Gathering the Manna
The need of continual exhortation to a diligent study of God's word, increases as "the day approaches." Therefore, we are inclined to linger a little over this; seeking to impress on young believers the importance of their "searching the scriptures daily," and applying the truth honestly to every thought, word, and deed, so that all may be brought into harmony with the Divine mind. The grand thing is to realise that we are to be doers of God's word, and not hearers only. It is only what our consciences take in from the Lord Himself that imparts real profit to our souls; for only thus do we become fashioned like Jesus, in our daily life; and this should be our desire. We must feed upon God's word, that we may grow thereby; not that careless, casual reading of the Bible, without meditation or prayer, which is so common in these perilous times, when Christians, by an endless round of engagements are tempted to neglect the scriptures; when society is in a state of unrest and distraction by pleasure seeking, excursions, and entertainments of every kind which divert the mind from the souls welfare, and lead to spiritual apathy, and leanness. We cannot serve two masters; and the world, in every form, is opposed to Christ; we should therefore turn away our eyes from its vanities; and not seek its amusement from them. Spiritual strength, to bear the difficulties of life, and walk such as to glorify God, must depend on our feeding upon Christ, through communion with the Spirit, over His word.
One has truly said that "every ray of the sun contains three colours; the properties of each being to give light, to heat, and to fertilise. Likewise, truth emanates from God, the fountain of light, and is intended to enlighten our understanding; to warm our hearts; and to produce the fruits of righteousness in our lives."
Now we have pointed out that the ordinary desultory reading of God's word, imparts but little profit, because it lacks the heartfelt desire to know God's mind, in order to be obedient children. The mere desire to increase our stock of knowledge is not a satisfactory motive to prompt us in "searching the scriptures." Natural wisdom in the church of God (apart from a heart exercised by the Holy Ghost) leads to sorrow, just as Eden's humiliation came through eating of "the tree of knowledge." The antidote to this is that "place of a skull," where He who was the wisdom of God, "emptied Himself," and He is our example in all things. Yes, brother and sister, learn of Him, where Mary learnt those truths that became a stay to her soul, even at His feet. Learn of Him, who whilst He was "the brightness of the Father's glory, and express image of His person" yet was also a real man, who required water to satisfy the thirst of His body; and for His soul's refreshment "drew water out of the wells of salvation;" going in the early morning away to the solitary place, where He could commune with God, and gather that blessed manna "fresh from the dew." Would that we were more like Him! Oh, what power there would be in our walk and our words, instead of the faltering step and the uncertain sound which characterises those who neglect closet prayer, and reading and meditation on God's Word.
Men's books, with worthless chaff are stored;
God's book, doth golden grain afford;
Then leave the chaff, and spend your pains
In gathering up the golden grains.
Now "there is a time for everything," and God has told us in Numbers ii., when the manna had to be gathered. It was "early in the morning"; when the sun waxed hot, it melted, and what was hoarded up bred worms and stank. Solemn and seasonable truth is unfolded here. The manna had to be gathered "fresh from the dew." In scripture, dew is always typical of the Holy Spirit, see Hosea xiv. 5. And we are to learn from this, that whilst all around is barren, yet God provides for the daily need of our wilderness journey. His Spirit shall abide with us for ever. He unfolds Jesus to our souls as the Bread of life. Truth from Him invigorates the new man. Truth acquired second-hand is comparatively useless. We must feed upon it, fresh from the dew, if our souls are to grow thereby; see Eph. iii. 16, 1 Peter ii. 2, Col. i. 10. The world knows nothing of this meat which sustains our souls. And the quiet solemnity of the early morning is the best time to gather this heavenly food, before the heart is ruffled with the cares of life. Braced up with this we should be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."
Christians should adopt a systematic, regular, and conscientious reading of God's word. David esteemed all God's precepts; so should we read carefully from Genesis to Revelation, and devote as much time daily to this delightful exercise of soul, as we possibly can. It is easy to see how many hours and days in a year we should thus have, if we set apart fixed times daily, for reading God's word. Those who do this, unite in testimony, as to the great profit their souls have derived and the increasing interest awakened in spiritual things until it becomes sweeter than honey to their taste, Psa. cxix. 103, a light to their feet, Psa. cxix. 105, and "better than thousands of silver and gold," Psa. cxix, 127.
Paul, in writing to Timothy, his son in the faith, exhorts him to give attention to reading and to meditate upon these things. The need that "the word of God should dwell in us richly, in all wisdom," is greater now than it ever has been, for "Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," and our only way to detect his wiles or parry his thrusts, is by using the sword of the Spirit, and having our "lions girt about with truth." "The entrance of God's word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple," and, according to Prov. vi., it leads us where we go, keeps us when we sleep, talks with us when we are awake, and is “a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path."
In these perilous times, Satan does all he can to neutralise the power of God's word both to saints and to sinners. He has flooded the land with works of fiction to charm the mind and suit every taste,— from the religious novel, to the profane novelette. Sad to say, this garbage from the adversary is too often substituted by Christians for the Bread of life. In thousands of Christian homes, this light literature is eating like a canker into the souls of young believers, and spoiling their taste for spiritual food. These tales that are found in periodicals of various forms feed the lust of the flesh and produce unhealthy excitement of the mind, which, more, or less, rob the soul of communion with Christ, who says to such, "If ye seek Me, let these go their way." It is impossible to read fiction without grieving the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, and spoiling the appetite for a quiet, prayerful study of God's word. It leads to a swallow-like skimming over the surface of your reading, instead of that patient study in "comparing scripture with scripture," and "meditating on these things." Without digestion, food is not assimilated to the body. So without reflection, our reading is unprofitable to the soul. There ever needs to be a quiet waiting upon God's spirit, for His application of the truth to our hearts. It is thus, little by little, that we get "built up in the faith;" growing in grace and in the knowledge and love of God. We exhort young believers, as they value their soul's prosperity, avoid those "snares of the devil," which are laid very close to the narrow path. The Psalms tell us much of the blessedness of those who "meditate on the law of the Lord." His promise is that such shall be fruitful, evergreen, and prosperous. We want more closet communings with, our blessed Lord, with ears awakened morning by morning to hear what He shall say to our souls. Public Meetings won't suffice for spiritual health; we must get away from "the many coming and going," where we can hear His voice, which alone can impart counsel for these perilous times.