Shake Your Head

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 6: Shake Your Head
James Mann

As we enter into Exodus 17:1-7, we come across the people of Israel leaving the Wilderness of Sin. This is one of the many times where we come across the people of Israel questioning Moses and God. In the previous chapter of Exodus, we see these same people complaining about the lack of food, and now they are complaining about the lack of water. This is one of those “shake your head” moments where you question whether the Israelites will ever learn to put their faith in God. Moses takes this opportunity of frustration and turns the situation back on the Israelites by asking, “Why do you test the Lord?” Why, after being delivered from the hands of Pharaoh, would these Israelites continue to question God’s plan for them? The exciting thing is, God still takes care of His people even after they question Him. Even after they question His motives, God still uses Moses to go upon the rock and strike water from it. We know this is not the first time that we see the Israelites questioning God, and as we continue to read, we will see this is definitely not the last time either. This moment is brought up again in Deuteronomy 6:16. After God fulfills all of His promises to His people, Moses brings up the foolishness of God’s people for ever doubting Him.

We often read through the Israelites time in the wilderness and laugh at how blind they are to God’s presence and plan for their lives. We get frustrated to see how many times people can ignore God when times get challenging. We are able to feel these emotions because we are reading about the story after it has already taken place. Now change your point of view for a moment. Pretend you are reading the story of your life. Pretend everything you have ever done is laid out before you in the form of a book. Would you read through and feel proud of your walk with God from cover to cover? Even though I laugh at the way the Israelites act, I believe my life would look a lot like this. When times get challenging, we either work in one of two ways. We either act like the Israelites in verse three and question God and quarrel with one another, or we act like Moses in verse four and lean on God in our times of need. In this passage, we see Moses stand out from the pack by showing the real qualities of what a leader looks like. I pray that in your times of trouble and need that you act like Moses did here, and ask God for His guidance in what is going on in your life.

Road Trip

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 5: Road Trip
Jen Combs

Lately, I have been plunking my way through the Old Testament. Sitting here reading and re-reading Exodus 17:1-7, I cannot help but laugh. I feel like it is me having a conversation with my kids on a road trip.

Here is how my mind raced:

“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, (In other words, me trying to “herd” my “cats” or kids out the door, in stages) according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink (Holy Smokes, I walked out the door without snacks or drinks packed for our road trip!). Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink’ (No explanation needed. Just think about five kids in a minivan on a 20-hour road trip, with everyone asking for something to drink, over and over and all at different times. Maddening, right?). And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ (Me turning around yelling, “Do you want me to pull this car over? Stop hollering!”). But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses (Me) and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ (I can hear one of my kids, “Why did you take us from our comfy house and go on this forever long trip with nothing to drink, I am going to die!”).  So Moses cried to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me!’ (My same response with an added, “Have I neglected to ever feed or water you in all of my 16 years of mothering?”). And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel (I am going to get your Dad.) and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock of Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.’ And Moses did so, in the sight of the Elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (I am thinking about naming my van Massah and Meribah, it means quarreling and testing. I am pretty sure my kids quarrel and test me every time we are in it).

Now we can laugh at the comparison of the whiny, stubborn people of Israel and our kids. However, in actuality, this is so the Lord and me. How many times have I wondered if He was with me? Even when He has proved Himself faithful over and over, I still question things on my journey. Then there are the times I start to take control myself because maybe He just does not have me and my circumstances on His list of priorities.

Even though I know He is with me, why do I doubt? Why do I question? One commentary I read said that in less than six months’ time the people of Israel had witnessed ten plagues, the pillar of cloud and fire, the opening and shutting of the Red Sea, the miraculous sweetening of the water, and the sending of food and meat from Heaven. How soon we forget. One of the lessons God has been teaching me over the last three years is to be steady in the Lord. I need to do this regardless of my circumstances or feelings. I challenge you with that today. Be steady. He is with us. He has got us. Do not be whiny.

Leap of Faith

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 4: Leap of Faith
Wes McCullough

If you have ever needed confirmation that God will supply your needs, Exodus 16:13-36 is the perfect Scripture to affirm your belief. Sometimes God arranges things so clearly perfect, but our human minds cannot rationalize what happened.

Here is a quick recap of this passage:

The Israelites have been delivered from Egyptian slavery and are about to spend significant time in the desert where there is not much to eat. God does the impossible and sends manna, a flakey and sweet wafer-like substance, every morning. Everyone gathered as much as they wanted for the day, and the manna melted away. If manna was kept overnight, it spoiled. These rules applied for six days of the week. On the Sabbath, however, no manna came. Everyone was instructed to gather two days worth the previous day. Only then would the manna last two days.

Some people will struggle to comprehend this situation. On only one particular day does the manna not spoil. There is no logical explanation here; it is simply God being God. He is not bound by the laws of nature, time, or logic; He is infinite in all aspects.

A classic movie scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” comes to mind. As the movie climaxes, Indiana is making his way toward the Holy Grail and must make a “leap of faith” to cross a bottomless void. From his perspective, the task seems impossible, but he puts disbelief aside and steps out in faith.

Our minds will never be able to comprehend the fullness of God’s power and wisdom. We like concrete truths. We like to feel in control of our situation and future. When our perception of control wavers, we are prone to worry, and the Bible is clear about that. Matthew 6:25-27 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” 

God has promised to supply our needs. Put your worry aside and focus on serving Him. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Six weeks

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 3: Six weeks
Pastor Ryan Story

At this point in society, I am shocked that you cannot get a Ph.D. in complaining. If you spend any time on social media, all you see is people complaining about schools, police departments, roads, neighbors, and even weather. If you stand in line at a grocery store for more than five minutes, you can hear someone complaining from a distance. If the internet goes down, people are complaining. If schools call for a snow day, people are complaining. However, if schools remain open during snowy conditions, people are complaining. If someone’s church is too small, people are complaining. On the flip side, if churches are growing too fast, people are complaining. Ironically while I type this, I realized I am complaining about complainers!

The nation of Israel had a major issue; they complained about everything. The Israelites endured slavery for more than 400 years, and the moment they were free from Pharaoh is the moment God, Moses, and Aaron began to hear grumbling. Exodus 16:1-3 says, “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” I am not perfect, and I complain and grumble about certain issues as well; however, I did some research to see how long it took the Israelites to turn against Moses and Aaron. By most scholars’ account, it took the Israelite six weeks to start grumbling! We are one chapter removed from the Israelites singing a song about how God used Moses to free them from Egypt. The Israelites are one chapter removed from hanging out in an oasis paradise with enough water, springs, and palm trees to comfortably encamp the entire nation. It took them six weeks to go from praising to grumbling! It took just six weeks!

Complaining is toxic to our relationships with our children, our friends, our spouses, our church, and even the poor teenage barista that got yelled at today because there was too little cream in their frappe. Above all of that, complaining is horribly damaging to our relationship with God. While God still blessed the nation of Israel and provided for them, it does not take away from the lack of trust the Israelites had in God and in the leadership that God placed over them.

So what do you complain about? Do you think that the mild inconvenience that you are complaining about is outside of God’s control and outside of God’s plan for your life? Yes, that traffic jam was an inconvenience, but maybe it was God giving you 30 minutes to listen to a sermon. That boss of yours might be a difficult person to work with, but I bet dollars to doughnuts you do not complain when you get that paycheck. The music may be too loud for your taste at a weekend gathering, but it helped to get a young 20-year-old connected with the church because of his love for music.

We complain because we do not always see the whole picture. Exodus 16:4 has an amazing phrase that has brought me comfort in the times I want to start complaining. It reads, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to..’” While it is important to know that God sent manna down from the sky, the really important thing is that God was doing something. The Israelites could only see from their perspective; they were so focused on the last six weeks they could not see that God was about to do something again. The Israelites were sure that parting the Red Sea was the only miracle; they could not see what God was about to do. So next time you begin to complain, think to yourself; what is God about to do with this?

Standing on the Promises

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 2: Standing on the Promises
John Hubbard

The Israelites up and down relationship with the Lord in the Old Testament is so fascinating to me. The Israelites witnessed incredible miracles from God so many times but then were so quick to turn from Him and chase false gods. They would eventually return to God and experience these incredible spiritual moments with God, but no matter how much He manifested His power to them, they always seemed so quick to doubt Him when faced with any trials or even when they just got “bored.” Looking through the Old Testament, you can see this pattern repeated seemingly countless times. It is easy to read this and disconnect yourself from the story. It is easy to read this, shake your head, and think, “Man, these guys were such idiots.” It is easy to read about the Israelites making the same mistakes over and over and feel that this story is a bit redundant, but we know that all Scripture is God-breathed. Every line, every verse, and every word is placed there intentionally by Almighty God. In 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV), Paul says, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition.”  I have read over Exodus 15:22-27 so many times and never really paid much attention to it or tried to thoughtfully consider what God’s purpose was in inspiring Moses to write it.

At first glance, this seems pretty par for the course for Israel if you are familiar with the pattern of the Israelites. The passage finds the Israelites in the wilderness, they had been walking for three days, there were somewhere around two million of them, and they were running out of water. They come to a place called Marah and found water there, but the water was bitter and undrinkable. The people were desperate and started grumbling against Moses. Moses cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord gave Moses instructions (which Moses followed), and God made the water drinkable for the people. It is important to notice the context surrounding this passage. The Israelites had just experienced God’s miraculous and powerful parting of the Red Sea that saved them and destroyed the Egyptians who were attempting to bring them back into captivity. The beginning of chapter 15 is a beautiful song of praise about God’s glory and power. They are singing and praising their wonderful God who rescued them, and then a couple of days later, they have completely lost faith and are grumbling against God’s faithful servant who was leading them.

Are we like the Israelites? In a sermon Pastor Josh preached during the prayer series (titled “Temptation”), he talked about how after we experience these spiritual highs, these mountain top moments with God, we often then will face trials or temptations. This was true for Jesus after His baptism, where the people heard the audible voice of God, declaring that Jesus was His Son. Jesus was then immediately tempted by the devil. The Israelites had just experienced the incredible parting of the Red Sea where God powerfully showed that they were His people that He loved and would protect them. Yet, just a few days later when they were faced with hardships, they despaired. Let us not fall into the same trap the Israelites did. God never promised us that life as a follower of Him would be easy. In fact, He promised the opposite. In John 16:33 (NIV), Jesus states, “In this world you will have trouble.”

What God promises is that He will be faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13: Hebrews 10:23).  He promises that He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He promises that He will never leave us in times of trouble (Matthew 28:20: Deuteronomy 31:6: Isaiah 41:10). Next time you feel that you are entering into the wilderness and are stuck in the land of bitter water, next time you feel desperate and do not know how to respond, please remember what you know to be true. He is faithful, He cares for you, and He has not left your side no matter how alone you may feel.

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