Portraits of Fellowship, Part 4: Moses
We wrote most recently of Moses and his ability to follow the Lord in spite of the people around him who acted like they were going to harm him (Exodus 14). Specifically, in Exodus 14:11-12 as we highlighted last time, the people were sarcastic, filled with anger, and had completely ignored the numerous times that God had helped and protected them. God’s help was a distant memory. In fact, if the Israelites had remembered it, it didn’t affect their present state.
In spite of the people’s unwillingness to believe God – thus keeping them out of fellowship with Him – Moses pressed on. He even tried to get them to see their own faithlessness and to stand strong in belief in God and His ability to save them. Surely He had not brought them out of Egypt to have them be massacred by Pharaoh’s army?
Ultimately, we know that God did save the people miraculously and destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the process. Yet, I wonder how I might have reacted had I actually been there, seeing the Red Sea in front of me and Pharaoh’s army behind me? Can I honestly say I would have trusted God like Moses did?
This was all in Exodus 14 and in the very next chapter – Exodus 15 – there is tremendous praise to God led by Moses, for God’s deliverance from the Israelites’ enemies. Under God’s authority and power, Moses parted the Red Sea, the Israelites walked through on dry land, and Pharaoh and his army were destroyed when they tried to follow the fleeing Israelites. The first 21 verses of Exodus 15 are filled with praises to God by Moses and Miriam.
The fact of the magnitude of the miracle we know as the crossing of the Red Sea should have been a true foundational event for the Israelites. It should have been something the people would have been able to draw on whenever they faced tough situations. However, it was only several verses later that we learn of another test that God put the people through, when they again grumbled.
By now, even if there had been weeks or months between examples of God’s deliverance, one would think that the memories of the times when God had stepped in for His people would have been embedded on their minds. Instead though, we see people giving into an attitude of complaint and therefore, sin. They chose not to trust God.
The situation recorded for us in Exodus 15:22ff probably only occurred several days after successfully crossing the Red Sea. Not long after that, they arrived to a place in the wilderness where the water was bitter.
Then Moses led Israel to journey away from the Red Sea. They went out to the Desert of Shur, walked for three days into the desert, and found no water. Then they came to Marah, but they were not able to drink the waters of Marah, because they were bitter. (That is why its name was Marah.) (Exodus 15:22-23; NET).
I’m quite certain that anyone traveling in that area of the world would have been constantly concerned about the need for water. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of people, cattle, and other animals moving through a semi-arid area with lots of sand. They would have all needed water. In Exodus 15:24-26, we read more about the situation.
So the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What can we drink?” He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When Moses threw it into the water, the water became safe to drink. There the Lord made for them a binding ordinance, and there he tested them. He said, “If you will diligently obey the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
Again, the people murmured. That was their default reaction. What’s yours? What’s mine?
Their murmuring might not have been quite so bold, quite so annoying, or quite so anger-filled and panicky as it was as they stood before the Red Sea, but they still murmured. They were not happy. They didn’t want to grow by learning to trust God. They wanted their needs to be met before they even noticed they had any.
But notice how Moses responded to this situation. “He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree.”
Again, we see the way it is supposed to be done. Christian, when you are faced with circumstances in life that will either push you closer to God or pull you away, what is your response? Moses allowed the situation to push him closer to God. He knew he could not rely on himself. To do so would have taken him out of fellowship with God and that would have been sin. God always wants us to be in fellowship with Him. He never wants us out of fellowship. One of the keys is learning to trust God for His provision, even if we cannot see it specifically ahead of time.
Moses focused on God for His solution. Isn’t this what God tells us in Psalm 55:22 and echoes the same sentiment in 1 Peter 5:7, when he tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Moses knew that casting his cares and concerns on the Lord would yield good results. Relying on himself would yield nothing good at all. To not trust God would be sin.
But why did God show Moses a tree to throw into the water? Why didn’t God just turn the water from bitter to drinkable? God was using these situations to prove to the people that Moses was God’s choice to lead them. They should listen to Moses. They should follow his lead. For Moses, as the leader chosen specifically by God for the purpose of leading hundreds of thousands of people (and their animals) from captivity to the Promised Land, he was forced to rely on God. If he did not, he would fall into the same sin of unbelief evidenced by the average Israelite. That would have put him out of fellowship with God and in sin.
While we should consider the fact that Moses was chosen by God for this monumental task, we should also consider the fact that God wants the same for us. No, we might never be called to do things to the degree that Moses did them, but that really doesn’t matter. God brings/allows specific things into our lives and each time He does, we have a choice. Do we react as Moses did or do we act like the faithless Israelites?
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: exodus 15, miriam, moses, red sea.