Encouragements- Provision by the Way

"These are the ones who will dwell on high. The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress of safety. Food will be supplied to them, and they will have water in abundance." Isaiah 33:16

"I thirst! O God, great Source of Love!
Infinite Life streams from above,
O give one drop and let me live!
The barren world has nothing to give:
No solace have its streams for me:
I thirst alone for heaven and thee."

When the Israelites were marching through the burning wilderness of Arabia to the promised land, God nourished them with bread from heaven, and with water from a smitten rock. Then he opened the doors of heaven, and rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them of the bread of heaven. Men ate angels' food! He sent them food to the full. He opened the rock in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

The same is true, in a spiritual sense, of Zion's pilgrims, who are journeying through this barren wilderness world to the happy Canaan above. They are encircled in the same Everlasting Arms. Their needs are supplied by the same Almighty Hand. They eat of the hidden manna, and drink of the water of life. How beautifully is this comparison illustrated by the Christian poet!
"When Israel by divine command
The pathless desert trod,
They found, though 'twas a barren land,
A sure resource in God.
A cloudy pillar marked their road,
And screened them from the heat;
From the hard rocks the water flowed,
And manna was their meat."
Like them we have a rest in view,
Secure from adverse powers:
Like them we pass a desert, too;
But Israel's God is ours.
Yes, in this barren wilderness,
He is to us the same,
By his appointed means of grace,
As once he was to them."

A gracious God, in the infinitude of his love, has provided ample provision for the refreshment and support of weary pilgrims in passing through this dark valley to the joyous realms of everlasting light. Here, he has instituted the precious ordinances of divine grace and salvation for our joy and happiness until we come to worship Him in His temple above. As our kind Heavenly Father, he has given us the bread of life. Jesus Christ is the true bread from heaven, with which the souls of believers are nourished in their lonely pilgrimage. Says the Savior, "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never thirst." "Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. However, the bread from heaven gives eternal life to everyone who eats it. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live."

The Israelites, in their wanderings in the wilderness, were fed with manna; but we, in our journey to a better land, partake of the fullness of Jesus, whose flesh is food indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed. Here, in this wilderness,
"Jesus, the bread of life, is given
To be our daily food
We drink a wondrous stream from heaven,
'Tis water, wine, and blood.
Lord, 'tis enough, I ash no more,
These blessings are divine;
I envy not the worldling's store,
If Christ and heaven are mine."

Here, we drink of the living waters of salvation- those streams of immortal joys, which issue from the pierced side of a blessed Redeemer, for the refreshment of thirsty pilgrims, wandering through the deserts of life. The perennial fountain of that river, whose streams make glad the city of our God, is to be found in a suffering Savior; and at this precious Fountain we may quench our thirst forever. "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Here is the well of endless life.

O thirsty soul, come to a bleeding Savior, and drink, and live forever! You are earnestly invited to come to the Fountain of Life. These living waters are freely offered to all. This is the language of redeeming love, "Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it's all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!" "To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge!" "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' Let each one who hears them say, 'Come.' Let the thirsty ones come—anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge."

When the children of Israel left the land of Egypt, the Lord guided them through the pathless desert by a pillar of cloud and fire until they were brought to the borders of Canaan. Thus the great Leader of his spiritual Israel has kindled a light in this dark and dreary land to guide his chosen people to that glorious realm on high, where it is said, "The Lord shall be unto you an everlasting light, and your God your glory."

The blessed WORD OF GOD affords the Christian traveler light, comfort, joy, and provision by the way. Says the Psalmist: "Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. This is my comfort in my affliction; for your word has quickened me. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. Your testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. How sweet are your words unto my taste yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth." In the Bible there is everything provided for the needy traveler to Zion. "It embodies all," says an eloquent living divine (Waterbury), "that a Christian in this pilgrimage can need. It is his only chart through this tempestuous life. In trouble, it is his consolation; in prosperity, his monitor; in difficulty, his guide. Amid the darkness of death, and while descending into the shadowy valley, it is the day-star that illuminates his path, makes his dying eye bright with hope, and cheers his soul with the prospect of immortal glory."

Ample provision is set before the pilgrim of Zion in a PREACHED GOSPEL. Here it is that his soul is refreshed with the richest streams of divine grace. Here, he draws living water out of the wells of salvation with joy. No wonder, then, that the child of God loves, above all other places in this world, the habitation of God's house. No wonder that his language is, "My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks—it was the sound of a great celebration!" "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God."

But the most abundant provision is procured for needy pilgrims in THE LORD'S SUPPER. This is a most precious, a most soul-ravishing ordinance of grace. Surely, if there is a time when the Christian is permitted to lie down in green pastures, by the still waters, in this bleak and barren world, it is during communion seasons, when he draws around that holy table, and meditates on the wonders of Calvary. Then it is that his weary soul is refreshed with the abundance of God's grace, and with the goodness of his house. Then it is that he reposes with the greatest delight under the shadow of Jesus, who protects all his people from the burning wrath of an offended God. "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste."

If there is a moment this side of heaven, when the Christian traveler seems to breathe a purer atmosphere than that of earth, it is when seated at the table of the Lord, he takes into his hands the emblems of Immanuel's broken body and shed blood, and, with the eye of faith turned towards Calvary, views that immaculate Savior nailed to the accursed tree, bleeding from every pore– in his unparalleled love, dying for rebel man, and by his vicarious death opening the way to God and to glory.

When the believing communicant appropriates Christ and his righteousness as freely offered in this ordinance, he feels as if his happy spirit were fanned by the breezes of paradise. It is this appropriating act- this feasting on Christ crucified that refreshes the weary pilgrim infinitely more than all the enjoyments of a dying world. This rich provision satisfies the soul as with marrow and fatness. It fills it with joy, unutterable, indescribable and full of glory. Our poor pen cannot describe the joy and peace which a famishing soul experiences when it eats of the hidden manna, and drinks of the living water. It is impossible to tell how soul-reviving it is, thus to receive a crucified Savior as ours; to have his goodness imparted to our souls.

"How sweet the sacred joy that dwells
In souls renewed by power divine;
Where Jesus all his goodness tells:
Oh! may this joy be ever mine."

Come, then, weary pilgrim, and repose in these green pastures, and bathe in the still waters. You will then be invigorated for treading the pathway through the shadows of earth to that bright, happy region where you shall forever eat of the fruit of the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God; and where you shall drink of that perennial fountain which issues from the throne of the Eternal.

How happy is the condition of Zion's pilgrim even in this land of sorrow! Their needs are all supplied out of Jesus, in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell. Their provisions are prepared by the God of all grace; and they are sufficient. "They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare, and their pastures shall be in all high places." "They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare. They will neither hunger nor thirst. The searing sun and scorching desert winds will not reach them anymore. For the Lord in his mercy will lead them beside cool waters. And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys. See, my people will return from far away, from lands to the north and west, and from as far south as Egypt. Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their sorrow."

Go then, Christian traveler, on your way to the peaceful shore of glory, singing, with a cheerful heart, the pilgrim's song of Psalm 23–
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.