THE ARRIVAL

Israel had accepted God’s offer to make them into a holy nation of priest who love and obey him. Pleased to make Israel his special treasure, God told Moses to prepare the people for a visitation. He would meet with Israel in three days to seal the agreement over dinner.

Moses descended the mountain and selected a committee to set up a boundary around Mt. Sinai. The camp was tidied up and swept clean. Then the people washed their clothes and anxiously awaited God’s arrival. The people thought they were ready to meet God.

THIRD TRIP TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP

June 5, 1462BC

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.  Exodus 19:16

Reading the Exodus account of God’s arrival paints a partial picture. Deborah and Barak’s song of praise to God sheds a little more light on what happened the day God came to Sinai.

 “O LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water.  The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel. Judges 5:4-5

 On the third day, Israel awoke to a major thunderstorm. I can surmise what they were thinking. “Isn’t this great! Don’t you know it would rain today and ruin everything? We all took a bath and put on clean clothes. Now we have to walk through the mud to get to the mountain, and we’ll all be dirty again. God might even cancel!” They did not have to worry about God canceling because that storm was God and ten thousands of his saints or angels on their way to Mount Sinai.[1]

As God settled on the mountaintop, thunder crashed, lighting flashed and rain poured so hard a river began to flow from the mountain. In addition to the thunderstorm, the arrival of God and his entourage created something akin to an earthquake. God had arrived to put his law into effect through the ten thousands of angels he brought with him.[2] In addition to the thunder, lighting, downpour, a river suddenly rising and the earth quaking and shaking,

 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently,… Exodus 19:18

At this awesome sight everyone in the camp trembled with fear including Moses.[3] The Hebrew word for tremble[4] means to shudder with terror. The Greek word[5] in the book of Hebrews that described Moses reaction to this sight means to be frightened out of ones wits. I’ve been in severe storms that made me anxious, but I’ve never shaken with fear and couldn’t think straight.

Israel was terrified because it was raining so hard a river flowed from the mountain and at the same time the mountain was on fire with smoke rising like it is pouring from a furnace. Why didn’t the rain put out the fire? I will come back and answer that question. Let’s finish painting this picture first.

God had already told Moses when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast the people may approach the mountain. When the trumpet blasted

  …Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God and they stood at the foot of the mountain… … and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Exodus 19:17,19

As the trumpet blast grew in intensity, Moses spoke and the people heard God command Moses to come to the top of the mountain. If there was ever a doubt in any mind that Moses acted on God’s behalf, all reason to doubt melted away as Moses ascended the mountain. Moses approached the fire that could not be quenched and had an amusing conversation with God.

 … the Lord said to him, Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Exodus 19:21

 Force their way through “to see the Lord! The people at the foot of the mountain are frightened out of their wits, probably wondering what they got themselves into, perhaps even wishing God had never showed up. God is concerned someone will try to force their way up the mountain and get a peek at him! I can’t help but wonder if this was a little godly humor. Do you really think God did not know how scared they were? Or did God call Moses up and immediately send him back down as living proof his fire will not kill you.

Moses really had lost his wits. He told God they had set up a boundary and it wouldn’t be necessary to warn the people. If you have ever addressed God like he does not know what is going on take comfort! You are not the first.

 The Lord replied, Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them. Exodus 19:24

God instructed Moses to go own to the camp and return with Aaron. When he returns with Aaron it will be Moses fourth trip and Aaron’s first.

Moses returned to the bottom of the mountain to obey God’s instructions. Before he returned with Aaron, God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel and

 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance…Exodus 20:18

The people were more than happy to abide by God’s instructions. In fact they could not get away from the mountain far enough and fast enough. The King James says they removed and stood afar off.  The Hebrew word for afar off can refer to both place and time. When the people saw the effect of God’s presence and heard his voice, they stood afar off in place and time. The Hebrew word for removed is nuwa` (noo’-ah) and it means to waver. Wavering kept Israel from drawing near to God, so what made the people waver? If you only read the Exodus account, you will never know.

The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) Deuteronomy 5:4-5

The people were afraid of the fire because this fire could not be quenched. This was no ordinary fire. It was fire that cannot be controlled.

  When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me.  And you said, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him.  But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” Deuteronomy 5:23-27

Did you hear Israel wavering between two opinions? They said now we know “a man can live even if God speaks with him out of the fire.”  In the next breath they said, “we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord any longer.” Then they told Moses to talk to God and tell us whatever he tells you. Wasn’t Moses a mortal man like they were? Moses can hear God’s voice speak to him out of the fire without dying but if Israel hears God’s voice they will die. They wavered. Make up your mind about God.

They can’t make up their mind because they don’t know God. God is not willing that anyone should perish. He was trying to love them and prove his presence won’t kill them, but all they can see is death because their minds are carnal. Why were they afraid God would kill them but not kill Moses?

 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 KJV

They were afraid God would kill them, because they have no wisdom and their carnal minds made them unstable. They had no wisdom, because they had no faith. They had no faith, because they can’t make up their mind about God. They wavered between two opinions. They can’t make up their mind if God is for them or against them. God has not raised a hand to harm any of his people…yet.

Now let’s answer the question I left unanswered. Why didn’t the rain put out the fire? What was this great fire that can’t be controlled by water Israel feared would kill them.

 Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. … Song of Solomon 8:6-7

The people are wavering, double minded, unstable worshippers, because they are afraid to be loved! Their fear of death was not completely unfounded. Israel would have died in the fire – died to an old way of living and thinking about God that they might live a new life in Christ.

There are Christians who can’t find freedom from sin because they are afraid to see who they really are and let God prove he still loves and accepts them. Shutting your eyes to the truth doesn’t have anyone fooled but you.

The river flowing from the mountain is God’s judgment against us that cleanses our dirty robes. The rain cannot put out the fire because God’s judgments against us will never quench his love for us.

The meeting with God so unnerved Israel that Moses tried to comfort them.

 Moses said to the people, Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning. Exodus 20:20

 Is this the truth or was this Moses opinion? It is true that Moses made this statement to Israel, but you must carefully consider who is talking. Consider what God has to say on the same subject before accepting something as fact about God.

Terror in the wilderness never kept Israel from sinning. Before the ink had time to dry on Moses copy of the covenant, Aaron led the people into a sin that broke the covenant. God was not trying to create an atmosphere of shock and awe so they would stop sinning. Israel proved that terror in the wilderness will not keep you from sin and its consequences.

Let’s compare Moses’ explanation with God’s.

 The Lord said to Moses, I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. Exodus 19:9

 God’s dealings with Moses are a shadow of better things to come. Everything God did in the Old Testament prepared the way for the fulfillment of the oath he swore to Abraham. God promised Abraham he would make his family into a great nation. The promise couldn’t be fulfilled in Abraham’s lifetime because a nation needs law. God raised Moses up as a servant to us teach his law. Then God spoke to Moses from the earth, so future generations would know that the man God speaks to can be trusted. If Israel had remembered their history, when God spoke to Jesus from heaven, they would have known Jesus could be trusted.

The law God gave to Moses cannot save us from sin. Israel broke the law and the curse came upon their nation. Moses taught them a law that produced death. Jesus teaches us how the same law gives life. Moses came first because you need to understand law before you will comprehend the depth of God’s love.

 The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good.  Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! Deuteronomy 5:28-29

Israel’s desire to trust the man God speaks to pleased God.  Then God revealed his heart for all to see. He wished Israel would fear him and keep all his commands that it would go well with them and their children forever. Israel’s history proves that things have never gone well for them. If we could obey God’s every command, we would not need Jesus, but we do. Being blessed always and forever is impossible without Jesus.

 FOURTH TRIP TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP

June 5, 1462BC

 The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.     Exodus 20:21

 In the presence of Aaron, who would become the nations first High Priest, God gave Moses the laws that govern the way priests should live. God also made it very clear that a priest should not make graven images. The last thing God said to Moses was,

 … “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.” Exodus 24:1-2

God sent Moses and Aaron back down the mountain with instructions for Moses and Aaron to return with Aaron’s two eldest sons and seventy of the elders of Israel. Joshua would also be in this company. They were invited to have dinner with God. The last step to confirm they accept the covenant of law.

Before Moses and Aaron led the elders up the mountain, they held a business meeting.

 When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” Exodus 24:3

 Israel did not dictate terms to God. God dictated the terms. Once again, the elders must decide. Do they want what God wants? God was very methodical in his dealings with Israel. First God offered to make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. They accepted God’s offer and promised to do everything God said.[6] This time God gave them the laws a priest must live by. For the second time the elders said, Yes, “everything the Lord has said we will do.”[7]

After every one agreed to accept God’s offer,

 Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Exodus 24:4

After the business meeting concluded, Moses wrote down everything “ the Lord had said,” so they could remember what they agreed to do. Then Moses set his alarm clock to rise early and went to bed.

 FIFTH TRIP TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP

June 6, 1462 BC

Early the next morning, Moses built an altar at the foot of the mountain. In the presence of Aaron, God had instructed Moses to build an altar of earth to “honor my name” and God would meet anyone who comes to the altar and bless them.  When Moses was gone the people were not alone. They had access to God at the altar Moses built. Sacrifices were made on the altar sealing the covenant with the blood of an animal. Moses sprinkled half the blood on the altar,

 Then he took the Book of the Covenant (the book he was up late into the night writing) and read it to the people. They responded, We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey. Exodus 24:7

 This was the third time in less than a week the elders agreed to do everything the Lord had said. The third time in less than a week that they said, “We will obey”!

 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.  Exodus 24:8

It is done or in Jesus words “it is finished!” The people had a legal covenant sealed with blood. They not only had a covenant. They fully understand it because God revealed his desire one step at a time. They know what God wants. They have a copy of God’s will in writing. The elders said three times that the nation would abide by everything in the covenant. Now that they have a covenant with God there is one final step to be made. The leaders of Israel would enter God’s presence and dine.

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank. Exodus 24:9-11

 This is great, wonderful, but only shadows of better things. There was a problem with this covenant.

… Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. Exodus 24:2

 The covenant of law only permitted Moses to come near and in the future only the High Priest could enter God’s presence once a year. Yes, under a covenant of law they saw God. They even ate and drank in his presence, but they could not come near.

Jesus came so God could change the priesthood and in so doing change the law. The new covenant is one of grace by which whosoever will can come near.[8] For we did not stand at the foot of the mountain that could not be touched, that burned with fire in the midst of a storm, to hear the sound of a trumpet and words that we begged to hear no more. We have come to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant and the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things. [9]

After Aaron, his sons and the elders ate and drank in God’s presence, he said to Moses,

 …Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instructions. Exodus 24:12

While Moses was up late writing down everything God said, God was up late writing down everything he said in stone!

 The LORD gave me [Moses] two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the LORD proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. Deuternomy 9:10

God’s law requires every matter to be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.[10]  The copy Moses wrote is one witness. God’s copy written in stone is the second witness. But the old is a shadow of better things to come. Under the New Testament we move from the carnal to the spiritual. From things we can see, writing on a stone, to the unseen writing on human hearts. Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts…6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant– not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, 6

The stone God wrote upon with his finger was a dead witness that did not change the hearts of the people in the wilderness or the hearts of their children. Under the new covenant God writes on our hearts making us living epistles of commendation[11] to God’s power for all who read them because those who knew what we were cannot deny the transforming power of God’s love they see in us now.

Before we continue let’s pause to consider something important. Israel just spent three days cleaning up, but when God arrived all their human effort to be clean availed nothing because they stood at the foot of the mountain muddy. Jesus also described what happened when God arrived at Sinai.  

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

 God is the storm that washes away a house built on sand. The devil cannot wash away the truth and gains nothing by exposing a lie. God’s presence washes away the lies you have built your life on because the truth reveals the truth. If God’s presence causes your life to fall apart like Lot’s did when God visited him don’t get mad be glad. Now you know that you built your house on a lie and now you can rebuild on the truth. Unfortunately for some, like Jacob, a lifetime of labor gets washed away in one day. When you have worked so hard for so many years and never stopped worshipping God its hard to understand how you have done anything wrong disaster to come upon you. If you are not careful you will call the storm of God’s presence the devil.


[1] Deuteronomy 33:2 , Jude 14-16

[2] Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19, Jude vs14-15

[3] Exodus 19:16, Hebrews 12:21

[4] Hebrew #2729 charad

[5] Greek #1630 ekphobos

[6] Exodus 19:8

[7] Exodus 24:3

[8] Hebrews 7:19, 10:22; Ephesians 2:13-15; James 4:8

[9] Hebrews 12:18-24

[10] Deuteronomy 19:15, John 8:17, 2 Corinthians 13:1

[11] 2 Corinthians 3:1-3

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PART-TIME MISSIONARIES

My husband and I were invited to be on a mission’s team to the Caribbean. I really wanted to go, so did my husband. The team planned to paint an orphanage, build playground equipment and minister to the children. My husband has worked with children for more than 30 years. This was right up his alley.

Unfortunately, for both of us to go, we needed $4,000. We didn’t have time to save that much money. One of us could have gone. The discussion about which one ended with an unusual perspective about missions trips.

I wanted to go so I could write about the trip. Rod wanted to paint and minister to the children. His intent was nobler than mine. I encouraged him to go. He didn’t want to go without me. Neither one of us was happy that only one of us could go.

As I pondered our dilemma something occurred to me. If we had the money to spare, wouldn’t it benefit the orphanage more if we simply stayed home and gave them the money? Why spend $4,000 to fly to the Caribbean and paint a building. With that kind of money, the orphanage could hire a local laborer to paint. They would have money left over for other needs and someone would have a paying job.

Twenty people went on the mission trip without us, which means $40,000 was spent on travel to accomplish a few thousand dollars worth of work. Where is the wisdom in that? The orphanage spends $1,000 a month on food. If the part-time missionaries had stayed home and sent the money instead, the children would have food for years. Instead, they have a painted building and a playground.

If I’m starting to sound cynical, forgive me. Maybe I came to this conclusion to feel better about not going. But when you calculate the numbers it is what it is. I realize I’ve cast a bad light on people striving to do a good work even though that is not my intent. Several of the people who went on the trip are friends, and I do not think ill of them for going. I’ll never diminish their effort to serve God by telling them what I have just pointed out to you. If we had the money, my husband and I would have spent a week in the Caribbean with them.

My friends returned from the mission trip transformed. They choked back tears and could barely talk as they described the poverty they witnessed. Their zeal to help suffering humanity had flamed into a bonfire. All of them are determined to return next year and do more for the orphans. I applaud them. But all things considered, I think church missions trips help the part-time missionaries much more than the people they seek to assist.

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FIRST AND LAST

In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt – on the very day – they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Exodus 19:1-2

 Moses led the flock of Jethro, his father in law, to the far side of the desert and came upon an unusual sight that changed the course of his life. In obedience to God’s command, he went to Egypt and returned tending God’s flock. The Reese Chronological Bible gives the date Moses received his call as 1463B.C. and the date he returned as June 2, 1462 B.C. Nearly a year of remarkable, miraculous events transpired since Moses last stood in front of Mount Sinai, also called Horeb the mountain of God.

He can’t help but remember how he objected to fulfilling the calling God placed on his life. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt,” he declared! He had already tried to deliver Israel and they rejected him. God assured Moses not to worry about who Moses is because, “I (God) will be with you and this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt you will worship God on this mountain”.[1]

With the words “worship God” echoing in his ears Moses embarked on the first of seven trips into the presence of God.

FIRST TRIP TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP

June 1, 1461BC

 3 … Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19:3-4

God said to Israel, “I carried you on eagle’s wings.” Before Moses died he reminded the told the people that he lead out of Egypt,

 32Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of?…… 33 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? Deuteronomy 4:32-34

From the day God created man on the earth until Moses day nothing like this had ever happened in all of the earth’s history. For there is no god men aspire to worship that has rescued his people out of one nation to make them a nation of their own like the God of Abraham did. This was the first time a God had brought his people to himself on eagle’s wings but it won’t be the last!

14 “However, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when men will no longer say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 15 but they will say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers (KJV says their fathers)Jeremiah 16:14-15

A day is coming when men will no longer talk about how God brought his people out of the land of Egypt. One day, we will declare how God brought his people from the land of the north and from all lands where God has driven them. In fact, some would say that this has already been fulfilled because many of the flesh seed of Abraham have returned to settle in the Promised Land, but I can’t agree that this promise has been fulfilled for one reason – Abraham is my father to.

We must erase the lines of time and space to understand God’s thoughts. Neither time nor space limit God. When Lucifer said, “I will ascend to the north and be like the most High” was he talking about Russia or heaven? Just as God gathered the flesh seed of Jacob out of the land of Egypt and brought them to himself, and just as God gathered the flesh seed of Abraham in 1948 and established them on the land he promised to their forefathers, a day will come when the God gathers the spiritual seed of Abraham that are scattered though out heaven and earth that he might plant them in the land he gave our father Abraham. If Jesus is our Lord, Abraham is our father too.

16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring— not only to those who are of the law (the flesh seed of Jacob that entered into a covenant of law at Sinai) but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham (the spiritual seed waiting for the fulfillment of the promises made through a covenant of grace). He [Abraham] is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He [Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he[Abraham] believed– the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Romans 4:16-17

If the promises God made to Abraham belong exclusively to the descendants of Abraham through one of his sons, Jacob, whose children entered into a covenant of law at the foot of Mt. Sinai Abraham himself is excluded from the promises. Abraham entered into a covenant of grace. He wasn’t present with Jacob’s children entered into a covenant of law with God. In addition to that, the law only gave the nation the land to the Jordan River[2]; grace gave them the land to Euphrates River[3]. Both rivers exist today and none of Abraham’s seed including Jesus, the seed the promises were made to, possessed all of the land that God promised to Abraham and his one seed within their life time.[4]

Jesus death paid the price for whosoever will to be a citizen in God’s kingdom. After Jesus was resurrected, he went fishing, and that is why a time will come that we no longer talk about the day God brought his people out of Egypt.  He did not die for the seed of Jacob alone. He does not live for the seed of Jacob alone. Jesus is Lord of ALL!

 “But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will catch them”Jeremiah 16:16

Creating a way for everyone to have equal rights in God’s kingdom was hard work. Jesus was entitled to a fishing trip with friends. During his ministry, Jesus invited his disciples to, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” God has cast his net, but he will not pull it in until it’s full. When the net is full, the catch sorted, and the refuse discarded, Jesus is going hunting with friends.

…After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. Jeremiah 16:16

 “After that,” said Jeremiah. After what? After the fishing trip is over God will send the hunters to hunt down those who received not the love of the truth that they might be saved[5] and pay them double for their sins. On the isle of Patmos, the Apostle John saw kings, princes, generals, the rich, the mighty, all slaves and free men hiding in caves and among the rocks of the mountains trying to escape the wrath of a Lamb![6] This lamb is angry and Jeremiah tells us why.

17My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. 18 I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.” Jeremiah 16:17-18

 The lamb is angry that Jerusalem preferred to worship the world’s idols instead of a true God. The children of Jacob never stopped worshipping. They stopped worshipping the Lord who delivered them from their misery to embrace Gods’ who did not love them. When they failed to love and obey God, salvation came to the Gentiles to provoke the children of Jacob to jealousy.

 19 O LORD, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations (the Gentiles) will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. 20 Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!” 21″Therefore I will teach them– this time I will (KJV says I will this once) teach them my power and might. (His power and might is his ability to love and forgive the lowest and cruelest of sins, but Jesus will never be crucified again.) Then they will know that my name is the LORD. Jeremiah 16:19-21

 Did you notice the Gentiles are worshipping to, but not worshipping the God of Abraham just like the flesh seed of Jacob did? The Gentiles acknowledged that their fathers taught them to worship what is false and worthless, just like the prophets, priests and kings of Israel taught God’s people to worship what is false and worthless.

Being religious has never been a problem for the human race. We were created to worship and most worship something or someone. It is what or rather who you are willing to worship that determines your ultimate fate for eternity. Gentiles need to be aware that God has never abandoned the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are wild olive branches being grafted, contrary to nature, into the good olive tree[7] because it is upon the nation of Israel that the blessing of the law will come through our Lord Jesus.

Heaven and earth cannot pass away until every jot and tittle of the covenant of law that was made with the good olive tree, Israel, at Mt. Sinai is fulfilled. Heaven and earth will not pass away until the nation that has known nothing but the curse of the law receives the fulfillment of every jot and tittle of the blessing that is in the law as well.

Is it right that a nation taste the fulfillment of every jot and tittle of the curse but not the blessing? The blessing of the law will not come upon the nation God founded at Sinai until the sinless son, Jesus, returns to receive everything God promised Abraham in a covenant of grace, which includes all the land to the Euphrates River that Jesus did not receive in his lifetime on earth. God is giving the Gentiles one opportunity to turn away from worshipping false Gods during the day of Israel’s affliction that we might be included in the fulfillment of the laws blessings.

God has already proved to all creation that the religions and idols men establish to worship are not greater than he is. When Jacob’s children turned away from the God of Abraham to worship idols, God razed his nation to the ground, but he never pulled up the root. If the gods that men conceive in their imaginations are greater than the God of Abraham, why didn’t their idols save their worshippers from Abraham’s God?

The people who forsake the truth to worship a lie create the misery everyone must endure while we wait for God to pull up the tares growing among us! Be thankful Jesus is long in returning. When he comes back his grace will be at an end and it will be time for God’s vengeance to fall upon the enemies of the sinner. The enemies of the sinner are people who lead others in worship but refuse to obey God. When Jesus returns he won’t be a lamb religious men slaughter but a lamb they fear.

Even though Jerusalem failed when they taught idol worship thereby condoning idol worship in other nations, God did not fail. Their disobedience revealed that no God is greater than the God of Abraham. Jerusalem can take comfort when God pays her double for the sin of turning to other gods. Isaiah tells us why,

1 Comfort, comfort my people, (Even though they did not worship him, God never stopped calling them “my people”) says your God.  2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed that her sin has been paid for that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:1-2

Jerusalem can take comfort because the Lord is coming and his glory will be revealed.

 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

 The gospels confirm that this scripture is a reference to John the Baptist[8].  John knew that he would fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy by introducing the one who would pay for the sin of Jerusalem. Their sin was worshipping a lie and it is the same sin the Gentiles committed. The same Gentiles speaking in Jeremiah 16:19, who said our father’s gods were false and worthless.

Isaiah throws a little more light on John’s message who would not only identified the Messiah but also preach that all men are like grass; all will fail but the word of God stands forever. Then Isaiah said John would announce to the towns of Judah “Here is your God.” The gospels document that is exactly what John did! There is a lot to say in this passage about God’s wisdom and how foolish it is to worship something a man can fashion with his own hands. Then we come to something interesting and relevant to this discussion.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;…Isaiah 40:27-30

Isaiah concluded by telling Israel not to complain. God had not forgotten them. He will not grow tired or weary until everyone who repents of worshipping false gods and places their hope in the Lord soars on eagle’s wings again. Yes, Moses was right. It had never happened before but it will happen again and that is where the danger lies for the first people who soared on eagle’s wings into God’s presence and entered into a covenant of law.

God’s ways have an uncanny way of exposing the evil in us. Peter listened to Jesus challenge a rich man, who had obeyed the law all his life, to give up everything and follow him (Jesus) that he might have treasure in heaven. When the rich man left unwilling to rise to the challenged a discussion of how hard it is to be saved ensued and ended with Jesus saying it’s impossible for men but not God. This sparked Peter’s curiosity or perhaps insecurity and he tried to nail Jesus down to a specific agreement for the commitment they made to him.

 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? Matthew 19:27, KJV

Jesus informed Peter their compensation would be the right to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he assured everyone who had forsaken something for his sake that they would receive a hundredfold return in this life and eternal life in the next. [9]

The parable that followed this discussion is a warning about Peter’s attitude. We don’t have to secure our future with an agreement. God will be more than generous if we trust him to do what is right. People who love God don’t need a prearranged agreement to guarantee they will be treated right.  Jesus said:

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. Matthew 20:1, KJV

The householder (NIV landowner) who went out early in the morning to hire laborers is God. The Greek word for laborers is also used figuratively to mean a teacher and is applied to both good and evil teachers. Jesus told us to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest and that is what this parable is about.[10] The Lord has gone forth from the beginning of time to hire teachers to work in his vineyard until we come to the knowledge of the truth and both Jew and Gentiles stop worshipping less than God.[11]

 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Matthew 20:2, KJV

 The penny is a Roman denarius and considered a full days wage for the laborers of Jesus day. The most important thing in this verse is not the penny but that an agreement was made before the labourers were sent. Note that the Lord agreed with the labourers, not the labourers agreed with the Lord. The labourers were asking for something specific before they would work. According to Jewish law if a laborer was hired without a prior agreement the employer was only bound to pay the lowest wage or at best the average between the lowest and highest.[12] The laborers/teachers didn’t trust the Lord that hired them so they guaranteed their pay before they went.

The rest of the day the Lord went out about every three hours to send more laborers/teachers into the field but they are different from the first because they accepted that the Lord would give them what is right. Even when there was one hour left to work the Lord sent laborers into his vineyard to work for what is right. At the end of the day the Lord could have avoided a controversy if he had paid the first group he sent into the vineyard first, because they would have received their pay and left. Instead the Lord gave specific instructions to “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”[13] He paid the last first because the first have a spiritual problem. When the first saw that the last were made equal to them in pay, or when the first saw mercy in action, or when the first saw God being good, they murmured. The first are evil because they assumed that everything must be measured by their standard of what is right.

But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? Matthew 20:13-15, KJV

Does God’s goodness make you angry? His wisdom bites like a serpent because he is wiser than a serpent and harmless as a dove. The problem was not with the Lord who is good but with self-centered self-righteous laborers / teachers who think everything God does must be governed according to their standards of right and wrong. Hence when God is good they become angry. If they are not careful, their anger with God will turn into hate for their fellow laborers who don’t work as hard as they do but still receive good things from God. If the first had believed God is good they never would have held him to a specific agreement. They would have trusted him. They were true sons of Jacob who was the first to negotiate a deal with God.

If you are jealous that God dealt with the flesh seed of Abraham first, don’t be. They are in a dangerous place. Evil will not dwell in God’s presence when the day comes that all those who hope in Jesus hear the words Moses heard on his first trip up the mountain, “I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself.” This time God will be speaking to the spiritual seed of Abraham, which includes anyone from any nation that has put their trust in him and believe he will do what is right and be good to them when payday comes.

God’s purposes were set before he created the world and he has never changed. He is a king who rules over kings, a Lord who governs Lord’s and his nation will rule the nations. When Jesus’ fishing trip is over we will be gathered on the wings of God[14] to soar like an eagle into his presence and God will do what he told Moses he would do for those who obey him.

 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, We will do everything the Lord has said. So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord. Exodus 19-5-8

 Moses went down the mountain and summoned the elders of the people because even though God will deal with us and bless us individually, when it comes to us as a group, like a church or nation, God deals with us through our leaders. Moses sat down with the elders and presented to them God’s offer. The elders had the option to accept or reject the offer. Trying to negotiate with God is the height of foolishness. A simple yes or no will do, accept what he offers or reject it because anything you try to add or change tends to bring evil into our lives. The elders choose to accept God’s offer. The first made an agreement with God to obey him fully and live by his covenant.

The elders made decisions that affected not only them but also everyone who is under their authority not only in their day but in the future for they have made a deal with someone eternal and their death will not void that covenant. The covenant of law will remain in force as long as God is alive, and that’s a long time, longer than anyone dwelling on the earth will live.[15]

The elders want to be God’s treasured possession, a kingdom of priest and a holy nation and will work to obtain it by keeping a covenant. But there is something curious about God’s offer. Why did God promise to make them priest when they were already priest of God among the people? In fact, there were priests of God in Abraham’s day for he gave tithe to Melchizedek king of Salem and priest of God Most High[16]. What is this deal God offered to Israel when there was an established priesthood before God brought them to the mountain and offered to make them priest. Indeed under the covenant of law the only people allowed to be priest were the Levites and the only reason it fell exclusively to one tribe is because they came when God called. All of the seed of Jacob never became a nation of priests, one family did.

It is and always has been God’s intent to make ALL of his people priest even the women. There are a lot of religious men that are in for a shock when Jesus returns because he doesn’t have a problem with women priest. God’s intent for law and grace has yet to be fulfilled because there has never been a nation of priest on the earth. In Jesus we are a royal priesthood but we are priest living as foreigners and strangers under governments that hate our God.[17] In fact I have been a foreigner and stranger in churches that worship God but don’t understand his heart. God’s intent will be fulfilled when the angry lamb that everybody fears returns to fulfill the law.

After the business meeting with the elders Moses went to bed. Got up early the next morning and went back up the mountain to tell God what the elders said.

SECOND TRIP TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP

June 3, 1462

The Lord said to Moses, I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you. Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said. Exodus 19:9

Most of the Bible versions say that the people will hear me speaking with you and believe you. To survive in the wilderness you need a reason to trust the man that is leading. You need to know that he hears from God because if he does not hear from God there will be nothing to believe but the lie he will teach. After God told Moses I will give the people a reason to believe that you speak for me, Moses told the Lord what the people said. But God already knew what the people said because he was implementing his plan to create a holy nation of priest. The first, the children of Jacob, made an agreement with God and they will receive everything they agreed to but so will the last. The first teach all creation that it is better to trust God for what is right than it is to hold him to the letter of the law. The last teach all creation that those who love and trust God will be treated equal to the first.


[1] Exodus 3:12

[2] Numbers 34:10-12

[3] Genesis 15:18

[4] Genesis 13:15 (For a more detailed explanation of the covenant God made with Abraham see A Reason to Believe by Teena Myers.)

[5] 2 Thessalonians

[6] Revelation 6:15-17

[7] Romans 11

[8] Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 3:1-6; John 1:19-23

[9] Mark 10:30

[10] Matthew 9:37-38

[11] Ephesians 4:11-13

[12] The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim Book 5 Chapter 5

[13] Matthew 20:8 NIV

[14] Psalm 17:8, 36:7, 57:1, 91:4

[15] Hebrews 7:12

[16] Hebrews chapter 7:1-4

[17] 1 Peter 2:9-11 see also Revelation 1:5-6 and 5:9-10

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A SHADOW OF LOVE

 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?”[1] Exodus 17:1-7

 Without question, the Israelites journey to worship God had been difficult. Without argument, the Lord led them into difficult circumstances. Their harsh judgments about their God inhibited their spiritual growth. Every time Israel opened their mouth, they darkened their understanding making it difficult for seeds of truth to take root and blossom into an accurate image of God. God was teaching them the weightier matters of law. He taught them faithfulness at Marah, mercy at the Desert of Sin, and now he will teach them what it means to love.

One week and two days after God taught them mercy God’s people set up camp at Rephidim. Early that morning they collected manna, went to the measuring tent, and returned home with a quart for each person who lived in their tent. Mom lit a fire to make some pancakes but he water jar was empty. She hollered for Daddy to go out to the wagon and get another jug. Daddy found more empty jugs. Mom said, “Go next door and borrow a cup honey.” The kids are hungry.” Daddy went next door, but they didn’t have water either. Soon crowds were gathering in the street talking about the water shortage. The children were crying and there was no water at Rephidim. They have a problem. How will they solve it?

KNOWING

With the knowledge that God had delivered them and mercy is the only way to survive, an angry mob gathered around the Pastor’s tent. They accused Moses of delivering them from Egypt, so he could kill them and then demanded Moses to produce enough water for a million people to drink. What is wrong with this picture?

A people that have been dealt with compassionately have no compassion. How could Moses give a million people water to drink unless Moses is a God? Why do we expect, even demand, mortal men to do what only a God can do? Why do we run to men that cannot solve their own problems and demand them to solve ours?

To Israel’s demand for water Moses replied, “Why are you quarreling with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” The KJV says, “why do you tempt the Lord?” The devil’s temptations did not destroy Israel in the wilderness. The way the tempted God destroyed them.

God’s dealings with Israel will be a slightly different situation than at the Desert of Sin for one reason. THEY KNOW! He that “knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin.”[2] God taught them at the Desert of Sin who their Lord is and that it was the Lord who delivered them, not Moses. He also taught them that mercy is God’s way and the only way to live because man does not live by bread/mercy alone. Israel knows it is God’s desire for everyone to have what they need, so why are they still quarreling with Moses? Why didn’t they just ask God for some water?

The time had come for another lesson, but this one will be severe. Paul admonished the Romans to consider both the goodness and severity of God. The Living Bible says it this way,

 Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is very hard on those who disobey, but very good to you if you continue to love and trust him. But if you don’t you too will be cut off. Romans 11:22, Living Bible

 PERSPECTIVE

God’s dealings with Israel grew increasingly severe until he cut this generation off. God looks like the bad guy until you understand whom he was dealing with. The truth is these delivered, baptized people enjoying mercy that were eating and drinking spiritual food from the rock that followed them were evil.

God leads us to difficult places because we don’t know who we are. When we are in a place of need it exposes our character. Israel would have fared much better at Rephidim if they had learned what the Apostle Paul learned in his lifetime.

  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

The KJV reads “through Christ who strengthens me” but Christ is a 9999 number. Christ might be in italics in the version of the Bible you read because it is not in the original text. The translators added the word “Christ” for clarity. In the Interlinear Bible that shows the original Greek words and (Nestle) numbers Paul wrote,

Panta               ischuoo            en                    too                   enduamounti

All things        I can do           through            which              strengthens me

I thought that was rather odd until I looked up the Greek word “en” that the NIV translated “through”.  Strongs Concordance defines “en” as a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state). Paul literally said, I can do all things because there is a “fixed position in place and time” that strengthens me! What was Paul talking about?

We need to understand the Greek word “en” a little better. From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words we find “en” is a form of the word enorkizo which means to put under (or bind by) an oath. The oath puts everything into perspective. I can do all things or I can be content in any and every situation because there is a fixed position in place and time that God bound himself with an oath.

God delivered us for the same reason he delivered Israel when they were miserable. He remembered the oath he swore after he stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. If you don’t understand what transpired between God and Abraham, you will never understand the faith that moves God because everything in all creation is being brought into line with the oath God swore when Abraham obeyed him.

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Hebrews 6:16

 If the oath puts an end to all argument, why were the children of Israel arguing with Moses? They are still arguing because they are carnally minded. They don’t have their mind set on the same thing God who is Spirit does – fulfilling the covenant he made with Abraham.

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18   God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. (Not discouraged but encouraged) 19 We have this hope (that encourages us or strengthens us) as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure… Hebrews 6:17-19

Christians often quote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to prove God will give them the strength to accomplish any goal they set. People can reach their goals without Christ strengthening them. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me means no matter what the circumstances of my life are, whether I am living in want or living in plenty, I will survive to receive the promise God confirmed with an oath. I will even survive death if I die before the promise is fulfilled.

The Apostle who wrote that he had learned to be content whatever the circumstance also wrote,

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

I know that I will survive when I am hard pressed, crushed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down because there is a fixed position in time and place when God bound himself with an oath to keep the promises he made to Abraham and his seed. If I am in Christ, I am Abraham’s seed and an heir to God’s promises.[3] Therefore, I am encouraged that whatever my circumstance is today, I will not be crushed and I need not despair. God will never abandon me or let me be destroyed.

Israel argued and quarreled with Moses because they don’t remember the oath God bound himself with, or like Eve they counted God a liar because their desires deceived them. Their carnal minds created discontent. If they had been spiritually minded they would have been content in all circumstances like Paul. Instead, they want instant gratification. Water now or Moses dies.

DEVILS

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” Exodus 17:4

Israel’s grumbling turned into hate for a man who obeyed God so they could be delivered from their misery. The minds were blinded by a religion that had strayed far from God’s purposes. They thought they loved God because they were on their way to Sinai to worship him. A little lack proved that they did not love God.

 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21

The people who want to kill Moses are the same people who stood on the shore of the Red Sea and sang about their wonderful God,

  Exodus 15

The Lord is my strength and my song he has become my salvation

He is my God and I will praise him

 My father’s God and I will exalt him

Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power.

Your right hand, O Lord shattered the enemy

Who among the gods is like you O Lord?

Who is like you majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.

 In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.

You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance…

 LIARS! People who dress in their best and assemble to sing beautiful love songs to God don’t fool God. If they really believed God was going to plant them on the mountain of his inheritance, why did they cry were are going to die of thirst in the wilderness? If they really believed the Lord’s right hand is majestic in power, why were they demanding Moses hand to save them? Is Moses greater than the Lord who delivered them! Why did they sing such things to God if they really did not mean it? Could it be,

 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

If they love God, why did they discuss stoning Moses? Why didn’t they love Moses? How would stoning Moses give them water to quench their thirst?

Killing Moses would have cut them off from God because Moses is the only one among them that is not alienated from the covenants of God.[4] Therefore, Moses is the only one God was talking to. The rest of the people God delivered acted like the devil. God did not let Israel kill Moses as he allowed them to kill Jesus, because Moses blood could not save them from the sin of hating God and those he approves.

UNBELIEVERS

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. Exodus 17:5

 The Lord instructed Moses to take with him some of the elders because the Lord deals with people through their leadership. That is one reason it is so important that we pray our leaders will obey God. When our leaders obey God everyone is blessed and when they don’t everyone suffers. Israel received the water they don’t deserve because they have a faithful and obedient leader who God can honor.

God specifically told Moses to take the staff that was used to turn the Nile to blood in Egypt. God had used this staff to teach Pharaoh, the elders of Egypt and the elders of Israel two things. The staff represented a reason to believe when it turned into a serpent that swallowed up Pharaoh’s serpents. The staff also represented who their Lord is when Aaron struck the Nile[5] and the water turned to blood. God told Moses to take the elders to the rock with a reason to believe in his hand so they would remember who is Lord, for the things done in Pharaoh’s presence were performed in the presence of the elders of Israel first.[6]

 I (God) 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. Exodus 17:6

Moses struck the rock “in the sight of the elders of Israel.” Everyone did not see this miracle. The majority of the people in the wilderness don’t know what is going on most of the time. The majority followed a small minority of leaders. Everyone drank the water that flowed from the rock but everyone did not see Moses strike the rock and water come out. The elders did!

The only way to provide water for that many people was for a river to flow out of the rock. When the people suddenly saw a river spring up in the wilderness, the elders told them what happened. I wonder how many people walked to the source of the water and saw that it really was flowing from a rock. The elders of Israel were privileged to see the miracle first hand because they are the ones giving Moses a hard time and conspiring to stone him.

 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested (KJV tempted) the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7

The elders went to Moses tent and tempted God by demanding to know, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Israel found out just how much the Lord was among them because this miracle is not the end of this story. Our good God is good, but he can also be severe when his people act like devils.

YOUR WAYS

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Exodus 17:8

 A river flowed through the camp BUT even as Israel’s cup ran over with God’s blessing the enemy attacked. What happened? Can God make water flow from a rock, but not stop the Amalekites from attacking his people? He stopped the Egyptians from attacking them at the Red Sea, but sat idle while the devil bloody their heels. When we act like devils, we attract devils. The attack of Amalek on God’s people did not have to happen.

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1

Kings can do no more than the King of king’s permits them to do. God could have directed the heart of the King of the Amalekites to leave his people alone. Why did God give Israel a miracle to save their lives and then let the enemy attack them?

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

God has no reason to make our enemies live at peace with us when our ways fail to please him. Perhaps we should stop rebuking the devil and start considering our ways when an enemy makes our life miserable.  The way the church in the wilderness conducted business did not please God. Their worship was a lie. They don’t love their brother. They tempt God by demanding to know if he is among them or not.

The enemies attack was evidence their God was among them. He was present when they threaten Moses life and sent him into God’s arms afraid. He saw how they treated Moses without compassion by demanding him to do the impossible or die. Yes, the Lord was among them when they mocked and threatened to murder his messenger if they didn’t get what they wanted.

The nature of Amalek’s attack was similar to the elders attack upon Moses.

 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; 18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou waste faint and weary; and he feared not God. Deuteronomy 25:17-18 KJV

Amalek’s attack on the feeble is evidence he did not fear God. The Hebrew word for feeble is chattel (khaw-shal’) which means unsteady or weak. Jesus told us why God allowed Amalek attack the feeble, the unsteady, or the weak in Israel.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

God allowed the enemy to attach because he keeps the spirit of the law in force. What we do to others will be done to us. Are you wondering when Israel attacked the feeble? Bear in mind that feeble means unsteady and consider this.

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. Exodus 17:12

God permitted Amalek to attack the feeble, those who were not steady, because that was the elder’s way of doing business. The elders went to the tent of an 80-year-old man who lacked the strength to hold his hands steady long enough for them to win a war and demanded Moses to do what only a God can do or they were going to stone him. When they had no compassion and attacked the feeble, God had no legal reason to stop Amalek from attacking their feeble. He always acts according to his law and the sum of the law is to do to others what you WANT to be done to you. Now we know that the Lord was among them enforcing his law.

God will do mighty miracles to save our lives and then turn around and bring our own ways upon us because it is the only way to root the evil out of our hearts that we are blind to. What we do to others will sooner or later be done to us. In this case, it was sooner. They had not even left Rephidim before their own way came upon them.

Don’t take this principle of law to an extreme. Bad things happen to good people who have done no wrong. God did not send Amalek to do such a horrible deed. Israel’s behavior opened a door to evil men that the Lord had no reason to shut. God was appalled by Amalek’s actions and purposed to completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Now consider this carefully. Israel did the same thing Amalek did, so why didn’t God blot the memory of Israel?

The power of God’s integrity saved Israel, encouraged them, and strengthened them. The only thing that saved Israel when they attacked unsteady Moses was the oath God swore to Abraham and his seed. Our works of righteousness do not save us. God’s righteousness saves us. The Lord will swear to his own hurt and change not[7]. His integrity is unimpeachable. God swore an oath and his oath will be kept not because of who we are but because of who God is. God loves us because he is good. His great love for his people works all things for our good, even when we act like devils!

LOVE

Two groups of people committed the same sin but one of them did not have the protection of a covenant. One of them was separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise. One of them was without hope and without God in the world.[8] For their sin, they will be cut off from the earth forever. The ones who are under the covenant of Abraham, under the covenant of mercy, will be taught how to love.

9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” 10 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. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15  Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation. Exodus 17:9-16

 Moses told the people he would stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hands. We could say, Moses stood where all men could see him with a reason to believe in his hands. If it took two men, one on one side and one on the other to keep Moses hands in the air, he must have been holding his rod horizontality. If one man is sitting and two standing, from a distance it would have looked like three crosses on the top of the hill. If the sun was behind them, and I have a suspicion it was, it would have cast a shadow of three crosses down the hillside – a foreshadow of God’s love for people who behave badly. Jesus was crucified and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.[9]

The journey through the wilderness is difficult. Seeing who we really are is not easy, but God is able to turn our failures into victory. God used the weaknesses of Israel’s  leaders as an object lesson to teach everyone how to survive in a wilderness. Instead of stoning Moses, the Elders found a stone for him to rest on. When they stood by Moses side to hold up his hands, the nations at war saw a shadow of love.


[1] All Scripture is NIV unless otherwise noted.

[2] James 4:17

[3] Galatians 3:29

[4] Ephesians 2:12

[5] Exodus 7:19

[6] Exodus 3:18, Exodus 4:29-31

[7] Psalm 15

[8] Ephesians 2:12

[9] John 19:18

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APPLYING GOD’S TEACHING

He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. Deuteronomy 8:16

It has never gone well for Jacob’s children. They have been a people without a land to call their own most of their existence. After they rejected Jesus, Rome razed their second temple to the ground and the curse of the law came upon them. Jacobs’ descendants continue to struggle under the curse of the law today. The only way for Israel to be blessed is the same way the Gentiles are blessed, by receiving heaven’s manna. Only in Jesus will it go well for Israel and for Gentiles in the end.

At the Desert of Sin God wanted to do more than teach his people how he administers his law. Treating people with equality is the same as treating people mercifully. But mercy is a double edged sword which can save or destroy. Therefore, we cannot live by the bread that feeds our physically body alone. Seasons of mercy give opportunity to triumph over the laws judgment against us by leading us to repentance. If we don’t repent, mercy reveals our true character and justifies God when he removes us from among his people. The people God delivered from Egypt ate manna, but they still died. A generation enjoyed God’s mercy but never received the things that were promised because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.[1]

It is hard to love God and easy to forget him when we can’t see anything good in him. When we fail to remember what God has spoken and desires it is hard to understand God. When we do not understand him it is difficult to believe his words. That is one reason God commanded Moses to,

 … Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt. 33 So Moses said to Aaron, Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come. 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony that it might be kept. Exodus 16:32-34

We have come full circle back to remembering.[2] God did not want his people to forget what happened at the Desert of Sin, so he commanded a jar of manna be kept for future generations. We are a future generation. How can we apply what happened hundreds of years ago to our day?

PAUL’S WAY

We can apply the lesson learned at the Desert of Sin the say way Paul did. When Paul taught the churches how to give to the poor brothers among them, the events at the Desert of Sin were the foundation of his thought. Equality is the standard by which we should live and give because to practice equality is to practice mercy. Paul had witnessed mercy in action when the Jerusalem Christians were persecuted. Even though many in the newborn church suffered for their faith,

Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4:34-35

None of God’s people lacked because the early church practiced equality/mercy. Equality is based on need. Everyone does not get the same things, but everyone gets what he or she needs.

God’s ways are not our ways. Men build kingdoms on the sacrifice of others, but God doesn’t. The rulers of this world send the sons of others to fight for peace and freedom. God sent his own son to die so the citizens of his kingdom can enjoy peace and freedom. It is not God’s way to make us sacrifice so he can have what he wants, but and if God requires sacrifice, he will repay the one who sacrifices in this life and in the next.[3]

God sacrificed that he might build a nation that gives all of its citizen’s equality. If we sacrifice, we will lack. At the Desert of Sin God proved that he wanted everyone to have what they need. Those who gathered too little did not have too little and those who gathered too much did not have too much because when it was measured everyone had what God said they needed. One omer/quart! Those who hoarded the manna, awoke to a foul stench that revealed to everyone in the camp who trusts God and who doesn’t.

At the Desert of Sin God enforced equality to teach us how to live and give. Ideally, we will mature and live by God’s teaching of our own free will. No one demanded Ananias and Sapphira to sale their land and give the money to the church for distribution to those in need. When they did so for the sake of appearances, their insincerity cost them their life.[4]

SAME CARE

It is God’s will that the members of the body have the same care for one another.[5] God is righteous. He does not love the poor man more than the rich man. Nor does he love the weak man more than the strong man. Unfortunately, it is common in the church to love those with great gifts more than others but it is not righteous and creates an ocean of pain.

God defined righteousness in the law he gave to Moses.

 You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. Leviticus 19:15

You shall not be partial to the poor! That is hard to do when you have been to third world countries and seen the misery of people living in poverty we can’t imagine in America. Some ministers return to shame us for the things we possess when others have so little, but that kind of judgment is an injustice in judgment. If you are going to condemn me for having so much when others have so little are you not also condemning God? I’m living in poverty compared to God. Why don’t you have the same care for me that you have for others? Why do you want to tear me down and build others up at my expense? Your judgment is an injustice because you are being partial to the poor simply because they are poor.

 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9

We don’t have to sacrifice like Jesus did in his earthly ministry because we are not called to be who Jesus is, the lamb slain for the sins of the world, the High Priest of a law that gives life and the King of the New Jerusalem. Jesus paid for his position at God’s right hand. We are exalted to God’s right hand by his grace. We don’t have to pay the price Jesus paid because he is gracious. His strength created an excess for the weak and then he returned to heaven to sit at the right hand of his extremely wealthy Father. The same father who extended an invitation to adopt whosoever will as his child. Jesus is not poor any more. If we lack and suffer need it makes his sacrifice vain. He sacrificed so all of his people can have what they need. If the church would live by the teaching given at the Desert of Sin, God’s people would never lack. They did it at Jerusalem and no one lacked even under severe persecution.

GIVING TO ONE ANOTHER

In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 Paul applied the torah to our lives today. For clarity, let’s say it this way, Paul applied the things God taught Israel at the Desert of Sin to the way we should live and give today. As we examine these two chapters I want you to keep in mind that we are not talking about the church caring for the poor saints. The Gentiles had received from the Jews spiritual things. Therefore, it was righteous that the Jews received carnal things in compensation.[6] Paul taught us how to give to the citizens of God’s kingdom that lack because they are being persecuted for preaching the gospel. This has nothing to do with giving to poor people who hate our God. This is about giving to people who love God, because we have the same care one for another. This is about giving to people who worship the same God we do who are going through difficult times.

If we do more than a surface reading of these two chapters, and if we don’t have an agenda, and if we are looking for God’s heart, we will find that the churches of Achaia, where Corinth is located, promised to give a large gift to help the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem. When Paul wrote 2 Corinthians they had not kept their promise.

Paul was so impressed by the Corinthians zeal to help the poor that he boasted about the Corinthians willingness to give when he went to Macedonia. His bragging stirred up the Macedonians to do one better. Corinth was not going to out give them. The Macedonians gave above and beyond what they had to give. While Paul was preaching and raking in money for the poor, he received word that the Corinthians zeal for giving had faded. They had not even started collecting the gift they promised.

Paul addressed this situation delicately and kindly. First, by describing the good affect the Corinthians zeal for giving had on the Macedonians.

 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.  2 Corinthians 8:1-5

 If bragging about Corinth to the Macedonians provoked them to give of their own free will and count it a privilege, maybe bragging about the Macedonians to Corinth will renew their zeal. Listen Corinth, the Macedonian churches gave liberally even out of their poverty. They gave according to their ability and beyond their ability. Paul was reluctant to receive this gift from the Macedonians, but they implored him with much urgency to take the gift for the poor. Paul did not ask the Macedonians to give beyond their ability. The Macedonians gave beyond their ability because they wanted to.

Paul wrote to Corinth because he was concerned that some of the Macedonians would accompany him to Corinth and find the Corinthian’s were not as zealous about giving as he boasted they were.

 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we– not to say anything about you– would be ashamed of having been so confident.5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. 2 Corinthians 9:2-5

This is the problem with boasting about people instead of boasting about God. They will make a liar out of you. Paul did not want to show up in Corinth with some Macedonians in tow and shame the Corinthians into keeping their promise. That is why he sent some brothers in advance to make sure the gift was collected before he arrived. He wanted Corinth to give the gift they promised willingly not grudgingly out of embarrassment. Nor was he bragging about the Macedonians to shame the Corinthians into keeping their word. What the Macedonians did is OK, if that is what you want to do, but it is not God’s will for his people.

  I am not commanding you,… 2 Corinthians 8:8

 Neither God nor Paul commanded the Corinthians to give beyond their ability. Paul could not talk the Macedonians out of giving more than they had to give. If God did not command Paul to shame the Corinthians into keeping their word why, did Paul write this letter? Look at the next clause.

 … but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 2 Corinthians 8:8

LOVE

The reason we do something is just as important as what we do. As God’s people what ever we do should be done sincerely. Did love provoked the Corinthians’ desire to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem or was it all for show. The Macedonians did more than talk. Paul knew their love was sincere because he had their money in hand. They did not give according to the will of God but they did it sincerely. Corinth promised a generous gift but didn’t give it. Paul was concerned about their love more than their money.

The Corinthians did not have to promise a generous gift for the poor, anymore than Ananias and Sapphira had to sale property and give the money to the church, so why did they do it, if they really did not want to give it? It’s your love God is concerned with more than your money, because he doesn’t need our money. He needs us to love each other sincerely. It’s the only command Jesus left for us to keep.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

What good is our money and the corruptible things money can buy if we don’t love one another?

 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:3

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to finish what they started a year earlier because love is more than words and if you give but don’t love you gain nothing. Yes, God wants you to gain. The Corinthians zeal for giving had stirred up others to give or stirred up others to love. But Paul did not want to shame Corinth into giving to the poor because that would not profit them.

If you read closely and in context Paul was not telling Corinth to do what Macedonia did. Paul was teaching them how to give God’s way; with equality that no one would lack. If we teach what the Macedonians did as God’s will in giving we are teaching human ideas as God’s doctrine. When we walk in human ideas we worship God in vain. God did not command the Macedonians to give what they did not have. That was their idea, and if that is what they wanted to do it’s OK. We have done nothing wrong until we insist our way is God’s way and develop the arrogant attitude that we are better than others because we sacrificed and they didn’t. That is the problem with sacrifice; it makes us arrogant.

OK, than what is acceptable to God when we give to the poor saints among us? I’m glad you asked!

ACCEPTABLE GIFT

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:12

The gift is acceptable IF you are willing to give it and IF YOU HAVE IT TO GIVE. God does not expect you to give what you do not have. Listen carefully; the gift is acceptable according to what you have not according to what you do not have. If all you have is $10 dollars don’t promise to give a $1,000. Don’t get caught up in the flow of what everybody else is doing.

When we try to give what we don’t have, we will end up like the Corinthians. Our zeal for giving will fade. Shame and guilt will nag us because in our zeal without knowledge we have made a promise that has become a burden. Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He does not require us to give what we don’t have because that is a heavy burden.

But what about people who did not have it, yet they promised to give it and something miraculous happened to put the money in their hand. I’ve heard testimonies like that. It happens, but it does not happen to everyone. Some people make pledges they can never keep because they were manipulated instead of being moved by love. If the desire to give came from a sincere heart of love God is able to supply the things we need and the seed for us to plant because God has commanded us to love one another.

 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food…2 Corinthians 9:10

God will supply seed to people that will sow it instead of hoard it for a rainy day. If we are being motivated by love God is able to give us both, the bread we need and the seed to sow. If all we ever have is what we need, perhaps God knows we will not sow the seed. Why should he give us an abundance to sit in a warehouse collecting dust because we are afraid to give it to those in need? Jesus died so we could have more than we need that we might have seed to sow creating equality produced by love and not compulsion. Equality produced by men and women giving freely because we have the same care one for another not because we are shamed and manipulated into giving.

Reading 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 carefully reveal Paul making a clear distinction between what the Macedonians did and God’s will for his people. Paul sent two men to Corinth to prepare for his arrival and gave them some advice on how to fulfill what the Corinthians had already promised to do,

 10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.[7] 2 Corinthians 8:10-11

If the Corinthians love for the poor brethren in Jerusalem was sincere they will keep their promise to help. The best thing they could do is finish what they started a year ago but don’t do what the Macedonians did. Do it God’s way by giving according to your means or by giving from what you already have.

 12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality,… 2 Corinthians 8:12-14

When will there be equality? When our plenty supplies what another needs and when their plenty supplies what we need. Paul did not want the Corinthians to be burdened so the Jews could be relieved. That is what happened at Macedonia. It wasn’t Paul or God’s will for them to give away what they needed. It was the Macedonians will. They gave themselves to God and Paul according to the will of God because they loved, but they did not give themselves to the poor according to the will of God. God loved the Macedonians just as much as he loved the poor saints in Jerusalem and God will not tear one of us down so another can be built up because that wouldn’t be righteous.

Twice Paul referred to equality in giving. Twice Paul referred to giving out of your abundance or out of your plenty. God does not want others to be eased at our expense. Sowing and reaping proves what I say is true because Paul said fruitful seasons witness the truth about God. Nature itself teaches us that God supplies and multiplies the seed not the need.

Let’s examine God’s witness, a reliable witness, an apple. If I plant the meat of the apple will anything grow? NO, because God doesn’t want what you need. If all I ever did were eat the seeds of an apple would it keep my body alive? NO, my body does not need the seeds in the apple. If I take the seed that I do not need to keep this body alive and plant it in the ground what will happen? If all the conditions are right, enough sunlight and water etc., I will get more than another apple to eat. I will get an apple tree full of more apples then I can eat and enough seeds to plant a whole orchard of trees. If I work, I will eat. Now, not only can I eat, but I can also give my neighbors what they need and if the neighbor I gave an apple to will work they can have their own tree and start feeding their neighbors to.

  as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” 2 Corinthians 8:15

Where is that written but in Exodus chapter 16! Paul expressed God’s will for giving by pointing us to God’s actions at the Desert of Sin. Not the Macedonians actions!

God commanded a quart of manna be kept as a memorial for future generations that he might do us good in the latter end. If we would remember God’s ways and put them into practice, no one would lack and no one would be riddled with guilt for having what he needs. The jar Moses put the manna in for future generations to see justified having more than you need.

Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Hebrews 9:3-4

What kind of jar held the manna? A gold one! This is not a reference to the color of the jar. I looked up the Greek word for gold. The jar was made out of solid gold. God has so much while many have so little simply because we do not obey his command to remember his mercy, the mercy he taught us at the Desert of Sin. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Jesus told his disciples as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup REMEMBER ME! Remember MErcy for a very good reason! When you remember you will understand, when you understand you will believe the scriptures. When you believe the scriptures you will have the strength to obey them. When we obey the scriptures those who gather much will have nothing left over to spoil because willingly out of love they will give to those who gather little and everyone will have what they need. Then the world will look at us and be jealous to become one of us for they will see a people who have the same care one for another, living and loving like God does!


[1] 2 Thessalonians 2:9, KJV

[2] See Surviving the Wilderness Lesson #3 Starting Over

[3] Mark 10:29-30 / Luke 18:29-30

[4] Acts 5

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:25

[6] 1 Corinthians 9:1-11

[7] KJV says “out of that which ye have”

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GOD’S TEACHING

Religious teachings conceived in the minds of men tend to neglect the more important matters of law: justice, mercy, and faith. Jesus’ strongest rebuke against the Pharisees was their willingness to tithe on the smallest herb in their gardens, even as they neglected caring for widows. They would readily stone a woman guilty of adultery but forget to include the man. The Pharisees permitted aiding a suffering animal on the Sabbath day but allowed no aid for a man. When Jesus healed a person on the Sabbath, they condemned him. The teachings of the Pharisees added heavy burdens to the law that made life difficult.

James expanded on Jesus’ thoughts about the more important matters of law when he wrote:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

God lives by the same faith he expects his people to live by. He set the example of how to live by faith when he brought Israel into the wilderness. No matter how badly Israel behaved, he never left them naked and destitute of daily food. God’s mercy triumphed over Israel’s evil judgment that God is a mass murderer who brought them into the wilderness to kill them.

God brought Israel into the wilderness so they could worship him, but before they can worship, they must embrace the more important matters of law. When God heard Israel grumble about him, he “cut in” on them with his teaching, so they could know him and keep the festival of worship without malice and insincerity.

GOD’S PLAN

God is eternal, with no beginning and no end. He is not limited to the life span of one man or one generation to fulfill his purposes. From time to time God reveals a part of his nature. When all of the parts are assembled, we will see God clearly and no longer have reason to quarrel.

God’s people quarrel like children because we don’t have all the parts yet. We “know in part” and “see through a glass darkly.”[1] We are growing in the knowledge of God, and will continue to grow until we become mature. When we reach maturity, we will be united in thought, purpose and actions.

Religious leaders who lose sight that we are still growing in the knowledge of God, camp on one truth as the end of all truth, and inhibit the growth of others. Pride and fear prohibits them from adding to the knowledge they possess and they stop growing. Believing they possess all truth, they resist the next part necessary to gain a clearer image of who God is.

YOU WILL KNOW

 The LORD said to Moses,  “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.'” Exodus 16:11-12

 Before God gave Israel his law at Sinai, he gave them his teaching, so they could survive as a people. The law Israel received at Sinai was not the end and sum total of who God is. There is another part of God called mercy that Abraham understood and set his hope upon when he had no reason to hope. He died thousands of years before Jesus was born, yet Jesus said, “Abraham saw my day and was glad.” If Israel didn’t accept Jesus, they would stop growing in the knowledge of God, therefore, it was imperative that Israel know how to recognize “the prophet” Moses told them would come.

The Lord told Moses when you “eat meat” and are “filled with bread” you will know that I am the Lord your God. Did Israel remember and know God? Let’s find out by fast-forwarding to the day a remnant of Israel ate meat and were filled with bread. Jesus fed 5,000 with 5 small loaves and the disciples filled 12 baskets with the leftovers. When the people realized what Jesus did, they exclaimed, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”[2]

Their conviction about Jesus came from the writings of Moses or the torah / teachings they received every Sabbath. God’s plan worked so well, the people determined to make Jesus their king by force. Jesus had an odd reaction to their zeal. He told his disciples to leave in the only boat available. Then he hung around until everybody went to sleep, and he left too.

When the people woke up and discovered their king was missing, they searched for him. Jesus promised that anyone who looks for him would find him, but he never promised that you would like what you find. Jesus does not patronize or manipulate.

  When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  John 6:25-26

When they found Jesus they called him “Rabbi!” What happened to “King?” Yesterday, they attempted to make him their king by force. Apparently, they were perturbed that their king abandoned them in the middle of the night, so now he is just another Rabbi. They looked for Jesus and found him, but they didn’t fool him. They did not want to know when he left. They wanted to know why, so he told them the truth. He left because they didn’t want him. All they wanted was more bread.

If they had wanted Jesus because the miraculous sign told them that he is the “Lord your God” they would not have demanded him to become king before his time. Hundreds of years later, Israel still worshiped according their desires. They still wanted what they had in Egypt, “all the food we wanted,”[3] and they were still willing to bow down to anyone who will give them what they want. This kind of worship makes you a slave. God is looking for people who want to be his children.

God did not fail when he taught Israel how to know him. Israel failed because they never learned to love his ways. God doesn’t need any body to make him their king. He is King and no one can take that away from him. God desires the same thing we desire; to be loved and accepted for who he is even if he is not who we want him to be.

I thought I loved God after my salvation experience. All it took was one simple command from the Lord to reveal that I didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find the strength to obey a simple instruction a child could understand and do. Every time I opened my Bible the scripture “if you love me you will keep my commands”[4] convicted me until I was so frustrated I quit going to church.

After many years and much pain, I finally understood that I couldn’t love God until I understood his ways. My failure to obey God was rooted in fear of the unknown. I knew God existed, but so do devils and they don’t love him. I knew that God delivered me, but so did the generation he rescued from Egypt and they perished in a wilderness.

Ultimately, I became angry with Pastors who taught me how to be religious but failed to give me knowledge of God’s ways. I am a true child of Adam and Eve, who blamed others for their personal failures. It’s wasn’t the Pastors’ fault I didn’t know God. I read the same Bible they did.

HIS WAYS

 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans[5] run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom[6] and his righteousness,[7] and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33

The use of the word pagans is broader than a group of people who worship many gods. In Jesus day, and for centuries after, Paganism ruled the world. Separation of church and state is a relatively new idea that began with the founding of America. Ancient governments sponsored the worship of many gods and forced their religious views upon its citizens. Christians were considered atheist and persecuted for preaching the worship of one God.

Jesus conveyed the idea that all people are concerned about the necessities of life, but God’s people don’t have to worry. If we seek God’s kingdom, or the royal way he rules and his righteousness, everything we need will be added.

We can understand how God rules royally and in righteousness by examining the way God treated Israel at the Desert of Sin. Righteousness has many definitions connected to it. Some say it simply means you are in right standing with God, which is true but vague. The Pharisees’ concept of righteousness was hear no evil, see no evil and do no evil. Jesus warned us that the Pharisee’s brand of righteousness would not gain us entrance to God’s kingdom. God’s righteousness alone gives us access to his kingdom.

God’s understanding of righteousness can be found in the law he gave to Moses.

 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. Leviticus 19:15 KJV

In God’s eyes righteousness is treating people with equality. It’s not as easy to do as it sounds. Nations have attempted to give their citizens equality for centuries and for centuries failed. America was founded on the notion that all men are created equal, yet the founding fathers treated men of a different color and women of any color unequal. All human righteousness is a filthy rag compared to God’s hence Jesus admonition to understand God’s righteousness. Human righteousness will never measure up to God’s because we don’t love like God loves.[8]

 GOD’S LAW

 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;        the sinful mind is hostile to [9]God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8

The Greek word Paul used for law is nomos. Vines Expository Dictionary says nomos means to divide out, distribute,” primarily meant “that which is assigned”; … nomos became the established name for “law” and …is the standard for the administration of justice.”[10]

The only standard for the administration of justice that you and I have a prayer of surviving is the Torah or the teaching given at the Desert of Sin because that is where God taught us how mercy is administered. The teaching Israel received at Sinai is guaranteed to curse and condemn, because that is what happens when we live according to the dictates of law instead of mercy. God gave the people he delivered a way out of the curse of the law before they needed a way out.

A SIMPLE ASSIGNMENT

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. Exodus 16:16

Mercy is being compassionate toward a person based on their need.[11] It does not matter who the person is or how grievous their sins. Mercy always treats him or her right or with righteousness. Mercy will not withhold what a person needs, because you don’t like the way they look and act. In God’s eyes it is right that everyone has the basic necessities of life, even those who behave badly. Mercy is right and mercy is for everyone.

At the Desert of Sin, God assigned a simple task. The Lord commanded everyone to gather according to his or her need. Then the Lord told his people what they needed; one omer (or one quart) for each person. If there were three people in the tent, gather three quarts.

Is this hard to understand? Is it a difficult thing to do? This is God’s test! God gave Israel a simple instruction. The assignment proved whether they would walk in his teaching or not. The standard by which law is administered is equality because that is how God shows mercy!

Let’s see if the people are content to walk in God’s teaching, to walk in equality, to walk in mercy, or we could say it this way, to walk in the Spirit.

 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. Exodus 16:17-18

The way this scripture is worded sounds like everyone perfectly obeyed God because each gathered as much as he needed. If you have ever worked with people, you know that they did not, especially these people. They were a stiff-necked people that have not obeyed God from the day he arrived to deliver them.

The key words are “when they measured it.” It did not matter if they gathered too much or if they gathered too little. When they measured it by the quart the one who gathered more than a quart left the measuring tent with a quart. The one who gathered less than a quart left the measuring tent with a quart. The measuring tent enforced equality. If you entered the measuring tent with inequality, you left the tent with equality. The measuring tent guaranteed that God’s desire prevailed in the wilderness. When God gives you will not get more than he wants you to have and you will not get less because you are not greater than God.

This sounds like Communism but its not. Communism was humanities grand effort at equality that failed miserably for several reasons. First, equality must be built on sacrificial love. The leaders of communism forced people to behave through slaughter and intimidation. Second, equality is based on need. One size fits all inhibits the talents and abilities of the strong who create the excess needed by the weak. Third, where there is no love, there is no trust and people will hoard their goods causing others to lack. The leaders of communism had more than they needed while their citizens struggled obtain the necessities of life.

 Then Moses said to them, No one is to keep any of it until morning. 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. Exodus 16:19-20

What reason does Moses have to be angry? Our anger will not bring about the righteous life or the equality that God desires.[12] Israel’s lack of obedience did not give them more than they needed for one day because the extra rotted. Moses was angry because they paid no attention to Moses. God was not angry. His desire that each man have one-quart daily came to pass regardless of what the people did or did not do.

TEMPORARY

The horded food spoiled because God wanted his people to eat fresh manna every morning instead of last night’s warmed over leftovers. The distribution of manna taught Israel about mercy.

 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV

Israel had fresh manna every morning because God was showing mercy and his mercy is new every morning. Does it matter what we do when God meets the needs of all humanity whether they obey him or not? The sun rises on the good and the evil. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.[13] Why not throw a handful of manna in the pot, stretch out on a lawn chair, and watch everybody else work. When you go through the measuring tent they will make sure you have what you need. Go ahead! Reveal to everyone who you really are, and justify God when he removes you from among us because you have not walked worthy of his calling. If that is your attitude, all you will ever have is what you need because mercy is temporary and you do not obey his instructions / teachings.

God did not send an angel to their tent with a quart because welfare does not work. He commanded them to get up early in the morning and gather what they needed. In God’s kingdom you must work if you want to eat.[14] Mercy says if you are too weak God will make up the difference in the measuring tent. If you are too strong, God will not let you glory in your strength because all your extra work will avail nothing when it is measured. If you don’t trust God, everybody will know because your tent will stink in the morning. It’s not our perfection that matters to God but our willingness to obey his instructions to the best of our ability.

Mercy precedes judgment because mercy reveals who we really are justifying God in the eyes of all creation when he judges us. God is not mocked. You cannot abuse his mercy without it costing you. If you choose to be lazy and leach off the hard work of others during seasons of mercy, beware, payday is coming!

BREAD ALONE

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Deuteronomy 8:3

The life that I now live in the flesh is possible because God, in his merciful treatment of rebellious people, allows his sun to rise on the evil and the good and his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. We do not live on bread alone because mercy delays but does not stop death. The wages of sin is death and everyone dies once.[15] You will not escape dying once, but you can escape dying twice.[16]

Mercy is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. It gives people time and opportunity to repent. If we don’t make peace with God, one day, God’s mercy will justify God’s judgment against you. Jesus is the bread, the mercy we need to escape the justice of death. He is the only one that can free us from death.

 Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. At this the Jews began to grumble … John 6:35-41

Like their forefathers before them the Jews were carnally minded, therefore, like their forefathers before them they grumble. They grumbled about Moses, now they are grumbling about Jesus. The people God delivered started grumbling the day God delivered them and never stopped but neither did the manna while they were being disciplined.

God is patient but his patience wore thin by Jesus day. Jesus cannot make the spiritual lessons God taught them at the Desert of Sin plainer.  Why are you so concerned about a loaf of bread that cannot sustain this physical body more than 70 years or so when eternal life comes from me? Jesus is the spiritual food and drink God gave them at the Desert of Sin. He now stands among them in the flesh and he is getting a little weary of their grumbling.

  “Stop grumbling among yourselves,”… John 6:43

It’s only been 1,500 years of grumbling, enough already. Since they cannot grasp what God has been trying to communicate to them for more than a 1,000 years Jesus said it as plain as he can.

 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. John 6:48

Is this all you want! Do you want to live on bread and water, wearing the same clothes until you die in a wilderness? Man does not live by bread alone because the people God delivered had all the bread they needed and still died without receiving the things that were promised. Everyone has what they need for their physical body to live from God’s hand because in his mercy he does not turn off the sun nor stop the rain from falling.

God has commanded the earth to sustain us contrary to its very nature as a witness of his love and mercy. Creation longs to produce its bounty for people who love God, not the sinners who hate the God who created them. Creation groans under the weight of our sin, longing for a revelation of who the sons of God are.[17]

God determined tares and wheat will grow together until judgment day. There is only one child God publicly acknowledged. Jesus, when he spoke from heaven declaring this is my son whom I love and am well pleased with. Creation does not know who God’s children are because God is showing mercy. That is why the sun shines on the good and the evil and the rain falls on the just and the unjust. But mercy won’t save you unless it leads you to repent and obey God. Even though God is not holding our sins against us at this time, he will not forgive us for the sins we commit against him unless we ask him to forgive us and change our ways by renewing our minds.

Many have abandoned the church because they can’t see past God’s imperfect people. They don’t understand that the corruption we encounter in the church teaches us to stop worshiping Moses instead of God. The Bible talks about people who desire to teach the law but do not understand what they are talking about.[18] They will convince you to do foolish things, like putting choice cuts of beef on your dead Uncles grave lest he die after he die.[19] Their teachings fill people with so much fear they will be afraid to change your ways lest they die. If you are a Christian weary and in misery it is time to shake off the burdens well meaning teachers have placed upon you and rest.

REST

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. Exodus 16:27-30

Worshipping the way the world does is a heavy burden. They will work you to exhaustion and then criticize your best efforts. Some preachers will have a lot of explaining to do when God comes to take his revenge on them for driving people away from him. God’s people are nothing like their God because there is no one like our God.

Moses was angry with his congregation when they hoarded food but God wasn’t. God did not get angry when they failed to gather a perfect quart or that they tried to save some for tomorrow. We don’t see God expressing any displeasure with his people until the Sabbath day and his displeasure was directed at their teacher. The Lord said to Moses, “how long will you,” not “how long will they,” how long will you refuse to walk in my teachings.

If the people are not resting it is the teachers’ responsibility to correct it. No one has entered God’s rest yet. Joshua did not lead Israel into God’s rest. We will enter God’s rest when Jesus returns, until then citizenship is available in God’s kingdom. Not to those who worked but to those who rested to remember Jesus.

Robinson, George, Essential Judaism, (Pocket Books, New York, New York. 2000)


[1] 1 Corinthians 13

[2] John 6:14

[3] Exodus 16:3

[4] John 14:15

[5] NT:1484 ethnos (eth’-nos); probably from NT:1486; a race (as of the same habit), i.e. a tribe; specially, a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication, pagan): KJV – Gentile, heathen, nation, people.

(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[6] kingdom: NT:932 basilei/basileia (bas-il-i’-ah); from NT:935; properly, royalty, i.e. (abstractly) rule, or (concretely) a realm (literally or figuratively):KJV – kingdom, reign. Ibid

[7] righteousness: NT:1343 dikaiosu/nh dikaiosune (dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay); from NT:1342; equity (of character or act); specially (Christian) justification: KJV – righteousness. Ibid

[8] Isaiah 64:6

 

[10] Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

[11] The Merciful by Wes Thomas, Believers Fellowship, Wednesday August 6, 2003

[12] James 1:20

[13] Matthew 5:45

[14] 2 Thessalonians 3:10

[15] Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27

[16] Revelation 2:11, 20:6

[17] Romans 8

[18] 1 Timothy 1:7

[19] See Surviving the Wilderness Lesson 3, Starting Over, by Teena Myers

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STARTING OVER

They left Marah and went to Elim , where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there. They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.  Numbers 33:9-10

Israel’s journey to worship their God was an emotional roller coaster. First, they were terrified Egypt would kill them. Then they were dancing with joy and singing with awe at God’s power. The next morning they traveled a few miles down the road to an explosion of bitterness and anger at Marah. God eased the tension when he led them to a place of rest at Elim. Their spirits were high and hopeful as they packed to continue the journey, but God led them back to the Red Sea.

REMEMBER

Israel began quarreling with Moses the day he returned to Egypt as their deliverer. They thought he controlled their circumstances, but he didn’t. God lead them to a dead end when they left Egypt. No mortal man could have held the Egyptian army at bay all night while he made a way of escape for a million people. God hid Israel behind his back and troubled those who troubled them. When they argued with Moses at Marah, God led them back to the Red Sea to look at the people, who had denied them religious freedom, stripped of life, floating helpless on the waters, and by this time creating an unbearable stench.[i] As Israel gagged in disgust at the at hundreds of bodies decomposing on the shores of the Red Sea, the cloud stopped and Moses announced, “Pitch your tents.”

Without doubt, Israel was puzzled, irritated, and frustrated. It had been six weeks since they left Egypt, and they have not traveled any farther than the place they began their journey into the wilderness. Compounding their frustration was God’s command to spend the night smelling the stench of sin and fighting off flies and other creeping creatures that dead bodies attract.

Misery came upon Israel for a reason. They can’t tell the difference between God and a servant of God. God brought them back to the Red Sea to remember because remembering will open their understanding. God brought Israel into the wilderness to worship him and Israel can’t worship God until they know and understand him.

 UNDERSTAND

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. ” And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” Mark 8:17-21

Jesus and his disciples were on their way to an evangelistic meeting. The disciples were hungry, but discovered they only had one loaf of bread. While they were debating what to do about lunch, Jesus warned them to beware of the Pharisees yeast.[ii] The disciples thought Jesus gave them this warning because they didn’t have enough bread. Their thoughts were wrong.

The disciples had one loaf of bread in the boat and that is why their discussion disturbed Jesus. They had eyes but didn’t see, ears but didn’t hear. They didn’t understand Jesus warning about yeast because they forgot the past. Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves in April 28 AD, and four thousand with seven loaves three months later in July 28 AD.[iii] The conversation about yeast and bread took place in the same month that Jesus fed four thousand. Within a three-month period, Jesus fed nine thousand people with twelve loaves of bread and had nineteen baskets of fragments left over. If the disciples had remembered what happened yesterday, they never would have thought that Jesus was concerned about having one loaf of bread among thirteen men.

In the disciples’ day, God was among his people in human flesh. In Moses day, God was among them in the form of a cloud by day and fire by night. Both generations interacted with God. They heard him speak and saw the miraculous things he is able to do. Both generations failed to know and understand their God because they don’t remember what happened yesterday.

Matthew recorded the same conversation between Jesus and his disciples but added some important information.

 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees… Matthew 16:11-12

Jesus never told his disciples he was talking about the Pharisees teaching. He got their minds off earthly bread by reminding them what he could do with a loaf of bread. When they remembered, the light came on, and they understood that Jesus warned them about the teaching of the Pharisees.

God is not as concerned about the food we feed our body as the food we feed our spirit. The food we eat sustains this body of flesh temporarily. The teaching we eat can keep us alive eternally if the teaching is true and we believe.

 BELIEVE

When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. John 2:22 KJV

 Early in Jesus ministry, he angered the religious leaders by driving the businessmen out of the temple. The leaders immediately accosted Jesus and demanded proof of his authority to close the market, which sold lambs and other items needed to make offerings to God. Jesus challenged, “destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”[iv] They thought Jesus was talking about a temple of stone that took forty-six years to build. At the time of this incident, no one, including Jesus’ disciples, understood that Jesus spoke about the temple of his body.

Two years later, the disciples understood Jesus’ challenge when they remembered. After Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples remembered the conversation about the temple. When they remembered, they understood that Jesus was not talking about a temple of stone but his own body. When they understood, they believed the scripture and the teacher.

Believing the scripture is more important than believing a teacher. The scripture always gives us truth. Teachers may or may not have the truth. If a teaching is accurate it will ultimately create faith in the written word of God. But it may take time before you know that a teaching is accurate, so don’t be quick to write off a teacher who says things that you don’t understand.

Moses, Jesus, and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught about the same God: Abraham’s God. By Jesus day, Israel’s religious leaders had added so many of their own rules that their yeast/teaching did not produce anything to feed the human spirit. Embracing a teaching about God avails little if the teaching is a lie. But if you have been taught the truth, when you remember, you will understand.

When you understand the written word of God, you will be persuaded that you possess the truth. Not the shallow believing of immature Christians, who believe because someone told them what to believe. Mature Christians believe because they understand God’s intent and purposes from his written word. When you understand God’s ways, it will shut your mouth and shorten your journey through the wilderness.

BE QUIET

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.  In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  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 death.” Exodus 16:1-3

This passage leaves out that they returned to the Red Sea before they traveled to the Desert of Sin as is recorded in Numbers. They just spent the night smelling the stench of the decomposing bodies of Egypt’s oppressive government. Egypt’s could not stand in the presence of Israel’s mighty God, yet they grumbled to become Egypt’s slaves again.

Few in Israel understood God’s purpose for delivering them. They thought God came to their rescue because they were miserable and asked for his help. Many have cried out for help and the heavens remained silent. If misery moved God to act, misery would cease to exist because “God does not show favoritism.”[v] God delivered Israel because he remembered the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give the land of Canaan to one of Abraham’s children.[vi] God’s integrity moves him to action.

Israel followed Moses out of Egypt thinking life would get better but it didn’t. They were miserable in Egypt, but they had plenty of meat and all the food they could eat. Now they are in a wilderness where rations are scarce and their leaders were complicating their lives by making rash and unfounded judgments about God. They accused Moses of bringing them into the desert to “starve the entire assembly to death.” Moses didn’t bring them into the desert. God did. When Israel promised to stop worshipping Egypt’s gods and then reneged on their end of the agreement, God wanted to kill them in Egypt. He spared them because his actions are governed by the covenants he promised to fulfill, not by human behavior.[vii]

Israel’s behavior was appalling. Their words about God were full of hate. Let me paraphrase what they said to Moses and Aaron. “You didn’t let us die of thirst at Marah, but you will let us die of hunger. Egypt was good to us. Pharaoh gave us plenty of meat and all the food we wanted, so where is the beef, Moses?” Israel got what they wanted in Egypt, and they were miserable, so what made them think getting what they want in the wilderness would make them happy?

The principle of understanding when you remember and believing when you understand didn’t work for Israel. Even though they went back to the Red Sea and remembered, they never kept their mouth shut. Every time they spoke a lie about God, their evil words darkened their understanding.[viii] Declaring that Moses brought them into the wilderness to starve them all to death was a condemnation of the God who sent Moses.

The Bible admonishes us to “speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”[ix] If you are not merciful, the judgments you make about others will be cruel. If you are the object of cruel judgments, you can overcome by showing mercy to your accuser. God did! God is merciful; therefore, his judgments about Israel were kind. He could have let Israel perish in Egypt and been justified. He chose to believe the best of Israel. When they failed him, he persevered to trust them again, until there was nothing more he could do to save them.

Israel had no mercy for Moses. Consequently, the judgments they made were cruel. Even though the accusations were directed at Moses they were really making judgments about God. Israel judged their God to be a mass murderer, who brought men, women and children into the desert to die a slow death by starvation. What kind of judgment is that to make about someone they followed into the wilderness to worship!

God triumphed over Israel’s judgments and recorded what he did in a book so every generation could know the truth. God is not a murderer. It did not matter how unmerciful Israel’s words and deeds were, God always treated them with mercy and kindness. He gave Israel what they needed to live whether they deserved it or not.

What was wrong with God’s people? They were saved and baptized! The New Testament called them the church in the wilderness and identified the rock they drank from as Christ.[x] Why were they so rude? Why were they so dense? Why were they given to constant bickering? Why couldn’t they see anything good in a God who came to Egypt to keep his word to their ancestors?

RENEW

 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

 In 1991 Shirl Jennings’ eyesight was restored after forty years of blindness. He is one of twenty people in recorded history to regain sight after an extended period of blindness. Even though Shirl’s eyes functioned normally, Shirl could not see. His life story was made into a movie called First Sight. He said, “the movie is surprisingly accurate on …the most crucial point: For those who have learned to live without it, the gift of eyesight can be a tremendous, overwhelming burden.”[xi]

His eyes functioned but the visual sights were contrary to the textures, smells and sounds that he used to identified the world he lived in. His wife’s face was a meaningless blur, until he touched her face or heard her voice. Doctors concluded that Shirl would have to learn how to see by changing the way he perceives the world he lived in. Life was easier for Shirl when he was blind. After he regained his sight, he had to learn a new way of living by renewing his mind.

Paul summed up Israel’s problem when he wrote, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…”[xii] In Egypt, Israel learned a way of worshipping that put them in opposition to their God. They could not see anything good in God because they wanted him to conform to the way they were accustomed to worship. If they had been spiritually minded they would have had life and peace as they walked to the mountain to worship God. Instead the church in the wilderness grumbled, quarreled, complained and cried, “God’s gonna kill me!”

Abraham was never angry with God like his descendants were. There is one word explains why: religion! The religion Pharaoh taught Israel had some striking similarities to the faith Abraham taught Isaac and Jacob. In the introduction of Egyptian Religion by Sir Wallis Budge, he observed:

 “The resurrection was the object of every formula, every text, every ceremony of Egyptian life, and toward that one end the whole of his formidable religion tended and in the end all inconsistencies bury themselves. With their Christ-like Osiris, their one God, and even a Virgin and Child (Isis and Hours),…”[xiii]

Israel adopted much of Egypt’s teachings because there were many similarities to the faith Abraham taught them, which also had a resurrection and one God as its object of every formula, text, and ceremony. Israel was still practicing the religion they learned in Egypt, when they ran to their new Pharaoh, Moses, to meet their every need. If Moses had been in control, he would have pacified them by giving them what they wanted. When Moses proved helpless to supply their demands, they wanted their old Pharaoh back. If Abraham’s God had been a fake, Israel would have killed Moses and gone back to Egypt. They tried, but a living God faithfully preserved his obedient shepherd.

God exhibited great restraint in dealing with his people, because they were immature children with carnal minds who had no concept of freedom. God desires his people to be governed by love, not their carnal appetites. Moses generation came to a tragic end, because they rejected the original faith of Abraham that teaches you how to love and be loved. Paul warned us not to make the same mistake as Israel did by conforming to the pattern of this world, which is another way of saying stop worshipping to get what you want. You must be transformed by renewing your mind. Only then will you be able to understand God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.”[xiv] 

Renewing your mind will transform the way you perceive the world around you and you will be able to see God with the eyes of your understanding. If you don’t know God’s ways, you will see him like Shirl Jennings saw his wife; a meaningless blur. Some Christians think if God would appear and speak to us it would be easier to understand him. Israel proved that idea false. They saw God. They heard him speak. They never understood his ways and remained at enmity with God until they perished in the wilderness.

Israel’s desperation for food and water had deep spiritual roots. The Egyptians believed after they died they must make a journey to another world where they would receive eternal life. To survive the journey the Egyptian brought all his earthly possessions with him, including food and drink. One of the most popular types of food offerings to bring on the journey was “choice cuts of beef.”[xv] This idea was practiced literally in early dynasties. Later generations were satisfied with the head and foreleg of a bull. Throughout the history of ancient Egypt all social levels strived to “make the best provision they could afford for their tomb.”[xvi]

In the Egypt, the temple priest and or your family members provided food for your tomb. Those with financial means went to great lengths to guarantee someone would bring food to their graves, lest they die before they finished the journey and failed to receive eternal life.  Providing for the dead was a heavy burden on the living. When Pharaoh gave them all the food they wanted, he was providing for their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. God also desired to meet their spiritual needs by removing the burden of providing for the dead. Israel’s anger with God was rooted in fear: the fear that they would cease to exist if they failed to obey Pharaoh’s teachings.

RUNNING A GOOD RACE

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7

The descendants of Abraham were running a good race but people kept cutting in on them. First, Rachel, Jacob’s wife, introduced the worship of other gods into the family. Then the Egyptians taught Israel the living must provide for the dead to obtain eternal life. When you don’t know and understand the ways of God, it is easy for people to distract you from his path.

After some Christian Jews convinced many of the Galatian Christians they must obey the Law of Moses and be circumcised to be saved, Paul sent a letter to refute their yeast/teaching. He warned the Galatians this “kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”[xvii] Paul called teaching the same thing Jesus did when he warned his disciples about the Pharisees teaching. If the Galatians’ embraced the yeasts of salvation by obeying laws, it would eventually work it’s way throughout the whole church. If that happened, the church would lose its effectiveness because we do not receive the Spirit by the works of the law but by hearing and understanding faith.

The Corinthian Christians wrestled with the same problem. Paul warned the church at Corinth,

 “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” [xviii]

The Corinthians worship of God was rift with quarreling over which teacher was the best. Paul called that kind of worship old yeast. The Corinthians chose to worship the God Paul preached about but continued to worship the way the world does. They claimed to love God even as they disdained one another. They were treating God with malice because their worship of him was with partiality.

God gave Abraham bread without yeast. Abraham taught his children a pure gospel. Israel went down to Egypt and allowed Pharaoh to add his yeast/teaching to the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth that Abraham gave to them. Abraham’s descendants never stopped worshipping God. They incorporated the teachings of other nations.

God’s flock had been distracted from the path he set before them though Abraham. Therefore, before they continued the journey to keep the worship of God at Sinai, God will give them his bread/teaching without the yeast men add.

Budge, Sir Wallis, Egyptian Religion. (Carol Publishing Group, Secaucus, N.J., 1997)

 Reese, Edward, The Reese Chronological Bible. (Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN., 1980)

Spencer, A.J., Death in Ancient Egypt. (Penguin Books, London, England, 1982)


[i] Exodus 14:30

[ii] Mark 8:15

[iii] Edward Reese, The Reese Chronological Bible, (Minneapolis, 1980), p. 1309, 1317

[iv] John 2:19

[v] Romans 2:11

[vi] Exodus 2:24

[vii] Ezekiel 20:8

[viii] Job 42:2-3 Amplified Bible

[ix] James 2:12-13, KJV

[x] 1 Corinthians 10

[xi] http://www.s-t.com/daily/01-99/01-22-99/b01ae036.htm

[xii] Romans 8:6-7, KJV

[xiii] Sir Wallis Budge, Egyptian Religion, (Secaucus, N.J.), p. 7

[xiv] Romans 12:2

[xv] A.J. Spencer, Death in Ancient Egypt, (London, 1982), p. 48

[xvi] ibid, p. 47

[xvii] Galatians 5:7-9

[xviii] 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

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