Exodus 16:1-17:7

19 Nov 2023

Exodus 16:1-17:7

Passage Exodus 16:1-17:7

Speaker Chris Musther

Series Exodus: The God who saves


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Quite a long reading. You'll have to bear with me. The whole israelite community set out from Elim and came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai. On the 15th day of the second month after they'd come out of Egypt. In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

The Israelites said to them, if only we died by the Lord's hand in Egypt. There we sat, round pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted. But you brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death. 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. On the 6th day, they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days. So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, in the evening, you'll know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. And in the morning, you will see the glory of the Lord, because he's heard your grumbling against him. Who are we that we should grumble against?

Who are we that you should grumble against us? Moses also said, you will know it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he's heard you grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord. Then Moses told Aaron, say to the entire israelite community, come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.

While Aaron was speaking to the whole israelite community, they looked towards the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. The Lord said to Moses, I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, at twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord, your guardian. That evening, quail came and covered the camp.

And in the morning, there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes, like frost on the ground, appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, what's this for? They didn't know what it was. Moses said to them, it is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

This is what the Lord has commanded. Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent. The Israelites did as they were told. Some gathered much, some little.

And when they measured it by the Omer, the one who had gathered much didn't have too much. And the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, no one is to keep any of it until morning. However, some of them paid no attention to Moses.

They kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. Each morning, everyone gathered as much as they needed. And when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the 6th day, they gathered twice as much.

Two omers for each person. And the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, this is what the lord commanded. Tomorrow is to be a day of Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the lord. So bake what you want to bake, and boil what you want to boil.

Save whatever is left and keep it until morning. So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it didn't stink or get maggots in it. Eat it today, Moses said, because today is a Sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days, you're to gather it.

But on the 7th day, the Sabbath, there will not be any. Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the 7th day to gather it, but they found none. Then the lord said to Moses, how long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the lord has given you the Sabbath. That is why on the 6th day, he gives you bread for two days.

Everyone is to stay where they are on the 7th day, and no one is to go out. So the people rested on the 7th day. The people of Israel called the bread Manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Moses said, this is what the Lord has commanded.

Take an Omer of Manna and keep it for the generations to come. So they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt. So Moses said to Aaron, take a jar and put an omer of Manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come. As the lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law that it might be preserved.

The Israelites ate Manna for 40 years until they came to a land that was settled. They ate Manna until they reached the border of Canaan. And Omar is one 10th of an epah. The whole israelite community set out from the desert of sin, travelling from place to place as the lord commanded. They camped at rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

So they quarrelled with Moses and said, give us water to drink. Moses replied, why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test? But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses and they said, why did you bring us out of Egypt? To make us and our children and livestock die of thirst.

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, what am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me. The Lord answered, Moses, go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the nile and go, I will stand there before you by the rock of strike. The rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink.

So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel, and he called the place masseh and Meribah because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord, saying, is the Lord among us or not? This is the word of the Lord.

A question for the ages, really. Rom.com or action movie? Rom.com or action movie? You've got to pick a movie to watch. Would it be a romantic comedy or would it be an action movie?

No. There's a lot of unsure faces out there. But there's something that these movies have in common. They have common tropes, a rom.com. you'll often have some kind of relationship burgeoning at the beginning.

Two people will be pushed together. And as the film develops, then they start to realise that maybe the relationship isn't going the way they think. And the whole film develops around the ins and outs of the relationships, the problems that it has, the intricacies, the learning about each other, and eventually, hopefully, ends up with the couple having a lovely time and everything's great. Action movies, well, often they have kind of a buddy trope, don't they? Often there'll be a younger partner or there'll be somebody who's rescued.

And again, that relationship will start to develop. And eventually, by the end of the movie, you might find this partnership develops into kind of a grudging respect or maybe even a friendship. What does that have to do with our text today? Well, the Israelites in our text today are starting to understand their relationship with God. They've been brought out of Egypt, they've been brought out by, by God.

And God is starting to teach them what it means to be the people of God, what is expected of them as the people of God, what kind of traits they should inherit, because they are the people of God. They are under a new leader now. They've been brought out from under the harsh rule of Pharaoh. These people who were slaves are now having to find out what that new life is like. We'll see next week how God establishes his full covenant with his people.

But right now, we have this infant Israel struggling to come to terms with this new relationship and beginning to be taught about the nature of God and the world and what that means for their future. So in the narrative there that Kate read for us, we've got the people who have been taken out of slavery in Egypt, taken out of the stranglehold of Egypt. They've seen this kind of miraculous destruction of pharaoh and his forces. Moses has sung praise to God, and yet a month and a half later, after leaving Egypt, after seeing all that God did in Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let them go, they come to the desert and they start to grumble. They start to grumble at Moses and at God, about the situation that they find themselves in.

They've travelled out, they've found themselves in the wilderness, and they revert quickly to kind of the safety of old. If only we were still in Egypt. If only God hadn't brought us out here to die. If only we were there in Egypt when at least we got fed. They return to kind of that place of, if not comfort, at least a familiarity and a feeling of safety.

And so God, Yahweh hears the grumbling of the people and he responds and he outlines he's going to provide for the people, but it's going to be according to his rules. Moses and Aaron tell the people that they're going to eat meat and eat bread. The people experience the presence of God in a cloud. And again, this message is related to Moses, that God has heard this grumbling he's going to provide, but it's with certain stipulations. Now, in the narrative, all this comes to pass with quail in the morning and.

Sorry, yeah, bread and meat in the evening and the morning. And the people are given direct instruction about what they're supposed to do. So they're supposed to collect the bread and the manner that they've been given. They're to gather an omer, which we all know is one 10th of an ephah, which is super helpful, right? Yeah, about 1.4 kilogrammes, which sounds like quite a lot.

To me, that would be quite full after 1.4 kilogrammes of bread, I think. But nevertheless, they're supposed to gather this and take it to their tent. And this works reasonably well. Everybody gathers things in and everybody has enough to eat. There are some stipulations about this gathering, though, and this is where it starts to fall down.

One is that they shouldn't keep any until the morning, and the other one is that prior to the Sabbath day, they should collect twice as much, so that on the Sabbath, on the day of rest, they don't need to collect any bread. This is meant to instil trust. It's meant to prove that God can be trusted, that God is providing provision and the people are resting in trusting in God and knowing that God will provide. They're not supposed to hoard. They don't need to bring things close to themselves and gather things in and hoard all this stuff together, because God is going to provide to day to day.

But both of these things they fail to adhere to as a people. The ones that keep the bread overnight find it stinking and full of maggots in the morning. Others go out on the Sabbath day to find food and find, well, there's nothing there, because they've already been told that was what was going to happen.

A similar pattern happens when they go further into the desert and they start to grumble about water. Why have we been brought out here to die? The people cry again to Moses and grumble against God. God is tested again and provides for the people, provides water for them. So what are we seeing in the text?

Well, there's a relationship, isn't there, between daily provision and ongoing instruction. Here they reveal to us a God who cares for Israel, and he wants them to know him. He wants them to have trust in him. He wants them to walk in his ways and understand the kind of character he has. So we thought last week a little bit about the separation, sorry, not last week before, about Israel coming out of Egypt.

So now, that separation was difficult. They've been in slavery in Egypt, for their identity is very much as slaves in Egypt. They need to adopt a new understanding of themselves and the future. And that future is going to be shaped by God ultimately, in them learning to be like God and to be a nation. That is outlined later on in Exodus 19 six, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

And this text is all about this initial training and nurturing and teaching of the people. And obviously it proves difficult. The people are too immature at this point to respond to the grace of God. Too willful, or at least too suspect to respond to his guide, excuse me, to his guidance. Of course, the people have got legitimate needs in the desert.

They need food, they need water, but they approach it in a childish way. You can almost hear in the text, kind of a whiny teenage voice of, oh, why? We've been brought out here to die. And yet they've seen God's provision in the past. So they grumble against God.

They question Moses authority. They try to test God and his intentions. And if we were to skip into numbers instead of exodus and look at some of the wording that's used there, and they kind of get a sense of this ungrateful tone of the people when they're given the manna we have in numbers 1146, the rabble with them began to crave other food. And again the Israelites started wailing and said, if only we had meat, fish we ate in Egypt at no cost. Also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.

But now we've lost our appetite. We never see anything except this manna. These people have been brought out. They've been saved. They've been redeemed by a God who is providing for them.

And yet they demonstrate God has demonstrated his love and ability to provide for them. And yet the people hit a crisis, they get into trouble, and it just all goes out the window. They forget everything that God has done for them, and they respond in this way. A key component of the faith of Israel in the future, from where we are in the text today, will be that they keep looking back at God's provision. They set up lots of different ways in which they do that in the jewish faith.

And we even see it in the text here when Moses tells Aaron to take Manna and put it in a jar and keep it as a reminder of God's provision, but at times, they still forget. And the text really invites us to look at Israel like this. It invites us to look from our position of knowledge and us knowing that actually everything's going to be okay and to judge them maybe a little bit harshly, but actually, maybe we can sympathise with them. If we pause for just a moment and consider what's going on here, maybe it's not too difficult for us to understand why Israel are acting in this way. We have an uncertain people being marched through a desert who are hungry and who are thirsty.

They have very real practical needs. They have a very real fear that they are going to starve to death. In the desert, you can kind of understand why they might be responding in the way that they are. And that can be instructive for us, for our own faith. We look at that plain reading and the narrative there invites us to look back at what God has done and the evidence of his provision in the past.

To know that God is going to look after us today. And that paradigm is true. In times of trouble. We can look back to where God has provided for us in the past. We can look back to how God has been faithful and take comfort from it.

But there are limitations to that looking back, aren't there? When we're looking back, when we're in a moment of pain and worry and strife, then it's difficult to take comfort. Even in the things that we have seen in the past. The people are only literally a month or so out of the miraculous escape from Egypt. And yet they've seem to have forgotten God's provision.

That evidence of the past doesn't provide the comfort you might imagine it would. But that's true of us, isn't it? In our lives. When we have those difficult moments. When we get to those moments in our lives when we just don't understand what God is doing.

When God feels far off. When we're really in pain and hurting somebody. Turning around to us and saying, look at what God's done in the past. Well, that doesn't make it magically better, does it? I was reminded of a quote from a film when I was thinking about this from 1999.

A film called. Called Dogma. And the main character in that is having a conversation about the breakdown of her faith. And she's asked about it. She's asked about the moment when she lost her faith.

And she says this. I remember the exact moment. I was on the phone with my mother. And she's trying to counsel me through this thing. And nothing she said was making me feel any better.

Eventually she said, bethany, God has a plan. And I was so angry with her. I was like, what about my plans? Are they not good enough? I planned to have a family.

I planned to have a family with my husband. Wasn't that plan good enough for God? Apparently not. Things in life are tough. There are really difficult things that we go through in life.

And there isn't a magic combination of words that's going to make that better. We can't always, always look back at the way God has dealt with us in the past. And his faithfulness, his provision and make it all magically better, make it all go away. There's a tension here in the text, and there's a tension here that we can acknowledge in our own lives. Yes, God is working in the world.

Yes, God loves us and God is faithful, and we can firmly hold onto that, just like Israel could. But our own human experience is one that is in the world also, but experience where there is real distress, worry and pain that doesn't get solved by these things. We live in the tension. We live in a kingdom of God that is now and not yet.

We also live in a world where God is sovereign, a world in which God has put together for us, and that same God knows how that world works. So when we look at the text, we look at the people of Israel. They are now under a ruler who is very different to pharaoh. We saw how in the text, the people don't need to scrape and hoard opportunistically. They don't need to deal bad hands to one another.

They shouldn't ape those egyptian overlords that they once had. Instead, they've been called to live with integrity and righteousness. What does that testing of the people reveal? Well, we've already noted it doesn't work out very well at the beginning. They don't follow the rules that God lays down for them.

They don't understand what God is trying to teach them. Now, we as christians in the world, we acknowledge God as creator, as sustainer and as king. And that brings with it certain expectations. We have a creator who understands the world better than we do. We have a God who loves us and wants the best for us, wants that life that Jesus would describe as life to the full for us.

And therefore, when we think about navigating the world and we think about navigating our lives, and we should look to God for guidance and instruction. And one huge way we do that is when we come to faith, we realise that in and of ourselves, we can't possibly restore our relationship with God. And so we come in faith to God through Christ. That's the only way we can do it. But what about the next step?

What about how that understanding of the world, how God's instruction informs our relationship with those around us? Does it affect our relationship with the environment? Does it affect the way we consume things in our lives? Does it affect our jobs and our identity? When we become christians, when we start to conform to God's law and God's intention for the world, when we find ourselves rooted in Christ, as Paul would put it, then it should affect everything about us, all that we have and all of our actions should flow from that understanding.

So where do we stand? We have a picture of a God in the text who has a real desire for the people Israel, to follow him, to know him, and to walk in his ways. That's true of us today, the very God that we speak about in the text in terms of Israel. He's the same one who sent Jesus Christ down here to be the full and final revelation of God to man, such that we might know God, that we might be able to walk in his ways. And he's provided provision for that in Christ, we're saved, and we brought out of rebellion, to be sanctified, to enter into a process of being made holy, to be set apart for God.

We called not to ape the character of the world and not to want after the things of the world, but to live in integrity and in righteousness, to be christlike in our representation to the world. And so when we think about this infant Israel kind of stumbling through its initial faltering relationship with God, then we can just take a moment to ponder our own relationship with God and our own maturity before him. Where are we in our maturity? If the goal is to be more like God, if the goal is to be more christlike in our dealings with those around us and in the world, where do we stand? Christ is the very image in the gospel of John.

He's said to be the word of God, the very representation of God to the world. And we are supposed to reflect that characteristic of the Lord Jesus Christ. We're supposed to be those who represent God in the world. Where do we stand? Are we too immature to respond to grace?

You know, we have this wonderful grace extended to us by God in Christ, and yet are the things in our lives, in our hearts and our minds that we don't want to give up, that we hold on to, just like the Israelites hold on to what happened in Egypt. Yes, terrible as it was, they keep going back to it. Are the things in our own hearts and lives that we just don't want to let go of, things that we know God would have us give up, and yet we don't want to let go. We want to hold on to that little bit of the way we used to be. What are those holdouts in our hearts and our minds that don't allow grace to permeate where we hold onto our own way?

I'm going to finish with some words from one Peter.

Our calling is much like that of fledgling Israel.

We'll see as we go on into chapter 19 of Exodus how Israel's called to be a nation for God, how the covenant is established. And in one Peter the writer there, takes up that same language used to describe Israel and applies it to believers, applies it to christians, and gives us an idea what it is that we should be maturing into, what it is that we call to. And one Peter 2910 says this, you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you might declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We're going to go straight, I believe, into our next song, which is yeah, thank you, Claire. Guide me, guide me, o thou great Jehovah. Which is a very fitting song to follow from this passage, but also the considerations for ourselves. So let's stand, if we're able, and sing together. Guide me, o thou great Jehovah.