Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 23, Ex 16-18

Today's readings are Ex 16-18.

Ex 16 shows God's people moving on from the Red Sea but having the same, familiar struggles. They have been in Elim and are moving to the Wilderness of Sin (don't make too much of the name...well, maybe a little). It's a trip of about 50 miles, roughly, the distance between Baltimore and Washington D.C.

The people begin to complain again (Ex 16:2). This time, there's not enough food. God graciously provides quail and manna. Notice, the people make no mention of God but blame Moses for their “plight” (Ex 16:3). It’s easy for folks to forget how sovereign God is and begin to blame the people around them for their circumstances, rather than learn from them.

The manna falls from the sky each day. There are very simple, very clear rules on how they are to gather it and eat it. They get it wrong! Still, God continues to provide it every day, except on the Sabbath (Ex 16:5). This is the first mention of a Sabbath day. Reading in context, we see that the Sabbath is intended as a day of rest, but it is also a day of trusting the Lord to provide (Ex 16:29-30), of recognizing our dependence on Him. God supplies as much as any of them need for the day (Ex 16:17-18). God is teaching His people the lessons they will need as they continue their walk. They will have to trust Him for their needs on a daily basis.

The manna continues for 40 years (Ex 16:45). Keep this in mind as Exodus unfolds. The manna comes each day, regardless of how the people behave, regardless of their disobedience, their stumbles and failures. God remains consistent and true to His word. He never abandons His people in the wilderness, never stops providing for them.  It's an astounding display of His patience and grace, the same type of grace that we receive even though we can at times fail in much the same manner.

In Ex 17, they arrive at Rephidim, about 35 miles to the ESE. There they complain about the lack of water. God tells Moses to strike the rock at Meribah (about 6 miles to the North of Rephidim). The people want to know if God is really among them (Ex 17:7). Ironically, they are at Horeb, the Mountain of God, when all this happens. Horeb is where Moses encountered the burning bush. It is also where God promised he would bring His children when they left Egypt. Horeb is actually a range of mountains, the largest of which is Mount Sinai. They are watching the faithfulness of God at every turn...and complaining! Still, God is patient with them. Moses strikes the rock, water flows from it! God provides "living water," not because of His people, but in spite of them. 

Amalek, a neighboring tribe, attacks! Moses raises his hands to God. As long as Moses's hands are raised toward Him, the Hebrews prevail. But, Moses is unable to hold his hands up long enough to achieve the victory. The Hebrews defeat the Amalekites but only when Aaron and Hur step in to hold Moses's arms up. This is not a mystical sign, it is a sign of supplication and surrender to the power of God, who has now given Moses and the people military power and victory, another shadow of what is to come. During the battle, we meet a young leader named Joshua.

As usual, there is a lesson here for us, as well. Moses is God's chosen leader for Israel. Those around him are called to support him and share the burdens of leadership. Moses has no power of his own. As a matter of fact, we see Moses's frailty in his inability to keep his hands raised by himself. Likewise, our personal victory comes in our surrender to God in our human weakness and incapability to do what is necessary on our own. We do none of this ourselves, but as part of a body of believers who, working together, become vessels of God's power and presence.  

In Ex 18, Moses's father-in-law gives him wise advice on dividing up the responsibility to lead and judge. In following Jethro's advice, Moses provides a godly sociological/governmental structure. This will impact the Hebrews for many years to come. We also get our first hint at the concept of a plurality of leadership. It's not a fully-formed practice yet, but it will continue to develop. 

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