The chapter titles in my ESV Bible do a good job of providing a summary of the events in Exodus 16-18. That is, Bread from Heaven, Water from the Rock, and Jethro’s advice. The Israelites set out from Elim as they continued their journey from Egypt to the promised land. It wasn’t long until they started complaining and wishing that they had died by the hand of the Lord in the lands of Egypt where they were enslaved but had plenty of food. The Lord, in his goodness and provision, rained bread, known as mana, from heaven and gave instructions as to how it ought to be stored and shared. They were to take and work with only what they needed and warned not to try and save some for the next day. Some disobeyed and found that the mana spoiled over night.
Again the Israelites grumbled and mumbled against the Lord and complained to Moses about their thirst. Moses pleaded with the Lord who told him to strike a rock with his staff which would spill forth water. Shortly after, the Amalekites came out to fight the people of Israel. The Lord told Moses to hold up his hands with his staff and the Israelites would defeat their foe. Moses’ hands grew weary so Aaron and Hur propped him up.
Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses came from his home land In Midian for he heard all the things the Lord had done. He brought with him Moses’ wife and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. The two made burnt offerings and ate with Aaron and the elders of Israel before God. The following day, Moses was sitting in judgement for the people and did so from morning to evening. Jethro saw this and offered sage advice, saying that Moses will burn out easily if this burden of judgement falls to him alone. He says Moses must delegate his responsibilities to trustworthy leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. Shortly after Jethro returns to his homeland.
In these three chapters we find many prime examples of how the Lord provides for his people. He is aware of and acts on the needs of the Israelites in the wilderness and shows immense patience with them as they grumble and moan and quarrel amongst themselves and against Moses and, worst of all, God. They have had their bonds of slavery and oppression burst by the mighty hand of God, yet they long to return to captivity because it was predictable and familiar.
It is all too easy to draw a line between their actions and ours as we examine our walk with Christ. It was the Son of God himself that purchased our freedom acting in his Father’s mighty plan, and he made many promises about how he would look after those whom he frees from the slavery of sin. For example, John 6: “Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus promises to be our bread. Again in John 7 – “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
God consistently shows his faithfulness in that he not only provides for his people in Exodus but anyone and everyone who comes to him. He also takes special care of Moses and his daily wellbeing and has his earthly father give sage advice on tedious things like judicial administration. We have only to look at John 14 and see how he lovingly provides for us in this area too: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
It is a common thing to think that if we had been there to see what they had seen we would not have grumbled against God, but we are frequently dissatisfied with the way God has provided for us even today. He was faithful then despite their failings and is faithful now despite ours. We must make sure that we remove all bitterness from among ourselves that gives in to grumbling, gossip, and quarrelling. We must learn to recognize all the ways in which God has provided and give him the praise and worship he deserves – then we can truly live lives of thanksgiving!
Spending time each day in contemplation of the goodness of God and practicing gratitude is a deeply underrated practice. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we recognize all that the Lord has done for us in both our daily provisions and with our eternal needs, we find ourselves wonderfully humbled and joyfully centered on the right thing: Jesus Christ. Thankfulness and gratefulness are powerful weapons against despair and bitterness, against quarrelling and grumbling.
I know for myself it is far too easy to move from one prayer to the next and to miss the ways in which the Lord has answered my prayers and taken care of things. It takes a keen eye to see how the Lord is working on a given day, but over time he teaches us to stay attuned to him and sensitive to his word – as his sheep, let us come to know the voice of our Good Shepherd.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
Psalm 9: 1-2
You might find yourself in a barren wilderness today, but God has not forgotten you and will always provide what you need. He has brought you out of slavery and into his glorious light and made us alive in him. For that and so much more he deserves our constant praise! Let us turn away from grumbling and focus on the light that has come in to the world.
What comes to mind when you think of your bonds of sin being burst? What does it look like to live a life of praise and thanksgiving? Can you identify the ways in which you may have grumbled against God?
Thank you Lord for breaking the chains of sin and death from around us and bringing us into your glorious new life. I pray that you continue to lead me into a deeper relationship with you and that my life would reflect your goodness. Thank you for not leaving me where I was but for doing infinitely more for me than I could ever do for myself!
He will hold me fast (<---- Click there)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.