We have noticed the Israelites entering Canaan and how happy they were. But we might do well to stop and consider a few minutes the real condition of the great multitudes in the churches who have refused to go into Canaan. For a scriptural text we might use Deuteronomy 1:19, “And we came to Kadesh-barnea.” We have heard it said by scholarly gentlemen that Kadesh means “holiness,” and Barnea means “wandering.”
And we have often noticed in our short life that some church members come to the light of scriptural holiness and refuse to go in and receive this beautiful experience. Like Israel of old, they turn back and begin to wander, which in a sense means “milling.” The Israelites between the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of Jordan spent forty years going round and round, crossing their trails and often camping on their same old campground.
So it is with tens of thousands of the people today. They remember well when they were converted, and they came up to a great holiness camp meeting, and heard the light, and the devil said, “Not today,” and they turned back, and they are not as near the happy land today as they were ten years ago. Beloved, it is a dangerous thing to refuse to walk in the light when God throws it across your pathway. But as they are very active in church work, the devil tells them they are making progress. The Israelites, we remember, did not stop and sit down; they traveled all the time, but at the end of forty years they were no nearer Canaan than when they started.
The Israelites had many good times before they got to Canaan. Just after they crossed the Red Sea they had a great hallelujah praise meeting, led by Miriam. Here we see the Salvation Army lassie for the first time. Miss Miriam played the tambourine, and danced before the Lord, and sang, “The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” This is a typical Salvation Army meeting, for the Army has been the only people in our country that took all the good tunes they could gather up and put their own words to them and sang them to the glory of God. We see Miriam making her song as she went.
After the great praise meeting the Lord led them over the hills toward Canaan, and they struck camp in a place called Marah. The word Marah means “bitter,” for they had a bitter well to drink out of. When they cried, “Bitter, bitter, bitter!” Moses cut a limb off the tree, and threw it into the well, and it sweetened the water. From this we find that a Christian doesn’t run long after he is converted until he has to drink out of a bitter well. This is his first real test, and God tests every convert.
From Marah, Moses led them over the hill to another camp which is called Elim. Elim is very different from Marah. At Elim they found twelve wells of pleasant or sweet water. They also found threescore and ten palm trees. Here we notice some marks of a Christian experience. There are twelve months in the year and there were twelve sweet wells. We ought to drink out of a sweet well every month in the year. There were threescore and ten palm trees, and the Lord said, “Your allotted time is to be threescore and ten years. So we see we have a sweet well for every month and a palm tree for every year.
The historians tell us that the palm tree is the most useful tree in the world, that it has been put to three hundred and sixty-five different purposes. The palm tree is so useful and represents the Christian life in such a remarkable way that our beloved Brother W. E. Shepard has written one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, on The Palm Tree Blessing. We find we have three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, and we notice now that we have a sweet well for every month, and a palm tree for each year, and something useful for each day in the year. Well, beloved, at a glance you can see that the above statement will knock in the head the idea of being religious on Sunday and then crooked on Monday. But real salvation will make us just as religious on Monday as we are on Sunday.
But as great and as glorious and as beautiful as these experiences are, they were all this side of the land of Canaan. We have often heard people say they have been blessed a thousand times, therefore they didn’t believe in the second blessing. Beloved, if you have received a thousand blessings, surely you ought to be willing for us to have two — the first and second — and then, according to your testimony, you are still nine hundred and ninety-eight ahead of us. I don’t see why you should set up a howl because we have received two. But yet, beloved, like the Israelites, these people that have been blessed so many times, and had a shouting spell today, are liable to have a wandering spell tomorrow. For you will remember that as great as their sweet well and palm trees were, they were by no means in the land of Canaan.
Another beautiful experience the Israelites had before they got into the land of Canaan was seen in this beautiful fact: they received manna from heaven which was white like coriander seed, and the taste like wafers made with honey. This beautiful manna was a type of the witness of the
Spirit, for we read that it was angels’ food, and sent to the Israelites from heaven. But from the reading of the book we note that at times they had trouble with this manna. They seemed to put some of it in a crock, or wooden bucket, or iron kettle and it soured, and the worms got in it. The reader will notice that the trouble was not with the manna, but with the kind of vessel they were keeping it in. So it is with the justified man. He would not have any trouble with his justification, but he is trying to keep it in an unsanctified heart, and we have often heard a man say that he is a poor, weak worm of the dust, and when he would do good, evil was present and hindered him. O beloved, the worms have gotten into his manna. But God commanded Moses to tell Aaron to gather up an omer of this manna and put it into a golden pot, and it would keep sweet to the rising generations, that the nations round about them might see the bread that He had fed them on in the wilderness. This golden pot and heavenly manna are a beautiful type of full salvation. The golden pot is a type of the sanctified heart, for gold stands for purity, and the manna is a type of the Holy Spirit; so there is a purified heart, filled with the Holy Spirit. God gave them this that they might understand what beautiful things He had for them later on, and what rich treasures He had for them reserved up in the land of Canaan.
But after their sweet well and palm trees and golden pot and manna, they did all of their wandering. They became restless and dissatisfied and discouraged and disheartened, and wanted to go back into Egypt and get onions and garlic and leeks and cucumbers, all of which are a type of an unsanctified heart. We have seen the wanderings of the Israelites so wonderfully fulfilled and carried out by the nominal church members that today the average life of the average church member is a complete repetition of the wanderings of the Israelites.