4.2 To Sinai

Meditating on the Judgements of God:  

4.2 To Sinai

Ex 14:10-12  As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, `Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

Coming out of Egypt, Israel enter into a number of trying situations and to save time we will summarise them in the following table:

Verse Complaint The Lord’s Response
14:10-12 Fear seeing Pharaoh chasing them Deliverance & Pharaoh killed
15:24,25 Grumbling about unclean water God cleanses the water
16:2,3 Grumbling for lack of good food God provides quail & manna
17:2 Complaint over lack of water God provides water from the rock
17:8 Amalekites attack them Victory given as they prayed

Now we mention these ‘difficulties’ that occurred on the way from Egypt to Sinai because of the absence of judgments! Yes, indeed, because at first sight this may appear quite surprising. Putting aside the attack of the Amalekites (because there was no indication that this was a disciplinary act of the Lord), let’s look in a little more detail at what took place in each case.

Our verses above record the panic that the people of Israel felt when they found themselves hemmed in by sea on one side and Pharaoh’s approaching army on the other. To all intents and purposes they were doomed. What is interesting is that the verses tell us that “they cried out to the Lord” AND they berated Moses for getting them into this apparent mess. Moses responds in faith: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex 14:13,14) The Lord’s only negative response, if you can call it that, is to gently chide Moses: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?” (v.15) and He then tells Him what to do and what will happen,. Deliverance comes as the seas part, Israel pass through, Pharaoh follows and is then drowned as the seas pour back. A miraculous deliverance to finalise the Exodus.

The second incident involves grumbling because they have come across water but it is stagnant: So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” 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 sweet.” (Ex 15:24,25) Note again that there is no rebuke from the Lord, only a word of wisdom to Moses and then what has to be a miraculous cleansing of the water.

The third incident involves more grumbling but now it is because of lack of food: “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.”  (Ex 16:2,3) Yet again, quite remarkably, the Lord does NOT chide them but allows His glory to be seen (Ex 16:10) and then provides quail (Ex 16:13) and then the Manna (Ex 16:14,31) which required a faith response in collecting it. (And twice they failed to do that – see  Ex 16:19-20 – keeping manna over night, and  Ex 16:27-30 – going out in seventh day to collect it)

The fourth incident was over lack of water: “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. 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?” 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?” (Ex 17:1-3)  The Lord does not chide them but enables Moses to produce water from a rock, clearly another miracle (Ex 17:4-7).

The fifth difficulty they encounter is different in that they are attacked by the Amalekites. We have seen reference to this incident previously in the study on the throne of God. Moses intercedes while Joshua leads the people to fight and  then overcome. We simply mention this incident because it was a difficulty they encountered in the desert and the Lord did enable them to overcome it.

With the first four of these incidents there are several commonalities: 1. A difficulty arose, 2. The people grumbled over the difficulty, 3. The Lord did NOT judge them for their grumbling and 4. The Lord provided for them in each instance – deliverance, cleansed water, food, and then water. To that we may then add, deliverance from an enemy.

Now why are we even doing this study if there are no judgments involved? The answer is exactly because of that, because after their encounters with the Lord at Sinai, suddenly it is very different and the Lord DOES hold them responsible for the way they then responded. We will see this in detail in a later study but for now we need to note the Lord’s forbearance with this embryonic nation who have not yet learned to trust the Lord. They have been distant witnesses to the plagues but now they have had their own dealings with the Lord whereby He clearly allowed (if not led them into) difficulties so that they might learn that He is there for them. Their personal dealings with Him have so far been very limited and so we must assume that for this reason the Lord simply provides for them again and again and takes no action against the grumbling.

The lesson must be that the Lord tolerates those who are young in their faith and does not discipline; that comes later and seems to accompany revelation. The more we know of the Lord, the more He seems to hold us accountable. Challenging!

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