June 8, 2010 David Balzer

Exodus 15:22-18:27: Grumbling, Grace, and Gratitude

The Lord will provide. Say it with me. The Lord will provide

In Hebrew, it’s Jehovah-Jireh. It’s what Abraham called the mountain where he was about to sacrifice Isaac. And where God PROVIDED a lamb instead.

The Lord will provide. Is it something you say CONFIDENTLY? Or HALF-HEARTEDLY?

The Lord WILL provide!

The Lord will PROVIDE?

(pause) “Give us this day our daily bread”. It’s part of the Lord’s Prayer. And if you’re anything like me, you say it without much thought, or feeling.

And that’s probably because most of us have plenty to eat. We rarely do without ANYTHING. And so we assume that God’s not providing it.

When you say grace before dinner. When you thank God for the food? Is it REAL? Do you MEAN it?

George Mueller was someone who knew what it meant to ask God for his daily bread. And he knew what “Jehovah Jireh” meant.

In 1836, he opened an orphanage in Bristol, England. Within a short while, the house was full. And he opened a second house, then a third.

Right from the start, he refused to ask for funds, or even tell people about his financial needs. His only method was to PRAY. He prayed EARNESTLY. And he TRUSTED that God would provide. And he DID provide, even if it was sometimes at the last moment.

There’s a famous story about Mueller one morning when the table was set for breakfast. But there was nothing to eat. The children sat waiting for breakfast. Mueller led the group in prayer. And they prayed for their daily bread.

There was a knock on the door. It was the baker. “Mr Mueller. I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2 am and baked some fresh bread. Here it is”

There was a second knock on the door. The milkman had broken down right outside the front door. He wanted to give the children his milk so he could empty his wagon, and fix it.

That’s just one of many stories about how GOD PROVIDED for George Mueller. During his 93 years, he housed more than 10,000 orphans, saw God provide millions of dollars, and recorded fifty thousand answers to prayer.

The LORD will provide.

Perhaps you think/ that he only does it for the superstars like George Mueller. For those who have the gift of faith. That for your normal person who doubts, like you or me, God doesn’t provide.

If that’s what you think, then you only have to look at the Israelites. All they did was grumble. But God still provided for them.

Again and again. We see grumbling. And again and again, we see God GRACIOUSLY PROVIDING what they need.

So if you ever doubt whether God will provide for YOU, then take heart. Because if God provided for the grumbling ISRAELITES, then he’ll provide for YOU, TOO!

1. God provides water (15:22-27)

So turn with me to Ex 15 v 22. Just to set the scene. Israel’s just crossed the Red Sea, and Pharaoh’s army’s been completely wiped out. And Israel’s just spent a good few hours having a fantastic worship service to celebrate.

But now, it’s only three days later. They’ve started their march through the desert. And their waterbags are starting to run out. And they keep trudging on. Each sand dune they come over, they hope for a water hole. But each time, only more sand.

They keep trudging on. Their tongues getting drier and drier. Their lips . One more sand dune. Perhaps over this one. They get to the top. And there in the distance, they see water shimmering. “Is it just a mirage?”

They get closer. It’s still there! It must be real. The young ones start running. They arrive at the water’s edge. And start gulping down the water by the bucketful.

Yuck! They spit it out in disgust. It’s salty! Full of minerals. Like drinking SEA water! They could have done THAT back at the Red Sea!

Of all the cruel jokes. To get their hopes up, and then to dash them. It would have been better if there was no spring at all!

And so v24. They GRUMBLE. The first of many. Poor old Moses cops an earful. So he goes to God. V25.

(Exo 15:25 NIV)  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.

The people protest. And God provides. A miracle.

Grumbling. And grace.

They’re thirsty. And he gives them water to drink.

But look what else he does. He gives the chance to show GRATITUDE. He gives them a test. Half way through v25.

(Exo 15:25b-26 NIV)  There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and THERE HE TESTED THEM. {26} 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.”

Israel’s been shown grace. And now they’ve got the chance to RESPOND. The response to God’s grace is to LISTEN, to DO WHAT’S RIGHT, to PAY ATTENTION TO HIS COMMANDS, and to KEEP HIS DECREES.

And it’s still the same today. The right response to God’s grace is to listen, to do what’s right, to pay attention to his commands, and to keep his decrees.

Grumbling, grace, and gratitude. Look out for that pattern as we keep moving.

2. God provides food (16:1-36)

Grumbling

Episode two. Chapter 16. It’s been one month since Israel left Egypt. Thirty whole days. And what happens? Grumbling! Verse 2.

(Exo 16:2-3 NIV)  In the desert the whole community GRUMBLED against Moses and Aaron. {3} 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 .”

Funny I don’t remember them doing to much SITTING! They were too busy looking for straw!

Can you believe it? Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. One month of freedom. And they want to go back to Egypt. Freedom’s not all they imagined.

What about you? Do you ever wish you could go back to Egypt? Do you look longingly at what you USED to do? Or what the world tells you you HAVE TO have?

Do you wish that Sundays could be spent out on that big boat? Or at that holiday house on the Central Coast? Perhaps you’re not content with your lounge, or your car, or your house, or your spouse?

Life would be better if I just had ……. (You fill in the blanks). I’m not happy being where God’s put me. I want to be somewhere else. With someTHING else. Or someONE else.

But that’s being just as foolish as Israel. They were God’s chosen people. He rescued them. He was providing for them. But they longed to be somewhere else.

You see, it’s not just a story. It’s a story with a PURPOSE. It’s A STORY FOR OUR BENEFIT. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Cor 10 v 10. About Israel in the wilderness.

(1 Cor 10:10-14 NIV)  And do not grumble, as some of them did–and were killed by the destroying angel. {11} THESE THINGS HAPPENED TO THEM AS EXAMPLES AND WERE WRITTEN DOWN AS WARNINGS FOR US, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. {12} So, if you think you are standing firm, BE CAREFUL that you don’t fall! {13} No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. {14} Therefore, my dear friends, FLEE FROM IDOLATRY.

God wants us to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap as Israel. So be warned. Don’t long to go back where you were before. Don’t long to have some of the idols the world worships. Don’t grumble with where God’s put you today. He’s got a plan. And he knows best.

Remember, not one of these grumblers actually made it into the Promised Land. They were God’s chosen people, but they missed out. So be careful that you don’t grumble.

Grace

(pause) Israel grumbled. And how does God respond? Once again, he shows GRACE. Look at v11.

(Exo 16:11-18 NIV)  The LORD said to Moses, {12} “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 God.'” {13} That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. {14} When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. {15} When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” (In Aramaic “Mah na?”) For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. {16} This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'” {17} The Israelites did as they were told

Gratitude (16:19-30; 31-35 ) – a test (16:4-5)

Grumbling. And grace. The LORD provides.

But once again, notice how God gives them the opportunity to show GRATITUDE. He gives them another TEST. Look back at v4 and 5. A test in two parts.

(Exo 16:4 NIV)  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. (And) 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.”

He PROVIDES for them, but he TESTS them. He shows GRACE. But he expects obedience.

Here’s how the testing worked. First, he tells them to collect just enough for one day. No more. But just like most of us, some people couldn’t help collecting a bit extra. Just in case.

But look what happened. God tested them, and they failed the test. Because they didn’t trust God. Over to verse 19.

(Exo 16:19-20 NIV)  Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” {20} 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.

They failed the first part. How would they go with the second? On Friday, God said to collect TWICE as much. My guess is/ those who already tried that trick on Monday would be a bit wary.

“No way! Look what happened LAST TIME I picked up too much! I stunk the tent out! I’m STILL in the bad books with the missus!”

But when the people did that/ Saturday morning came, and there was no manna on the ground. And what’s more/ what they’d stored was still okay. Look at v21.

(Exo 16:21-30 NIV)  Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. {22} On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much–two omers for each person–and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. {23} He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of 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.'” {24} So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. {25} “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. {26} Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” {27} Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. {28} Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? {29} Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” {30} So the people rested on the seventh day.

God did it that way for a reason. For one thing, He wanted his people to REST. Secondly, he wanted to test their obedience. Obedience which was IN RESPONSE to his grace. Notice that it’s not just Sabbath, but “Sabbath to the LORD”. Their act of keeping the Sabbath is to express their gratitude to God’s grace.

Grumbling, grace and gratitude.

3. God provides water –again (17:1-7)

Grumbling (17:1-4)

Next we get to Ch 17. and the story’s a familiar one. Verse 1.

(Exo 17:1-4 NIV)  The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. {2} SO THEY QUARRELED 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?” {3} 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?” {4} Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

One again – grumbling. But notice? This time it’s the PEOPLE who put God to the test. Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? WHY DO YOU PUT THE LORD TO THE TEST?”

Rather than responding to GOD’S test by OBEYING him, they grumble again, and put God to the test! “What are YOU going to do for US? How much grace have you got?”

Grace (17:5-6):

Well, God still hasn’t run out of grace. Look at 5.

(Exo 17:5-6 NIV)  The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead 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. {6} 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.

Once again, God provides. DESPITE the doubting of his people.

And in v7 Moses even gives the place a of nicknames. “Testing” and “quarrelling”.

“because the Israelites QUARRELED and because they TESTED the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Is the LORD among us or not? Will the LORD provide, or not? Is he looking, or not? Does he care, or not?

And it’s that VERY QUESTION that gets answered in the next two sections. “Is the LORD among us, or not?”

Because God continues to provide for his people. He provides in WARTIME, and he provides in PEACETIME. And that’s his answer. “Of course, I’m among you!”

He brings them victory against the Amalekites. And he provides judges to help Moses govern the people.

And what ties these sections together/ is that God provides helpers for Moses.

4. God provides helpers for Moses (17:8-16)

Look at v 8 of ch 17. The Amalekites attack. And Moses tells Joshua to call out the troops. Moses will go up the hill and keep a look out. And so we get ready for a great battle.

But the description of the battle isn’t quite what we’d expect. Let me read it for you. And ask yourself the question, “Who’s the FOCUS of the action?” Verse 10

(Exo 17:10-13 NIV)  So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. {11} As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. {12} When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. {13} So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Who’s the focus? (pause) Moses. God shows grace/ by providing helpers for Moses. Aaron and Hur pull up a handy rock for Moses to sit on. Aaron and Hur hold up his arms. One on each side. And without them, the battle would have been lost.

“Is the LORD among us, or not?” Of course he is! He provides helpers for Moses. So he can do his work interceding for the people. Standing between God and Israel.

5. God provides helpers for Moses – again (18)

And the same question gets answered in Ch 18. Is the Lord among us or not?

Because Moses’ family comes to visit. His wife, kids, and father-in-law, Jethro.

And so Moses fills them in on all the details. Verse 8. “Is the LORD among us, or not?” Moses knows the answer.

(Exo 18:8-11 NIV)  Moses told his father-in-law about everything THE LORD HAD DONE to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how THE LORD HAD SAVED THEM. {9} Jethro was delighted to hear about ALL THE GOOD THINGS THE LORD HAD DONE for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. {10} He said, “Praise be to the LORD, WHO RESCUED YOU FROM THE HAND OF THE EGYPTIANS and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. {11} Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, FOR HE DID THIS TO THOSE WHO HAD TREATED ISRAEL ARROGANTLY.”

“Is the LORD among us, or not?” Of course he is!

The next day Moses takes his father-in-law along to work. To show him how well his son-in-law’s doing for himself. “Desert shepherd made good. Gone from looking after 100 sheep to 3 million people. Verse 13.

(Exo 18:13 NIV)  The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.

But Jethro realises what a waste of everyone’s time it is. And he becomes the world’s first TIME-MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT. Verse 14

(Exo 18:14-16 NIV)  When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” {15} Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. {16} Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”

And so he presents his report. Verse 17. And his good advice is God’s provision again. God provides helpers for Moses. Again. And, once again, they help Moses do his job better. His job of standing between the people and God. Representing God to the people, and the people to God.

(Exo 18:17-24 NIV)  Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. {18} You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. {19} Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. {20} Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. {21} But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. {22} Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. {23} If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” {24} Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.

6. God provides for us

And that’s the end of this section. God’s provision in the desert. He provides water, food, and helpers for Moses.

But what’s it have to do with us as Christians?

God providing MATERIAL things is all very well. But it’s not our GREATEST need. Our greatest need is to be RIGHT WITH GOD.

And once again, God’s provided that, too. By his grace. Despite our grumbling.

In Jn 6, Jesus identifies HIMSELF as the true bread from heaven. He says that Israel ate manna in the desert, but still died. But anyone who eats the bread that’s Jesus will live forever.

In other words, it’s only by believing in what Jesus did on the cross/ that our greatest need is met. We can be right with God.

Let’s make sure that we keep our eyes on THAT bread. The only food that TRULY satisfies. And that we don’t fall into the trap which says that there’s other bread which is more satisfying.

Paul’s warning in 1 Cor 10 is that we don’t grumble like Israel. But that we trust completely our God who provides. Jehovah Jireh. The Lord will provide.

(Say it with me) The LORD will provide.

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