continual growth, till he reaches Canaan. The child also needs to be able to fight germs, i.e. Amalek!
Thus, there is a difference between mere birth from the water and the Spirit and spiritual struggle to arrive at Canaan. “For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses but with whom was he grieved forty years?…and to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?” (Hebrews 3: 16-18)
CROSSING THE WILDERNESS IS STRIVING TO ENTER THROUGH THE STRAIT GATE AND THE NARROW PATH:
The wilderness is desolate with no plantation. There are no houses or cities. Nor is there the Nile’s fresh water or the beautiful scenery of the plants! The wilderness is destitute of vegetation, but God is in it! The land of Goshen is lush; and, Pharaoh, the figurative Satan, dwells in it. Walking through Sinai is very tedious for those who do not realize that God is with them.
The wilderness is the place of the spiritual war. At the same time, it is where victory over Amalek is achieved. Thus, the wilderness is the place for war as well as victory. The war against despair is more cruel than that against Amalek. Despair is due to the inability to see Canaan by the naked eye: “they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3: 19). Therefore, six hundred thousand walked out of Egypt, and only two entered Canaan. Though some did not enter Canaan, they entered into God’s grace, as seen when Moses appeared with the Lord on the mount of transfiguration “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4: 1)
Therefore, those who have received the mystery of salvation in baptism, ought to work out (complete) their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2: 12): Always looking up to Canaan, continually struggling against the Amalekites, in perfect faith that God is with us till we enter into Canaan.
THE NECESSITY OF GOD’S INCARNATION FOR OUR SALVATION:
When Moses relied on himself, he failed to deliver his brethren, and even himself. He had to flee away from his powerful enemy. Then, he heard God’s voice from the bush saying “I have surely seen the affliction of my people…, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them … and to bring them up …, unto a good land and a large” (Exodus 3: 7 & 8). Thus, God came down for our salvation. It is for the cry of us, the poor, that He will arise and save us and set us in safety. The purpose of coming down is to raise us up with Him to the heavenly Canaan and to seat us with Him in the large land (Ephesians 2 : 6).
The people lived in bitter and relentless bondage at the hands of a savage enemy (Exodus 1: 14). Nevertheless they felt secure. They were guaranteed their daily bread, the water of the Nile; and, they had homes with a covering ceiling to protect them. If they were to cross the sea, how would they secure their food, water and protection from the heat and cold of the wilderness?
Therefore, walking in the wilderness cannot be safe, unless we believe that God is present with us, will not part from us (we are members in His body). He is always present with us with His Body and Blood on the altar.
God comes down in the bush: This was no vision but a clear reality. But, what guarantees that it will always be true? How can Moses be sure that God will appear to him in the bush every day? Therefore, Moses doubted that God will be with him before Pharaoh. He thus excused himself and said “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4: 10) “Who am I, that I should go?” (Exodus 3: 11). He made many excuses saying: ‘What if they ask me for your name?…Are you going to appear in the bush again?’
God comes down in the form of a pillar of fire: He gave them the manna (His Body) from heaven and the water from the rock (Christ). Nevertheless, they were in fear. What if God was angry with them, and withheld food and drink from them? Therefore, they complained and murmured against Moses saying in their hearts “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for you have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16: 3)
Building the House of God: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25: 8). This will reassure a person that God is present with him. He can seek Him at any time, and if he moved, he moves the tabernacle along with him. This is the early notion of calling the place of worship, the house of God. But again, does that make us secure? What if the enemies attack the tabernacle and steel its contents, especially the arc of covenant. Thus, there is no security without the faith that God can defend His tabernacle. Later on, as time progressed, Solomon built a house of strong and great stones and he received a promise from God. “Whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel …moreover concerning a stranger …when he shall come and pray toward this house…hear thou in heaven their prayer” (1Kings 8: 38-45). Despite all the effort and the greatness of the building, no stone was left one on another; it was destroyed. Where then is man’s reassurance that God is with him?
At last “the word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us” He united with our flesh, that even death would not separate us from Him! This is the perfect salvation that gives perfect security to man. We cross the wilderness of this world, not merely with God but with God Who is united to us “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Ephesians 5: 30)
Therefore, man has realized that he has no salvation and can not escape from his enemy, failure, despair, arrogance, and self-pride, except through God united with us and working in us.
This notion is acknowledged and experienced, even by non-Christians, when they reach clear self-realization. The ancient Egyptians recorded it and so did philosophers such as Plato. Even the Islamic ascetics in the tenth century, such as El-Halag, who said that God dwells in the robe, realized the fact that man has no life except through uniting with God. This is a reality that is imprinted in the nature of humans.
Uniting with God is the Secret to our Safety in the Desolate Wilderness of the World:
We, with our worthless nature of dust, were united with the infinite God. Thus, we entered through and with Him into eternity, into the heavenly Canaan (Ephesians 2: 6). We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
The power of His cross in my life (with Christ I was crucified) can split the sea, scare Pharaoh and provide us with water from the rock (Christ) from which blood and water sprung. Therefore, Moses never parted away from his rod (the cross) throughout his entire life.
Faith admits us into the world of infinities, through God to whom we are united. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. Faith is uniting to life that which has been swallowed up by death: “O death where is thy sting?” Faith is being delivered from sin through the blood of Christ.
Faith is keeping our eyes focused on God only and not on temporal events. The Church does not rely on humans. Joseph’s death did not signify the end, but the beginning of the work of God. Resurrection follows death.
Lastly, faith focusing our eyes on Canaan-which is unseen. It means not falling into or being hampered by despair because of the length of the trip, nor being distracted by the philosophies of this world, as the magicians of Pharaoh, or the vanishing lusts of the onions, the vegetation and the pots of flesh.
The incarnation, which started with the appearance in the bush (i.e. the Virgin Mary) is the perfect guarantee of our salvation. Faith is the weapon that enables us to move from bondage to freedom. The Lord Jesus, of Whom we are members, is the Way to Canaan; and, uniting with God is indeed eternal life.