April 27, 2015.
Daily Reading: Exodus 13-16.
Background: Exodus 9-12.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The feast of the unleavened bread: After the passover and initial exodus of Egypt, the Lord initiated a memorial feast that the children of Israel were to keep year by year in this month that they had come out of Egypt so that they would not forget the great things that the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt, nor would that forget the powerful hand He had used to demonstrate His glory to all who heard of the plagues and wonders done in Egypt by the Lord God of Israel. For seven days they were not to eat leavened bread, nor even have leaven be seen among them, for the Lord had brought them out of Egypt in haste and told them to prepare unleavened bread to eat so that they could quickly get up and leave when the time came. Aside from this, every first born of both man and beast was to be consecrated to the Lord and redeemed at this time, signifying the tenth plague in which God passed over the children of Israel, sparing the lives of the firstborn among His people, but taking the lives of the firstborn in all of Egypt due to the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. The memorial feast was set up in a way where the children of Israel would be able to teach their children these things when they asked why they kept this feast, thus passing down the stories of the mighty God of Israel. It seems that God expected His people to teach other’s about Him rather than He always coming in and making an external display of His power and glory. He often entrusts the spreading of His word and name to the creatures that He created.
2. Cloud and pillar of fire: In this early stage of the exodus from Egypt, God makes His presence very evident for the children of Israel, which seems to be something that they needed, for even with this presence, they would have a difficult time trusting in the Lord and in Moses, as we will see in the next chapter and beyond. Regardless, The Lord was with them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, letting both the children of Israel and the people around them who saw them know that the Lord’s presence was with them. The pillar went ahead of them and guided their path in the wilderness, leading them just where God wanted to go. Both day and night, the presence of the Lord never departed from His people.
Crossing the Red Sea: Though He has led His children out of Egypt, the Lord is not completely done with showing His glory to the Egyptians, as He has one more thing planned that will completely sever Israel from the bondage of Egypt. To do so, however, it is interesting that the Lord sets the people in a very compromising position, almost as bait for Pharaoh to come after them (for He knew what He was going to do, and He knew that it would be successful) because of the fact that they were trapped between the wilderness and the sea. Thus, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened when he heard that the children of Israel had fled and were walled in against the sea, and he took 600 choice chariots, along with the rest of his host, to go and recapture them, for the fact that he had released his slaves no longer set well with him. Even though the Lord had just brought them out with plagues, given them favor in the eyes of the Egyptians when they left and was constantly with them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, when the children of Israel saw that Pharaoh pursued after them, they cried out against Moses and asked why he had brought them out to die in the wilderness. Apparently everything the Lord had done for them was still not enough to convince them that He was in control and He was fighting for Israel. The children of Israel got very scared and told Moses that it would have been better for them to have remained in the land of Egypt than to die in the wilderness. Moses says to the people “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.”
With this, the Lord tells Moses to lift his staff over the sea, that it might be parted and the children of Israel might go though on dry ground. The pillar of cloud moved to their rear and put a separation between Israel and Pharaoh’s army so that they would have time to pass through the river. When the Egyptians followed after Israel into the sea, the pillar of cloud encompassed them and threw them in into confusion, clogging the chariot wheels so that they could not move quickly. Once Israel was safely on the other side of the sea, the Lord again told Moses to stretch forth his hand over the sea, and the waters that were separated once again came together over the chariots and army of Egypt that was in the sea, so that the children of Israel would see them no more, just Moses had told the people. This was the final work that God did against Egypt to indicate to Pharaoh who He was and that He no longer had any control over the children of Israel. After seeing this great thing, the people feared greatly and believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.
1. The song of Moses: After the Lord had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians by the great and wondrous sign of parting the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel addressed the Lord in song to sing of his praises and wonderful works that He had done. They recount the story of the Lord fighting for Israel, throwing the chariots of Pharaoh and all his army into the sea to deliver them. They praise His name and His mighty arm. They are in awe of the Lord and what He had done for them, and through this song they could remember and teach their children of the name of the Lord. It was very important for Moses and the congregation that they praise God for what He had done, even though they had grumbled against Moses when they thought all hope was lost. We too should readily give thanks and praise to God for everything that He has given us, both great and small. At the end of the song, Miriam the sister of Aaron took up the tambourine and lead the women of the congregation with music and dancing, singing praises to the Lord, seemingly as a continuation of the song of Moses. We can look to this example of joy and praise when the Lord delivers us from trials and tribulations, and blesses us as His children.
2. Provision from God: After this celebration, the children of Israel set out into the wilderness, and for three days they could not find any good water to drink. Still, though they had seen the Lord provide for and deliver them time and again, it would seem that their memories waxed short in times of distress, for they grumbled again against Moses because they had nothing to drink. Once again, the Lord provided for them, showing him a log to thrown into the water. Once Moses did this, the water became sweet and good to drink. A similar story of a prophet turning bitter water into drinkable water is found in II Kings 2:19-22, where Elisha makes the water that was bitter good to drink for the men of the city.
The Lord made a statue with the people here, that if they would follow Him, listen to His voice and keep His commandments, then He would bless them with health and none of the Egyptian diseases would come upon them, for He was their healer. Continuing on, the people came to Elim and encamped by springs of water and palm trees.
Manna from heaven: The children of Israel seemed to go through cycles of trusting in the Lord immediately after He would deliver them, but then falling back into their old anxieties and lack of faith when times once again got hard (this would be a constant cycle, in a general sense, throughout the Old Testament). This time they grumbled against Moses because of their lack of food, again saying that they should have just stayed in Egypt where they had their fill of food (our hindsight is usually 20/20, as we seem to remember situations and past times as much better than they were in the moment). Though they thought they were grumbling against Moses, ultimately they were tumbling against God, for it was God who gives life and food (and everything, see Acts 17:27-29). And the Lord heard their grumbling and told Moses that He would send both quail at night and bread from heaven in the morning, that the children of Israel might have food and know that He is the Lord. This would be yet another opportunity for the Lord to show his glory to the children of Israel. Yet there were rules placed on the manna, as the Lord told each to gather what he could eat, and leave none of it for the morning. They each gathered according to their household, about an omer (which was a unit of measurement equal to about 2 quarts or 2 liters) per person, and there was no lack (see II Corinthians 8:15). Yet, some of the people did not listen to Moses, but kept some until the morning, and it bread worms and stank. The children of Israel were to gather the manna daily, an omer each per day, for the first five days of the week, and then on the sixth day they were instructed to gather two omers each to have food on the Sabbath, which would be set apart and dedicated as a day of solemn rest to the Lord (see Genesis 2:3, 35:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11 and Leviticus 23:3). There would be no manna found on the seventh day, but the extra manna that they gathered on the sixth day would be good for the next day, not growing worms or stinking as it would on other days, showing the sovereignty that the Lord has over nature. Yet some of the people still tried to gather manna on the Sabbath day, and the Lord questioned how long the people would refuse to listen to His voice. This frustration would continue to build in the wilderness as the people would continually fall away from listening and obeying the commands of the Lord, even to the point where He was ready to destroy them (see Exodus 32:1-10). For now, the Lord told Moses to take an omer of manna and keep it throughout his generations, so that the people later on could see what the Lord fed the children of Israel with in the wilderness. This omer was eventually placed in the ark of the covenant (see Hebrews 9:4). The children of Israel would eat the manna from heaven for forty years.
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Samuel 1-4.
May the Lord deliver you in your day of distress.