GOD PROVIDES IN THE WILDERNESS
1 Chronicles 16:8, ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
EXODUS 15:22-27, NIrV
22 Then Moses led Israel away from the Red Sea. They went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert. They didn’t find any water there. 23 When they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink its water. It was bitter. That’s why the place is named Marah. 24 The people told Moses they weren’t happy with him. They said, “What are we supposed to drink?”
25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord. The Lord showed him a stick. Moses threw it into the water. The water became fit to drink.
There the Lord gave a ruling and instruction for the people. And there he tested them. 26 He said, “I am the Lord your God. Listen carefully to me. Do what is right in my eyes. Pay attention to my commands. Obey all my rules. If you do, I will not send on you any of the sicknesses I sent on the Egyptians. I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 The people came to Elim. It had 12 springs and 70 palm trees. They camped there near the water.
Do you remember what the Israelites did when they were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army? They complained. Sadly, this was the beginning of a 40-year-long habit. They would grumble the moment things didn’t go their way. After three water-less days, they found a spring of water. But the people complained because it tasted terrible! Thankfully, Moses had a much better habit than his people. Whenever the people came crying to him, Moses cried out to God for help. And the same God who used Moses’ staff to part the Red Sea used a stick to make the water sweet!
+ What would happen to the Israelites if they didn’t have water?
+ What did God promise to do for the Israelites if they listen to his word? (vs. 26)
EXODUS 16:1-12, NIrV
1 The whole community of Israel started out from Elim. They came to the Desert of Sin. It was between Elim and Sinai. They arrived there on the 15th day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community told Moses and Aaron they weren’t happy with them. 3 The Israelites said to them, “We wish the Lord had put us to death in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat. We ate all the food we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert. You must want this entire community to die of hunger.”
4 Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people must go out each day. Have them gather enough bread for that day. Here is how I will test them. I will see if they will follow my directions. 5 On the sixth day they must prepare what they bring in. On that day they must gather twice as much as on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron spoke to all the people of Israel. They said, “In the evening you will know that the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 7 And in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord. He has heard you say you aren’t happy with him. Who are we? Why are you telling us you aren’t happy with us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that the Lord has heard you speak against him. He will give you meat to eat in the evening. He’ll give you all the bread you want in the morning. But who are we? You aren’t speaking against us. You are speaking against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Talk to the whole community of Israel. Say to them, ‘Come to the Lord. He has heard you speak against him.’ ”
10 While Aaron was talking to the whole community of Israel, they looked toward the desert. There was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud!
11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the people of Israel talking about how unhappy they are. Tell them, ‘When the sun goes down, you will eat meat. In the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
After whining about water, the Israelites found a new topic to complain about: food! Like many of us do when we complain, the people exaggerated. “When we were slaves in Egypt,” they said, “we stuffed our bellies with food! Why did you drag us out here to drop dead in the desert?” The people whined these words to Moses, but their grumbles were really about God! They acted like God rescued them with mighty miracles only to watch them waste away in the wilderness! To show his stubborn people his power, the Lord told Moses his odd-sounding plan: “I’m going to make it rain bread!”
+ Beside making it rain bread, what other food was God going to send? (vs. 8)
+ What happened as Aaron spoke God’s message to the people? (vs. 10)
EXODUS 16:13-21, NIrV
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp. In the morning the ground around the camp was covered with dew. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes appeared on the desert floor. They looked like frost on the ground. 15 The people of Israel saw the flakes. They asked each other, “What’s that?” They didn’t know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It’s the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 Here is what the Lord has commanded. He has said, ‘Everyone should gather as much as they need. Take three pounds for each person who lives in your tent.’ ”
17 The people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, and some gathered a little. 18 When they measured it out, the one who gathered a lot didn’t have too much. And the one who gathered a little had enough. Everyone gathered only what they needed.
19 Then Moses said to them, “Don’t keep any of it until morning.”
20 Some of them didn’t pay any attention to Moses. They kept part of it until morning. But it was full of maggots and began to stink. So Moses became angry with them.
21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed. But by the hottest time of the day, the thin flakes had melted away.
God had a million Israelite mouths to feed. But even a monstrous million-person meal is a piece of cake when you’re the all-powerful Lord! The feasting began with a nighttime snack of meat. Using wind, God sent tons of quail in the Israelites’ direction, small birds that tasted like chicken. And when his people popped out of their tents for breakfast the next morning, they were surrounded by mysterious white and crumbly bits of bread. “What is this?” they asked. “It’s bread from the Lord God,” Moses answered. So they called it “manna,” a word in their language that meant, “What is this?”
+ What instructions did Moses give about gathering manna bread? (vs. 16)
+ What happened when some people tried to save manna overnight? (vs. 19-20)
EXODUS 16:22-35, NIRV
22 On the sixth day, the people gathered twice as much. It amounted to six pounds for each person. The leaders of the community came and reported that to Moses. 23 He said to them, “Here is what the Lord commanded. He said, ‘Tomorrow will be a day of rest. It will be a holy Sabbath day. It will be set apart for the Lord. So bake what you want to bake. Boil what you want to boil. Save what is left. Keep it until morning.’ ”
24 So they saved it until morning, just as Moses commanded. It didn’t stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said. “Today is a Sabbath day to honor the Lord. You won’t find any flakes on the ground today. 26 Gather them for six days. But on the seventh day there won’t be any. It’s the Sabbath day.”
27 In spite of what Moses said, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather the flakes. But they didn’t find any. 28 Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, “How long will all of you refuse to obey my commands and my teachings? 29 Keep in mind that I have given you the Sabbath day. That is why on the sixth day I give you bread for two days. Everyone must stay where they are on the seventh day. No one can go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seeds. It tasted like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “Here is what the Lord has commanded. He has said, ‘Get three pounds of manna. Keep it for all time to come. Then those who live after you will see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert. I gave it to you when I brought you out of Egypt.’ ”
33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Get a jar. Put three pounds of manna in it. Then place it in front of the Lord. Keep it there for all time to come.”
34 Aaron did exactly as the Lord had commanded Moses. He put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law. He put it there so it would be kept for all time to come. 35 The Israelites ate manna for 40 years. They ate it until they came to a land where people were living. They ate it until they reached the border of Canaan.
For six days, the Israelites woke up surrounded by all the manna they could munch. But on the last day of each week, there was none to be found. Had God forgotten his daily delivery of bread? Nope! He did it to make his people take a “sabbath,” a word in their language that means “rest.” But God didn't let his people starve on the Sabbath. The day before, God sent a double delivery of his heavenly bread. When they stored it for day seven, God kept it from rotting into a stinky, bug-filled mess! God continued this weekly pattern of miracle manna meals for 40 years. That’s almost 15,000 days!
+ Though God ordered them to rest, what did some people do on day seven? (vs. 27)
+ What did the manna look and taste like? (vs. 31)
EXODUS 17:1-7, NIRV
1 The whole community of Israel started out from the Desert of Sin. They traveled from place to place, just as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim. But there wasn’t any water for the people to drink. 2 So they argued with Moses. They said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why are you arguing with me? Why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there. So they told Moses they weren’t happy with him. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt? Did you want us, our children and our livestock to die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord. He said, “What am I going to do with these people? They are almost ready to kill me by throwing stones at me.”
5 The Lord answered Moses. “Go out in front of the people. Take some of the elders of Israel along with you. Take in your hand the walking stick you used when you struck the Nile River. Go. 6 I will stand there in front of you by the rock at Mount Horeb. Hit the rock. Then water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses hit the rock while the elders of Israel watched. 7 Moses called the place Massah and Meribah. That’s because the people of Israel argued with him there. They also tested the Lord. They asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
These Israelites saw God punish Egypt with ten plagues. They saw him split the sea in two. And each morning, they saw the ground covered with manna. But whenever trouble came, they still acted like the Lord was just going to let them drop dead in the desert! When they ran out of water, they did exactly what you’d expect them to do: they grumbled to Moses! And Moses did exactly what you’d expect him to do: he cried out to God. And God did exactly what you’d expect him to do: the impossible! After a smack from Moses’ staff, the Lord made a dry rock flow like a water faucet!
+ What did Moses say the people were going to do to him? (vs. 4)
+ Though they grumbled to Moses, who were the people really complaining about?
EXODUS 17:8-13, NIRV
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men. Then go out and fight against the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill. I’ll stand there holding the walking stick God gave me.”
10 So Joshua fought against the Amalekites, just as Moses had ordered. Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hand, the Israelites were winning. But every time he lowered his hands, the Amalekites began to win. 12 When Moses’ arms got tired, Aaron and Hur got a stone and put it under him. Then he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held up his hands. Aaron was on one side, and Hur was on the other. Moses’ hands remained steady until sunset. 13 So Joshua destroyed the Amalekite army with swords.
As the Israelites marched through the wilderness, a group called the Amalekites took notice of them. And what did the Amalekites see? A group of worn out and weary travelers with lots of stuff to steal! So they waited in secret, then popped out to attack the slower-moving Israelites at the end of the line.
Before the Amalekites attacked again, Moses came up with a two-part plan. Joshua would find the biggest and baddest fighting men in Israel and lead them in battle. Moses would go up on a hill and hold his staff high. This was the same staff he and Aaron had used during the ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.
Did Moses think his staff had magical powers? No way! By holding it up high in the air, Moses was asking for God’s help. He wanted the God who used that staff to defeat the Egyptians to do the same with the mean and mighty Amalekites.
When the fighting started the next day, it was a back-and-forth battle. Amazingly, whenever Moses held the staff up high, Joshua’s men wiped the floor with the Amalekites. But as Moses' arms grew tired and his hands went down, the Israelites would begin losing. In the end, with a rock to support his bottom and friends to support his hands, Moses was able to hold his staff steady. And with the staff of God up, the Amalekite army went down in defeat!
As we’ve followed the grumbling Israelites in the wilderness, it’s easy for us to think, “What are these people doing? Don’t they remember how God pulverized Pharaoh with plagues? Did they forget that he turned the Red Sea into a walking path? Do they really think God would go through all the trouble of rescuing them from Egypt just to let them starve until they were skeletons? Of course not!”
But we shouldn’t be too harsh on them. After all, we do the same thing! In the Bible, we can read story after story of God’s power to care for his people and rescue them from disaster. We’ve seen him defeat giants, knock down walls, stop the sun, and even raise the dead. And yet, when things take a bad turn, what do we do? We grumble and complain just like those Israelites did 3,500 years ago!
When worrisome times come our way, we should do what the Israelites didn’t do. We should remember how God has powerfully saved us in the past. How he loved us enough to send his only Son, Jesus. How Jesus loved us enough to die in our place. And how Jesus was powerfully raised back to life on the third day. When we remember the power of our great big God, the worries that surround us seem a whole lot smaller!
+ Who helped hold up Moses’ hands during the battle? (vs. 10)
+ Why were the weak and weary Israelites able to defeat the Amalekites?