It didn’t take long for the Israelites to find something else to complain about. God had just led them through the Red Sea on dry ground. He had eliminated the Egyptians so they would never again bother the Israelites. They had sung and danced because of God's might and power. But water wasn't readily available, and the people grumbled against Moses. God was testing His people to see if they would trust Him to take care of them. But they didn't get a passing grade on this test. Not only did God provide water at Mariah, but He also led them to a place with twelve springs and seventy palm trees. Water and food if the dates were ripe. American preacher Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) once said “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks.” Jesus warned us we would have troubles in this life. But we are called to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world. Israel's God would overcome the world as well. If only His people would trust Him.
As they traveled, the Israelites were not concerned with how they could please God. They were worried about what they would eat and drink. Their focus was way off. While God was testing the Israelites, they were tempting Him by their attitude and their doubt and their words. More than once the Israelites looked at the challenges facing them and decided they would just go back to Egypt. The problem here is this. If we choose to run every time there is a challenge or problem in our lives, we will be running away from something our whole lives. That is not how God intended for us to live. As the people cried out to Moses, the man of faith turned to God. First God appeared to the Israelites in all His glory. He appeared in the cloud so they would not see His face and die. Next God provided food for the Israelites. Quail appeared in the evening, enough to feed everyone. When you picture quail, they aren't very big. Yet for 40 years God brought quail to the Israelites every night for them to have meat to eat. That is A LOT of quail. But God also brought bread from heaven. That was a totally new experience for them. It wasn't like wonder bread fell from the sky. Instead, every morning except for the sabbath the Israelites found in the dew thin flakes like frost on the ground. They had never seen this before and asked what is this? The Hebrew word is manna and it literally means what is it. This was the bread from heaven. They cooked it or ground it and baked it. It was sweet like honey. Again, God tested them, telling them to collect only what they needed...and no more.
Perhaps the people were lazy and didn't want to collect manna every day. Maybe they didn't trust God to bring more the next day. They might even have wanted some for a midafternoon snack. But those who collected extra woke up the next day to spoiled manna and maggots. The manna would sustain their physical lives in the desert. It wasn't until Jesus came that our spiritual hunger was satisfied. And so, it went. The Israelites had manna for their morning meal and quail at night. For 40 years. The only time the Israelites gathered extra manna was before the sabbath. It was to be prepared that day so that the sabbath would be a true day of rest.
The Israelites were moving towards Mount Sinai and God was still leading them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He had not abandoned them or left them to their own devices. And they still had manna and quail. But God was also still testing them to see if they would be obedient. He continued to prove His power to them in order to build their character and their faith. Once again, the
Israelites found themselves in need of water. Once again, they complained. And once again God provided. The Israelites had a long way to go to qualify as a godly nation. Every test God had given them only brought out the worst in them. They had already failed the water test before, so God tested them again...with the same results. God had proved to them He could and would provide both food and water for His people, but they continued to quarrel with Moses. Why? Because their hearts were still in Egypt. They were guilty of unbelief and ingratitude. They wanted their old life back. They might have been slaves there but at least they had food and water. Moses must have wondered if these people would ever trust God.
Moses carried a heavy load on behalf of the Israelites. He was the go between with them and God. He led them as they made their way to the promised land. And he sat as judge among the people. Moses was 84 years old, his brother Aaron 87. In chapter 17 we encounter the Amalekite's for the first time. Amalek was the grandson of Esau. The Amalekites territory was vast because they were nomadic people. But they were cruel to the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 25:19 we see God command His people to blot the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven. This is the only nation in scripture so condemned. King Saul spared the Amalekite king, an act of disobedience that led to his downfall. This is the first mention of Joshua in the Bible, but he will be mentioned over 200 more times in the Bible.
There are three things that contribute to Israel’s victory over the Amalekites. It took God's power, the skill of Joshua on the battlefield, and the intercession of Moses, Aaron and Hur up on the hill. This too was a test of sorts. Joshua and his army would trust God and fight. Moses, Aaron, and Hur would trust God and intercede. God would do the rest. Aaron and Hur held Moses arms up as he prayed. Scripture tells us that Moses didn’t lose his natural strength so why did they have to hold his arms up? Because true intercession is a demanding activity. Praying without ceasing causes as much weariness as physical work, if not more.
Moses' father-in-law visited with some great leadership advice...do not do everything yourself. Enlist those who are qualified to help and then train others. It is still good solid advice today. And while many have tried to be all things to all people, it doesn't work, and it isn't helpful. Once again, we see the true character of Moses. He invites his father-in-law into his tent. Hospitality was a big deal in that time and place. Jethro had heard about what God had done in Egypt, but Moses had details. And he went on to list all the things God had done for His people. Moses didn't take credit for anything. Instead, he gave all the glory to God. That is how we are called to live as well.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W