Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Exodus. Day 63, Moses Receives Wise And Fatherly Advice From Jethro

When we closed our study yesterday we found Moses' father-in-law Jethro, Moses, Aaron, and all the elders sharing a meal together after Jethro made sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. Our study today picks up on the following morning.

"The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning til evening." (Exodus 18:13) In a group this large---possibly as many as 2,000,000 persons---many disputes would have arisen among so many people living so closely together. They needed someone to settle disagreements and to judge various types of cases. Moses has taken on this role and we can see how exhausting it must have been for him. He had to go out right after breakfast and hear one case after another all day long until time for the evening meal. We don't know if he got so much as a coffee break, but it doesn't really sound as if he did.

Whenever the people are camped and are not on the move, this type of daily living has become the norm for Moses. He's so used to the grind of it that he doesn't even realize how unhealthy it is for him. It takes someone coming into the camp from the outside to recognize that Moses has taken far too much upon himself and that he will collapse under the strain if something doesn't change soon. "When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning til evening?' Moses answered him, 'Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and instructions.'" (Exodus 18:14-16) Jethro is shocked that Moses is bearing this huge burden alone. I think in the beginning Moses began hearing disputes or giving advice here and there because he was the only person the people trusted in this role. He's obviously the leader of the entire assembly and his opinion is valued above all others. I think when disputes began to crop up the people must have said something like, "Well, let's just see what Moses has to say about this! Let's let him have the final say. If he thinks you're in the right, I'll accept his ruling." But more and more people began coming to him for help until it turned into an all-day thing every day (except on the Sabbath) whenever they were camped.

I honestly don't know how Moses was able to force himself out of bed each morning knowing he had a full day of hearing cases. The cases themselves would have put a lot of strain on him because some were probably of a petty nature where it was one person's word against another, cases that cropped up due to one person's dislike of another more than being due to any serious trespass that had occurred. Other cases would have been of a more concerning nature, such as one accusing another of thievery or of adultery or of breaking a legally-binding contract. Yet other cases would have involved deep spiritual matters where Moses might have had to engage in prayer and sober thought for a while before rendering godly advice about how to proceed. A situation where Moses alone is judge over all Israel cannot realistically continue. Jethro comes to this conclusion on his first full day in the camp. He will now give Moses some wise, fatherly advice.

"Moses' father-in-law replied, 'What you are doing is not good.'" (Exodus 18:17) Jethro isn't saying that the process itself isn't good; it's commendable that the people want to "seek God's will" as Moses said in verse 15. It's necessary for disputes and legal cases to be judged. But it's too much work for one man. On top of that, having only one judge means the people who come to Moses for help are standing in line all day long, and that's as almost as exhausting to them as it is to Moses. Jethro says, "You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to Him. Teach them His decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people---men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain---and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." (Exodus 18:18-23)

I just love Jethro, don't you? He treats Moses like he's his own son, with concern and respect. He's genuinely worried about Moses and wants him to remain healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. What a relief it must have been for Moses to hear this father figure saying to him, "You don't have to carry this burden alone. You are doing too much. You will still be the leader of the entire assembly and you will still be the main person they look to for an example of godly living. But you are killing yourself hearing these disputes all day long. Besides that, you can't devote enough time to each case for every person to walk away feeling satisfied that they've had every angle of their case examined thoroughly. A compromise has got to be made. I realize the people consider you the ultimate authority in the camp, but if you personally select men who are godly and trustworthy and who would never even dream of accepting bribes, the people will see your 'stamp of approval' on these men and accept them as judges. The most serious cases should still be brought to you, but you can't keep spending all your time settling petty arguments and doling out advice that can easily be given by any man with a good grasp of the Lord's decrees. You'll be no use to these people if you collapse, have a mental breakdown, or die. You must delegate the majority of these cases. It's for your own good and for the good of all the people."

I can't help wondering if Moses' relief was so great he could almost have wept. Have you ever been on the verge of collapse only to have someone come alongside you and sum up the situation in a way that you couldn't while you were burdened down beneath the heavy load? Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees while we're in the thick of doing a job that's not realistically doable by one person. We can get so caught up in the daily grind that we lose sight of the big picture and can no longer reason out a better way of doing things. We're too exhausted to think of doing anything other than what we're already doing. Then someone from outside our situation comes along and sizes things up immediately and sees a solution we haven't even thought of. I've had this happen more than once in my life (especially during the months when I was caring for my terminally ill mother at home) and I am very thankful for these "Jethros" who so wisely and lovingly showed me what needed to be done so that I would be able to "stand the strain" as Jethro put it.

Moses realizes that Jethro's advice is practical and godly. Moses was too exhausted to think of the solution Jethro proposes but he instantly recognizes it as an excellent solution and accepts it. "Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves." (Exodus 18:24-26)

We don't know how long Jethro's visit was, but Moses gives him a good send-off when he heads back to Midian. "Then Moses saw his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country." (Exodus 18:27) I think Moses was sad to see his father-in-law go, but Jethro is a leader in his own community, for the Bible tells us he was "priest of Midian". Jethro can't leave his congregation indefinitely. He must go home and attend to his own responsibilities. So Moses sees him off with a grateful heart for all his help, wisdom, and fatherly advice.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Exodus. Day 62, Moses Reunited With His Family

The Bible hasn't made any mention of Moses' family since Exodus 4. It was in that chapter that he and his wife Zipporah seemed to be at odds with each other on their way down to Egypt. At some point Moses sent her and their two sons back to Zipporah's father's house, as we will be told in our study today. The Bible never tells us when exactly Moses sent his family to Midian but some scholars think it was right after Zipporah said harsh words to him in Chapter 4. They say he realized in Chapter 4 that he was asking too much of his family and perhaps putting them in danger by taking them to Egypt. Other scholars think his wife and sons originally accompanied him to Egypt but that he sent them back to Midian when he saw that the stubbornness of Pharaoh was going to cause ten plagues to be brought down on the land. .

Here in Chapter 18 Moses' father-in-law Jethro hears that the Israelites have made it safely out of Egypt and that they have won a military victory against the Amalekites. It seems like a safe time to deliver Moses' wife and children back to him, plus Jethro wants to provide as much help and advice as he can to his son-in-law.

"Now Jethro, priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for His people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her and her two sons. One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, 'I have become a foreigner in a foreign land'; and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, 'My father's God was my helper; He saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.'" (Exodus 18:1-4) His sons' names mean "foreigner" and "helper".

"Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, together with Moses' sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, 'I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.'" (Exodus 18:5-6) Jethro sent a messenger ahead to let Moses know they were coming, probably so Moses would remained camped where he was until the caravan containing his family and their belongings could reach him.

"So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake and about the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them." (Exodus 18:7-8) What a riveting story this must have been! I picture Jethro listening to it while leaning forward in his chair, his eyes wide with excitement, his heart beating faster at every suspenseful turn in the tale. Moses gives a glowing report on the mighty deeds of God. It sounds as if every word he says extols the power and mercy of the Lord.

I don't know why but I can't help picturing Jethro clapping his hands in praise at the conclusion of the story. Maybe because the Bible tells us he was "delighted" and that he gave glory to God and made an offering to Him. "Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for He did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.' Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses father-in-law in the presence of God." (Exodus 18:9-12)

Why does Jethro say that now he knows the Lord is greater than all other gods? He's already a priest, presumably of the one true God, since he is a Midianite and the Midianites were descended from Abraham and his second wife Keturah. The Midianites would have started out worshiping the God of Abraham, although they appear to have mingled with other tribes as the years went on and may have picked up idolatrous practices from those tribes. The Bible never gives any indication that Jethro didn't worship the same God as Moses, but he lived in an area where he would have been surrounded by idolatry and it's possible some pagan practices had wormed their way into his life. At the very least, he would have been aware of the "gods" of his neighbors and would have been familiar with many pagan practices and with the altars and temples and idols in the land. He may think some of these other gods exist and he may have wondered whether God was more powerful than other gods and he may have been afraid God wouldn't be able to rescue Israel. It's very difficult to say for sure what Jehtro means by his statement in verse 11. He may have harbored no doubts whatsoever regarding the one true God and could simply be saying something like, "Lord, there is no one like You! You've put the false gods to shame. None of the idols of Egypt were able to lift a finger against You. No deity came to the Egyptians' aid. You are the God of gods!"

Whatever the case, we don't see Jethro serving any god but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when he makes sacrifices and offerings in our passage today. Now, regarding these sacrifices and offerings, the burnt offering was given up wholly to God. No part of it could be kept for the bringer to consume. But in the case of other sacrifices the blood was poured out before God and sometimes other parts were offered to God but the majority of the meat was for the bringer to consume with his family or friends. We have to keep in mind that, upsetting as the idea of animal sacrifice may be to us, these people were an agricultural people. They were raising flocks and herds for consumption or for milk or for wool or for the performance of farm work, in the same way flocks and herds are raised in our own times. This means that these animals brought as offerings were destined for the dinner table to begin with. When the people consume a meal after offering an animal to God, they are doing what they'd intended to do with this animal all along. The only difference is that consuming an animal after it has been offered to God included an extra measure of thankfulness and praise. They offered it to God in thanks for all He has done; now they consume the meal in a reverent attitude as if they are sitting at the same table with God enjoying the meal with Him. This is why the Bible says that when Aaron and the elders come out to eat the meal with Jethro and Moses they are eating it "in the presence of God".

Aaron and the elders come out to the altar and share the meal with Moses and Jethro. They enjoy a time of sweet fellowship with God and with each other. This type of fellowship is valuable for bonding the people of God together and it's something we still do today in our churches or in our smaller groups that gather in our homes. We break bread together. We bond with each other. We form friendships that provide encouragement and comfort through the years. This type of fellowship is something we should never neglect. Many times in the New Testament we find Jesus breaking bread with His closest friends and with other believers, and if the Son of God needed and enjoyed fellowship with other human beings, then certainly you and I can benefit from it.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Exodus. Day 61, Israel Defeats The Amalekites In Battle

The Israelites have been camped at Rephidim where the Lord caused water to flow from the rock of Horeb. They are moving out of the camp and heading on toward the promised land when some of the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau (a tribe named after Esau's grandson Amalek) come out and attack them. The Israelites are minding their own business when this happens. The motive for the Amalekite attack is not made clear but it may be that they are opposed to the Israelites being in the area or it may be that they intend to seize all their worldly goods from them. It could be they intend to do both things---send the Israelites running away so fast that they leave all their goods and flocks herds behind for the Amalekites to take as their own. Whatever their motive, the Lord doesn't let them get away with it. The Lord finds it despicable what the Amalekites do in Exodus 17, attacking people who are their kinsmen through common ancestors, sneaking up from behind where the slower and weaker people are. It will be said of this incident in Deuteronomy, "When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land He is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deuteronomy 25:18-19) The Lord gives Israel an early, temporary victory against the Amalekites in Chapter 17 but intends them to grant a permanent victory against the Amalekites later.

"The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, 'Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.'" (Exodus 17:8-9) This is the first mention of a young man named Joshua who will become the successor of Moses upon Moses' death. But we can already see that he's a man Moses trusts. Moses recognizes Joshua has the skills to be a general, so he tasks him with choosing fighting men for the battle ahead.

Moses intends to hold his rod (the shepherd's staff) up while the battle rages. He doesn't know exactly how the Lord will bring victory on the following day but he knows the shepherd's staff will be important. This is the same rod that was held up before each plague fell upon Egypt. It's the same rod that was held up when the Red Sea parted. It's the same rod with which Moses struck the rock of Horeb before the water gushed out. The Lord could have accomplished all these miracles without the rod but He understands human weaknesses. Humans like to see things with their own eyes. The people can't see God Himself but they can see the object that has come to symbolize His power. During tomorrow's battle, when the people look up and see Moses holding the rod high on the hill, this will symbolize God being in their midst and fighting on their side. This will give them strength and courage to fight the battle fiercely.

"So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill." (Exodus 17:10) Moses also needs encouragement and help, so he takes his brother Aaron with him and also Hur who is possibly the brother-in-law of Moses and Aaron. Some rabbinic teachings state that Hur was married to their sister Miriam. If this is so, then Moses takes the two men with him who are his closest kin. Whether or not Hur is Moses' brother-in-law, it would appear that he is the great-great-grandson of Jacob's son Judah, according to 1 Chronicles 2:19. He is of a different tribe than that of Moses and Aaron who are of the priestly tribe of Levi. Hur is of the tribe from which the Messiah will come.

"As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." (Exodus 17:11) Moses holds both hands high over his head with the rod in his hands. No doubt he is also engaged with the Lord in prayer at the same time. As long as the Israelite fighters can look up and see the rod held high, they fight mightily. When Moses' arms become weary from time to time, and when they start to tingle and go to sleep, he has to lower them for a few minutes. When that happens, and the fighters don't see the rod of God held up on the hill, they become temporarily discombobulated. When they can't see the visible symbol of God's power they momentarily lose heart. They stumble a bit on the battlefield. They lose some of their concentration. Not being able to see the rod is, in this moment, like not being able to see the face of God. It brings doubt into their minds. They think in their hearts: Has God left the battle? Are they in this fight alone? No wonder the Apostle Paul said this about the frail human body and the frail human mind that so often leads us into doubt and failure: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Romans 7:24) Paul was frustrated with his inability to live a life without faults and failures. He was frustrated with the limits of the human body and human mind while living in a fallen world. The men fighting the battle in Exodus 17 are subject to these same faults and failures and limitations, so when Moses has to let his arms rest from time to time, and when they can't see the rod held high, they falter in the fight.

Moses too is struggling with the limits of the human body. It's impossible for him, in his own strength, to hold his arms over his head for the duration of the battle. But God doesn't intend him to perform this work in his own strength. God knows Moses needs a little help from his friends, and in this instance instead of God holding Moses' arms up with supernatural power, He has Moses' friends come alongside him and give him the strength he needs. Sometimes in our troubles the Lord works supernaturally and at other times He sends help to us through others. Aaron and Hur figure out a way to help Moses hold his arms up the whole battle through. "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 til sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekites with the sword." (Exodus 17:12-13)

Aren't we thankful for our friends? What would we do without their encouragement---especially the encouragement that comes from friends who are fellow believers? Their help is both practical and spiritual, just as the help of Aaron and Hur is both practical and spiritual. They solve a practical, physical problem for Moses. They seat him on a large rock and stand on each side of him to hold an arm up for him. By having him sit while they stand, Aaron and Hur aren't having to hold their own arms over their heads. They are probably holding Moses' arms by the wrists at what is probably about chest level for them. This allows them to keep their arms bent and even rest their arms against their own bodies. This way they don't grow weary and let Moses' arms drop. Their help is also spiritual, for in performing this service for Moses they are displaying their faith in the Lord and their faith in what Moses is doing for the people. They're saying, "We're with you! We believe that as long as you hold this rod up, the people will prevail in battle. We believe the Lord is going to win this battle for Israel. We are standing firm in the faith alongside you."

The victory is won by sundown. The Lord instructs Moses to write down the very account we're reading today. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.'" (Exodus 17:14) Because Joshua is the man the Lord has chosen to succeed Moses when the time comes, it's important for him to know what Moses was doing while Joshua was down in the trenches with the men fighting the battle. Joshua has already proven himself to be skilled in battle but he'll need more than military smarts to lead the nation. He'll need leadership skills and he'll need a close, personal relationship with the Lord. Joshua is to look to Moses for an example to follow, so the Lord tells Moses to make certain Joshua hears about the battle from his perspective. In addition, Joshua needs to know that someday the Lord will win such a decisive battle against the Amalekites that their tribe will be wiped out. Joshua will have a written record that assures him that the cruel and unprovoked attack which occurred in Exodus 17 will be avenged by Israel's God and Defender. I think Joshua would have liked to have wiped out the Amalekites himself here and now, but it's not the Lord's will to erase this tribe from the earth at this time. The Amalekites will never be able to claim the Lord didn't give them time to repent and change their ways (they never do, but not because they never had opportunities) and in the meantime the Lord wants Joshua to know that this enemy will be dealt with in the proper way and at the proper time.

To commemorate the victory the Lord gave the Israelites at Rephidim, Moses builds an altar. "Moses built an altar and called it The Lord Is My Banner. He said, 'Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war with the Amalekites from generation to generation.'" (Exodus 17:15-16) Moses calls the altar "Jehovah Nissi"; the Hebrew word "nissi" means "banner" or "flag" or "ensign". Moses may have held the rod up all during the battle, but under whose banner, flag, or ensign did the Israelites really fight? The Lord's! The Lord is the true general of this army. It is the Lord's name these people call upon and it is by His name they are called---they are known as His people. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites without provocation, it was an act of war against the Lord Himself. The Lord mightily defended His own name and honor when He defended the people He's sworn to protect and bring into the promised land. Moses may have literally been holding up a rod during the fight, but spiritually speaking he was holding up the battle flag of the Lord. Just as armies throughout the ages have had someone holding up the flag of the king or government under which they serve, Moses held up the flag (symbolized by the rod) of the Lord and King of Israel.

Let's go out and fight the good fight of faith today by keeping in mind we are fighting under the flag of Almighty God, under the royal banner of our King! He is our army general. He is our protector and defender. When anyone or anything attacks those of us who have placed our faith in Him, He considers it an act of war against Himself. He will be fighting on our side!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Exodus. Day 60, A Place With No Water: The Lord Provides

The Lord led the Israelites to camp at Rephidim where they discover there is no water. The Lord, of course, knew there was no water there since He created the world and every water source in it. He intends to use this experience to strengthen the people's faith in Him but first they become angry with Moses who is the spokesperson for the Lord. They can't quarrel with God face to face but they can quarrel with Moses. They are so angry with Moses that he will tell the Lord they are almost ready to kill him.

"So they quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' Moses replied, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?'" (Exodus 17:2) He asks, "Why do you blame me? I was following the Lord's instructions when I led you here. And why do you blame God? Hasn't He already helped you out of several jams already? Why do you think He won't help you now? Why do you accuse Him of having bad intentions toward you?"

We know they think the Lord has bad intentions toward them because in verse 3 they'll claim they've been led out into the desert to die, just as they claimed they'd been led to the Red Sea to die by the hand of Pharaoh's army and just as they claimed they'd been led out into the wilderness to die of hunger. "But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?'" (Exodus 17:3) They grumble against Moses but their real complaint is against God. God is the one telling Moses where the people are to camp, so they take their anger at the Lord out on Moses. In verse 3 they handle their need for water by becoming angry and fearful, claiming they've been brought there to die of thirst. Every time they've encountered a problem the Lord has solved the problem. But in their current distress they aren't thinking clearly. They're letting themselves become overwhelmed with fear.

I can relate to this, can't you? The Lord has solved many a problem for me during my fifty years on this earth, yet the next time an emergency arises I still find myself falling into a sudden panic or obsessively worrying about the problem. I can't judge the Israelites for panicking when they don't find water at Rephidim. I've been guilty too many times of imagining the worst outcome when I'm confronted with a problem.

Moses knows the Lord intends to do something about the lack of water. Dying of thirst isn't what Moses is afraid of right now. Moses is afraid of the people. The situation with their anger is about to get out of control. He thinks they're about to form a mob and attack him. "Then Moses cried out to the Lord, 'What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.'" (Exodus 17:4)

Moses knows exactly where to take his problem: to the Lord. And the Lord comes to his rescue. "The Lord answered Moses, 'Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.' So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel." (Exodus 17:5-6)

The Lord, creator of heaven and earth, is able to provide anything we need. If He can make streams of water gush from solid rock, what can't He do? Nothing! There is nothing He can't do! The Lord reminded Abraham of this fact when promising a son would be born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, saying, "Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son." (Genesis 18:14) The prophet Jeremiah believed the Lord's promise to return the people to the land of Judah even though they were currently being conquered and taken captive by Babylon. He bought land in Judah as statement of faith in the Lord's ability to keep His promise (even though to human eyes it looked impossible) and said to the Lord, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You." (Jeremiah 32:17) Jeremiah knew that the One who created the heavens and the earth could certainly return the people to the promised land and make a great nation of them once again. To human eyes a lot of things may look impossible, and sometimes they are impossible in human strength, but they aren't impossible for God. Jesus Himself said that what is impossible for man is possible for God. (Luke 18:27) The Lord led the people to a campsite where there was no water to show them that nothing is too hard for Him, to show them that He is always capable of "making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland". (Isaiah 43:19)

I've encountered situations that appeared impossible to resolve. I've even had people counsel me to give up and accept that there will be no resolution. I've doubted and despaired at times. There have been times when I actually have given up, at least temporarily, due to the stress and exhaustion of what I was going through. I've been angry and I've grumbled against the Lord, against my circumstances, and against my fellow man in the cases where another human being was the cause of my distress. But the Lord has made a way in the wilderness time and time again. He's refreshed me in the desert places of life. When He comes through I feel ashamed of my doubts and I can't help wondering whether the Israelites felt ashamed of their doubts when water gushed out of the rock at Horeb. I think perhaps they did because the place where the people doubted was given a couple of new names by Moses to commemorate the grumbling and quarreling and doubt that took place there. "And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (Exodus 17:7) "Massah" means "testing" and "Meribah" means "quarreling". It's not too often that anyone wants to commemorate an embarrassing occasion by giving a new name to the place where the bad behavior occurred, but we can see why Moses did it. The new names were intended to be a perpetual reminder that the people questioned whether the Lord was really with them and that the Lord proved He was with them in a mighty way.

When we're going through difficult times we can become so distressed that we can't feel the presence of God. Our anxiety causes all sorts of stress hormones to course through our bloodstreams. That can make it very difficult for us to quiet our panicked thoughts and focus on the Lord who is the source of our help. Anxiety can render us incapable of concentrating on much of anything except our problem. In those times we may be tempted to think to ourselves the same thing the Israelites thought at Rephidim: "Is the Lord with me or not? Does He care? Does He see my struggles? Is He going to do anything about them? Has He forsaken me?" In times like that we can't rely on what we feel. The Bible never tells us to base our faith on feelings but on facts. And what are the facts? That God loves us and will never forsake us. That nothing is impossible for God and He will either change our circumstances or change us. When our anxiety is too strong for us to feel the presence of God, the best thing we can do is remind ourselves who God is by reading the Scriptures to study what He has said about Himself and to study the promises He has made. Those are the facts we can rely on when our panicked thoughts cause us to doubt that He is with us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Exodus. Day 59, A Place With No Water: Why Do Bad Things Happen When A Person Is Living Right?

The people move on from the area the Bible calls "The Wilderness Of Sin". As they move about they break camp whenever the Lord says and they set up a new camp wherever the Lord says.

"The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded." (Exodus 17:1a) It's important for us to keep in mind while studying our passage today that the people are not getting outside of the Lord's will. They are going when and where He says. They are moving about "as the Lord commanded".

The Lord directs them to a place called Rephidim. "They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink." (Exodus 17:1b) Their circumstances take a concerning turn even though they are exactly where the Lord told them to be. This is something we all will encounter on our walk through this life. We can be where we're supposed to be, we can be doing what we're supposed to be doing, and yet trouble strikes.

I don't know about you, but some of the worst troubles of my life have occurred while I was living within the will of God. Now, having said that, I want to point out that the first thing we should always do when trouble comes is examine our hearts to see whether or not we've brought the trouble on ourselves by being in the wrong place or by doing the wrong things, but we cannot automatically interpret every downturn in circumstances to having done something wrong or to God being "angry" with us. Quite often when examining our hearts we'll find that our troubles are not a result of having fallen into disobedience. We'll find that what's actually going on is something else, which we're about to discuss.

Off the top of my head I can think of three major reasons why bad things happen even when we're living right. For one thing, Satan hates it when we're living in obedience to the Lord. He doesn't want us setting a godly example for those around us, and he especially doesn't want us setting a godly example for unbelievers. If unbelievers see us living obedient, happy lives then they might turn to the Lord and be saved. But what if Satan can make our obedient lives appear unhappy? What if he can make it seem to unbelievers as if there is no reward for godly living? Then those unbelievers can say, "What does it profit a person to follow the Lord? Looks to me as if my neighbor Martha, who is a Christian, has as many troubles in her life as I have in mine. I'm not sure being obedient to the Lord is paying off for her. She might as well just live however she pleases and get whatever pleasure she can during this short and difficult life on earth."

Another reason troubles come upon us while we're living in obedience to God is that we are dwelling in a fallen world where bad things just naturally happen. When sin entered the world, so did disaster and disease and distress and death. We live in a world where illnesses happen and where accidents take place. We live in a world where natural disasters occur. We live in a world where many of our fellow human beings couldn't care less about godly living and will trespass against us whenever the opportunity arises. Even our fellow human beings who love the Lord will hurt us sometimes, either unintentionally (perhaps without even realizing they've hurt us) or because they fall into temptation and commit sins that bring distress on those close to them. Even fellow believers are prone to the faults and failures that plague the carnal side of mankind. A great deal of the time their actions affect not only themselves but also affect their friends and family members.

A third reason, and one that is closely related to the first two reasons, is that the Lord allows troubles to come into our lives even when we are living according to His will. Could Satan do anything against us if the Lord didn't allow it? No. Could this natural world, in its fallen state, have any power over us if the Lord didn't allow it? No. Could our fellow man lift a finger against us if the Lord didn't allow it? No. And the Lord does protect us from more things than we even know; I wouldn't be surprised if He protects us hundreds or more times each day, but sometimes He allows a carefully selected set of circumstances to take place in our lives in order to do something for us. It's not punishment. It's not that He's angry with us. It's because He has our best interests at heart and He sends something into our lives that helps us to grow spiritually, or that heals something in our hearts or minds that needs healing, or that puts a relationship back together, and I could go on and on with examples but you see where I'm going with this. He doesn't send anything into our lives that doesn't have a purpose. We are almost certainly not going to enjoy this process (I know I never do) but training for godly living---"boot camp", if you will---isn't easy. The Lord doesn't want us to be weak and lazy soldiers; we'll cave in under the pressures of this world if we're weak and lazy. We can't fight the good fight of faith if we don't develop spiritual muscle. As my pastor often says, while we live in this world we're living in enemy territory. Because we're living in enemy territory, we need to be strong, fit, capable warriors.

In today's passage the Lord tells the people to camp in a place where He knows there is no water. The people don't know there isn't any water until they get there. They expect there to be water. When there isn't any water they become angry, and in tomorrow's study we'll be taking a look at their quarrel with Moses. Their quarrel could more properly be said to be with the Lord, but Moses is acting as a mediator between them and the Lord so they take their anger out on Moses. But before we move on into that passage I want to take a few minutes to discuss what is often our first reaction to troubles or inconveniences: anger.

We may feel angry with the Lord when He allows problems to come into our lives when we're living within His will. We can understand problems that we bring upon ourselves. If we do something foolish or sinful then we can clearly see the "cause and effect" relationship between our actions and the unwelcome result of our actions. When we make a deliberate choice to do something we know is wrong, and when we reap the consequences of our choice, we can hardly blame the Lord for what we've brought upon ourselves. But when we examine our hearts and commune with the Lord and the Holy Spirit reveals nothing to us that we've done to bring something upsetting into our lives, we may feel angry with God. We may think, "I was doing what I was supposed to do! It isn't my fault this thing has happened. Why would God do this to me?"

I've been angry with God. I've told Him, "Lord, I'm mad at You. I'm very hurt that You've allowed this to happen to me. You know I didn't do anything that caused this to happen. I was minding my own business, doing the things I was supposed to do, and out of the blue this terrible thing happened. I was trying my best to do what was right and yet someone has done me terribly wrong and brought a lot of hurt and trouble into my life." It's okay to tell God we're angry with Him. He knows it anyway. We might as well pour out our hearts to Him and get all our feelings out into the open. There's no use trying to hide our anger and pretend to be feeling all holy and virtuous when what we're really thinking is, "What good did it do me to live a godly life? It didn't spare me this heartbreak." Like a doctor who can't treat a wound we keep covering with our hand, God can't heal a wound we keep covered. If we're hurt and angry, it's best to just admit we're hurt and angry.

During a period of about three and a half years when one trouble after another came into my life due to nothing I'd done to bring them onto myself, I said to the Lord over and over, "Lord, You love me, but You let this happen to me anyway. I'm so mad at You!" But during the last few months of that particularly trying time of life, something clicked one day. I was driving to work, talking to the Lord and repeating my usual litany of complaints, saying, "Lord, You love me, but You let this happen to me." I was saying it angrily, accusingly. And all at once it was like I heard what I was saying for the first time---really heard it---and everything in my mind and heart and soul was turned completely around. I said again, but wonderingly and thoughtfully, "Lord, You love me. You do love me. But You let this happen to me. You let this happen to me because You love me. Why? What is it You want to accomplish with these circumstances? What are You trying to tell me? What are You trying to do?" I can't take any credit for my attitude adjustment; that was the work of the Holy Spirit. But from that moment on everything changed. First it changed it my attitude. As soon as I accepted that my troubles came from the loving hand of God, my troubles began to look different. They began to look like tools the Lord was using to chisel me into someone more fit for His use. They began to look like a method for healing things that were broken. I started to view them not as things that were tearing my life apart but as things that were going to put my life together in a way that was more healthy and whole. And from that moment on things in my life began to change for the better, very slowly and little by little, but they were changing.

In tomorrow's study the people will have bad attitudes that need adjusting. The Lord led them to Rephidim where there was no water not to punish them and not because He was angry with them. He led them to a place where there was no water so He could do something to make their faith grow. He has a purpose for telling them to set up camp in a dry and dusty place, just as He sometimes leads us to a dry and dusty place in life. He intends to do something big for the Israelites at Rephidim. He intends to do big things in your life and in my life if we'll only say to Him, "Lord, I know You love me. I know You've let this happen because You intend to do something big in my life. What is it you're trying to teach me?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Exodus. Day 58, In The Wilderness Of Sin---Keeping The Sabbath/Keeping A Portion Of Manna

Today we'll conclude Chapter 16 and find out how the Sabbath was conducted in regard to the manna, and that the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to save a portion of manna for generations to come, and that this portion of manna was eventually placed inside an object whose location is unknown at this time.

Regarding the manna that fell like dew in the mornings, the Bible says, "Each morning they gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away." (Exodus 16:21) A person could not be lazy about gathering the manna. It had to be done early in the morning before the sun rose high in the sky.

"On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much---two omers for each person---and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, 'This is what the Lord commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'" (Exodus 16:22-23) The Lord gave this instruction to Moses regarding the Sabbath in Exodus 16:5, saying, "On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." Moses relayed these instructions to the people and the elders report back to Moses that the people have done what was asked of them.

You'll recall that on the first morning the manna appeared some of the people gathered more than enough for just one day and saved it til the next morning, even though the Lord told them not to do this. The manna was rotten by morning. But that's not what will happen for the manna saved up for the Sabbath. "So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 'Eat it today,' Moses said, 'because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.'" (Exodus 16:24-26) Most forms of work are not to be performed on the Sabbath, and since the gathering of the manna is a form of work, the Lord will not send any on the Sabbath. The people are to eat the extra that they gathered the day before.

"Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none." (Exodus 16:27) Not everyone believes Moses. Some go out to gather manna on the Sabbath and find none, just as the Lord said. They go out to gather it even though they have enough food for the Sabbath. I don't know exactly what they were thinking, but God is trying to teach them something the Lord Jesus will also teach in one of His sermons: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27) In other words, it was created for man's benefit. God didn't create man in order to observe a religious requirement like the Sabbath; He created the Sabbath to serve man---to provide man with a day each week to be devoted to spiritual and physical and mental refreshment. I have a theory regarding why the people have to be retaught what a Sabbath rest is, and I don't know whether I'm correct about this, but I suspect the Egyptian slavemasters forced the Israelites to work seven days a week. The people are used to performing some type of labor every single day. They don't know how to be still on the seventh day. It's necessary for them to relearn how to observe a day in which their minds are focused on the Lord. This will help their relationship with Him to grow during their years in the wilderness.

In yesterday's passage we found Moses angry because some of the people didn't follow the instructions properly. Today we find the Lord sounding exasperated with those who go out to try to find and gather manna on the Sabbath. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'How long will you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day He gives you enough for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.' So the people rested on the seventh day." (Exodus 16:28-30) When the Lord says the word "you" to Moses it's in the plural form. The Lord means the entire assembly of Israel, not Moses specifically. We can safely assume Moses followed the instructions regarding the manna, but he is to pass along the Lord's words to the Israelites.

"The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey." (Exodus 16:31) Now we know what it looked like and what it tasted like.

Next we find out that a jar of manna was preserved along with other objects which have not yet made their appearance. "Moses said, 'This is what the Lord has commanded: 'Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.' So Moses said to Aaron, 'Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.' As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved." (Exodus 16:32-34) We have to keep in mind that Moses wrote down the book of Exodus many years after the things of Chapter 16 took place. That's why he speaks of the tablets of the covenant even though they do not yet exist in Chapter 16.

Later on in Exodus the Israelites will manufacture an object known as the Ark of the Covenant and sometime after that the jar of manna, the tablets of the covenant, and Aaron's rod will be placed inside it. (Hebrews 9:4) The location of the Ark of the Covenant is not known at this time. It disappeared from the pages of the Bible around the time the city of Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian Empire. Some believe the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, took the Ark along with with many other valuable objects he stole from the temple, but the Ark is not mentioned in any list of the items Nebuchadnezzar carried back to Babylon. I tend to believe, as do many who know far more about such things than I, that the Ark was hidden before the city fell to the Babylonian forces. I believe it is still in the area of Jerusalem somewhere. It was the most holy object belonging to the people and the object they would most have wanted to protect. They were under siege for approximately thirty months and would have had time to secrete the Ark so it would not be captured by the enemy.

The Israelites are going to dwell in the wilderness for forty years before entering the promised land. The journey from Egypt to Canaan should have taken several weeks, at most, but they will dwell in the wilderness forty years for reasons which will become apparent as our study moves ahead. During that time the Lord is going to give them their daily bread. "The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.)" (Exodus 16:35-36) The Lord will not allow these people to go hungry, and later on when looking back on their forty years in the wilderness, Moses will say to them, "The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything." (Deuteronomy 2:7)

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Exodus. Day 57, In The Wilderness Of Sin, Part Three---Manna And Quail

The Lord intends to supply meat for the Israelites' evening meal and bread for their morning meal.

"The Lord said to Moses, '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.'" (Exodus 16:11-12) How else can the people explain the provision of this food except to say that it came from the Lord's hand? This is why the Lord says, "Then you will know that I am the Lord your God." He wants to be their personal God, to have them call Him "the Lord our God". He already holds the titles of "God" and "Lord" whether anyone believes in Him or not. What He's doing is displaying His ability to take care of them and His desire to be personally known by them. As He provides for them each day He wants them to learn to think of Him not simply as "God" but as "our God". 

"That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, 'What is it?' For they did not know what it was." (Exodus 16:13-15a) It is believed that the name given to this substance (manna) is derived from the question they ask (what is it?). In the original language their question would have been something like, "Ma'n hu?"

"Moses said to them, 'It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: 'Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'" (Exodus 16:15b-16) The exact measurement of an "omer" is not known for certain, with some saying it could have been as much as a gallon and with others saying it equals a level cup. The most popular and prevalent opinion is that it equaled about 9.3 dry measuring cups. The people are to take this measurement for each person who resides in their tent. This is how much the Lord has determined each person needs for their daily ration, and He should know since He created the human body.

I want to stop here a minute to point out that the Lord instructs them to only take as much as they need. They are not to perform a practice which has sadly come to our attention over the past few months during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are not to do any panic-gathering or hoarding. The Lord is asking the people to exercise their faith, and that means they must only take what they need on a daily basis. By doing this they are making a declaration of their faith in the Lord to provide what they need tomorrow and on the day after that and on the day after that and for as long as they can't plant and harvest their own crops. I've said all along that our study of Exodus has matched up quite well with what is currently happening in our nation and world. Our passage today is no exception. When we go to the store we should take only what we need to get us through til our next trip to the store, trusting that the Lord will supply what we need. The Lord is not a rewarder of greed and selfishness, nor is He a rewarder of a refusal to trust in Him.

The Bible tells us how we must conduct ourselves if we want to be rewarded by God: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) If we want to be rewarded by God then we must place our faith in Him by making a deliberate decision to believe He exists and that He is concerned with us and that He wants to be known by us. We must earnestly seek Him, which means doing our part to form a relationship with Him. How do we form relationships with other human beings? We do it by spending time with them, by letting them share their thoughts with us, by sharing our thoughts with them, by learning about them and developing an understanding of their character. We form a relationship with God in the same way. He is asking us to spend time in His presence, to speak to Him in prayer and to listen to Him in prayer, to study His holy word, to learn about who He is and what He does. The Lord will reward such efforts.

The people take the amount of manna the Lord told them to take. "The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some gathered little." (Exodus 16:17) A large family had to gather "much". For example, a family of ten needed to gather ten omers. A small family, such as a married couple without children, needed to gather only two omers, so in their case they gathered "little".

The amount the Lord instructed them to gather per person didn't cause them to come up short. It was enough to allow each person to feel as if he or she got enough to eat. Likewise, the amount wasn't wasteful; there wasn't a bunch of leftovers to deal with after the meal was finished. "And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed." (Exodus 16:18)

The people are to gather and eat the amount the Lord instructed, not storing part of it for the next day. To store up manna for tomorrow shows a lack of faith that the Lord will provide food tomorrow. "Then Moses said to them, 'No one is to keep any of it til morning.'" (Exodus 16:19)

Some of them are not willing to trust the Lord for tomorrow. They hold back part of the manna in case the Lord doesn't send any food tomorrow. This means they aren't sure the Lord will keep His word about providing for them each day. "However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell." (Exodus 16:20a) The manna spoiled overnight. This is the mercy of the Lord, for He is trying to teach them to obey Him and rely on Him. If the manna had not spoiled then they would have developed the habit of regularly storing it up for the next day in case He didn't come through. They wouldn't have learned to trust that He would keep His word and send fresh manna each day. Their faith would have rested more on themselves (on their ability to think ahead and plan for tomorrow) than on God's ability to make something out of nothing---to provide food where no food grows.

How many of the pandemic hoarders are going to be throwing away things they excessively purchased in greed and in selfishness and in lack of faith? Even canned goods and dry goods have expiration dates. Even the most carefully-packaged freezer meats will eventually undergo what's known as freezer burn. Have you ever found weevils in cornmeal or flour even before the expiration date? I have. Have you ever cooked meat that's been in the freezer so long that it's become kind of dry and tasteless? I have. Have you ever been organizing and cleaning out your kitchen cabinets only to notice that some of the dates stamped on the bottoms of cans are long past? I have. And that's in regular times, when we just accidentally let things remain in our cabinets or freezers for too long. What's going to happen to all the extra food that people purchased in excess amounts? A lot of it is going to expire, freezer burn, or spoil long before it can be eaten. What has really been accomplished? A lot of money was wasted. Some people went without what they needed because others selfishly bought the store shelves out. And if all that isn't bad enough, those who hoarded didn't grow in their faith or learn anything about the Lord. Here in Exodus 16 the Lord is trying to help the people's faith to grow. He's trying to show them He can be counted on. But some didn't obey His instructions the first time the manna fell from heaven and this means they wasted an opportunity to grow in their faith and learn about Him.

Such wastefulness exasperates Moses. "So Moses was angry with them." (Exodus 16:20b) Moses wants to know, "Why didn't you listen? Why didn't you just do what the Lord told you to do? You could have had full bellies yesterday if you hadn't put back some of the manna for today, but instead you didn't eat your fill because you didn't trust the Lord to provide for today. Now you have spoiled manna stinking up your tents first thing this morning. You didn't exercise your faith. Just as muscles of the body are weak if they never get any exercise, your faith will remain weak if you don't exercise it. The Lord presented you with a great opportunity to become strong in your faith. Some of you wasted it just like you wasted the manna you saved overnight."

This isn't the last time they are going to waste an opportunity or make Moses angry. It's not the last time they'll be weak in their faith. But the Lord isn't going to cast them aside and stop being their God, and aren't we glad of that? I've wasted opportunities, haven't you? I've been weak in my faith, haven't you? And still God wants to be our God. He hasn't turned His back on us and walked away. He hasn't given up on us. Every day is a new opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and develop new spiritual muscle.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Exodus. Day 56, In The Wilderness Of Sin, Part Two---The Lord Will Send Food From Heaven

In yesterday's passage the people said to Moses and Aaron, "You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." In grumbling against these two men the people are grumbling against the Lord. In today's study the Lord makes clear His intentions to provide for the Israelites in the desert.

"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.'" (Exodus 16:4-5) I'm going to say something here that I've said many times before and will probably say many times again: the test is for the student, not the teacher. Tests are intended for the benefit of the student to demonstrate how much or how little progress the student is making. If a student fails a pop quiz then he knows he hasn't been paying much attention in class lately. If he passes but only by the skin of his teeth then he knows he needs to work at least a little harder. If he passes with flying colors then he knows he's devoting the proper amount of time to his coursework. Whether or not the Israelites are able to follow the Lord's instructions regarding the gathering of the bread is intended to show them where they currently stand in their faith. If they have enough faith in the Lord to believe He'll continue to supply food each day, they will only gather as much as they need for each day except on the day before the Sabbath when they'll need to gather enough for two days. If they don't yet trust Him to provide what they need each day, they'll take more than they need.

To use a very recent example of taking more than a person needs, the overgathering and hoarding of things from the grocery store during the Covid-19 pandemic displays a lack of faith in the Lord. On the surface this hoarding may appear to be only a lack of faith in one's fellow man or a lack of confidence in the food supply chain, but at heart it's saying, "God might let me run out of food." I just want to tell you that if God could rain down bread from heaven for the Israelites in the desert then He can certainly supply us with food from our modern and efficient food chain. As far as that goes, God can still rain down bread from heaven if that's what it takes to keep us fed!

Moses and Aaron call the people together. "So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, 'In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?'" (Exodus 16:6-7) These two men say, "The Lord is going to supply food for you both morning and evening. If there are any doubts in your minds that it was Almighty God who delivered you from Egypt---the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob---then surely what He's about to do will be all the proof you need to place your trust in Him. Who else but the Lord could do such things as you have already seen? No one; there is no other God! And this God has heard you grumbling against Him and accusing Him of bringing you into the desert to die. Yes, Aaron and I know your complaints were spoken toward us but the one you were really complaining against was God, for who are Aaron and I? Were we the ones who rescued you from Egypt and who parted the Red Sea for you? Of course not; we are mere men! It was God who brought you this far and it was God against whom you grumbled. Prepare yourselves to behold the glorious things He is about to do!"

"Moses also said, 'You will know that it was the Lord when He gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because He has heard your grumbling against Him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us but against the Lord.'" (Exodus 16:8) The people's problem isn't with Moses and Aaron, not really. Naturally the people know Moses and Aaron aren't capable of obtaining enough food to feed possibly as many as 2,000,000 in the wilderness. But these two men are the visible human spokespersons for the Lord, and since the people can't see God face to face they take out their fears and frustrations on Moses and Aaron.

"Then Moses told Aaron, 'Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the Lord, for He has heard your grumbling.' While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud." (Exodus 16:9-10) Aaron will later become the first high priest of Israel and he is already taking on the role of chief spiritual adviser. This is why Moses turns the meeting over to him in verses 9 and 10. We don't know what Aaron says to the assembly but I like to think he preaches a sermon on faith. While he's still speaking, the glory of the Lord appears in the pillar of cloud that is always visible to the people during the daytime. (You'll recall that the constant presence of the Lord with the people was manifested in a pillar of cloud in the daytime and a pillar of fire in the nighttime.) The Lord is doing everything possible to help the people's faith in Him grow and flourish, and in this moment while Aaron preaches a sermon the Lord provides them with an extra and very visible proof of His presence.

If we want to look at it this way, the Lord is adding His "amen" to Aaron's message. If Aaron is saying, "The Lord is with us and will faithfully provide everything we need," the appearance of the glory of the Lord in the cloud is Him saying, "Yes, amen! I am with you and will help you." The Lord does a similar thing in our own day when we are sitting in church and the pastor is preaching from the Bible and suddenly our spirits are overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit who is saying to our hearts, "Yes, amen! This is the truth! You can believe what the Holy Bible is saying and what the pastor is saying about the Lord. I am testifying to the truth of what is being said and that is why you feel My presence so strongly in this moment."

In tomorrow's passage the Lord is going to do exactly what He's said He's going to do. Many of the people will follow His instructions regarding the gathering of the food. Some will not. This test will show each person where he stands in regard to the strength of his faith at this time.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Exodus. Day 55, In The Wilderness Of Sin, Part One---What Will They Eat?

On month after making their escape from Egypt, the people enter an area the Bible usually calls "The Desert Of Sin" or "The Wilderness Of Sin". It's believed by many linguists and scholars that the original name of the area was "The Wilderness Of Zin" but that the alternate use of the word "Sin" represents a variation in pronunciation of the name and also a metaphorical use of the name. This area of wilderness is where the Israelites will complain and murmur hotly against Moses and Aaron (and against the Lord, since Moses and Aaron are acting as His spokesmen) due to no longer having the various foods of Egypt at their disposal. In that sense this region of wilderness is rightly referred to as a place where "sin" occurs, for they will accuse the Lord of intending to starve them to death in the desert.

"The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt." (Exodus 16:1) Moses means the second month of the calendar year, not that the Israelites have been free of Egypt for two months. They left Egypt on the fifteenth day of what has now become the first month of their calendar year, for the Lord said that the month in which Passover occurs will now be considered the first month of the year for the Israelites. This means that they have been free of Egypt for thirty days because they left Egypt on the fifteenth day of the first month and arrive at the Desert of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month.

Elim is the oasis where they camped for an unspecified period of time at the end of Chapter 15. It was a beautiful area with twelve springs of good drinking water and seventy palm trees for shade. This is the place the Lord led them after He turned the bitter waters of Marah to drinkable water after they complained that He intended to let them die of thirst. So we see that He turned bitter waters to sweet, satisfied their need, then mercifully took them to a place where they could recover their strength in an oasis where there was no fear of running short of water. So now they are rested, watered, and ready to serve the Lord in fullness of faith, right? Wrong. Because the next problem that crops up throws them into another crisis of faith, but I will not judge them for it because this is how the carnal side of human nature works. The Lord has solved more problems for me and brought me through more crises than I can count, yet when a new problem or crisis crops up I start to worry and sometimes I even fall into a full-blown panic. I can't point my finger at the Israelites for their complaints and doubts without being a hypocrite. I'm not saying their doubts and complaints don't constitute sin, since the Bible says "everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23b), but I'm saying I too have complained against the Lord and I too have doubted whether He was going to come through for me.

The problem of the water shortage has been solved but now the people wonder what they're going to eat in the desert. They accuse Moses and Aaron (and the Lord, since Moses and Aaron are acting on behalf of the Lord) of dragging them out into the desert to kill them with hunger. "In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 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 16:2-4)

What was in those pots? Whatever the Egyptians served them while the people labored as slaves, and there is no doubt that the meats cooked in those pots included things that the Lord did not consider "clean". All the way back in early Genesis when Noah took animals onto the ark, the Lord was referring to some animals as "clean" and to others as "unclean", so we know that for thousands of years the people have had a clear understanding of which meats the Lord considers acceptable for human consumption. But the Egyptians had no such dietary rules and would have fed the Israelites anything they themselves would have eaten, including animals the Lord considers unfit for consumption and including the parts of clean animals that the Lord considers unfit for consumption. In our day we might refer to those parts as "by-products". I don't believe the Egyptians supplied the Israelites with the choicest of meats, and certainly they didn't supply them with the type of diets that Pharaoh's household or the top officials or the wealthy citizens would have eaten, so the items in the cooking pots likely consisted of scraps, organs, fats and who knows what---"hooves and lips and everything in between" as the saying goes. Did the contents of these pots fill their bellies and keep them alive? Yes. Did the contents provide a source of protein? Yes, but this foot was not an optimal source of nutrition and was not the best for their health and was not considered "clean" in the Lord's eyes.

It's understandable that they'd think longingly of those full cooking pots now that their bellies are growling with hunger, but there's more going on here than that. Looking back and desiring what was in those cooking pots is being used as a metaphor for looking back and desiring sin that's been left behind. The contents of those cooking pots wasn't best for them. Being slaves in Egypt wasn't what was best for them. God wants something better for them and He has taken them away from a land of uncleanness and slavery and is leading them to a land of plenty where they can live and worship freely. But leaving sin and the past behind and moving forward into the unknown with God can be quite difficult for our human nature and there can be a tendency to look back longingly to what was familiar to us, even if it wasn't what was best for us. Change is hard. Learning to trust God and stepping forward into the unknown with Him can be scary. It may appear much easier to drift back into sin where at least we know what to expect. But God wants so much more for us than that! He never said the journey forward would be easy but He said He'd be with us all the way. He's not asking us to do the impossible; His strength makes up for what we lack. He will do any work that is impossible for us. He will provide our needs in the wildernesses of this world, He will make a way through the deep waters, and He will move any mountains in our path.

Join us tomorrow when the Lord miraculously rains down bread from heaven for the people in the wilderness.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Exodus. Day 54, Bitter Waters And Sweet

Moses leads the people on from the Red Sea and they have some difficulty finding fresh, drinkable water.

"Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the desert of Shur." (Exodus 15:22a) Shur's precise location is debated by scholars and archaeologists but it has been mentioned three times previously in the Bible. When Hagar ran away from Sarah she was resting by the roadway to Shur when the angel of the Lord came and spoke with her. (Genesis 16:7) Abraham lived between Kadesh and Shur at one time. (Genesis 20:1) Ishmael's descendants settled in an area stretching from Havilah to Shur. (Genesis 25:18) In Genesis 16 we are told that there was a spring near the road to Shur and we do not know whether the Israelites drank or collected any water from that spring but we know that for three days after going into the desert called Shur they found no water. "For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water." (Exodus 15:22b)

I tend to think they didn't go thirsty for three days but that for three days they found no water with which to replenish their supply. They would have had to ration the water they had with them and would have been very concerned as the supply kept dwindling with no water source in sight. They were in danger of running out but I don't think the people and animals were waterless for three days. It only takes three to four days for a person or animal to perish without water under normal conditions. In hot desert conditions a person's or animal's situation would become dire much sooner. But whatever the case, after three days the people spotted an oasis but their relief quickly turned to fear and anger. "When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink?'" (Exodus 15:23-24)

Generally speaking, most commentaries regarding this passage of the Bible tend to be quite critical of the Israelites. That's because in the same chapter the Israelites go from singing the Lord's praises to believing He's going to allow them to perish of thirst in the wilderness. They fall from a spiritual high to a spiritual low. But this is actually quite "normal" for people living in a fallen world. We are never more in danger of hitting a spiritual low than right after something spiritually momentous has happened. That's when the devil is most likely to mount an attack against us. He does this because he has a better chance of catching us off guard while we're still basking in the glow of a spiritual breakthrough or while we're breathing happy sighs of relief over having a huge prayer answered. While we're relishing victory we may not stay "prayed up" and that's when that old serpent slithers in and whispers doubts to our minds or places temptations in our path.

For an example of this, let's consider the Apostle Peter on the night before the crucifixion. He had just experienced a very holy and moving Passover meal in which Jesus (the Messiah, the King of kings, the Lord of lords) humbly washed the disciples' feet. The Creator performed for the disciples a service only the lowest of household servants performed. We can imagine how honored Peter felt. What a spiritual high he must have been on during and after a meal in which his Maker communed so closely with him. But right after the meal the Lord Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples, "Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation." (Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38) Jesus issued this warning because He knew Satan would show up looking for an opportunity to lure the men into doubt and fear. He also knew how the human body works; He not only created the human body but He lived in a human body Himself. He was very aware that spiritual highs burn energy. (I've actually felt breathless and exhausted during or after certain church services in which I felt the Spirit of the Lord so strongly that I thought my heart would burst with joy. Often right after a time of communing with the Lord I feel completely wrung out.) Jesus knew Peter and the others would feel tired when their emotions settled down a bit, so He warned them to stay alert and pray. But they fell asleep while He prayed in the garden alone and as a result Peter denied three times that night that he even knew Jesus.

Here in Exodus 15 the Israelites have come down from the spiritual high they experienced when the Lord rescued them from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. These people witnessed an awesome miracle, but since then they've traveled a long and dusty road for several days. They're hot and tired. If they don't find water soon they are going to be in crisis. Satan slithers onto the scene and whispers doubts to them. He uses their physical exhaustion and physical discomfort against them. They turn on Moses (and by extension, on God) and ask, "What are we supposed to do now? What good is it to be rescued from Egypt and to be brought through the Red Sea if we are only going to die of thirst in this hot land?"

Moses doesn't know what they are going to do, but his trust isn't in human ability to come up with an answer. He turns to the Lord for help. "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 fit to drink." (Exodus 15:25a) Some scholars believe the type of wood Moses threw into the water was capable of drawing bitter minerals into itself, thus making the water source drinkable. Others believe the wood may have symbolized the cross of Christ and that it was used not as a practical, scientific solution but was a miraculous curing of the water. I think the answer could be either or both.

Medically speaking, I found some online sources that suggest something about the water at Marah, or something about the wood, or something about the combination of the two may have purged the Israelites' systems of impurities from the diet they consumed in Egypt. You've heard of people doing "juice cleanses" and it's possible that something about the drinking of this water cleansed the people's bodies of things that would have done them harm during their long trek through the desert. The following verse seems to suggest a connection to physical health. "There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, 'If you listen carefully to 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 15:25b-26)

Part of the reason the Egyptians had physical maladies was due to their diet. Very little was considered unclean to them. The Lord is going to give the Israelites quite a few laws dealing with what they can and cannot eat. Another reason the Egyptians were afflicted in body and in mind was because of their idolatry. They served false gods who didn't require holy living. The Egyptians practiced a variety of sexual sins and fertility rites that led to becoming afflicted with venereal diseases. On top of all that, high-ranking Egyptians and the royal family typically intermarried with very close relatives, committing incest, and this led to all manner of birth defects and genetic illnesses. A great deal of evidence has been found both historically and medically to back this theory up. Quite a few pharaohs married half sisters, according to the historical records. And the medical study of preserved mummies has shown that a number of them were born with ailments that tend to be the result of inbreeding. The Lord is going to put laws in place that specifically spell out how close is too close of a relation for marriage and He is not going to condone any type of sexual relations except those which occur between a man and woman who are married to each other. If the people follow His laws regarding diet and regarding marriage and sexual relations, they will naturally be spared from a lot of the ailments that befell the ancient Egyptians.

The people drink the water that has been made sweet and agree with the Lord that they will do whatever He commands. He leads them on to a place that is like a resort area in the desert. "Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water." (Exodus 15:27) How refreshing and restful this must have been! The Lord knows exactly what they need exactly when they need it. He's teaching them by their trials to learn to trust Him (such as letting them find bitter water in order to show them He can turn bitter water to sweet) but He also refreshes their weary bodies and spirits when they need it. They are learning that He comes through when their circumstances are troubling and that He is capable of providing times of peace and tranquility.

Thanks be to God that He hasn't made every day of our lives a day of toiling in the desert. He provides us with refreshing oases where our strength is restored.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Exodus. Day 53, The People Sing Praise To The Lord

The Israelites crossed the Red Sea safely on dry ground but the Lord caused the waters to rush in upon Pharaoh's army. The Lord's people sing a thankful song of praise to Him.

"Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: 'I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. Both horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.'" (Exodus 15:1) They thank the Lord for triumphing over their enemy.

"The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him; my Father's God, and I will exalt Him." (Exodus 15:2) They say, "The God of our fathers is our God too. We will serve Him just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did. He has proven Himself faithful and worthy or worship."

"The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, shattered the enemy." (Exodus 15:3-6) The Lord is a great army general, mighty in battle, winning the victory all by Himself. Israel could not have fought against her enemy and won; she was vastly outnumbered by an army that was highly skilled in warfare. But the Lord did for Israel what she could not do for herself.

"In the greatness of Your majesty You overthrew those who opposed You." (Exodus 15:7a) Egypt's treatment of the Israelites was a personal affront to the Lord. These are His covenant people. These are the people who were calling upon His name in a land filled with false idols. Anyone who opposed Israel was opposing Almighty God, for the Bible tells us that whoever touches (harms) Israel touches the apple (pokes the pupil) of the Lord's eye. (Zechariah 2:8) Can anyone ignore a poke in the eye? No, and neither can the Lord. He will not ignore any form of persecution perpetrated upon His people Israel. He will preserve that nation just as a man covers and preserves his eye from harm.

The people continue extolling the Lord's battle skills. "You unleashed Your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble. By the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up. The surging waters stood up like a wall; the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy boasted, 'I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.' But You blew with Your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters." (Exodus 15:7-10) Pharaoh and his army marched out confidently, expecting to easily overwhelm the Israelites. Egypt was the mightiest nation on earth at that time and the king and his soldiers expected victory over the Israelites just as surely as they expected the sun to come up each morning. In their minds it was a foregone conclusion---a done deal. But it was the other way around; God's victory was a foregone conclusion.

Not only did the Lord triumph over the powerful army of Egypt, but He triumphed over all the gods of Egypt. He showed them up for what they were: false idols incapable of speaking even a word. The only deity doing any great works in Egypt---or anywhere else in the world---was Almighty God. "Who among the gods is like You, Lord? Who is like You---majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretch out Your right hand, and the earth swallows Your enemies." (Exodus 15:11-12)

The people have praised the Lord for His battle skills and power. Now they thank Him for His love. "In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling." (Exodus 15:13) The Lord didn't guide them across the Red Sea and then say, "Okay, guys, you're on your own now. I got you through the worst of it, now go on into Canaan and drive the pagan tribes out of the promised land and claim it for your own. I promised your father Abraham that I'd give the land to you; go get it." No, the Lord is going to be with them every step of the way. Their deliverance from Egypt is just the beginning of their relationship with the Lord. We can relate verse 13 to ourselves as well, for after we accept Christ as our Savior we become the children of God and He will never forsake us. He doesn't say, "Okay, the eternal destination of your soul is settled and secure now that you've given your hearts to Christ. I'll see you when you get to heaven someday but until then you're on your own." No, the Lord is going to walk with us every day that we live in this world. Accepting Christ as our Savior is just the beginning of our relationship with the Lord.

Because the Lord has been so mighty on behalf of Israel, everyone who hears about Israel will experience a dreadful and reverent fear of Israel's God. "The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of Your arm they will be as still as a stone---until Your people pass by, Lord, until the people You bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance---the place, Lord, You made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, Your hands established. The Lord reigns forever and ever." (Exodus 15:14-18) The Israelites are already looking forward to the day when a temple to the Lord will stand in the promised land. They are looking forward to the day when they will worship Him there, in the land He promised their fathers.

Moses' and Aaron's sister Miriam led the women of the group in a song to the Lord when the people saw that the Lord drowned the Egyptian army in the sea. Moses tells us, "When Pharaoh's horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: 'Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. Both horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.'" (Exodus 15:21) These ladies form their own choir and their singing is accompanied by music and dancing.

The Bible instructs us to make a joyful noise to the Lord, to be loud with our praise, and to rejoice in gratitude for what the Lord has done. (Psalm 98:4, Psalm 100:1) I believe the people's shouts of joy rang off the hills and filled the Red Sea valley with the sound of their voices and their instruments. I bet their praise could be heard for miles around.

Taking our example from the Israelites, what can we praise the Lord for today? Let's not overlook thanking Him for all the things He's already brought us through, for everything He's provided us with today, and for the glorious future He has prepared for us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Exodus. Day 52, The Red Sea Crossing, Part Four

When we closed yesterday the angel of the Lord was standing in between the Israelites and the Egyptians so that neither could approach the other all night long. This is what was happening while the Lord held Israel's enemies back: "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land." (Exodus 14:21a)

Though the process of making a way through the sea appears to have taken several hours, the water isn't merely blown back out of their way but supernaturally stands as a wall on each side of the Israelites as they make their crossing. "The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left." (Exodus 14:21b-22) This is a scene that the movie "The Ten Commandments" got right, in my opinion. I'm including an image here from the movie so you can see what I mean.

Just before dawn the Egyptians see the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and they take off after them in hot pursuit. "The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, 'Let's get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.'" (Exodus 14:23-25) At least some of these Egyptian soldiers possess enough spiritual discernment (or superstitious fear, anyway) to realize that the jamming of their chariot wheels is intended to slow down their pursuit. The Lord is buying time for the Israelites to make it far enough through the Red Sea so that there's enough room behind them to release the waters back over the Egyptian army.

Pharaoh doesn't heed the cries of his soldiers who want to turn back instead of fighting against God. We know the king doesn't allow the army to turn back for we find them still in the Red Sea when the Lord allows the waters to rush in upon them. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.' Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back into its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen---the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived." (Exodus 14:26-28)

Did Pharaoh himself die in the Red Sea? Many scholars think not since Exodus 14 only mentions Pharaoh's army drowning in the waters. In Exodus 15 we find Moses and the Israelites singing a song of praise to the Lord in which they say, "Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea." (Exodus 15:4) In this song no mention is made of the death of Pharaoh and such an omission seems strange if he did indeed die, considering what grievous sins he perpetrated upon the Israelites. It was typical in those days for a king to ride in front of his troops to lead them into battle, but perhaps in this case Pharaoh remained on the seashore due to a kernel of fear in his heart. Perhaps he thought, "Suppose my men are right? Suppose the Lord is fighting for Israel? The last plague He brought upon Egypt took the life of my firstborn son. If I pursue these people into the sea, what if the Lord takes my life? To be on the safe side, I'd better move to the rear of my army and urge them on into the sea ahead of me and see what happens to them. If it looks like they're going to be successful I'll follow after them."

An argument can be made for believing Pharaoh perished in the Red Sea if we take a look at what David said in Psalm 136. David speaks of the miraculous parting of the Red Sea which allowed the Israelites to make it safely through but which "swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea". (Psalm 136:15a) Whether David literally means the king of Egypt died in the waters or whether he is referring to the army by Pharaoh's name is not certain. An example of this in more modern times is the way we tend to identify the army of Nazi Germany by the name of Hitler. In saying we defeated Nazi Germany and her allies we might refer to it as "defeating Hitler". We did not actually engage in hand-to-hand combat with Hitler; we defeated his forces. We and our allies didn't kill Hitler. He perished by his own hand. But still we might say of the Allied victory in World War II: "We destroyed Hitler." Scholars who believe Pharaoh did not die in the Red Sea interpret Psalm 136:15a to mean that the Lord defeated Pharaoh's army at the Red Sea, not that the Lord drowned Pharaoh in the sea.

It's difficult to come to any certain conclusion regarding the fate of Pharaoh since no Egyptian records have been found regarding this incident, which is typical of any defeat any pharaoh ever faced. It was not at all common for an Egyptian king to describe anything but victories in his written records or to have murals painted depicting anything but his successes. Even in those days, world leaders didn't want any bad press! The Bible never identifies the pharaoh of the exodus by name and we are therefore unable to say whether this particular king disappeared suddenly from Egypt's scene or not.

"But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant." (Exodus 14:29-31) The Lord used the rushing waters of the Red Sea to cast the dead bodies of the Egyptian soldiers onto the shore where the Israelites could see them. If He had not, maybe they'd have doubted He defeated their enemy. The Lord mercifully takes human weakness into account and provides the Israelites with visible proof of what He's done for them. They need not fear the Egyptians will continue to pursue them on into the desert. While I doubt every soldier of Egypt was at the Red Sea (since this would have left the nation defenseless against invaders) we'll see in Exodus 15 that Pharaoh's best army officers perished. We've already been told that Pharaoh assembled all the best chariots of Egypt to make the pursuit, so we can safely assume that for the foreseeable future the king will be busy replacing his army chariots and training new men to be generals. He's going to have to spend the majority of his time and money on rebuilding and equipping his army, not going after the Israelites.

As they should, the people stop to give thanks to the Lord for their miraculous rescue, and in tomorrow's study we'll take a look at the song they sing to Him. They set an example for us to follow in taking time to thank the Lord before moving on ahead into the next phase of their lives. When the Lord answers our prayers we should thank Him right then and there, not just move on ahead without acknowledging His help.