HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 6, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “God Provides”
Text – Exodus 15:22-16:36
Last week, we left the Israelites in the wilderness, just having crossed the Red Sea, miraculously opened up for them and then having swallowed the threatening armies of Pharaoh. They break out into song lead by Moses’ sister, Miriam, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea” (Exodus 15:21).
How long do you think this attitude of praise of God is going to last? [3 days]
LIFE IS A WILDERNESS - Exodus 15:22-27
“22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.”
In three days flat, these people went from praising God for His miraculous intervention, to doubting God’s ability to keep them alive in the wilderness. They had experienced firsthand God’s miraculous power as He divided the Red Sea, with walls of water on both sides, having safely crossed to the other side, then witnessed those same walls come crashing down on the Egyptians, once and for all putting an end to the threat they posed. The people were free…but in just three short days, we find them grumbling and threatening Moses. The pattern is quickly set for the people of Israel. As they wander in the wilderness, they face natural hardships, but each and every time, rather than turning to God for rescue, they turn on Moses and Aaron. Rather than looking to God for help in the wilderness, they simply look for a target to blame.
The thought that God might actually be using their experiences in the wilderness for their direct benefit appears never to have even crossed their minds. It might explain why God chose to have them live in the wilderness for over a year prior to their self-imposed extension of forty years. God needed to transform this group of pagan ex-slaves into His chosen people—capable of trusting Him, faithful to His commands, ready to respond in obedience whatever life brought their way. These were the people God was choosing to work through to convince the nations of His Lordship…but they just weren’t ready yet.
If we’re honest, we will recognize ourselves in the Israelites. Those who choose to follow Christ must also go through a time of transformation, a process that lasts a lifetime. None of us is ever rescued out of slavery to sin, perfectly ready to let go of control and to follow God’s leading with absolute trust.
Too often we buy into the notion, now that God is with us and has promised to take care of us, that all our troubles will vanish…we’ll never have to spend another moment in the wilderness. But that’s just not how life on this planet works. Our future home in heaven promises to be one of incredible and never-ending joy. Revelation 21:3-4 tells us that, “God’s home [will be] among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” But that’s future tense…our present is all about getting ready for that eventual day.
Life on planet earth is a ‘wilderness’…it is not the wonderful land God has promised to those who believe in Him and live to obey Him. But the wilderness is not an easy place to live. Three days into their lives as freed people, the Israelites have hit their first crisis—there’s no drinking water and they need water. Their desperation is growing and in their panic they turn hostile.
In the face of the crisis, the people complain. What does Moses do? [he prays] And God provides the solution: throw that piece of wood into the bitter water and it will become fresh enough to drink. Problem solved. The real question is, why this need to purify the water in the first place? God knew the people were getting thirsty, He knew that the water in its current state was undrinkable, so why not sort it out before they even showed up? Because He was up to something far bigger than simply quenching their thirst by providing water. He wanted to grow their faith and trust in Him.
It is an indisputable fact, that as much as we enjoy times of sunshine, ease and comfort, those are not the times we grow. In fact, it’s during those times that we have a propensity to become lazy and self-indulgent. It’s during difficulties and challenges that we grow in our character and faith. We can resist the lessons, grumble and complain, looking for someone to blame or we can turn to God, like Moses, and seek His solution.
Thankfully, God has no intention of crushing us during crisis, and He never gives us more than we can handle with His help. Don’t get me wrong. He will allow crisis into our lives capable of crushing us if we try to manage them on our own, but He has promised to help us when we ask for it. And so it is with the story of the Israelites. God never gave them more than they could handle without His help; He knew that they needed the motivation crisis would bring, for them to shift from trusting themselves to trusting Him.
So after getting nicely settled at the oasis in Elim and enjoying some semblance of comfort it was time to move on again to a new home…and a new crisis.
GOD ALLOWS AND EVEN ORCHESTRATES CRISIS – Exodus 16:1-5
“Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.
3 ‘If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.’
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.’
We find an interesting thing now happening in the Israelites’ thinking. In this crisis over food, they begin pining away for ‘the good old days.’ Hello…only one month ago these same people were slaves, now they’re looking back at their time in Egypt as somehow preferable? I’m sure in their minds eye it was better to have food in Egypt than to be starved to death in the wilderness. They still don’t get that there’s a third option. God was again providing an opportunity for them to grow in their trust and, instead, they turned on Moses and Aaron.
What about you and I? Do we ever find ourselves wishing for the ‘good old days’ in the midst of a crisis? How about the crisis of a worldwide pandemic? Anyone find themselves wishing we could just go back to the way things were? What are the things that we miss most? [someday, we will be able to once again enjoy no masks, be able to sing in public, gives hugs, eat out; but there is no going back to exactly how things were and, in many respects, we shouldn’t want to]
Looking back is not the solution. Perpetually looking in the rearview mirror prevents us from seeing what God wants to do in the days ahead. God has a purpose for allowing crisis and simply trying to eliminate all discomfort on our own or trying to find solutions that sidestep our need to change, rob us of the good things that God wants for us. Our refusal to seek Him in the midst of hardship, leaves us blind to His plan. And even in this we must be careful that our ‘seeking’ is simply us making demands of God to do our bidding—“Take this away so we can go back!” Instead we should be asking what God’s way forward is…what is His third option.
The Israelites had been in the wilderness for a month by this point and they are beginning to run out of food. God promises to provide quail that night and ‘food from heaven’ each morning from now until they reach the promised land; but His provision comes with a test. He doesn’t just want the Israelites to turn to Him in crisis; He now also wants them to learn daily obedience. So, God provides them with an opportunity to learn the necessity of obeying His directions. For five days in a row, they are to gather about two quarts (eight cups) of manna (which literally means, “What is it?”) per person and then on the sixth day they are to double that amount and not collect any on the seventh.
Pretty straightforward, right? That’s such a little thing. But not for the recently released slaves. They’re used to having food stuffs on hand, now God is asking them to trust Him, quite literally, to provide “their daily bread.” Think of it this way. How many of us would be willing to go and empty our cupboards, pantries, fridge and freezer of all food today and trust God to supply us with our meals for tomorrow? Puts it into a little different perspective, doesn’t it?
Understandably, some of the Israelites have trouble with even this baby step of obedience and on the first day, they keep some to be eaten the following day. But it doesn’t work out for them. This stuff has a shelf life of exactly one day and it turns wormy and stinks terribly. So, lesson learned everyone makes certain that none is left over on the days that follow. But here comes the second test; on the sixth day, they are to collect enough for two days, so that they can enjoy a complete day of rest on the seventh day. But again, some can’t resist the urge to disobey. And I can’t help but think the ones who failed the second part of the test were the exact same ones who failed the first—they had experienced the wormy stinking mess on the second morning and they weren’t about to go through that again. But when they went out the seventh morning, there wasn’t any manna and those same people now had to go the day hungry, unless there were others who were willing to share.
Obedience leads to further obedience. Disobedience often produces more of the same. It really is no different for us. It is only as we obey God’s leading that we experience growth, through the lessons that He has allowed and even designed for our good.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED IN CRISIS – Exodus 16:33-35
“33 Moses said to Aaron, ‘Get a jar and fill it with two quarts of manna. Then put it in a sacred place before the Lord to preserve it for all future generations.’ 34 Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded Moses. He eventually placed it in the Ark of the Covenant—in front of the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. 35 So the people of Israel ate manna for forty years until they arrived at the land where they would settle. They ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.”
Why bother collecting a sample of the manna? So that future generations could hear about God’s miraculous help and believe, without needing to go through a similar crisis. The lessons we learn are to be passed down to the next generation, and the next…and so on.
It is obvious that God was allowing these crises to be experienced by the Israelites because they needed a transformation of heart and mind. They needed to learn how to trust God, to give over control to Him and allow Him to lead. But He has many reasons for allowing crises in our lives and the reasons are not always so clear.
What are some of the reasons that God allows crisis? I believe that there are many reasons why God allows us to experience crisis in this wilderness of life; I do not pretend to know every reason, but here are some I’ve been able to identify over the years:
· To grow our reliance on Him. God does this for us throughout our lives—as new believers and as spiritually mature. Think of our need to grow in our trust of God as a multi-level course that spans a lifetime.
· Some of the crisis we experience in life are as a direct result of sin—our own and that of others; ours is a sinful world and much of what happens is as a direct result of the sin that is so pervasive. God continues to honour His gift of freewill to us and we often make choices that hurt ourselves and others. God never promised to eliminate all consequences for humanity’s wrong choices, but He will help us make restitution and/or forgive when we seek His help. He can give us peace, even in our world of turmoil, when we turn to Him for direction. Instead of blaming God for the bad things that happen, we should be thanking God for any good that we experience which is as a direct result of His intervention.
· So that we don’t get overly comfortable here—planet earth is not our home; we are God’s Ambassadors, called to represent Him and tell others about the new country we now belong to.
· To recognize our need to help others. I believe that Hope Chapel as a congregation has been in a crisis of sorts, even before the pandemic, to show us that we needed to change our focus. God has been using crisis to get Hope Chapel, and much of His Church, back on track.
· A crisis can be the first step to providing a solution to a bigger problem. It can force us to acknowledge that, even though we’ve been able to keep our nose above water, we are officially going to sink if we don’t reach out for help. Again, we have been experiencing that first hand at Hope Chapel and I thank God that He is providing us with the means to stay afloat even during this pandemic, when on our own we could not.
So what are the lessons that we can learn from our spiritual ancestry, the Israelites, as God’s chosen people?
· Life on planet earth is a wilderness—but we are heading to a land of ‘milk and honey,’ the land of God’s promise, His heavenly Kingdom.
· This life is filled with crises, but rather than trying to avoid all hardship, God can use each crisis He permits in our lives to transform us.
· Crisis can cause us to resist God further as we look for someone to blame, or it can draw us closer to God as we learn to trust Him. It is entirely dependent on our choice.
Jesus, Himself, warned us that, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
References & for Further Study
Sunday, June 13, 2021- “Don’t Presume” (Exodus 17, Numbers 20:1-13) - ONLINE Only
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!