Portraits of Fellowship, Part 5: Moses
In our previous installment in this series – Portraits of Fellowship, Part 4: Moses – we continued to highlight the correct way in which Moses responded to the tests and trials that the Israelites faced. Instead of reacting to each situation as if they had arrived to the end of their lives, Moses not only trusted God, but attempted to direct the Israelites to do the same thing. In spite of their inability (or maybe it was refusal) to believe, God saved the Israelites time and time again based on Moses’ beliefs as well as His own purposes and plans. There were many times throughout the history of Israel that God judged that nation. During those times, multitudes were often judged to death. While it is easy to think that God was “harsh” with His reaction to the failures of the Israelites, we must remember that judgment usually followed the Israelites’ repeated failures to believe in spite of the many examples of God’s blessing, protection, and salvation from death or harm. They really had no excuse except that they were rebellious and stiff-necked.
I’ve known chicken owners who have put down certain chickens because in spite of the efforts of the owner, the chickens continued to be “argumentative,” and had a real disdain for people. They would peck anyone or anything that came within reach. Chickens are generally docile but when you have a chicken or two that continually strike out at people or other animals, it simply creates tension with all the animals that should not exist. The only alternative is to either give the chicken away to someone else where that type of behavior isn’t a problem (although try to approach that chicken to gather eggs!), or put it down for the sake of the entire brood of chickens, humans, and other animals.
This is what God was forced to do on a number of occasions. He didn’t hate the Israelites, that much is clear. He simply had to make a decision from time to time that would eradicate the worst of the rebels because if He didn’t, that rebellious attitude would wash throughout the entire camp of Israelites. It’s an example of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in action. Things left to themselves will go from order to disorder and that is certainly the case wherever rebellious attitudes exist.
We see this continued rebelliousness in many chapters in Exodus. It’s as though God never saved or protected the people of Israel. It’s as if God never took the time to be concerned about their needs or welfare by never providing water or food, or vanquishing their foes. It’s absolutely remarkable how often God does these things yet the Israelites as a group act as if God never did them. Most of the Israelites never learned how faithful God was to them. They were too focused on themselves to see it.
We previously spoke of Exodus 15 and how most of the chapter references Moses (and Miriam’s) praise to God for His mighty deliverance from Pharaoh and his army as the Israelites escaped across the dried sea floor of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). Over 600,000 Israelites and their animals made it safely across and Pharaoh and his army perished.
In the final few verses of Exodus 15, the people arrive to a spot where water exists but it is bitter, undrinkable. So, they grumble. It’s what they do. Moses instead does what he learned to do and turns his attention to God for the solution. God provides one. It is clear for Moses at least, these victories became a very strong foundation for him that allowed him to be and remain in fellowship with God. For most of the Israelites, this was simply not the case.
Here in Exodus 16, with the Red Sea crossing and God (through Moses), turning the bitter water into drinkable water immediately in their memories, the Israelites now arrive to another place, which turns out to be a desert, the Desert of Sin (Exodus 16:1). Guess what? The people grumbled because they were hungry.
The entire company of Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” (Exodus 16:2-3)
It’s as though God cannot catch a break with these people! Are you like that? Am I like that? If so, shame on us!
It would seem as though complaining is in their blood. Wouldn’t it have been nice to see at least once where leaders of the Israelites simply came to Moses and asked, “Moses, we are hungry. How is the Lord going to provide for us as we believe He will?”
Wow, can you imagine it? Instead, it’s one complaint after another as though God had never done anything to help them. There is no indication that Moses doubted as the Israelites doubted. The next verses tell us of God’s plan to provide.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather the amount for each day, so that I may test them. Will they walk in my law or not? On the sixth day they will prepare what they bring in, and it will be twice as much as they gather every other day.” (Exodus 16:4-5)
God is so patient! He puts up with the grumbling, the complaining, the remonstrating of those He has called to make a great nation. He continues to provide. Of course, the people who complained are completely out of fellowship with God. Their rebelliousness kept them out of fellowship. Moses, on the other hand, trusted the Lord. There is no indication here that he faltered. He continued to trust in spite of the anger and rebelliousness of the people around him. He looked to God for the answer and the answer came. As he continued to trust, he kept himself from sinning. This allowed him to be and remain in fellowship with God.
It is the same with us. Life has its ups and downs. Our job – if you will – is to be and remain in fellowship with God. Clearly, from looking at Moses’ life, we understand that trusting God for His provision even when we cannot see what it is going to be is extremely important in ensuring that fellowship is ours.
It would have been easy for Moses to take his eyes off God because of the level of disagreement created by loud-mouthed individuals within the Israelite camp. Had Moses given in to that, he would have fallen out of fellowship with God. Instead, it appears as though Moses quietly trusted the Lord to provide. In Exodus 15, Moses most likely did not know ahead of time that God would direct Moses’ attention to a tree to throw in the bitter water to make it drinkable. He learned God’s provision at the exact time he needed it.
It is the same way here in Exodus 16. At the right moment he needed to know what God’s next step was going to be, Moses learned that God would send “manna” (literally, what is it?) to sustain the people. There were certain restrictions though. They could only gather enough for each day except on the Sabbath, when they were allowed to gather enough to carry them for the Sabbath so that they would not be working (by gathering the manna). Even here, we learn that some disregarded this and gathered more than they should have on non-Sabbath days, which resulted in the manna rotting. God provided manna each morning and quail each evening. The people lived on these things for 40 years as they traveled through the desert toward the Promised Land.
Folks, it is very difficult at times to “see” through the darkness into the future to the point where God actually provides an answer to the situation we are undergoing. We are often surrounded by circumstances that God is using for our growth and His glory. Satan wants those very same circumstances to weaken our faith and destroy our fellowship. We need to be like Moses, not Israelites. We need to trust God in spite of what we cannot see. That is not only how we enter into fellowship with Him but it is how we remain in fellowship with Him.
We must learn to ignore circumstances, a very difficult thing to do. God is not controlled by circumstances. He controls them and waits to see if we will trust Him in spite of the fact that the circumstances are doing their best to pull us away from God through unbelief and doubt. When we allow this to happen, we are allowing ourselves to be pulled out of fellowship.
But just as quickly, we can enter into and remain in fellowship with God by ignoring the circumstances and start trusting God to provide. In order to do that, we must see God as being so much larger than any circumstance we might face.
You’ll recall the words to an old hymn: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” This is exactly the key to entering into and remaining in fellowship! Trusting God means being obedient to Him regardless of circumstances and how we might feel about things. How can we say we love God if we do not trust Him? How can we believe that we are in fellowship with Him if we fail to trust Him for His provision? The two are polar opposites. We need to trust in order to have fellowship with Him.
It’s a lesson many of the Israelites never learned.
Entry filed under: christianity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: exodus 16, manna, moses, quail.