exodus: 15: 22 - 16:12
Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water
There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.
They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
Being in college has its ups and its downs. For me, there were times when I thought that I was clipping along and right on track, but then there were other times when I could not stand the deadlines of reading and writing. At times I daydreamed of the day that I would be done - no pressure ever again!
As Christ followers, there is a school that we all attend. God trains us, disciplines us, and sanctifies us in “Wilderness University”. Charles Spurgeon called the wilderness “the Oxford and Cambridge for God’s students”.
Our text and next few chapters following walk us through Israel’s wilderness experience. Let’s look at some lessons that they learned and also at Jesus’ time in the wilderness.
Lessons in the Wilderness
A Lesson About Attitude.
We are all prone to grumble, but we must fight this temptation. When God’s people found that the water was bitter, they forget about God’s mighty acts and focus only on their thirst. Even though their attitudes are poor, God miraculously provides by telling Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water and making it pure. With all of this, you would expect to see them faithful to God and content with His provision. But when reading Exodus 16:6-12, one word comes through over and over again: grumble.
Here is the lesson: grumbling is a sin. Although we don’t see it as a big deal, God does. Grumbling causes division and conflict in homes, workplaces, and churches. This is a sin that God wants to be purged from our lives. Paul addresses the Israelites failures in this and applies it to us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. We must make sure that we do not fall into patterns of grumbling and complaining.
A Lesson About Provision.
God provided the Israelites with meat in the form of quail and bread in the form of manna. His provision is wonderful. It was exactly what they needed when they needed it. There was enough for everyone each day, one day at a time. Whenever the people collected more than they needed to stockpile it for the next day, it would go rotten and be filled with maggots. Unless it was the day before the Sabbath when they were to take two days worth, then it would stay fresh. God even gave them clothes that did not wear out (Deuteronomy 8:3-4).
Here is the lesson: God will provide for you one day at a time. God was teaching His people to depend upon Him, one day at a time. They could not rely on their own strength, their own wisdom, or their own resources. In the desert they learned that all they needed could be found in the hands of the God who had formed them. Jesus lived with this understanding of His Father’s daily provision and called His followers to do the same when He told them to pray,
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
A Lesson About Presence.
We can choose to walk in the real and life-changing presence of God or we can cling to lifeless idols. The people of Israel ask a fundamental question that goes through all of our minds at one point or another in our lives: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7) When we hear the Israelites ask this question it seems unbelievable after all God had done for them. However, we must look at our own lives. God is so powerful, He is so present, and yet we dare to wonder if He will be with us. Sometimes we are too blind and too hard-hearted to feel His presence.
Here is the lesson: God is with us and promises that He will never leave us. Moses makes a beautiful request of God in Exodus 33:15. He does not want to go anywhere unless God goes with them. Even though they had the promise of a land of milk and honey, they had the Ten Commandments, and His miraculous provision; Moses wanted God’s presence. Moses is really saying that he would rather live in a desert with God than live in the Promised Land with abundance, affluence, security, and protection but without God’s presence.
Christ in the WIlderness
There are connections between Christ’s wilderness experience and the Israelites wilderness experience.
Christ passed the test that Israel failed.
(Matthew 4; Luke 4) After Jesus was baptized, He was tested for 40 days in the wilderness, corresponding to Israel’s 40 years of testing. When tempted, Jesus identifies with Israel’s wilderness experience and quotes Deuteronomy. But instead of failing, He did not yield to temptation but triumphed obediently and victoriously. Jesus is the truer and better Israel and He passed every test, fulfilling God’s law perfectly. Unlike Israel and us, Jesus did cave to temptation and He did not grumble. He lived the life we could not live.
Christ is the bread we need for eternal life.
(John 6:25-59) After Jesus miraculously fed the 5000, He engaged in a large discussion with people coming to him the next day for more. Israel’s manna is brought up (John 6:31-35). Jesus turned the discussion in verses 32-35. After grumbling about His claims, Jesus says that some will come to Him (verses 44-51). If anyone eats this bread (believes in Him), they will live for eternity (verse 58b).
Trust in Jesus, God’s Son, for your deepest needs. He lived the life you could not live. He passed the test we could not pass. Receive Him and live!
God’s Wilderness School is Hard, but A Great Place to Learn!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?