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Section 2, Redemption's Wilderness Experience.

A Journey into the Unknown.

Journey To God's Law1. Journey to the Law: The waters of Marah (15:22 - 26)

Israel had lived in Egypt for over 400 years.  At first they enjoyed prosperity and comfort.  As they built their lives around these provisions of Jehovah through the kindness of Joseph, they had become somewhat distant from God, Almighty - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

But all that came to an end as a new Pharaoh who did not "know" Joseph - did not appreciate who these people had descended from and did not know their God who saved Egypt from certain ruin - this Pharaoh became fearful of their increased numbers (roughly 2 million) he decided to subject the Israelites to slavery. Remember last weeks lesson that the Egyptians had reason to resent the Israelites for they had lost their property under Joseph but the Israelites were landowners (Gen 47:20, 27). Well, all this came to a head and so came the persecution. Israel did remember God and turned to Him in complaint and murmur - the sorely missed their former estate and wished to be restored to it.  But God had other plans - He revealed Himself to Israel and to Pharaoh through the plagues, the last of which was the death of the firstborn of every living thing - except for Israel. Because of the shed blood of the lamb the households of Israel were spared the terror of death and Pharaoh sent them away.  After the crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of Pharaoh and his army. Jehovah let His people on a journey into the unknown - in this case down the Sinai Peninsula. Please be a little understanding with the Israelites. Yes, they had seen the power of Jehovah in delivering them but all this was scary - they had stepped from the land of the familiar to the land of the strange - the threatening - the unknown.


The Problem,  (15:22 - 24)

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. [23] When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.)   Exodus 15:22-23, NIV.

So, this rag-tag brand new nation was actually walking into "no-where"  not knowing much about this new way of life, certainly very "green" about believing in the LORD - they were, in essence - brand-new believers.

And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.   Exodus 14:31, NIV.

The problem is that the thrill of the salvation experience wears off very soon.  If left to his own devices, a new believer will soon flounder and fall back into his old ways - the Israelites were no exception.

The  problem was that there was no water.  Then they found water and it was undrinkable.  No.  That wasn't the real problem.  But in the eyes of the Israelites they were in real trouble.  To Jehovah the problem was immaturity.  So He gave them a FTX (Field Training Exercise)[1] to teach them to trust Him.   He also had something to teach them about Himself which we will soon see.

So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" [25] Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them.    Exodus 15:24-25, NIV.

"The people grumbled" - the original carries with it a sense of foreboding - an attitude of expecting the worse and then voicing something like:  "I knew this was going to happen."  They were supposed to go to the LORD and cry for help as Moses did.  Did you see the difference?  The people grumbled "I knew this was going to happen!"  Moses cried out "LORD, please help me!  I don't have an answer for this!"The difference between those two attitudes can make the difference between failure and victory in the walk of faith.


The Purification, (15:25)

At any rate, Jehovah was ready with the solution - He provided a tree.   The original for this word sees wide usage in the Old Testament. It is used in Genesis 1:2:9 for the tree of life.  It is used for wood which Abraham split for a burnt offering - Isaac.  The believer is said to be a tree planed by streams of water in Psalm 1:3.    Jehovah wanted to teach the Israelites a lesson.  The tree that was tossed into the water is said by some Jewish writers to be bitter itself - there was no virtue in the tree itself - the LORD used the tree in the hands of Moses to make the waters drinkable.  The Tree is said by most Bible students to represent Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross. 


the Promise, (15:26)

For the Israelites the lesson was this:

He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you."  Exodus 15:26, NIV.

Israel was to trust in the LORD completely for everything - for their very existence.  Before, they had received blessing from Egypt through the hands of Joseph and the Pharaohs that remembered the blessing that Joseph brought them -those blessings originated from God, Almighty.  But now they were to trust the LORD  for everything.  Even now, the Feasts of Jehovah point directly to that fact and the Orthodox Jew today recognize the teachings of the Feast of firstfruits. - all the way to the Feast of the Tabernacles that they depend directly on the LORD for their very existence.  And so it is that the LORD promises to be directly responsible for their health and prosperity. 

For us the promise is similar:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; [6] in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.   Proverbs 3:5-6. 

Jesus said:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   Matthew 6:33, NIV.

But it's not easy to trust the LORD in this way - we are used to taking care for ourselves and accustomed to the blessings of relative prosperity.  When our support system of employment, family, friends seem to leave us the first reaction is to react not to trust.  But here's the promise - plain and clear - Jesus has provided everything for us - our salvation and He has promised to provide for us while we live our lives on this earth - there are no circumstances of "bad luck" or a "lucky break."

The believer is to rest completely on His sovereignty and His providential care.  Peter reflected the proper attitude in 1 Peter 5:7:  "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."  The visual impact of this verse is to roll our anxiety off our backs onto His because He cares for us.

2.  Journey to the Law: The Waters of Elim (15:27)

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.   Exodus 15:27, NIV.

Lest we forget - The LORD was leading the Israelites by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day.[2]   God does bless the believer in time but we must not forget that He is doing the leading.  For the Israelites of Moses' day it was this spectacular display.  For the believer today it is the Holy Spirit within the heart of the believer.  The waters of Elim represent those times in our lives when we are living in relative ease - a good job, family, a good name.  But we must not forget the waters of Marah - there will be times when He wants us to mature and it just might be that we have to go through difficult times.

3.  Journey to the Law:  God's Provision in the Sin Desert (16:1 - 17:7)


God's Provision of Food, (16:1 - 22).

Here we go again - if we cannot see the food on the table or the money in hand the first reaction is to worry and to accuse the LORD of not caring for us or forgetting about our predicament:

[2] In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  [3] The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD'S hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."   Exodus 16:2, 3, NIV.

How soon the believer is tempted to forget the blessings of the LORD - the Israelites were no exception.  The food that they had been carrying from Egypt had run out and now, having forgotten the LORD's promise - began to repeat the whole process of complaining.  Well,  try to put yourself in their place.  It's kind of like that first swoop down the rollercoaster at the fair.  You are telling yourself that this is fun and there is no danger, but your stomach is telling you a different story.   I think there is always going to be the "knee jerk" reaction to difficulties - the LORD doesn't expect us to be supermen - but He does expect us to bring our anxieties to Him.  They did not.  No They complained - and notice that they could remember the nice dinners of Egypt but had now forgotten that they had been delivered from terrible oppression and that the LORD had promised them that He would provide for them.

Manna from heaven.  God did rain down a remarkable food from heaven - the original for Manna is "What's this?"  Well, it just happened to be the best granola bar ever made (please excuse my irreverence).  God's word says that it was like this : "The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey."   Exodus 16:31, NIV.  Later on when they complained about not having any meat, God provided quail for dinner:

"I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.' " [13] That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.    Exodus 16:12-13


God's Provision of Water, (17:1 - 7).

I think most believers are familiar with the Rephidim experience.   Rephidim means a place of blessing or support.  Rephidim was a bit like Elim with a high water table but apparently at this time there was no water to be found.   They had come to this place expecting water but was disappointed, finding none.   When Moses went to the LORD about the matter, he was instructed to strike a certain rock and when he had done so, an abundant supply of water came out - enough for all the people and their cattle. 

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. [2] They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. [3] They all ate the same spiritual food [4] and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. [5] Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. [6] Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.   1 Cor. 10:1-6

Christ was that rock.  Centuries later the apostle Paul wrote that this Rock followed the Israelites throughout the wilderness protecting them and providing for them.  Moses called this place by two names - Massah and Meribah.   Massah because it was a place of testing - Meribah because of  the people's complaining.  A monument to the faithlessness of God's people - we would do well to remember the Meribah.  The lesson is clear to this day.  Do not entertain an evil, unbelieving heart - trust in Christ - He will provide for us.


God's Protection against the enemy, (17:8 - 16).

Ok, we see that the LORD supplied Israel's food and water - but now we come to another area of life - dangers from our threatening circumstances.  Israel was - although a large company of people - largely without weaponry - they were not trained in battle - so don't look now - but here come the Amalekites - a militarily prepared tribe.  This is the first time that Joshua is mentioned, by the way.  An unusual detail of this narrative is that as Joshua, a young commander of Israel's militia led  the battle, Moses stood on top of a hill - Aaron on one side and another man Hur on the other side.   As long as Moses held his hands up the Israelites prevailed. When he grew weary and rested his arms, the battle would go awry.  Then Aaron and Hur something that would become a wonderful lesson for all believers throughout the ages:

When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset.   Exodus 17:12, NIV.

This has become a wonderful picture of the power of prayer in the life of the believer.  As Moses held up his hands - the battle would go well.  All of our efforts in the walk of faith must be supported by our prayers.  But that is not enough - we are commanded to share one another's burdens.  Aaron and Hur on either side represent the support of our friends in our prayer life.  Holding up the hands of Moses, then becomes a wonderful picture of the necessity and power of praying for each other as we do spiritual battle.

The Giving of the Law ( 19:1 - 24:18).

'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. [5] Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, [6] you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."    Exodus 19:4-6, NIV.

The Law was given in the context of God's Grace.  Yes, there were rigid details of the Law that was to be obeyed. But the LORD all along held the Israelites up by the hand of His grace.  Centuries later the apostle Paul put everything in perspective:

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.    Galatians 3:17, NIV.

It has always been that God's people were to be justified by faith in Him.   Isaac was the child of promise - Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness - Christ's righteousness.  The purpose of the law?  Remember the disciples who were walking to Emaius?  How did Christ teach them about Himself?

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" [27] And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.   Luke 24:25-27, NIV.

It is, then, through the law that we are all brought to Christ.  It is through the law that the person and work of Christ was prophesied.  It is through the law that we are convicted of our sin.  It is through the law that we are trained and brought to Christ.[3]

The Giving of the Tabernacle (25:1 - 40:38).

Do this extemporaneously - referring to previous series on the tabernacle.


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1.  Field Training Exercise - in the military soldiers are put in full field dress and are asked to perform very difficult tasks for the purpose of training for battle - a picture of God putting a believer through difficult circumstances in order to prepare him for spiritual battle and thereby maturing him.

2.  By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. [22] Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:21-22,  NIV.

3.  But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. [23] But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. [24] Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.   Galatians 3:22-24, NAS.