Last week the Israelites finally exodused and made it out of Egypt by crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. As the Egyptian army tried to pursue them through the Red Sea, the walls of water came down and completely wiped out Pharaoh’s army. Not only were the Israelites safe on the other side of the Red Sea, there was no more Egyptian army so there was no fear of the Egyptians ever pursuing the Israelites again.
As the Israelites look around and realize what has taken place they break out into song. Perhaps that is a bit cheesy of a way to phrase it, but they do begin to sing a song about what God has done. This is commonly known as the song of Moses but Miriam also leads the women in singing a song as well.
And then they begin moving and things quickly go downhill. That’s where we pick up in Exodus 15:22-24
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
The Israelites make it three days into their journey and they have no water. This is a significant problem. Water was not something that they would have traveled with much of. And even if they had a lot of water with them, it would quickly be used up between all of the people and the livestock.
The place where they stopped had water but they couldn’t drink it because it was bitter. Bitter is probably a bad word to use here as the idea is that this water was undrinkable. If your options are drinking water that doesn’t taste good or dying of dehydration, most people are going to choose the water. This water isn’t fit for human consumption so they have a serious problem. We don’t last long without water in good circumstances. In the desert it would be even less time.
25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.
There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
The solution to the bitter water is a piece of wood. Tossing the wood into the water makes it fit to drink. This could be a natural or supernatural phenomenon. It is possible that the wood soaks up water is in the water that makes it unfit to drink. More likely though, one piece of wood would not clean enough water for all of the Israelites to drink.
This is opposite of what will take place in the end ends. According to Revelation 8:10-11, something will fall into the water and cause it to turn bitter.
10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— 11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
God makes the Israelites a promise as He cleans the waters of Marah. If the Israelites will hold to His decrees they will not face the diseases that were inflicted up the Egyptians. Some people will use this verse and similar verses as proof that God will heal sick people who have faith or that their lack of faith is the cause of their infirmities.
This notion is garbage though. This is actually more of a warning than it is a comfort. God says “if you keep all of my decrees.” And that’s the problem. None of us can keep all of God’s decrees because none of us are perfect. So because we are unable to keep God’s decrees, should we expect God to prevent and heal all of our infirmities? No.
The good news is that God still loves screw-ups like us. Even though we don’t follow God’s decrees perfectly, He still showers us with His love, just like He does the Israelites.
1 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. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 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.”
So the Israelites manage to make a couple of weeks before they start grumbling again. First it was the water. Now it’s the food. They had it SO good as slaves, eating all of the food that they wanted. Such short term memories!
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”
Although the Israelites have not received the actual command yet, the Sabbath is established with the giving of manna. It is not without purpose that this will be a forced Sabbath as we’ll see. The Israelites are instructed to gather twice as much on the sixth day and it will last through the seventh day. I’ll comment more on this shortly.
Moses notes the true direction of the grumbling. The people complain to Moses about all that is going on but it is God who has led Moses. When the people complain about where Moses has led, they complain about God.
9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”
10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “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.’”
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. 16 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.’”
God provided quail to eat in the evening and in the morning the ground was covered in a strange flake like substance. The people asked “what is it” which is what manna means. This is a substance unlike anything that the Israelites had encountered and my guess is that there is nothing quite like it on earth. This is literal bread from heaven.
The Israelites were instructed to gather enough for each person each day. The amount given, an omer, is equal to about two quarts. This would provide enough food for each person in a day.
17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 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.
19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”
20 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.
The issue of gathering manna is not just a matter of obedience. God made the manna so that it would not keep. Gathering too much and storing it for later was useless and actually harmful. Many times God’s instructions are meant to keep us from harm, but instead we look at them as an attempt to ruin our joy and take away our fun.
Harvesting the manna daily is an issue of trust. Each day the Israelites needed to trust that God would provide for them for the next day. If a person gathered more than the needed on any day, with the expectation of saving it for later, it was like saying that they didn’t trust God to provide for them the following day.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to ask for our daily bread. In the time of Christ, the situation was a little different but the application was the same. A worker would be paid daily and on their way home they’d stop and buy what they needed for supper that night. If a person didn’t work one day, it was unlikely that they would have enough to feed themselves or their family that day. They needed to trust that they’d be able to work in order to provide for their families.
Today we view things differently. Some people live paycheck to paycheck and that is viewed as a bad thing. We rely on insurance and our savings to help us through tough times. Most financial advisors will tell you to have enough money to live off of for several months in case the worst happens and you are unable to work for some reason.
I’m not going to say that it’s a bad thing to have savings or insurance. These are good things and perhaps even necessities as insurance is required on your car. But when we are depending on our insurance to cover our expenses or we rely on the savings that we have built up to carry us through times, it does something to remove our dependence upon God. I’m not saying that savings and trust in God are incompatible, just that most people don’t think about their need for God as long as they know they have enough to pay their bills for several months.
21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”
24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”
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.
Just like some didn’t listen regarding how much was to be gathered, some people didn’t listen about gathering and preparing twice as much on the sixth day. When they went out on the seventh day they didn’t find anything. God is not pleased that some did not listen to the instructions.
The issue of the Sabbath is perhaps the most controversial of all of God’s laws. Some say that Jesus abolished the Sabbath as He is Lord of the Sabbath and he healed on the Sabbath. Others hold that the Sabbath is to be kept just as it was at this time – no work was to be done.
I won’t get into the whole issue of the Sabbath today. What I will share is from experience however. The body was not made to go without rest. We spend a third of our life sleeping. And on top of that, God instituted the Sabbath. Like so many of God’s laws, I believe this is for our own good. If we keep working day after day we’ll wear out. I have trouble with this because Sunday is not my day off. And once the work week starts again, it’s hard to just take a day to relax. And if I do that for more than about two weeks, I burn out.
Let’s save the debate on the Sabbath for another time. Just know that I strongly believe that if you don’t rest, you will feel the effects of it. God gave us a day to rest because He knew we’d need it. God gave the Israelites everything they needed – food, water, and even a forced rest. The same is true today. God will provide for our needs. We need to be careful and make sure that we don’t grumble like the Israelites.