The School of Life (Part 2), Exodus 16:4-18

Consider yourself fortunate when God all-powerful chooses to correct you.” -Job 5:17 (CEV)

Last week I shared from Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Delivered, that we should expect trials. God tests, but never tempts. Through testing, He searches our hearts and reveals to us what is in our hearts (Dt. 8:10). He also sometimes shakes things up to correct and perfect us (Heb. 12:8-11; 1 Pt. 5:10; Rom 5:3-4).

After God performed miracles in the wilderness, the Israelites trusted Him intensely. But in the heat of trials, their trust soon melted into more grumbling.

You may read Exodus 16:4-18 here: Bible Gateway.

Trust God to Supply the Need  

God heard the Israelites’ complaints and mercifully met their needs. He would rain down bread in the morning and meat by evening. In giving these provisions, He was also testing their belief and obedience.

God’s Promises

I am borrowing from Warren Wiersbe’s wisdom again, (now that’s a tongue twister!)

As we journey through life, we live on promises and not explanations. Wiersbe explains: “When we hurt it’s a normal response to ask ‘Why?’ but that is the wrong approach to take. When we ask that question we’re assuming a superior posture and giving the impression that we are in charge and God is accountable to us. God is sovereign and doesn’t have to explain anything to us unless He wants to. Asking ‘why?’ also assumes that if God did explain His plans and purposes to us, we’d understand perfectly and feel better.”

Job is an example of repeating: “I’d like to meet God and ask Him a few things!” But when God does visit Job, Job is so overwhelmed with His presence that He doesn’t ask anything (Job 40:1-5). Wiersbe concludes: “Can we begin to understand the plans and ways of God when His ways are far above us and His wisdom unsearchable (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-36)? Explanations don’t heal broken hearts, but promises do, because promises depend on faith, and faith puts us in contact with the grace of God.”

God’s Glory  

When the going gets tough it’s natural to ask God to get us out of the situation. But He desires that we ask Him: “What can I get out of this?” Wiersbe writes: “God permits trials so that He can build godly character into His children and make us more like Jesus. Godliness isn’t the automatic result of reading books and attending meetings; it also involves bearing burdens, fighting battles, and feeling pain.”

Israel would have glorified God if they walked by faith and focused on Him, not on their own appetites. God desires our trust not only when things go well, but also when things go wrong. This involves a choice: trust God intentionally, or resent His way and rebel.

When we choose to trust God through the storms, He receives the glory and we enjoy His presence. We’re also made more into His likeness.

God’s faithfulness 

God not only provided abundant quail, but also made a sweet spread in the wilderness as He shared “the bread of angels” with His people (Ps. 78:17-25; Ex. 16:31). Manna—man hu in Hebrew from the question: “What is it?”—would be the Israelites’ food for the next 40 years.

God’s Son

(christianphotos-jesusimages.blogspot.com)

After Jesus had fed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish, a crowd in Capernaum’s synagogue wanted Him to prove Himself as Messiah by replicating the miracle of manna (John 6:30-31). They mainly followed Jesus because He gave them food to eat. But they—like us—needed something more substantial than food for their bodies. They needed food for their souls (Isa. 55:2).

Jesus declared that He was “the true bread” that came down from heaven. God may have only given Israel manna in the desert, but He gave His only Son, Jesus, for the whole world.

The manna in Exodus was a picture or type of God’s Son. Jesus came to give Himself as the Bread of Life for hungry sinners. The only way to be saved from eternal death is to receive Him into our inner being, similar as the body receives food. Wiersbe puts it this way: “Just as the Jews had to stoop and pick up the manna, and then eat it, so sinners must humble themselves and receive Jesus Christ within. The Jews ate the manna and eventually died, but whoever receives Jesus Christ will live forever.”

Another application to the miracle of manna is the exercise of daily “feeding on Christ” by reading His Word and obeying. Although the Jews in the synagogue thought Jesus was literally speaking about eating His flesh and blood (John 6:52-56), Jesus made it clear that He was referring to receiving His Word (vv. 61-63).

Blessings this Easter as we celebrate our resurrected Lord and King!

The School of Life (Part 1), Exodus 15:22-16:3

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” –Phillips Brooks (American preacher and Episcopal bishop, 1835-1893)

Perhaps Philips Brooks had the Israelites in mind when he spoke these words to his Boston congregation. For the Israelites began to grumble and whine about returning to Egypt whenever they encountered trials. Their joyful worship of God after crossing the Red Sea failed to connect with daily trust of God’s provision during their wilderness walk.

You may read Exodus 15:22-16:3 here: Bible Gateway.

It’s easy to look down on the Israelites’ grumbling attitude, especially after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. I’m missing out, however, if I don’t look beyond their faults. Am I any different? Do I sing praises to God on Sunday, only to complain about my circumstances during the week? Have I recently won a spiritual battle only to find myself losing the victory like the Jews in their journey toward Mount Sinai?

Warren Wiersbe shares some great advice about the Israelites’ desert wanderings in his book, Be Delivered. I’m following his outline in this series.

Expect Trials to Come

Wiersbe writes: “God was testing His people, not because He didn’t know their hearts, but because they didn’t know their own hearts. . . . ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:9).’ The Lord tests us to encourage spiritual growth and bring out the best in us, but the Devil tempts us to bring out the worst in us and to encourage spiritual immaturity. The attitude that we take toward our difficulties determines which direction life will go, for what life does to us depends on what life finds in us. If we trust God and obey His Word, we’ll pass the test and grow, but if in unbelief we complain and disobey the Lord, we’ll fail the test and remain immature (James 1:12-18; Heb. 12:1-11).”

I know I’m guilty multiple times of trying to avoid or smooth over situations that create conflict or produce pain. I’d rather be sailing in the Caribbean while soaking up the sunshine and sipping my strawberry soda. But the truth is: Life is a journey where we must fight new battles and learn new lessons. We need new experiences that challenge us. And God knows best how to tailor these challenges to help us grow and glorify Him.

“What shall we drink?” (15:22-27). This question, along with: “What shall we eat?” (16:1-3) were at the forefront of the Israelites’ minds. Although they had forgotten their bondage and beatings while enslaved in Egypt, they remembered Egypt’s “flesh pots” that filled their stomachs.

Now their challenge consisted of traveling three days in the desert—with children and animals—without water. Not a pleasant experience! On the third day they came across water, only to find it was bitter, (Marah means “bitter”).

Unlike the Israelites who complained and accused Moses and Aaron of leading them into the wilderness to die, Moses acted in faith. He cried out to God and then obeyed.

Wiersbe concludes: “God can solve our problems by changing things (like making the bitter waters sweet), by giving us something else (like the wells of water at Elim), or by giving us the grace we need to bear with our difficulties and not complain. The third approach is what produces lasting spiritual growth (2 Cor. 12:7-10). . . .Note to self . . . . The Jews not only learned something about themselves and about life, but they also learned something about their God, that He is ‘Jehovah-Ropha, the Lord who heals’ (15:26). God promised Israel abundant physical blessings if they would obey Him, but physical afflictions if they disobeyed (Deut. 7:12-15; 28). These promises were a part of the old covenant with Israel and aren’t repeated in the new covenant for believers today. If it is His will, God is certainly able to heal every disease, but our attitude must always be, ‘Not my will but Thy will be done.’”

(surveyofchrisianity.com)
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus—knowing the intense suffering that lay before Him—modeled this prayer three times. Instead of complaining or questioning God, He simply prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Matthew 26:39b). What incredible love and obedience!

Thankfully, God knows how to balance our life experiences. He alone knows how much we can take. Although God gives us trials to humble and grow us, He also pours out rich blessings to encourage—just as He did by leading His people to the restful place of Elim with lots of water.

The Song of Moses and Miriam, Exodus 15:1-21

The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” –Exodus 15:2

There is no record of the Israelites praising God when enslaved in Egypt. Their journey out consisted mostly of complaints. But now with their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into an epic praise song led by Moses.

Some say this is the oldest recorded song in the world. Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, (also called “prophetess”), leads a special choir of Jewish women with tambourines and dancing as she repeats the first words of the song.

You may read Exodus 15:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.

The following four stanzas make up this praise hymn.

1) God’s victory announced (vv. 1-5). Pharaoh had ordered the Jewish boy babies to be drowned, but now God gives him what he dished out. I imagine the Jews sang from their hearts: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea . . . . The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. . . . They sank like lead in the mighty waters . . . . In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumes them like stubble.”

 Verse 3 might take some by surprise: “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.” Interestingly, one of God’s names is “Jehovah-Sabaoth,” which means “Lord of hosts, Lord of armies.” Throughout the Old Testament, this title is referenced 285 times.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “If there is in this world an enemy like Satan, and if sin and evil are hateful to God, then He must wage war against them. ‘The LORD will march out like a might man; like a warrior he will stir up zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies’ (Isa. 42:13). Jesus Christ is both the Lamb who died for our sins and the Lion who judges sin (Rev. 5:5-6), and one day He will ride forth to conquer His enemies (19:11). To emphasize only ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16) and eliminate ‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5) is to rob God of His attributes of righteousness, holiness, and justice.”

2) God’s weapons are described (vv. 6-10). Although God doesn’t fight with conventional weapons, Moses uses human characteristics to describe God’s divine attributes: “Your right hand was majestic in power. . . . By the blast of your nostrils the water piled up. . . . You blew with your breath, O LORD, and the sea covered them.”

3) God’s character is exalted (vv. 11-16a). If any doubt of God’s power lingered in the Jews’ minds after the 10 plagues, His mighty deliverance left no room for disbelief. In this victorious moment they sang: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” Of course by now they knew the answer—no one!

This stanza continues to praise God for His power, His mercy of deliverance, His wise guidance, and His awesomeness in bringing fear into their enemies’ hearts. The Israelites anticipated this news of God’s deliverance would travel quickly, sparking fear in opposing peoples as they march toward the Promised Land.

4) God’s promises are fulfilled (vv 16b-18). This stanza reiterates that God purchased Israel and they are His people (Ps. 44:2; 80:8, 15; Isa. 5). It also looks forward to Israel’s conquest of Canaan. God would dwell with His people in glory when He places His sanctuary among them. The climax of this song points out that God is sovereign and eternal.

Unfortunately there’s more to this story. As the Israelites enter the wilderness “they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel”, (Ps. 106:13).

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So you won’t find Moses and Miriam in the following music video, but perhaps their descendants. 🙂 Presenting “Praise to Our God 5 Concert” – Lechu Nerannena LeAdonai (Let us sing to the Lord) from the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel.

Israel’s Future Success, Exodus 13:17-15:21

True faith depends on what God says, not on what we see or how we feel. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of consequence.”  -Warren Wiersbe

Apart from Israel’s exodus being an interesting historical event, God has recorded Exodus for our benefit. Warren Wiersbe makes some great observations about Israel’s exodus experience in his book Be Delivered. He writes, “Israel’s exodus experience taught them that their future success lay in fulfilling three important responsibilities: following the Lord (Ex. 13:17-22), trusting the Lord (14:1-31), and praising the Lord (15:12-21).”

Following the Lord (13:17-22)

The exodus from Egypt was just the beginning of Israel’s experience with God.

It took one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.” – George Morrison

This truth also applies to the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. God delivers us from the bondage of sin and spiritual death instantaneously through salvation. But it takes a life time to grow in our Christian walk as God brings us into eternal blessing.

Weirsbe writes: “A.W. Tozer used to remind us that ‘we are saved to as well as saved from.’ The person who trusts Jesus is born again into the family of God, but that’s just the beginning of an exciting adventure that should lead to growth and conquest. God liberates us and then leads us through the varied experiences of life, a day at a time, so that we might get to know Him better and claim by faith all that He wants us to have. At the same time, we come to know ourselves better; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, and we grow in understanding God’s will and trusting His promises.”

If Israel obeyed God, He would give them their inheritance by bringing them into the promised land (Deut. 4:37-38). Unfortunately, that would take the Israelites 40 years of wilderness wandering.

Trusting the Lord (14:1-31)

As the Israelites learned, sometimes God leads us on paths that don’t always make sense.

Wiersbe writes: “As long as the Israelites kept their eyes on the fiery pillar and followed the Lord, they were walking by faith and no enemy could touch them. But when they took their eyes off the Lord and looked back and saw the Egyptians getting nearer, they became frightened and began to complain.”

This seems to be Israel’s default button during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. But before criticizing them too much, maybe I should ask: “At what point does my default setting change from trust and contentment to unbelief and complaining?”

God wants us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Like Peter walking on the water to Jesus (Matt. 14:30), I find that I rise above fear and doubt when my gaze is locked on Christ. But, like Peter, when my attention is focused on stormy circumstances, I sink in fear. And like the Jews who were sure they were going to die in the desert, I easily forget God’s promises when I don’t consistently read His directional guide, the Bible.

So what are we to learn from the Israelites’ example? Wiersbe writes, “Simply this: Life is a constant test of one’s faith in the Lord. As a child of God, every perilous situation I find myself in is no accident. It is the Lord’s way of asking us a very important question: ‘Will you trust Me?’ He asks, ‘Will you trust Me to deliver you from this perilous situation? . . . . And if I choose not to deliver you in the way that you desire, for reasons of My own, will you trust Me to provide you with the strength to endure, believing that: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness?’” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We may not have God’s visible presence now, but we can trust His Word to direct our ways and get to know Him better through prayer. Through life’s storms we can anchor our trust in the mighty God who not only hears our cries, but also powerfully commands the impossible.

Praising the Lord (15:12-21)

With their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into a praise song led by Moses and Miriam. . . . But I best stop here and pick up on their praise and worship next week. . . . Blessings!

Israel’s Deliverance, Exodus 14:10-31

Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” – Exodus 14:13-14

You may read Exodus 14:10-31 here: Bible Gateway.

Perhaps this is the first instance of the Israelites’ bitter grumbling as they accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt only to die in the desert. I wonder if the Israelites’ cries were louder than the pounding hoofs of the Egyptians’ horses as the men swept in for the kill.

Moses, however, tries to assure them that God will deliver. But Moses’ words seem to fade in the dust as the Egyptians draw closer. So Moses does what any normal person would do—cry out to God.

Although this passage of Israel passing through the Red Sea is one of the most popular and dramatic events recorded in the Old Testament, the following verse stood out to me: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on . . . . ‘” (v. 15).

Why would God tell Moses to stop praying and get moving? Aren’t we suppose to seek God in everything? Especially in times of great stress and uncertainty?

I found The Life Application Study Bible commentary helpful (and convicting!): “Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action. Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving.”

Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Moses knows that God has guided the Israelites to this place—between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. The pillar has led them there (13:21-22; 14:19), and God has explained His plan to Moses—so that He could gain glory through Pharaoh and his army (14:1-4). Moses knew that God had promised to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan, which was across and beyond the Red Sea (Genesis 15:13-21; Exodus 3:7-8; 16-17; 6:4; 12:25; 13:5). Moses also knew that God had given him power through the use of his staff.”

Well, you know the rest of the story: God delivers Israel—once for all—from Pharaoh’s dominion in dramatic fashion; the nation of Israel is birthed; and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is God’s culminating act of divine judgment.

I love the animation and visual effects from the “Prince of Egypt” movie. Enjoy!