Introduction… Have you been tested lately…in school? At your work? In life? At the doctor’s office?
How do you think you did on the test? What did the test reveal about you? About others? Was it good or bad or both?
What makes for a good test? What about a bad test? What is the purpose of testing?
Isn’t it to reveal the truth or some approximation of the truth…either what I know or don’t know about a certain subject or am I up to some task, skill or responsibility? And the purpose for this testing is either to make sure I do know what to do or how to respond, and if I don’t, then to learn it?
So are tests good for us or not? What if we were never tested?
What did your last test of any kind reveal about your relationship with God? Regardless of your test results, is God your cure?
Previous Lesson… The sons and daughters of Israel sing out their praise to Yahweh because in what Yahweh God has just done in not only delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army, but in utterly annihilating Pharaoh’s army, Israel’s future, including her travel to and then being planted within her promised land is also secure. Ex. 15:1ff.
General Overview…Exodus 1-14…
What were the devastating costs required for Yahweh God to redeem (buy back), his chosen people, the Children of Israel, via their miraculous Exodus (way out) from harsh Egyptian enslavement?
Moses makes 12 appearances before Pharaoh, with 39 mentions of Israel being “released” or “delivered” to celebrate a festival to Yahweh God in the desert. 7 times Yahweh accurately predicts to Moses that Pharaoh will not listen to Moses.
But in order to motivate Pharaoh to release his enslaving grip of Israel, Yahweh unleashes 10 pervasive and devastating curses upon Egypt. And 10 times the text clearly says that Yahweh God distinguishes between Israel and Egypt with respect to unleashing the plagues’ devastating affects upon Egypt.
Neither Pharaoh’s diviners nor his gods are any match for Yahweh’s mighty hand. In delivering Israel from Egypt, Yahweh God could be defeating as many as 118 Egyptian deities.
It is also interesting to note that Yahweh’s last and greatest curse against Egypt–the curse of Egypt’s firstborn–is not only painfully directed against the firstborn of both man and beast, but also “against all the gods of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12).
Under intense national pain and pressure, Pharaoh is finally and momentarily contrite 3x, while admitting his sin 2x and asking Moses 4x to prayerfully intercede on his behalf of Pharaoh. Once even, Pharaoh asks for forgiveness.
And in fact, 7x Pharaoh will declare that Israel can go and sacrifice (after plagues 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 [2x]; 10), but because of the hardening of his heart, Pharaoh will change his mind and recant his promise 4x. Of the 17 references to the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart. 9 references are attributed directly to Yahweh’s divine intervention, 6 are neutral occurrences, which could be inferred to as being attributed to Yahweh, and 3 more credit Pharaoh and his servants with the “hardening” of their own hearts.”
In addition, 4x Pharaoh unsuccessfully attempts to bargain with God or Moses so that not all of Israel may go and worship, but for God, there is no compromise. All of Israel must go. No one is to be left behind. No compromise. God will not bargain with nor share his glory with a earthly king who claims divinity.
The Big Picture…
Thus with one protracted drama, acted out on history’s grand stage, God reveals the painful, but obvious and clear truth concerning himself and his broken creatures–God is big; the creatures are small.
And though for a time, it may seem that the creature is capable of being or imitating God, when the creature attempts to play or challenge God, the creature is ultimately crushed by God himself—the Creator will not be robbed of his true glory–and those who chose to keep God…God, and man… man…or those that, through trust and obedience, ally themselves with their Creator, will not only be delivered or saved from the corruptness of other creatures attempting to rob God of his glory, but the righteous will also be rewarded for their trust in God, no matter what!
In other words, despite the temptation to only see life through the visible–but limited–salvation is recovered in a fallen, imperfect world via trusting the holy invisible Creator of the Universe!
Life is about faith…regardless of how man attempts to portray it…
Read the Passage two-three times…
Ask Questions (no answers)…
Ex. 15:22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.
(Did Israel have water to begin with? I can only imagine how much water it takes the meet the needs of several million traveling pilgrims. No doubt since the Red Sea’s water is salty, any water they possessed had to have come from wells, rivers, springs or marshes. The Children of Israel being three days in the desert with little to no water reserves was a catastrophe of immense proportions, perhaps as great as what they could have faced back at the Red Sea. It would seem that this journey is just one catastrophe after another just waiting to occur. And it is interesting to note that Moses is leading Israel away from the Red Sea. Is this because God or the cloud is leading Moses or Israel in this direction by design? And “three days” into the wilderness certainly bears some similarities to God’s original command to Moses back in Ex. 3:18, and repeated in 5:3; 8:27 and Numbers 10:33; 33:8 in which the journey out into the desert to worship God or celebrate a feast unto Yahweh (7:16; 8:1, 21; 9:1, 13; 10:3, 9, 26) is always three days. Now Israel is three days out into the wildnerness.
Ex. 3:18…and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. 20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. 21 I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. )
23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
(Finally, water, but it’s bitter. Could it still be drunk or did the “bitterness” presume the water was unfit to drink, perhaps spoiled by sulfur? Doesn’t “Marah” mean bitter, and doesn’t the proper name “Mary” derive from this Hebrew word for “bitterness”?)
24 So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
(Doesn’t “grumble” mean to “speak beneath one’s breath or hushed tones,” suggesting that the people were not speaking directly to Moses, but instead were passively aggressively gossiping and grumbling among themselves, something just as deadly for not only for the leadership…i.e. Moses, but for the nation itself? Note: it is much easier to complain behind someone’s back in order to create a mob mentality that it is to speak about concerns openly and honestly.)
25 Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.
(Much as the people cried out to Moses when their backs were up against the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s chariots were bearing down on them, once again, the people cry out to Moses, who in turn is forced to cry out to God for relief. What’s a tree got to do with things? It should be noted that more than likely for the people this appeared to be the end of the road because bitter waters are not de-bittered in a moment. Rather, a new source of water must be found. Instead, God is about to demonstrate that once again, he can do all things, including making bitter water sweet.)
There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.
(God anchors his deliverance here with a new law or statue, no doubt a foreshadow of a much greater and extensive national covenant that the Children of Israel are about to enter into with Yahweh God at Mt. Sinai. What was the test—the bitter waters…to see if they would cry out to or trust God for their deliverance? Did they past the test because they cried out not to God, but God’s human representative?)
26 And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
(Yahweh-Rapha…I AM the Healer? I healed the bitter waters and I will protect you from the deadly diseases that you rightly fear? Their cure…listen and faithfully carry out the commandments and statues that God is about to give them. Worship me and you will remain healthy.)
27 Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.
(An oasis? New waters? More waters?)
• Having witnessed Yahweh deliver the Israelites from their most eminent threat, Moses now leads the Israelites three days away from the Red Sea into the desert. There is now no turning back.
• After that third day into the Desert of Shur the Israelites find themselves at a location with water, but the water is bitter and undrinkable, thus it was called Marah with means bitter.
• The people begin to “murmur” or “grumble” what water can we drink? A possible rebellion against Moses’ questionable decision to lead them into the desert is beginning to build and swell.
• In response, Moses once again, as he did when Israel had their backs up against the Red Sea, cries out to Yahweh, and Yahweh shows Moses a tree, which Moses tosses into the waters, making them no longer bitter and therefore drinkable.
• In that critical moment, Yahweh begins to test Israel by laying the foundation for the covenant he is about to enter into with Israel. He makes a binding ordinance with them—if they listen, pay attention to, guard and keep his commands, then the Israelites will never have to fear the constant and growing set of plagues and diseases that the non-believing Egyptians were forced to endure and suffer. As I healed these bitter waters before you today, I can also keep you safe from all harm. You just have to remain faithful to the commands or laws that I am about to give you. I am Yahweh your healer.
• Shortly after this, they come to the oasis at Elim where there is plenty of water, so they camp there.
Summary… After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared.
Why’s? Why did God include this passage in his timeless word? Or What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?
• God has a purpose. We may not always understand it and seldom agree with it, but why would we? Our natural intention is not to put ourselves in positions of stress, not necessarily or intentionally. No doubt many of our foolish decisions do put us in very difficult and sometimes stressful situations, but it is not always by design. Human nature is to, quite often, take the path of least resistance rather than the more difficult and less-traveled road or path. In this case, instead of remaining close to a momentarily-humbled, but still mighty and civilized Egyptian culture, one in which Israel had existed within for most of their seven hundred year history as a people. Moses now does something many great leaders, as well as, insane leaders–he makes a radical, almost suicidal turn straight into the desert for three days. It is as if he is leading Israel straight down the gangplank, only instead of a ocean of water, this gangplank leads into a dry ocean of sand with little water. Is this God’s plan? Could God, via his Spiritually-chosen and prepared leadership, lead his people on such a seemingly suicidal journey? Yes, he can, does and is. With God all things are possible. They key is is God in the venture. If God is, there is no impossible.
• And now the test or lesson begins. There is water, but the water is bitter. So close and yet so far away. Water, but major disappointment when the water is discovered to be undrinkable. Can you imagine the people’s disappointment. Once again, it seems that God has delivered us, only to leave us hanging again. What is going on? Why isn’t his deliverance secure? When do we get to rest—in the Promise Land? But first we must make this testing, trying, faith-proving journey. There must be repeated threat after repeated threat, but in those threats, can and will God deliver? If so, what is God trying to teach Israel? That they can depend up on him no matter what? And why is this so so important? Because, even when they get into the Land, Israel needs to be firmly convinced that their salvation is not in themselves, their leadership or their comfortable situation. Rather it is in God and God alone. Worship, love, obey, listen to God, and Israel will thrive—leaving Egypt, in the desert and in their Promised Land.
• It’s not only human nature to whine, complain and grumble when things do go perfectly or the way in which we want them to go, but much like a contagious disease, grumbling is also quite contagious. Once it begins, its momentum is difficult to arrest. Just witness modern day’s social media mob lynchings. There is a rush to judgment, with little pause to get all the facts. The crowd wants blood. It is human nature. Beware. The same forces were marshaled to turn a crowd that had been highly supportive of Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah into a mob screaming for his crucifixion. Bizarre, but real, and it has something to do the crowd’s contagion. I mean who wants to risk going against the mob. Like the sudden immenseness of a earthquake-caused tsunami wave, a quiet crowd seems incredibly susceptible to being transformed into an unruly mob. In this case, it was the disappointment of having discovered bitter water as opposed to non-bitter water, but for billions of others, it can be million other things.
• It is interesting that shortly after that Marah’s bitter waters were healed, Israel comes to the oasis of Elim. Isn’t that so often the case. There is the test, and then there is the relief. Relief was just around the corner, but disappointment of unmet expectations combined with the whining of many others can be a deadly contagion in and of itself, no less deadly that the plagues which God had used to redeem Israel from their bondage in Egypt. Be patient. Don’t freak out when the water is bitter. Stay calm. God’s immediate healing, as well as, more longer-term sustainable relief may just be around the corner. Are we going to trust through the disappointment or, like children, are we going to throw our Spiritual temper tantrum? God you were supposed to…
Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve near Palm Springs, CA
So What’s? How does this truth personally apply to one of my life’s struggles?
Thanksgiving… Finished a major section of SLove—the frailty of the Greek concept of eros or sexual or romantic love. I say finished. Is anything ever really finished? But in general, what I was wanting to say, I said it, though it did take 4,000 plus words, which can be a lot, but at the same point, it is a start. It’s an important concept, whether in the end, I make it in fewer words or not. And the reason that this is a praise, is because I had really struggled in finding a reasonable window of time to be able to remember even where I was so that I could continue my thought stream, so Shelly and I came up with another plan to hold me accountable…smaller goals on a shorter time scale. This time it worked. Thank God!
Also, after less than two weeks since Rhonda’s mom broke her hip and having surgery to repair it, she returns to her apartment today! Her memory struggles cold be a real wild card though.
Struggle… Depending upon how I view it, I may have a lot to do with not a lot of time to do it in over the next two days. It’s been a productive week, but it would seem it needs to get even more productive. Time is precious, but perhaps more important is God’s will and desire within these precious moments. He knows me; he knows my tasks and purposes; he knows my time and he knows any obstacles that are about to appear in my path. The key is to do what he wants, not what I want.
Truth… God’s unpredictable and seemingly counter-intuitive testing and leading, followed by his lessons, truth and longer term relief in contrast to his children’s contagious whining when expectations are not immediately met.
Application… I want to whine. I want to panic when things are not going my way or I anticipate the pressures. I may not be a crowd or a restless, impatient and disappointed mob, but my mind often acts that way.
In fact, I am watching golfers at the Masters Golf Tournament do it right now. They miss a few shots, lose a few strokes to par, miss a put, and you can see the disappointment, the let down, the defeatism within their body language. Their performance on the golf course has not met their expectations, and now their response, to these shots, affect their upcoming shots. I mean it doesn’t make logical sense to respond to adversity or fear with quiet confidence—quiet confidence in what? Myself? God? That the odds or my luck will change? But for the believer, he has been healed. He has God; he has a relationship with God through his faith in the Son of God’s atonement, healing or payment for one’s sinful imperfection. I have been healed. I am healed, at least Spiritually.
And if I trust this truth, this fact, then regardless of what happens or might happen, I am safe. I am secure. My ultimate deliverance from God’s righteous judgment is absolutely secure. So what difference does it really make if my back is to the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s chariots are in hot pursuit, or whether I have journeyed three days into a desert ocean with exhausted water resources and have finally found water, but discover it is undrinkable, or if I think I have too much to do and too little time to get it all done? My responsibility is to do what it has always been.
Just as the golfer can only focus on one swing of the golf club at a time, regardless of his last shot, his last several shots, his score, his lack of practice or a swing coach or how every one else is responding, so the believer can only focus on being in the moment—what is God’s Spirit teaching, leading or inspiring me to do…now? Not an hour from now, not three days ago, or a year ago. Now! Now…what is God’s truth? What does obedience to his will, his truth, his commands look like?
So far now, finish this study. That’s it. After that, can I trust that because I am healed through Christ, his Spirit will give me my next Spiritual task to do?
What about you? Struggle? Truth? Application?
What about your students? Their struggles (list a few; think about several of your students)?
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).