Week of July 23, 2006


Bible Passages:Exodus 15:22-26; 16:2-4,31-35.


Biblical Truth:God tests those who belong to Him to prove their loyalty and strengthen their faith.


Tests Have Godly Purposes: Exodus 15:22-26.


[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. [23] When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. [24] So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" [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. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. [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." ††[NASU]


[22-23] The first difficulty encountered by Israel beyond the Red Sea is introduced almost immediately. After three days of travel into the wilderness, Moses and the Israelites had found no water. Water is essential for life. So this was a real emergency. At this point the Israelites should have cried out to God for help, asking Him to give them water. Remember, they had every reason to believe that God would save them. They knew that God answered prayer because it was in response to their cries that He had rescued them from Egypt. They knew that He had power over creation because they had witnessed the plagues. In particular, they knew that God controlled the water supply. They had seen Him turn the Nile to blood. They had also witnessed His wonders at the Red Sea, His mastery over the wind and the waves. The Israelites had witnessed Godís mighty saving acts in history. Furthermore, God himself had led the Israelites to this place. Even the bitter oasis was part of His providential plan. To be reminded of this, all they had to do was look up and see the pillar of cloud that had brought them to Marah. God was in the cloud to guard them and guide them. If necessary, He could send down rain to water their parched lips and thirsty throats. Thus they had nothing to complain about and every reason to believe that God would save them.


[24-25]All they needed to do was ask, and He would provide. Instead, at the first sign of difficulty, the Israelites complained to Godís prophet. The problem was their attitude. They were whining which is a sign of spiritual immaturity. One day the people were singing praises to God; but only a few days later they were on the verge of open rebellion. Their deepest spiritual problem was a lack of faith. They did not trust in the faithfulness of God. This is a strong warning to anyone who has a complaining spirit. Remember, what happened to Israel is an example for Godís new Israel, the church. Here the lesson is obvious: Nor grumble, as some of them did [1 Cor. 10:10]. It is not a sin for us to bring God our problems. He invites us to talk things over with Him through prayer. What is a sin, however, is to have a complaining spirit that poisons our communion with Christ and thus robs us of the joy of serving God. One reason to trust God is that He can turn what is bitter into something sweet, which is what happened at Marah. When Moses was confronted with the grumbling of the people, he took their troubles to the Lord in prayer. God, in his mercy and grace, answers the prayer of Moses and provides water for the complaining Israelites. Why does God do this. God wants His people to have a deep dependence on His ability to provide. Often He teaches us this lesson by first leading us to taste bitter water. This was true for Israel. It was the bitter-sweet waters of Marah that increased their faith.


[26] After providing for His people, God proceeded to give them a test. God gave His people commands to see what their works would reveal about their relationship with Him. Obedience was the test of their faith. And the test contains promises and warnings, with blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. If His people obeyed, He would not only spare them from the plagues but would also heal their diseases. Here God revealed another of His divine names. The Israelites already knew Him as the Great I Am, the eternal and self-existent God. They had also come to see Him asthe God who hears, the God who rescues, and the God who provides. Now God revealed Himself as the God who heals. The word for heals refers to wellness and soundness, both physically and spiritually. It means to restore, to heal, to cure not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense also. At Marah God demonstrated His healing power by curing the bitter waters. But this was intended to teach the Israelites to trust Him for every kind of healing.


Tests Reveal Loyalty: Exodus 16:2-4.


[2] The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. [3] The sons of Israel said to them, " Would that we had died by the LORD'S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." [4] Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.Ē[NASU]

Whining was Israelís besetting sin. It started when Moses first went to Pharaoh and the Israelites complained that he was making their job harder instead of easier. They grumbled at the Red Sea, where they accused Moses of bringing them out to die in the desert. They were even more bitter at Marah, but the complaining didnít stop there. By the time they reached the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled. This time it was the lack of food that caused the complaining. The Israelites complained that their situation was worse than it actually was. They also did something else that complainers often do: they exaggerated the advantages of their former situation: pots of meat Ö ate bread to the full.

Israelís attitude is a warning against the great sin of complaining. All our dissatisfaction and discontent ultimately is directed against God. Usually we take out our frustrations on someone else. In the case of the Israelites, although they were taking things out on Moses, they were really angry with God. God knows that when we grumble about our personal circumstances, our spiritual leaders, or anything else, what we are really doing is finding fault with Him. We are complaining about what He has provided or not provided, as the case may be. A complaining spirit always indicates a problem in our relationship with God. Amazingly, in spite of their whining, God listened to the Israelites and gave them what they asked for. Four times the Scripture says that God heard their grumbling [Exodus 16:7,8,9,12]. God not only heard them, but he also provided for them. The God of all grace was promising to provide for His people. His provision would be abundant.


Tests Show Godís Provision: Exodus 16:31-35.


[31] The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. [32] Then Moses said, "This is what the LORD has commanded, 'Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'" [33] Moses said to Aaron, " Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations." [34] As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept. [35] The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. [NASU]


These verses provide additional information about the bread that God sent from Heaven. The manna tasted like honey. The goodness of the manna was also a sign of Godís favor. God told Moses to save some of the manna. The people were to preserve about two quarts in a jar. Eventually the manna was put into a golden jar and kept in the Ark of the Covenant (the Testimony as it is called here). By some divine miracle, this heavenly bread was kept from contamination and became one of Israelís national treasures. The manna served as a memorial to Godís provision for His people in the wilderness.


Passages throughout the Old Testament show that Godís people never forgot the way God had provided for them. They told their children about the manna in the wilderness, and they praised God for it in song [Psalm 105]. Their remembrance was an encouragement to their faith. Recalling what God had done for them in the past helped them depend on Him to provide for them in the present. God has given us some things to remember as well. He has given us the Lordís Day to remember Jesus and his resurrection. He has also given us the bread of the Lordís Supper as a reminder of Godís provision for our sins. This is a reminder of Godís provision. More than that, it is a continual reminder of the cross where Jesus offered his body as a sacrifice for our sins.


Questions for Discussion:


1.†† How could the Israelites, who believed in God and Moses after the Red Sea miracle, [14:31] show such faithlessness only a few day later [15:22-24]? What does this say about faith based primarily on miraculous signs?


2.†† Read how Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3 view these events and the unbelief of the Israelites. What is involved in a person hardening his or her heart, and what are the spiritual consequences of this?


3.†† Why is complaining such a great sin for the believer? When we complain, what are we telling God? Think about what a complaining spirit does to your relationship with God? With fellow believers?



Exodus, Alan Cole, Inter-Varsity Press.

Exodus, John Durham, Nelson Publishers.

Exodus, Philip Ryken, Crossway.