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.

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