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Are We There Yet?

From the Red Sea to the Jordan  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Are We There Yet?

I. - Bitter Water Made Sweet
II. - Bread from Heaven and Water from the Rock
III. - The First Battle
Moses and the Israelites had just celebrated God’s victory over Pharaoh and Moses and the Israelites sing a song of praise and worship to God. Miriam led the women dancing and singing and worshiping God in faith and gratitude for His deliverance.
Well just three short days later the party is over. The Israelites have gone into the Desert of Shur and for three days they traveled without finding water. They are hot, thirsty and weary and when they finally reach a spring of water, the water is bitter so it is undrinkable. And what do they do? They grumble against Moses saying “What shall we drink”? Their faith was already faltering! Moses called on the Lord and God answered Moses prayer by telling him to cast a branch from a tree into the water. The people witnessed the provision of God as the water became sweet and drinkable.
Three days! 72 hours! They had just walked through the Red Sea on dry land and seen their enemy destroyed and still they grumbled. They were grumbling TO Moses but they were grumbling against God. They were being impatient, untrusting and ungrateful. And yet God delivered and provided for them once again.
At this point, I tend to get a little judgmental about the Israelites. How could they find it in their hearts to grumble? I like to think that I would have been the one in the crowd that would encourage my fellow Israelites to remember God’s faithfulness.
This past weekend I attended a 4 day conference. It was amazing! My husband was working and could not attend so I went with my small group. The worship was powerful, I could feel the Holy Spirit moving throughout the conference. It was a mountaintop experience. And then I left the mountaintop and went home. I came home to a messy house, piles of laundry, an empty refrigerator and a grumpy family. The descent came quickly. As I was scrubbing the bathtub because my daughter had imported sand from the north shore all over the bathroom, I will admit, I was a bit grumbly myself. Seriously, they are adults after all! And then I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I should be thankful that I have a bathroom to clean, running water, clothes to wear, electricity, how God has provided for me! It had been less than 24 hours and here I was judging the Israelites for 3 days. Thankfully, the same patience, love and grace that God showed the Israelites, He shows me all the time.
God was testing the Israelites and unfortunately they failed this test. The failure wasn’t in lack of water but of lack of faith. However, God provided not only by turning the bitter water into sweet, life sustaining water but he led them to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. I wonder if they would have arrived sooner at this beautiful oasis if only they had trusted God to be who He says He is.
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God is establishing a covenant between Himself and Israel. Their obligation is to obey God’s commands and God’s obligation would be to protect them from the plagues that struck Egypt. God promised to heal His people.
As we move on to our next division, the Israelites came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai. It was vast and a hostile environment of sand and stone. It was the perfect place for God to test his children and build their character.
In our next division
The people were complaining to Moses, but their real problem was with God. After all, Moses was simply following the lead of God’s pillars. Israel needed to realize that the saving God of the Red Sea would be the providing God of the desert. Who could have imagined what a slow process this was going to be.
This time they would face a new test, the test of hunger, would they look to God with anticipation and trust that He would meet their needs or not? The Israelites failed this test and grumbled to Moses and Aaron. The Israelites grumbling reveals just how fragile their faith really was. They were remembering the food they had in Egypt but amazingly they completely forgot the harsh lives they had as slaves! They had chosen to forget what life under Pharaoh had been truly like. Worse, they actually thought God might let them die of starvation. A strong faith would have been continually praising God for redeeming them from slavering and trusting Him to preserve their lives. Their problem was not just a lack of trust. It wasn’t simply that they were whiny. The people bridled; they were totally unwilling to submit to God. And so they attacked Moses. It was way easier to complain to Moses than it would be to verbally attack Yahweh!
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And Moses did what God asks each of us to do. He went directly to the Lord. When we go directly to our heavenly Father with our needs and concerns it honors him for it acknowledges His authority and His involvement in our daily lives.
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There is a huge difference between complaining about God and complaining to God. A healthy relationship with God also calls for us to go to the Lord with our complaints, frustrations and fears.
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God announced a test for the people. He would provide food for them, but He would also see whether they would follow His instruction for gathering the food. If they could not be trusted to obey in small matters, such as gathering food, how could they be trusted in much more important matters? God would provide for His people daily and it would teach them to depend on God daily.
God will supply us with everything we need - but not necessarily with everything we desire or want. We should trust God to know how much we actually need of what we want.
God will supply us with everything we need - but not necessarily with everything we desire or want. We should trust God to know how much we actually need of what we want.
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Moses clarified for the people what the real issue was. What was being tested was not the quality of Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership, but the degree to which the people would really trust their God. They had grumbled against Moses and Aaron but in reality their grumbling was against God. And more importantly, God had heard them! However we see something truly amazing, each time the Israelites complain, God patiently provides for their needs!
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In God’s timing, the needs of the people for food were met. The quail which visited the Hebrew camp were probably a migrating flock. Huge numbers of quail migrate north during the spring after wintering in Africa. When the fatigued birds stop to rest, they can be caught easily. God had already made provisions for the meat, but the people grumbled before it was time for those provisions to go into effect. It is hard to determine whether the quail and manna operated beyond or within the laws of nature. Either way, God’s miracle of provision was His providing the exact amount needed on a regular daily schedule.
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This chapter of Exodus closes with a reminder to the reader: “an omer is one tenth of an ephah. As a unit of dry measure, the omer was a little more than two quarts. Basically, it was about one and a half water bottles. An omer of manna was enough food for one person for one day. The test for the people was to see whether they could trust God to provide their daily needs for food. All the manna gathered had to be eaten on that day, for any kept until the next morning became infested with maggots. Of course, some disobeyed the instructions, attempting to save a portion of manna for the following day; and of course it turned to maggots. However the instructions changed on the sixth day. They were then to gather twice the amount - two omers per person- in order to have enough manna for two days . The manna that was kept until the seventh day would be edible,. Again, some disobeyed these instructions, attempting to gather on the seventh day, but their attempts were futile.
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The rest from manna gathering on the seventh day began an observance that would become a major part of the people’s worship of the Lord. The example for this special day of rest had been established by God’s rest on the seventh day after creation. It was to be considered a holy day.
God’s tests of obedience are also tests of sin. To disobey God consciously and deliberately is sinful behavior that tarnishes our life of faith. It brings to mind, when my children were young and we would be out shopping and I would say, “don’t touch anything!” and of course my eldest would have to just barely touch something to see if he would get caught. But don’t we do the same thing, when we watch a show on tv or a movie? When we skip bible study or church because something better in our minds came up, or how about when we volunteer to serve and then just don’t feel like it so make up some excuse not. These might be small actions but they have large consequences in our relationship with God.
The people had demonstrated their inability to sustain faith. As a reminder to them of God’s providing care, Aaron preserved an omer of manna in a jar, which would later be placed in the ark of the covenant. God did not fail His people, He supplied manna for the entire forty years they were in the wilderness.
The last stop for the Hebrews before reaching Mount Sinai was the site of Rephidim, somewhere near the base of the mountain. They were once again in need of drinking water. Their first response was to complain against Moses.
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Wow, third times a charm! This time they threatened to stone Moses! Each time the Israelites had grumbled against the Lord, He answered with patience and provision. And in response, the Israelites persistently disobeyed God’s commands. Each time supplies ran short they became more hostile and antagonistic. In the end, they even demanded that God prove to them that He was present!
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Once more God provided in spite of the people’s lack of trust. The miracle of bringing water from a rock was granted with two requirements. Moses was to use the same staff that he had used in Egypt to strike the Nile River, and he was to perform the deed before the elders of Israel. Maybe the elders would remember what the Lord did in Egypt when Moses raised that staff and thus place their trust in God.
In our final section we are introduced to the Amalekites and Joshua. The Amalekites were a nomadic tribe of formidable strength. In fact, they were the first hostile and savage desert tribe to attack the Israelites as they journeyed from Egypt. Joshua was born in Egypt during the period of slavery. Natural leadership abilities that would have remained undeveloped for an Egyptian slave now blossomed for this free young man. As Israel was forced to defend themselves against the Amalekites, Joshua served as Moses’ general.
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The battle demonstrated a people and their God working together. Joshua led the troops in the actual fighting. God was not going to eliminate the enemy without effort being exerted by the Israelites themselves. On the other Hand, Israel could not win without the Lord. The course of the battle was in Israel’s favor only while Moses raised his hands to the Lord - an action symbolizing the release of God’s power on Israel’s behalf. When Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur held up his hands until the battle was won. Both a written scroll and an altar would continually remind the Israelites that they had divine help in war - the Lord would forever fight with them.
Just as Aaron and Hur held Moses’ hands up so Israel could prevail, Christian leaders are similarly in need of support from Christian followers if the church is to move forward as a force for God. I encourage you my sisters, to pray for your churches, your pastors and their marriages and families, hold their hands up when they grow weary or discouraged.
The Israelites were professionals at grumbling. It would be funny if it wasn’t so incredibly disrespectful to our Holy God, our Redeemer Our Saviour. Even with the miracles they had just witnessed they were rebellious and unwilling to trust God, His provision and His love for them. We too, must choose every day in every circumstance to trust Him.
Will you choose to take your needs to God and trust He will provide?

7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

God had been patient and
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