So after the amazing events of Exodus 14 and the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground and the waters swallowing up the armies of Pharaoh the Israelites spend some time praising God and we have the text of their praises in the beginning of Chapter 15, and then they set out on the road.
“22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.”
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.
Right after God showed them that he is capable of providing everything for them he gives them a test and they instantly fail the test. God is showing them that they have bitter hearts and no faith, but they will have to have faith in God in order to survive. After this they continue on.
“1 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.
2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
They do not look forward to the glory to come. They have been promised a land of their own and that they will become a great nation, but all they can see is the pain of the moment. They also do not see the past and the many ways that God has come through for them. Again all they can see is their momentary pain. We know from Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him, and that is what we need to do as well.
One thing I notice is that a lot of the locations they went to got their names changed after something big happened there, I wonder how this desert got the name “the desert of sin”.
4 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.
5 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.”
God’s responses are not just a handout, they are a test. God does not provide for us just to fill a little need, it is to help us to grow, and to see our response. After an encounter with God we are not supposed to go back to how things were, but continue growing.
You have to wonder, if they would just handle one of these situations well, would the rest of the trip have gone easily? They are very impatient, kind of like how Moses was when he was younger, and killed the Egyptian and tried to get things started. The Israelites just want to be there, but the journey and the growing is very important. God wants his people to inhabit the lands of Canaan, not just some group of people that doesn’t know him.
Links to today’s Bible reading – Exodus 15-16 and Mark 5