Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Check out this video of Mike teaching this lesson!
Better understand that our choices often change the direction the Lord has for our lives and that because of this truth, we must learn to follow the Lord through His Holy Spirit and His Word.
Watch the video of this lesson at the bottom of this page - By: Mike Anderson
How do you go from great victory to absolute rebellion in just 3 days? That’s what happens to the children of Israel after they cross the Red Sea!
A little historical background: The Israelites were in bondage (slavery), but not for the whole 400 years they were in Egypt. The Pharaoh that Joseph served was most likely a Hyksos King. The Hyksos were not Egyptians by bloodline but were conquering invaders that ruled Egypt for about 108 years. They were probably from the same areas that Abraham and his descendants had come from and would not have looked down on Joseph or his family. The Hyksos took power over Egypt around 1720 bc. After Joseph’s death, they were overthrown by true Egyptians and a campaign was started to erase any trace of the Hyksos from Egyptian records and carvings. That is possibly the reason there are no records of Joseph serving as second in the land. The Egyptians hated the Hyksos and would have hated Jacob’s descendants even though they were not truly Hyksos! That is probably why the new Egyptian King that became Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews. The Pharaoh was afraid that the Hebrews would join the Hyksos and take the land of Egypt back for themselves!
But God… had a plan! He prophesied the coming of a deliverer! And the Egyptians knew it! Pharoah tries to kill this deliverer and to keep the Israelites from fighting as an army, he orders all of the male babies killed. The Hebrews were hated, mistreated and even killed! Times could not get much worse! Out of this long and terrible time of darkness, a Hebrew child is born!
Moses lives a long and adventurous life and at the age of 80, God appears to him and sends him to set His people free. Miracles! Messages from God! Signs and wonders! Even, the death of every firstborn of Egypt! Finally, Israel is free. They cross the Red Sea and are victorious and on the other side.
Some say that they did not cross the Red Sea but that they crossed the Reed Sea (a swamp just south of the Mediterranean) which would have only been about 2 feet deep? When I was in college, Dr. James Travis addressed this debate for us! He told us that the Reed Sea theory was wrong, but if it was correct, then we should praise God even more! Why? We asked… Because God drowned the whole Egyptian Army in 2 feet of water!!! Now that would have been amazing! We all laughed! But the truth is that God knew what He was doing and He took Israel across the Red Sea and out into the wilderness to spend time with them. He would provide for and protect them and then He would establish them in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! If only they would follow Him and the one God chose to lead them… Moses!
To better understand that when we make wrong choices and take control for ourselves our direction can change or at least be delayed! Our choices often change the direction the Lord has for our lives and that because of this truth, we must learn to follow the Lord through His Holy Spirit and His Word.
The children of Israel had lived their whole lives as slaves to the Egyptians. As far as the Scriptures tell us, they had never experienced or seen any type of miracle. But after Moses arrives, they see ten awesome and miraculous plagues that devastate the land and the people of Egypt. They are not only set free by Pharaoh, but they are given much of the wealth of the Egyptians as they depart. The Israelites have seen the pillar of fire that protected them from the Egyptian Army. They have seen the Red Sea split apart, with the waters heaping up into walls and the ground on the bottom of the sea dry as they walk, ride and take their livestock across to the other side. They watched as Moses raised his staff and the waters washed back in like giant waves of awesome strength destroying the entire Egyptian Army.
1. What Miracles?
Three days later, they arrived in the wilderness of Shur. Thirsty and tired they find no drinkable water and they grumble against Moses! God purifies the water for them to drink! Besides all of the miracles they had just seen in the previous few weeks God does another miracle! Moses is told to use a tree branch to change the waters! The last time he put wood into water the sea parted and a whole army died!
But God is patient and He moves them on... “Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.” (Exodus 15:27). “Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses…” (Exodus 16:1-2). What does God do? He gives them mana! Another miracle!
They grow tired of the mana and long for “the good ole days!” “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:5-6) And they grumble against Moses! God gives them meat to eat! Another miracle!
2. Rephidim (pronounced Ra-fee-deem)
God brought the people to a place of rest. - at Rephidim (literally means resting places). It immediately became obvious that things weren't exactly as the people wanted them, so they turn on Moses and began murmuring and complaining about him and probably others who support him? Let's be honest, God's people have been famous for that for a very long time. Rephidim is an important stop for the nation of Israel. When they reach Rephidim, it is time to choose.
Exodus 17:1-2, “Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled…” This time they were past grumbling! They quarreled with Moses! They were attacking him and were moments away from stoning and killing him! Quarrel is not complaining! Quarrel is about fighting! In this verse, Quarreled is translated from the Hebrew word “riyb” - To quarrel or reprimand. They felt it was their place to reprimand Moses for bringing them to this place when it was not Moses who brought them there! What or who had they been following? What did it say in verse 1? “according to the command of the LORD”! The pillar of smoke and fire! God moved before them and they would dare turn their faces away from God who is right in front of them and turn toward Moses and reprimand him for leading them out from Egypt! How dare Moses give them what they wanted! (SARCASM) “Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel (riyb) with me? Why do you test the LORD?" (17:2).
Exodus 17:3 “But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’”
3. Listening to their Feelings instead of the Truth!
God leads them! God provides for them! God gives them miracles! But they refuse to see what God is doing! So what are their eyes on if they are not looking to God? Verse 3 tells us… “us and our children and our livestock”! Wait a minute! They needed water? But they had milk to drink? They needed meat but they had livestock to eat? Why did they grumble for Moses to provide for them when they had what they needed? Because material things had become more important to them than feeding the children! They were worried about their future! Their financial future! In their eyes, the livestock and the riches they brought out of Egypt, were their future! Not the Lord! Not His provisions! Their future, as far as they could see, was wrapped up in what they had. So they wanted handouts from Moses and God. Then they could keep their flocks and herds and they would not have to use the wealth they had to buy food from the surrounding nations. They had herds! Most likely large numbers of animals!
4. Moses Has Had Enough... But God… has a different plan!
“So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.’” (Exodus 17:4) Moses has had enough and says to the Lord what do You want me to do with them, Lord? What he is asking is how does God want Moses to have them punished. Do we bring down boils or frogs or lice? The Hebrew word translated ”to” in our verse can also be translated destroyed. Moses is asking should we destroy them Lord? I've had enough Lord, just get ‘em!
But God… has different plans.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.’” (Exodus 17:5). If you pay attention to what the Scriptures say, you may notice something a little odd here. Moses was not told to bring the people with him. Not yet. He was told to take the elders with him.
Then God says, "’Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Exodus 17:6).
Here's what the significance of that may symbolize. Jesus being crucified on the cross, may very well be symbolized by the striking of the Rock. Later, Moses is going to be told to speak to the Rock and receive water. But he becomes angry at the people and strikes the Rock instead and God tells him because of that he cannot enter the Promised Land. After Jesus died upon the cross, living water is available by Grace through faith, for all who ask. Those who would strike Christ down will not enter the Promised Land (Heaven). Much of what we see in these passages are pictures of Jesus Christ. How many can you find?
Back to our passage: After being rescued by God, they have totally rebelled against God and His leaders. Moses who had been so patient with the people finally runs out of patience and says, Lord, what do You want me to do with them. Should we just kill them? And the Lord responds… No Moses, I want you to take them to the Rock! There, from the Rock that will be broken when the wood staff touches it, I will give them water that will save their lives! Water from the the Rock!! What a passage of Scripture this is!
The next verse says, “He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us, or not?’” (Exodus 17:7)
He named the place Massah (whing means - temptation) and Meribah (which means - fountain of strife) because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"
They turned the Fountain of Life into the Fountain of Strife by the way they acted and the words they chose to use.
What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
The people had choices! They could follow and trust God or they could demand that things go the way they wanted them to go! They could choose to trust or they could fuss! After all of the miracles they had seen and had been a part of, you would think they would trust? God was going to provide! To bring them out there to kill them would have made God look bad. He did not bring them that far to let them die of thirst. They WERE going through the wilderness and the only thing they had to decide was how they were going to go through it? With God or against God? They could choose to rest and to abide in Him and God would provide water. OR, they can choose to grumble and complain and God would provide water. Why? Because that was His plan and no one was going to thwart His plan. But, instead of the place becoming a place of rest where there is a Fountain of Life, the place became a place of temptation and a Fountain of Strife.
They made their choice when they chose to begin grumbling against Moses. The grumbling turns to quarreling and quarreling turns to fighting. Let's look at one more Hebrew word. It is the word “luwn” - translated, grumbled… “They grumbled against Moses”. Luwn - sounds like loon. It is a homonym… It is a word that has more than one meaning depending on how it is used. So the meaning of the word depends on the verbs (actions) that are around it. If I said the word duck… what do I mean? My actions would probably tell you what I mean. For instance, if I yell duck while squatting down, you would understand that. But, if I yelled duck while pointing up in the air, I would mean something different.
The people had a choice! Luwn means to rest through the night! I recently acquired a CPAP machine to (luwn) rest through the night! WHat a difference! I am getting rest! Or, luwn can mean, “to grumble and gripe”. I choose the rest! So I put on the mask and close my eyes! My actions determine if I get up in the morning and am in a bad mood - griping and grumbling or if I have a good nights sleep and feel and act more positive! The actions of the people determined the meaning of the word.
They arrived at Rephidim - a place to rest where they can “luwn” rest there for the night and wait upon the Lord to provide OR they arrive at Rephidim - a place to rest for the night and spend the night stirring up trouble by “luwn” grumbling and gripping? They chose the grumbling!
Wow! What a lesson from God's Word. I feel undone and unclean. I know that I must love the people God has made the way He loves them whether or not they are in the place of rest or are turning it into a place of complaining and quarreling. Remember the first and second greatest commandments? You can’t love people or lead people to the place of rest (Jesus), unless you are there yourself!
Moses asked "what shall I do to them?" God lets Moses know that instead of rocks being thrown at Moses, God would take them to the Rock! Instead of Moses calling down fire from heaven like one of the plagues, God sends them bread down from heaven! God tells Moses to go to the Rock! He is to take the people to the Rock! It is there that God will give them water. That's just too obvious to ignore. We must go to the Rock and allow God to give US water Take people to the Rock! God will give them water... even if their actions have changed the meanings of some of the words being spoken.
This lesson is so appropriate for the days that we live in. As God’s people, we are constantly faced with the choice of waiting upon the Lord or grumbling in our impatience and lack of understanding. Dark times can seem like a never ending night of darkness! But God... is the Light! He is the Bright and Morning Star!
He is our place of rest! He is our Rephidiem! In Him we have peace! In Him we have one who goes before us into battle and we need not fear because He is our Rock! The Rock of our salvation! From Him flow living waters that spring up in our hearts! A fountain of life!
But be careful! Our actions can change the meaning of the words! Don’t grumble. Wait on the Lord! Rest for the night! In the morning - The Bright and Morning Star will rise and you will be free in Him!
God speaks through Moses to show the children of Israel that they must choose between following God or following a man and He is teaching them that man will fail but God never will.
God acts by splitting the rock as Moses strikes it, showing Grace to the children of Israel and giving them water instead of death.
God reveals His divine purpose through the use of a dry wilderness and a rock by showing the people a picture of the saving Messiah who is coming as the fountain of the water of life that He will give to everyone who asks.
What could Moses have done to stop the people from complaining?
Name some modern day choices that face christians today that are similar to Exodus 17?
Do people today put their future, their children or material wealth first in their lives while expecting God to provide more?
Why do you think murmuring is still so prevalent in many of today’s churches?
What can we do to guard against murmuring in our church?
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