Scripture Reading: Exodus 13 - 16 ...
As I read Chapters 13 - 16, I think of Paul's words to the Thessalonians in I Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Be joyful always, pray continually and in every circumstance give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." The Israelites could have used that counsel as God delivered them from their slavery in Egypt. Of course, they couldn't know Jesus, BUT, they should have known His Father!
God had revealed Himself in such clear ways through the plagues. He had made a distinction between the Egyptians and the people of Israel. The plagues had not touched them. They had celebrated the Passover, putting the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes, and God had spared their firstborn. Then God moved the Egyptians to give them all they needed and more as they left the land of slavery behind them. With a mighty arm God had delivered His people. Now, as they traveled out of Egypt, God told them to consecrate every firstborn male and to remember that day when God would bring them into "the land He swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey" (13:5).
God said this to them not to remind Himself of His promise, but to remind THEM! Remember, God is revealing Himself to these people. He wants them to KNOW Him. "For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with His mighty hand" (13:9). "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery’" (13:14). As they left Egypt, "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath ..." (13:19). God never forgets His promises. When you read a promise in Scripture it is yours, if you believe and trust the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire God guided Israel day and night. What a sight that must have been! And God had more plans. He said to Moses, "I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD" (14:4). Even though they had left Egypt, God wanted to use Egypt to reveal His power and glory again. We often think that what is going on in our lives is only about US, but GOD is involved and He desires to bring glory to Himself through the events of our lives.
The Israelites, however, had a short-term memory problem. Having left Egypt they came to the Red Sea … but would they trust God to continue to lead them when their back was “up against the sea?” When they saw Pharaoh's army coming they were terrified and told Moses they were better off in Egypt (14:10-12)! Moses said, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. ... The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (14:14). And that's exactly what God did. He parted the sea so they could go through on dry ground and drowned Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the sea! And the Israelites SAW it!!
Moses and Miriam sang a song about their deliverance, testifying to God's strength and His unfailing love. "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling" (15:13). Inspired by God they declared, "The LORD will reign for ever and ever!" (15:18). Oh, God is so good and powerful and faithful. "Be joyful always, pray continually, and in every circumstance give thanks!!"
God now leads Israel into the desert to test them. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water ... and guess what the people did? They WEREN'T joyful and they DIDN'T pray and they most certainly didn't give thanks! They grumbled and they complained and God gave them water. In fact, God led them to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees!!! Surely, they would now know that God was with them.
But once again they grumbled and complained. Listen to this: "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death" (16:3). They made it sound like they were in a resort in Egypt, rather than enduring harsh slavery. Now listen to what Moses and Aaron say about their grumbling: "You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD!" (16:8). A lot of grumbling that is done today by those who claim to believe in God would stop if people understood, really understood, that they were grumbling against God!
God now provides manna for them to eat and reminds them that He is their Creator by telling them that they can collect the manna for six days, but not on the Sabbath day, the seventh day. These were GOD's chosen people. They were special to God, not because of anything they had done or could do or would do. God had chosen Abraham and had promised to make of him a great nation and to bring the Savior from the line of Judah. All of this, ALL of this was for the glory of God AND for the good of His people. But they didn't live and LEARN.
So what's the point for you and me? Listen again to the Apostle Paul, this time as he writes to the Corinthians: "I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. NEVERTHELESS, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert" (I Corinthians 10:1-5).
But now learn ... verse 6: "Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hearts on evil things as they did!" Live ... and LEARN. "Be joyful always, pray continually and in every circumstance give thanks, for this is God's will for you IN Christ Jesus!" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). Our God is good AND our God is with us! Trust Him!!
"Almighty and everlasting God, You are faithful to all of Your promises and in Christ we know that we who believe are Your people by grace through faith. Help us, Father, by Your Spirit, to TRUST You, to love You, to serve You and to find joy in following You as You lead us through this life to the 'promised land,' where we will behold Your glory and spend eternity praising YOU!! In Jesus' name, Amen"