there is much that they do know.
ignorance about God
|At the start of this
time, immediately following the time of leaving Egypt, Israel
are not even constituted a nation and their experience of God
is strictly limited.
knowledge of God is limited
be fair to them, therefore, they could have been quite uncertain about
the Lord, and that could account for some of their behaviour.
we considered the Fall and the expulsion from the Garden
and Eve, we commented how much
of the problem was about their failure to realise that God loved them.
I think it is fair to say, that this is also true of Israel
. We should also recognise that
it is true of ourselves!
knowledge of God
Israel were not entirely ignorant of God. We need to think about
the history that individuals at least had had with the Lord
so far in the first book of the Bible and which would have been
passed down to Moses' day.
they DID already have history with God
when Moses was having his famous encounter with God at the burning
bush the lord identified Himself as The
LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac
and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you. (Ex 3:15)
accounts of God's dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would have
been passed down by word of mouth and possibly even written down.
They knew this much of the Lord.
now also knew that He was a God who communicated, a God who made demands,
and a God who could back up those demands with unlimited power, as
they had watched from a distance the battle between Moses and Pharaoh
that we have just finished considering.
know that he has delivered them from slavery in Egypt
and that He has a plan to
give them a new land of their own.
all also knew of the Exodus
much they have been told. Later Moses was to complain to God that,
Here I am among six hundred thousand
men on foot. (Num 11;21) so when we add on women and
children it is likely that we are talking about a people who probably
number somewhere between one and a half and two million people.
know that communication was fairly good among them because to have
every family had had to have performed the rites of putting blood
on the door posts of their home. That had been the requirement to
be saved from God's destroying angel and that must have been communicated
to every one of them. So we may expect that the stories of Moses'
encounters with the Lord had been shared among Israel
and they knew what the Lord
had done and why they were able to escape from Egypt
and where they were ultimately
going. They do know already that God is for them and He's not a God
far off but is near to save them! All of this they know.
God's Presence with them
is one other factor that is very easy to forget which is highlighted
by the verses at the start of this chapter: the Lord's presence
was clearly with them throughout both day and night at all times.
also had God's presence with them!
pillar of cloud and of fire was visible at all times. You might have
expected that this visible reminder might have helped Israel
get a better perspective but
perhaps they came to take these two columns in the sky for granted.
Nevertheless, they were there as reminders!
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Recapping Discipline, Correction & Judgment
chapter 11 we considered briefly the subject of God's discipline which,
we said, means training
that develops self-control and character and
was to train them to become His people (Deut 4:35,36).
of their training was observing how He had moved in power on their
behalf to save them out of Egypt
is essential as we view these fifteen incidents that we remember
that God's intention is to create a people who will be a light
to the rest of the world (as we considered in chapter 9).
forget God's original overall plan for them
are to be a people who live according to His design-rules for mankind
after the Fall, and who stand out from the rest of the world by having
a living relationship with the one true God, and not being a superstitious
idol-worshipping people like so many other nations were.
one of the biggest things the Lord has to train Israel
to do is
trust Him. They need to come into the place where they realise
that God is totally for them and that He will completely provide for
them all they need. These two things will be an expression
of His love for them. Discipline we said previous was training for
an outcome and the outcome is a people who are blessed, who know the
love of God and who reveal it to the rest of the world.
we said was simply action taken to bring
about change of behaviour, changing what was bad to become what is
we looked at God's judgment we observed that it is always corrective,
to bring change to a bad situation. It depends on the person
or people and whether they can change.
foget God's criteria for deciding on the nature of judgment
God sees that they will refuse to change, then in some circumstances
He removes them but mostly He seeks to bring corrective action that
will bring about change of behaviour.
there is one further thing that we now need to add in here for our
fuller understanding ad it is that in these dealings of God with Israel
, it is
to bring changes to them as a nation . In
all of the situations we are going to look at there is a corporate
to be affected as a nation . Whatever happens
they are going to be left wondering as a nation
how they should respond to the Lord. This is a very important thing
to remember in all that follows.
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in the Wilderness prior to Sinai
they leave Egypt
a several months journey to Mount
they will have a special time with the Lord, after which they will
never be the same again. In these months of travel they will learn
some significant things or, rather, they should learn some
significant things! Six times in these few months they came to a crisis
point where they were confronted by a need.
should have asked the Lord for help, but instead they let bad
attitudes rise to the surface. In such a way they showed that
they did not appreciate what we said earlier, that a) God loved
them and b) that God was totally for them and c) that He will
completely provide for them all they need.
responses in the desert reveal what they HADN'T learnt about
what follows we will identify Israel
by either their disobedience or their attitudes revealed through what
- Grumbling at being trapped by Pharaoh
Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians,
marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.
They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt
that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us
by bringing us out of Egypt
Didn't we say to you in Egypt
`Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better
for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"
starts even before they are truly
out of Egypt .
- They are confronted by the need
for protection. Pharaoh is still the biggest problem in their lives
and threatens them, and they see no way out.
- Yet they forget the awfulness of
slavery and they forgot the incredible things God has done in delivering
them thus far.
- What is interesting to note is
that the Lord does not chastise them for this response. It is a
fairly understandable one in the circumstances.
- Grumbling Foul Water of Marah
Moses led Israel
from the Red
and they went into the Desert
For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.
When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it
was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the
people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we
to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed
him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became
sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there
he tested them. He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice
of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay
attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring
on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the
LORD, who heals you." Then they came to Elim, where there were
twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near
- They travel for three days and their
water supplies start running low. When they do come across water
it is bitter.
- The people have not yet learned
to turn to the Lord for help but instead grumble.
- Moses seeks the Lord and a miracle
of cleansing follows.
- The Lord uses this time to point
out two things:
This had been a test for Israel
. A test reveals ability and
the ability here would be the turn to God in need. Had they yet
learned to do that? No!
- 2. The Lord lays down a decree that
obedience to Him will bring health for them, so that they will not
suffer illnesses, plagues, diseases etc. i.e. He will not let them
suffer at such times as this but will always be there to bring health
as they seek Him.
- Note again that the Lord does not
chastise them but simply provides for them and blesses them with
the reassurance about health and healing.
- It is important to note that immediately
after this incident they arrive at an oasis where there is abundant
provision. it is no coincidence.
Grumbling lack of food Manna provided
whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert
of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the
second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the
whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites
said to them, "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." 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 sixth day they are to prepare
what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather
on the other days."
- They travel on again and now there
is a question over the adequacy of their supplies.
- Grumbling is infectious and soon
it is the whole community who are feeling negative. Have they learnt
yet that God loves them and will provide for them? No! Instead of
asking, they grumble.
- What follows (and you need to read
it in your own Bible) is a most amazing miracle. It is the provision
of manna. Some try to explain it in rational or material terms but
the account leaves us no such room. It is miraculous in that:
- it was provided first thing every
day except Saturdays.
- it was always sufficient for the
day but if they collected more than a day's worth it would go
- on Saturday none would be provided
and so on Friday they should collect double the amount which
would not go off!
- this carried on for forty years
while they remained in the wilderness and then stopped at they
entered the Promised Land.
was a very simple but clear form of testing by God, training if
you like, to get Israel
to realise that He would provide for them constantly but it did
require a certain amount of compliance on their part to receive
- Note that God does not chastise
them, but simply provides for them with clear instructions about
how to collect it.
Disobedience holding on to Manna
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.
- Some of them failed the test! There
will always be some, won't there' who refuse to take any notice
of the instructions.
- Moses may have been angry but there
is no other come back on these silly people.
Disobedience looking for Manna on the Sabbath
days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there
will not be any."Nevertheless,
some of the people went out on the seventh 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?
- It happens again. Some people take
no notice of the instructions. Failed!
- Grumbling lack of water
whole Israelite community set out from the Desert
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 .
They said, "Why did you bring us up 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,
"Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders
and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile
and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. 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 Massah and Meribah because the Israelites
quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD
among us or not?"
- Again it is a question of trust.
Water has run out. Do they ask the Lord for help? No!
- Instead they come with a bad, critical,
judgmental, quarrelling attitude to Moses.
- They have had the water test before
at Marah. This is just a slight variant. Failed!
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they arrive at Mount Sinai
where they have an amazing encounter with the Lord. Let's note its
features before we carry on looking at Israel
the third month after the Israelites left Egypt
the very day--they came to the Desert
After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert
camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.
- Note in passing that they have taken
three months to get there.
- They camp before the mountain in
Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain
and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob
and what you are to tell the people of Israel: `You yourselves have
seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and
brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,
then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although
the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and
a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before
them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people
all responded together, "We will do everything the LORD has said."
So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.
is a very significant passage.
goes up the mountain and the Lord speaks to him and he conveys it
to the elders who convey it to the people.
Lord reminds them how He delivered them.
He presents the offer of the covenant if they obey, He will make
them His treasured possession and will obviously guard them, keep
them and protect them (all implied in such a description).
people answer very positively.
LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud,
so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always
put their trust in you."
- Presumably during that first encounter
up the mountain.
- The people would be able to hear.
They would know! This is significant!
the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them
today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the
third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount
in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the
mountain and tell them, `Be careful that you do not go up the mountain
or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely
be put to death.
are the first indications that they are dealing with a holy God
who is distinct, separate and apart from them.
indicators are clear: make careful preparations to meet with Him
and keep at a distance!
who disobeys is to be put to death. This establishes seriousness.
is in fact protective of Israel . The Lord knows that anyone who
breaks through and comes close to Him will not survive His glory
(as we've seen previously).
the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with
a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone
in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to
meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount
was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire.
The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole
mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder
and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
- There are signs indicating the Lord's
presence which are scary!
- Is this God putting on a show for
Israel to convey His otherness', conveying something of His powerful
presence that comes close to them
- This is a very memorable experience!
the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and
saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at
a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will
listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses
said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you,
so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick
darkness where God was.
- To confirm what we have just said.
- This is a unique experience.
Moses went and told the people all the LORD's words and laws, they
responded with one voice, "Everything the LORD has said we will
do." Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.
receiving the Law from God, Moses conveys it to the people and respond
very positively to it and Moses wrote it all down.
got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the
mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes
Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses
took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he
sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and
read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything
the LORD has said; we will obey."
covenant is ratified by sacrifices, declaration of the Law and affirmation
by the people.
are now the constituted people of God!
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this first chapter of two we have seen the following:
Observing the Complaint
Was God unkind to the
Israelites in their desert travels?
Observing the Context
Recapping Discipline, Correction & Judgment
God's purpose is always
to change for the good
in the Wilderness prior to Sinai
6 times Israel
badly, but God didn't
The amazing memorable events
have set the scene. In the travels through the desert from Egypt to
Sinai, Israel are confronted by a number of needs of protection,
of clean water, of food, of water and in case exhibit bad attitudes,
showing that they do not realise that God loves them and is there
for them, and also that they have not come into a place of trust in
they arrive at Sinai where the lord reveals His presence on the mountain
in an awesome, very memorable way. So far, so good. But this is where
it is about to go wrong!