C.H. Mackintosh: “The Food
for Our Wilderness Journey”

C.H. Mackintosh (1820-1896) was a leading Bible teacher among the Plymouth Brethren. He is especially well-known for his commentary on the books of Moses, Notes on the Pentateuch.

It is our privilege, as those who have been baptized unto Christ’s death and “raised together with Him through the faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12), to feed upon Christ as “the living bread which came down out of heaven” (John 6:51). This is our wilderness food—Christ as ministered by the Holy Spirit, through the written Word.

Now, it is obvious that, in order to enjoy such a portion as this, our hearts must be weaned from everything in this present evil world—from all that addresses us as natural men—as men alive in the flesh. A worldly heart, a carnal mind, would neither find Christ in the Word, nor enjoy Him if found. The manna was so pure and delicate that it could not bear contact with the earth. It fell upon the dew (Num. 11:9) and had to be gathered ere the sun was up. Each one, therefore, had to rise early and seek his daily portion. So it is with the people of God now. The heavenly manna must be gathered fresh every morning. Yesterday’s manna will not do for today, nor today’s for tomorrow. We must feed upon Christ every day, with fresh energy of the Spirit, else we shall cease to grow. Moreover, we must take Christ as our primary object. We must seek Him “early,” before other things have had time to take possession of our poor susceptible hearts. Many of us, alas! fail in this. We give Christ a secondary place, and the consequence is, we are left feeble and barren. The enemy, ever watchful, takes advantage of our excessive spiritual indolence to rob us of the blessedness and strength which flow from feeding on Christ. The new life in the believer can only be sustained by Christ. “As the living Father has sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, even He shall live because of Me” (John 6:57).

What a striking picture is presented by Israel in the wilderness! Egypt was behind them, Canaan before them, and the sand of the desert around them; while they themselves were called to look up to heaven for their daily supply. The wilderness afforded not one blade of grass nor one drop of water for the Israel of God. In Jehovah alone was their portion. Most touching illustration of God’s pilgrim people in this wilderness world! They have nothing here. Their life, being heavenly, can only be sustained by heavenly things. Though in the world, they are not of it. As a heaven-born people, they are sustained by food sent from thence. Jehovah’s chariot was in the wilderness, and all who desired companionship with Him should be there likewise; and if there, the heavenly manna should be their portion, and that alone.

True, this manna was strange sustenance, such as an Egyptian could never understand, appreciate, or live upon; but those who had been “baptized in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:2) could, if walking in consistence with that significant baptism, enjoy it and be nourished by it. Thus it is now in the case of the true believer. The worldling cannot understand how he lives. Both his life and that which sustains it lie entirely beyond the range of nature’s keenest vision. Christ is his life, and on Christ he lives. He feeds by faith upon the powerful attractions of One who, though “God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5), “took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man” (Phil. 2:7). He traces Him from the bosom of the Father to the cross, and from the cross to the throne, and finds Him, in every stage of His journey, and in every attitude of His life, to be most precious food to his new man. All around, though, Egypt is morally a wilderness, affording nothing for the renewed mind; and just in proportion as the Christian finds anything to feed upon must his spiritual man be hindered in his progress. The only provision which God has made is the heavenly manna, and on this the true believer should ever feed.

It is truly deplorable to find Christians seeking after the things of this world. It proves, very distinctly, that they are “loathing” the heavenly manna, and esteeming it “light food.” They are ministering to that which they ought to mortify. As in nature, the more we exercise the better the appetite, so in grace, the more our renewed faculties are called into play, the more we feel the need of feeding, each day, upon Christ. It is one thing to know that we have life in Christ, and it is quite another to be in habitual communion with Him—feeding upon Him by faith—making Him the exclusive food of our souls.

Adapted from Genesis to Deuteronomy; Notes on the Pentateuch, by C.H. Mackintosh. Sunbury, PA: Believers Bookshelf, Inc., 1999, pp. 213 – 215.