Feb 5, 2009
A Brief Overview of our Vision and Ministry
It is good to have a greater perspective on what God has put on our hearts for this time here (in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2/09), and not only here, but also what has gone on at Hope College (in Holland, Michigan). We need to see what God is doing and wants to do, as well as see what He has done.
During my freshmen year at Hope College (Fall of 2002) it seemed like God was stirring some of our hearts and we started doing a Bible study. I think there were about ten or thirteen people there when we started, and it is interesting to see the parallels between that time and what is happening now. At that time, we started studying the book of Revelation, which is initially what we were thinking about studying here. Then, during the Christmas break of our freshman year at Hope, we decided we needed to focus our Bible studies on more foundational things. After the break, when we started teaching the foundational things of God’s Word, we saw something interesting happen. In the first Bible study after the break there were around 15 people. In the next Bible study there were 32 people, and from there it blossomed even further. There were a lot of people coming to the Bible studies and a lot of people who wanted more of God and became discontent with merely going through the “Christian motions”. People were coming to the Lord and other powerful things were happening. In fact, a spectator during that year – who has since become a good friend of mine – later would tell me that he and friends initially thought we were running a cult, because we never had music, food, or drinks, and yet people were excited to learn about the Bible. To be clear, we were not against having any of these things, we just never thought of it, because there was such an excitement to learn God’s word. According to my friend, “typical” Bible studies seemed more obligatory and less exciting. I say this to point out that people recognized that God was doing something at Hope. Things grew, and that is what we all saw. It is an incredible blessing to see that people who were there in that first year of Bible studies are all over the world now, doing ministry in different capacities.
And here we are, seven years later. Hopefully we are seeing this legacy (if that’s what we can call it) passed on to everyone who is involved with this ministry. We believe that God is doing his own thing in your lives as well.
With that history in mind, we would like to unfold the vision that God seems to have placed firmly in our heart.
Hebrews 5:12 says, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God.” The author is writing to the Hebrew Christians and saying, “By this time you have known enough. You’ve grown enough that you should be teaching others, yet you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God.”
Now understand, the author of Hebrews is rebuking them. He is saying that they should be doing more with what they have been. In other words, they weren’t living up to their potential. He goes on, saying, “And you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14). Here, he is speaking of the Word of God, and he says, “By this time you should be able to eat solid food.” The author is comparing their spiritual maturity to a physical infant who is growing. When you are an infant you can only have milk, but as you grow up you are able to eat more substantial meals. Therefore, the author is saying, “Well at this point you should be able to eat substantial meals of the Word, but you’re still just having the milk.”
Think about it this way: Someone comes to the Lord because they have heard something in the Word that is true. They hear that Jesus loves them and they receive Christ based on that truth. This, of course, is great. People should be saved by that revelation. Knowing that Jesus loves you is a wonderful revelation that a lot of people do not realize. However, that little bit – that truth that Jesus loves us – could be compared with milk given to infants. After that, you should be eating more solid things, though. You should be seeking out the deeper things of Jesus’ love. For instance, what does it mean that He loves us? How does He show his love? Seeking out these questions should lead believers to realize that God’s love for us also means He hates evil and He clings to good (see Romans 12:9). Then, this should develop into more intense studying and understanding Christ’s work on the cross. See, in all these things we should be growing in our understanding of the Word as we press on. Our understanding of Christ’s love should mature as we grow in the Lord.
Returning to this passage in Hebrews, we are taken into Hebrews 6:1: “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of…” Now, before we go on, please note that the author is about to tell us what he considers to be foundational to Christianity. Therefore, if anyone is wondering what they need to know to be established in a firm foundation, you are about to read it. “…repentance from dead works and a faith towards God, of the doctrines of baptisms, of laying on of hands, or resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” (Heb. 6:1-3). He names six foundations here. If we want to build a strong spiritual house we need to have certain foundations.
The first four foundations relate to this lifetime: (1) Repentance, (2) Faith, (3) Baptism, and (4) Laying on of hands. The next two take us into eternity: (5) Resurrection, and (6) Eternal judgment.
Now, the reason I bring this up is to help us all understand a little more of the vision of these Thursday night Bible studies we are doing in Grand Rapids.
See, during this Christmas break, I believe the Lord was stirring me to teach on these foundations. Then Neal (a friend of mine who also was involved with the ministry that happened my freshman year at Hope College) and I started getting together and talking this through.
After talking for awhile about this, and praying to see if this was what God wanted us to teach, Neal said the Lord just spoke to him in a very strong way, through a couple of different events, that we were supposed to be teaching these foundations. Neal just felt confident that God spoke to him regarding this. Then, Chris (a friend of ours through Hope) had a dream the same night that Neal believed God spoke to him, and the Lord spoke to Chris in the dream saying that Neal had received a word that is from God and Chris was supposed to listen to him.
With all these events, it does seem like the Lord has put this on our heart for a reason, for this season. And Hebrews 6:3 becomes very applicable to this vision. Remember, the author is saying that the Hebrews need to move past the foundations, and in verse three he says that we will do this (i.e. move past the foundations) if God permits.
We want to pray and see what happens. We want to teach the foundations, and get a firm foundation in our spiritual house, but we also want to go on and teach many other things, as long as God permits it. We want to go on into the Word and become a bigger, better, spiritual house – to be more pleasing to God.
With all of that in mind, we will look at repentance next week.
God’s Spirit and God’s Word – A Divine Synthesis
This week we are going to look at part 2 of our study on God’s Spirit and God’s Word.
We taught part 1 three months ago, but part 2 should stand alone. In part 1, we looked at a Scriptural principle.
First, in Genesis 1:2-3, we saw that “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Alright. What do you have first in verse 2? What is going on? What is hovering over everything? The Spirit of God! But that alone was not sufficient to bring light, and later bring life. God did not act by the Spirit alone. What do you have then in verse three? The first three words are: “Then God said.” Put those together and what do you have? You have the Spirit and then you have the Word, side-by-side. When the Spirit and Word synthesized and came together, the first thing created was light and everything else was created after that point. You can see the pattern: the Spirit and the Word come together and they give you light. And when you have true light, life flows out of that.
In this example, we can observe a few things. First, it shows how much God honors light, that He would create it first. He honors light and He wants light to be in all of us. He wants us to have his light in our hearts. Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6. He compares the physical light God created on Day 1 to the spiritual light that God wants to bring to our hearts, that is, a spiritual revelation of Christ.
Second, Genesis shows us that light needs these two components: The Holy Spirit and Word. A lot of people say “We have the Word,” and they try to interpret the Word, but even cults use the Bible. They are trying to interpret the Word without the Holy Spirit and they are being led astray. Well, other people say, “We have the Holy Spirit and that’s sufficient; that’s all we need.” However, cults also say they have a spirit. Of course, I don’t believe they have the Holy Spirit, but how do you know whether or not someone has the true Spirit? What’s the basis of differentiation? The Word tells you. It says the Word sorts out what’s of the Spirit and what’s of the soul. In Hebrews chapter 4:12, it says that. So what we have seen here is that when you have those two together – the Word and Spirit -, you have light.
God’s Spiritual Light
We also looked at Acts 8 in part 1 of this theme. Acts 8: 26-28 says, “Now an Angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.” What does he have in his hands? He has the Word, specifically the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and he’s reading it. The story continues: “Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go near and overtake this chariot.'” (Acts 8:29). Alright. Now we have something else that enters the story. He had the Word, but it wasn’t enough in the Lord’s eyes. He needed someone led by the Spirit, which ultimately shows that he needed revelation that only the Holy Spirit could bring (though, in this case, the Holy Spirit would reveal through a human vessel). This time the Spirit is going to speak through Philip to come and give light to what that Word is saying. “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he reads was this. [And he quotes Isaiah 53: 7-8.] He’s led as a sheep to the slaughter…” (Acts 8:30-33). And he continues to read all these different things. But look at verse 34, what he says about it: “So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:34-35). Ok, so you see, the man had the Bible alone, but it was not sufficient and he couldn’t understand it. It’s like how Jesus spoke. He didn’t speak in plain language; He spoke in parables. Why? Because he wanted to discern their hearts, he wanted to see whose heart really wanted to search it out. In that sense, this Book – the Bible – is a parable to everyone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. It is a parable to those who do have the Holy Spirit when they are trying to discern it without the Holy Spirit’s aid. That’s how the Lord speaks, it’s difficult to understand. The Ethiopian eunuch is reading and saying, “I don’t know, is this Isaiah, is this someone else? I don’t get it.” Then the Spirit, through Philip, interpreted it and said, “This is what it means.” You see, now he had light. And he had life later. For instance, we see that he was baptized, he started converting people and all these other things happened. Do you see the power of light? If you don’t have light, you should not expect life to follow, but if you do have light, life cannot help but follow.
Therefore, we have this precedent, and I think that this is important for us to see. We are studying the Word, but we are hoping and praying that it is by the aid of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think it’s wrong to listen to other teachers, by any means, if they are speaking out of the Spirit – by what the Spirit has shown them directly or shown through other people, like you have here with Philip.
So this is the precedent we saw in part 1 of this study.
Spiritual Food and Drink
Now, in part 2, I want to basically look at two verses in depth. Please go to 1 Corinthians 10. We’re still continuing with this theme, about the union between the Spirit and the Word. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink: for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Paul is talking to the Corinthians, and what is he referring to? He is tipping his hat to something they would all be familiar with. Do you know what he’s talking about when he said they were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, they ate the spiritual food, they drank the spiritual drink, the rock that followed them? Do we recognize that from the Scriptures anywhere?
Paul is referring to the story and the book of Exodus. If you read through Exodus, you have all those things that happened. Do you ever remember when they were baptized in the water in Exodus? In actuality, you will not find a story that uses the word “baptize” in Exodus. What you do find, though, is what a lot of people here probably do remember, that is, the incident when they went down in the Red Sea. Here Paul calls that a baptism. Why? Because it’s symbolic of a baptism. We’ll talk about that when we get to the doctrine of baptisms.
This passage in 1 Corinthians 10 also shows that they ate spiritual food. What was the food that they ate when they were in the desert? Answer: Manna. Yes, The bread that fell from heaven. They called it “manna” because manna means, “What is it?” You have the manna come down and that’s what they ate. Paul goes on and says they drank a spiritual gift that came from a rock. Does anyone remember that? First, Moses hit the rock once and then he hit it twice. That all happened 1,500 years before Paul wrote this. But now, look at what Paul says. He has written this very purposely. He’s quoting what has happened, but he’s saying, “I want you to look at this with new glasses.” Believe me, Paul believes that this happened just like it said. But he also says something else. Look at verse 6: “Now these things occurred as examples,” and verse 11: “These things happened to them as examples.” Alright. These things are examples for Christians today, even though they are historical for the Israelites.
How does that work? Notice the word “spiritual”. Why does Paul call it spiritual drink? Why was it spiritual food? Why was it a spiritual rock? Then he says an even stranger statement at the end. Do you see that? “And that rock was Christ.” (10:4). What does he mean by this? Does he think that Christ Himself was there pretending to be a rock? Of course not, that’s silly. But he’s telling us that what happened with that physical rock is a spiritual example for Christians.
The Scriptures talk about types and shadows. The book of Hebrews, among others, mentions this explicitly. The best way to understand this is to consider what a shadow is. If you see a shadow of this table here, it gives you a basic idea of the table, but it’s not the table itself. The shadows in the Old Testament give you ideas about Christ. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was preached in the Old Testament. He says that He is all over the Old Testament. All through the Old Testament you’re going to find things about Christ in shadow form. This means it’s going to give you ideas about who Christ is and about the Christian walk, but it’s not the substance. Christ is the substance of the shadow. In fact, in Colossians 2, it says that very thing. It says these were all shadows, but Christ was the substance. So this story in 1 Corinthians 10, accordingly, was a shadow of something else that was the substance.
Let’s start backwards in understanding all of these types and shadows Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 10:3-4. The last thing he says is that the rock was Christ, meaning, the rock represented Christ. Notice, Christ is called the rock, not Peter.
So we see the rock, but we have to see what happens with this rock. Exodus 17:1-7 says: “All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim. But there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock and water shall come out of it and the people will drink.’ And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And He called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?'”
This is the first mention of this rock. Again, I believe that this happened very literally, very historically, just like it says. He struck it and all those things happened. But Paul says there’s another level to this if you look a little deeper. The rock represents Christ. How did they get the water from the rock? What did they have to do to it? God gave a specific command. He had to strike the rock once. What does all of this represent? Answer: The Crucifixion. Jesus says, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night for it is written, I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” The striking of the rock represents the crucifixion.
So now we’re starting to build on Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 10, and Paul is showing that these things are symbols for Christians to follow.
Next, what happened when they struck the rock? Water came out. So follow this spiritual “type”. What does that water represent? Jesus answers this very specifically. In John 7, we read about an incident that ocurred during the feast of booths/tents. “On the last and greatest day of the feast,” (John 7:37) – now understand, this is important, John Wesley and others have mentioned this. At this time, during the last day of the feast, the Jews would have this tradition where they would shout and chant Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” They would chant this in commemoration of the rock that was struck and the water that came out. This is important to see, because all the Jews would be shouting this verse in commemoration of the water that came forth out of the rock. Now, look at what Jesus does the day they would have been shouting, that is, the last day of the feast – “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice.” (John 7:37). See, He cried out in a loud voice just like they were doing. But look at what Jesus says. He puts a little twist on it and reveals a little more meaning to this: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37). He’s yelling this: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow within him.” (John 7:38). You can see that Jesus’ words clearly relate. The question is, what is He referring to when He mentions this living water? “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7:39). Do you see what He is saying? The water that comes out of the rock represents the Holy Spirit. He says it right there. So does the type fit? when the rock was struck, the water came out? Is that true of Christ that when He was struck on the cross, like the rock being struck, that his Holy Spirit was made accessible and poured out to believers, like the water from the rock? Absolutely. And think about this: When he was crucified it says even the rocks were struck and split in half.
Please keep this in mind, because there is a second incident with the rock. Numbers 20:1-13 says: “In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring us up out of Egypt into this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!’ Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’ So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’ These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he showed himself holy among them.”
This is the second incident with the rock. Now, the Israelites have moved quite a bit, so they are refering to a different rock, and that will actually come into play in a little bit. Don’t misunderstand me, this rock still represents Christ as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:4. But look at what God says very specifically. The first time they were thirsty he told Moses, “Get your staff, strike it, and the water will come forth.” Now they are thirsty again and he starts the same way. He says get your staff, gather the congregation together and…do what? Speak to it, instead of striking it. And then the water is going to come forth. Well, what is happening here? This is something that will perhaps bring a little clarity, or maybe you already see what I’m getting at.
The first rock that they struck, in the Hebrew language, was a rock that was sunken into the ground. That’s what the Hebrew word means. The Hebrew word for the second rock means a rock that is ascended or actually up on high. I don’t know how far ascended, but I don’t think it would have been a strike down; it would have been like reaching up or to the side maybe.
What is God getting at with all of this? Think of this: Where is Christ now? He was struck once, on the cross, and now where is He? Yes, He has ascended. Since He is ascended now, when we want the Holy Spirit, what are we supposed to do? Speak to it! That is, we must pray and ask for the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that great? You read Exodus and it’s not a dry, boring book by any means. We should read it and think, Wow, they’re supposed to speak to the rock and the waters would come forth and they would receive that spiritual drink as Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 10.
Moses, though, makes a mistake. He hits it twice and for this reason he’s completely banished from the Promised Land. Why did God do this? At first glance, it seems kind of harsh.
Well, lets take this a little further. Why is God so severe in his judgment toward Moses? I think part of it is certainly disobedience, but part of it also seems to be what it represents.
Moses, in essence, struck Christ twice. That’s the metaphor that Paul says. Go to Hebrews 6:4-6. I’m going to take a chance by reading this passage. It’s a very controversial passage, and I’m actually not going to address the most controversial part, but I will focus on verse 6. “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:4-6). I won’t go into all the details, but, in essence, this passage is referring to those who truly receive the Holy Spirit; they truly have received the Word. It is not just that they were raised in a church. No, this is referring to people who have truly received God. And then they decide that, “Well, this Christianity is not so great. Maybe it’s alright, but it’s not great.” And even though they really know what it’s all about, they eventually say they don’t want anything to do with Christianity.
If they have that attitude, they are rejecting Christ’s work on the cross. They say that Christ covering their sins on the cross is not that great and they don’t care for it. The author is saying in verse 6 that having this attitude makes it so you would need Christ to die all over again to be forgiven. That is, Christ died once and they received forgiveness, but then they say they don’t need that anymore. How will their sins be covered, then? They would need Christ to die all over again if they rejected his work on the cross. Once was not enough for them, and they have to go through it all again. He says, “No. This is wrong and it’s impossible for them to have God’s life if they make this mistake.” They can’t receive the Promised Land, so to speak.
It’s the same with the type for Moses. He cannot strike the rock twice and still receive the Promise Land, that is, the inheritance. Christ only needed to be struck once. Remember what He said on the Cross? “It is finished.” This is an important point. On a different week we were talking about the rest. Spiritually, we rest. Why do we rest? Because Christ finished the work. It’s finished on the cross, that’s the one striking. If you try to strike Him all over again, you are saying that was not enough. You are saying that there needs to be more added to that work. This attitude is called many different names by God, but it basically equals death if you think that Christ’s sacrifice is not enough for your sins.
Have you ever heard people say, “Yeah, I know Christ died on the cross. But did he really die for my sins? I don’t know, I sin so bad. I don’t know if the blood covered that.” It sounds like a sort of weird humility, but it’s actually a perverted sense of pride, if you think about it. You know why? Because they are saying, “I’m so great, my sins are so great, that Christ couldn’t handle all of them.” Either Christ handled all your sins or He didn’t. If He did, then there is no second striking, which is what Moses did.
So we’re carrying this through now. We talked about the rock representing Christ, the striking representing the cross, and the water representing the Spirit. I want to show one other aspect now. Maybe you already know where I’m going, because of the title of this Bible study.
The Manna that fell from heaven is called spiritual food. But what did that represent?
In Matthew 4: 4, Jesus is answering Satan and He actually quotes from Deuteronomy chapter 8. “Man should not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” If you go to Deuteronomy 8 , you see that he’s comparing the manna to the Word of God. See, the Word of God is called our daily bread.
The Bible is also compared, in 1 Peter, to the milk that infants receive. And in Hebrews 5, the Bible is compared to solid food for the mature. So the bible is sufficient at all levels as you mature. Like I said before, some people come to the Lord when they just hear, “Jesus loves me”. And that is a revelation, believe me. For anyone who lived most of their life not knowing that Jesus loves them, that’s a revelation. They have that revelation from the Word, and that’s like the milk. They can live off that for a while, but as they are trying to grow up, they need to learn a little more about his love. They need to learn more about his holiness, as well. The Bible covers all those needs.
The Scriptures are compared to the bread, the Manna that came down from heaven. Think of this: Manna came from the heavens. That’s important, because it states that purposefully, that Manna came from Heaven. See, people will say, “Well, the Bible is really written by men, right?” No, its authority comes from heaven. 1 Thessalonians, and other places, say very clearly that the words of the Bible are not the words of man but the words of God.
We also read that the collection of the manna tested the obedience of the Israelites. What does James 1 say? Hear the Word and do it. See, our reaction to the Word, our collection of the Word, if you will, tests our obedience to the Lord.
I have one other note to say with all of this. Go to John 6. This is Jesus speaking. “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51). Now Jesus is talking about the Manna that came down, but he doesn’t say it represents the Word. He says it represents Himself. Yes, He says, “I am that manna that came down.” So which one is it? How does this work? Does the manna represent the Word or does it represent Christ? I believe He’s showing us that both are true. As you take the Word, you are taking in Christ. You are sharing in his presence. The written Word becomes the personal Word as you take that in. A similar picture can be seen with the water that came from the rock.
In 1 Corinthians 10:4, it says that they drank of that spiritual rock, but notice what else we see with that rock. The rock did what? It “accompanied them,” or others say, it “followed them.” Now, do you think they carried a big rock around with them? No. Did the rock sort of roll around with them? No. So what in the world does it mean that the rock followed them as they went forth? What multiple Bible commentators have said, and what makes the most sense to me, is that the water that came forth from the rock was the thing that sustained them during their journey. That water was like rivers that came forth, and they drank from that water.
The rock brought forth the water and, therefore, by drinking the water it was like they were drinking part of the rock. Think about this: the water represents the Spirit, so as you drink of the Spirit, as you take in the Spirit, Jesus says Himself that anyone who receives the Spirit receives me. When you receive the Spirit, when you receive the Word, you are receiving Christ. According to these passages you are receiving Him in full measure when you take in these things.
Remember when Jesus was on the mountaintop, the mountain of transfiguration? He is with Peter and John, and James is there too. Then Moses and Elijah appeared to Him there and spoke with him, and Peter gets excited, which led God to interrupt him. See, Peter wanted to build three tabernacles at the top of the mountain – one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. But God interrupts him. That’s important to notice. When you read the gospels, Peter had a lot of things to say. Sometimes he said foolish things, and God mostly allowed him to speak even foolish thoughts. But do you know that Peter was interrupted three times in the Scriptures: once by the Father, once by the Son, and once by the Holy Spirit? This particular incident, he is interrupted by the Father. When he’s talking about the temple tax in Matthew 17 (just a couple sentences later than the mount of transfiguration), he’s interrupted by Jesus. And then, when he is speaking to Cornelius’ household in Acts 10, it says the Spirit interrupted him. So Peter is interrupted a couple times, and it’s interesting to look at what happened and what God said when he interrupted Peter. This time, he is interrupted and God says, “This is my Son, listen to Him.” After this was said, we read that Peter looked up and saw Jesus standing alone. I believe that God is saying something with this incident. Think about Moses. He’s the one who gives the law. I think he represents the Word. I think he was really Moses, of course, but I think there’s something else deeper that God’s saying. Elijah, on the other hand, is called “the prophet”. Therefore, I think Elijah represents the Spirit, and you’ll see that in other places in the Scriptures. Take it for what it is, but I think God is showing that they are accompanying Jesus, that is, the Word and the Spirit are accompanying Him. Listen to God. Here He says you don’t have to build three separate tents, because if you are listening to Jesus you are listening to the Word and the Spirit too. I think this incident may be showing that The Law and the Prophets testify to Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment and even embodiment of the Law and the Prophets, as well as the Spirit and the Word.
Regardless of that brief aside, what we’ve seen as we’ve gone through this, and what I wanted to show by this illustration, and by what Paul says, is that the only way the Israelites were able to live in the desert and in really dangerous conditions was with these two elements: (1) the water, which was there drink, and (2) the food, which was the manna. That is the only way they were able to live. It is the same for us today. You will not be able to live if you only have the Word, but you do not know the Spirit. You will not be able to live, and if you think you could, I would challenge you to go ahead and eat all you want, but don’t drink anymore. Physically, what’s going to happen? You will die.
Now it’s the same on the other side. Some people think, “Oh, I have the Holy Spirit, I will be fine, I’ll be able to live.” You will not be able to live! I challenge you in this. Well, it may not be a perfect parallel, because you can live a little longer without food than you can without water, but you will still eventually die. It’s just a matter of time if you are drinking and you’re not eating. You will not be able to survive for long. You need both to live. If your spiritual life is suffering, there’s a good chance that one of those components is missing – the Spirit or the Word. And if you are depending on one or the other, you won’t have light. When you have both come together, you have light and then life comes.
I’m going to wrap up this study with two warnings.
There’s two times where the Israelites complained that the water and the manna were not enough. Please consider this. What did we just say? The water represents the Spirit and the manna represents the Word.
Let’s think about this metaphor. They might not say it so politely but I’ve heard people say all the time, “We have the Bible, we have the Spirit. Yeah, yeah, but what else do we have? We need more.” Believe me, this is a terribly common sentiment. “We need programs, we need flashier this, we need music.” Well, there’s two times that Israel complained about the water and manna not being enough.
The first time is in Numbers 11. Here, the Israelites complained that they needed more than bread and water, so God gave them quail. “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish…6 But now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (11:4-6). The Scripture goes on to talk about the manna. The people went about, ground it, gathered it, and beat it, manna burgers, manna bananas (that’s a Keith Green song), all these different things; they have all this manna. Now look at verses 18-20. “Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourself for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor give days, not ten days, not twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord, who is among you.'” Notice, they never got mad at God directly. They just said, “Your food and water is not what we want.” Specifically they had issues with the food, and, on a spiritual level, this happens all the time: “Well, we follow Jesus, but we don’t trust the Bible.” I hear that and it just grinds me because Jesus would absolutely repudiate that. These people are saying, “We don’t want the manna. That’s all right.”
What was the outcome of their complaints? Skip to verse 31: “Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from…” From heaven? Is that what it says? No, it actually came from the sea, interestingly enough. Hold onto that. “..Quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next say, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp, But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth hataavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to the craving. From Kibroth Hataavah the people moved to Hazeroth, and camped at Hazeroth.” (11:31-35). Ultimately, that quail did not come from heaven, it came from the sea. Now, I think this is interesting. Look up Revelation 17:15. This is slightly out of context, but it will give a principle. “Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.'” (17:15). In Revelation, when you see seas, it represents the multitudes, that is, the world. I’ve thought about this. The sea is where the quail came from. Instead of from heaven – from God – it was the intense craving of the flesh and of the world. Essentially, while they were eating the flesh, I think it represents God giving them over to their own flesh, which happens when you are not trusting the Word and the Spirit. There is a principle we should think about (and everyone knows this to be true): Either this book – that is, the physical copy of your Bible – is a mess, because you’ve been through it so many times and your life looks pretty nice, or your life is a mess and this book looks pretty nice. Take your pick, but it usually is one or the other. If your Bible has been sitting pretty nice on the mantle place, your life probably is a mess. It may be a subtle mess, but that is the way sin starts: it is very subtle and almost unnoticeable initially. Check out where your life is at. That happens a lot, and it is the same with the Spirit. When you are following the Holy Spirit, you are not given up to the flesh, which ultimately leads to death.
There’s another time where Israel complained that the bread and water were just not enough. Read Numbers 21:4-6: “They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”. First, I like when it says, there’s no food or water and we detest this food you gave us. Basically, they are saying, “It’s not what we want”. Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Why does God give serpents here? Of course, I think the serpent is a true serpent here. They were really given up to serpents. But it represents, ultimately, the enemy – “that serpent of old” (Revelation 20:2). Revelation and Genesis both say that about the serpent. They are given up to the serpent because Israel refused the manna and water alone.
So take your pick: You either get the manna and the water, which is sufficient, or you can get your flesh, or you can get the serpent. That is your choice. That is not just a reality for Israel during the desert. The New Testament shows clearly that the journeys of Israel in the desert also teach spiritual truth for Christians. If we have the Spirit and the Word together, like the manna and water, we can survive even in the most arid desert. Of course, later in Numbers 21, it talks about the bronze serpent God used to heal them, and Jesus says this represents Him, that He brought death to the serpent’s power by his death on the cross (see John 3). But that is a study for a different time.
I suppose that is the conclusion to this study. I do feel compelled to study the foundations and what we want to do is get them recorded. I don’t know what God wants to do with this, but we can give them to people who might be interested as we go through repentance, faith, baptism, and so forth in Hebrews 6. We want to make sure we have a sturdy foundation and give it to other people who need to grow. But, the fact is, if you are having one without the other, the Word without the Spirit, it’s not going to be true light. So we want to foster that. I want to foster that. I really hope we are all considering the concepts taught in this study. Are we trusting God, and saying that his Spirit and Word are sufficient for us? Are we putting them both together as we are seeking these other foundations out?