(We pick up again to work to complete our travels in the Exodus)
Part 8: Sinai to Kadesh
Meditations in Exodus: 77. Leaving Sinai
Num 10:11,12 On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran.
According to dates in Exodus, the Israelites had been at Sinai eleven months. They had received the Law and the Covenant had been established and the Tabernacle set up in the centre of the camp. Now the pillar of cloud starts to move. We continue the story of the Exodus in the book of Numbers and from Chapter 10: “They set out, this first time, at the LORD’s command through Moses.” (v.13) Whether at the first sign of the cloud moving Moses calls the leaders to break camp is unclear. In the earlier part of chapter 10 here, the Lord gives instructions for two trumpets to be made and they will be blown at Moses’ instruction to signify the breaking of camp. That presumably happens
Our verses above tell us they travelled to the Desert of Paran which is a large desert area across the north of the Sinai Peninsular but Num 11:35 shows us they went via Kibroth Hattaavah and Hazeroth before they finally got there. Later in chapter 10 we read, “So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and travelled for three days.” (10:33) This is three days before the next incident is recorded.
Now before we move on to that, it is worth pondering the state of mind that should be in Israel when they leave Sinai. They had been there almost for a year and much had happened in that time although it was spaced out. They had watched the Lord’s spectacular display of clouds, thunder and lightning and trumpets, they had seen Moses go up and down the mountain to meet with God and to come back and record the laws the Lord had given to him. Moses and his leaders had gone up the mountain and ‘seen’ God. They had then seen Moses go up the mountain for forty days and they had become restless so that a group of them basically rebelled and demanded a visible god which Aaron gave them. When Moses came back down, judgment was brought on this group. The Lord had subsequently called Moses up the mountain for a further forty days and this time no one dared stray. Moses came back down and the next record we have is of the cloud starting to lead them off.
They have much to think about. They are now a unique people in covenant with God. There is no other nation on earth like this. Now perhaps they struggle to grasp that concept because they are, at the moment, just a group of people of one ethnic group, wandering through the desert and, unlike other nations, they do not yet have their own land so, to be fair to them, it may be a little difficult to grasp the whole idea – but they nevertheless have all the testimony of what went on at Sinai. More than that they have the testimony of their journey to Sinai and all of the wonder of leaving Egypt. That journey, we said, to Sinai had been used by the Lord to build trust in the people for the Lord.
Bear that in mind as we now read, “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.” (Num 11:1,2) Now we need to note, we’re into a very different ball-game now from that previous journey. On the trip from Egypt to Sinai, the had complained a number of times but each time the Lord had simply provided for them. On this journey they have only got to start grumbling and the Lord sends a disciplinary judgment – fire that burns the outskirts of the camp. Was that where the grumbling was I wonder? So often grumbling comes from the periphery of the church, those only half committed to the church. No lives appear threatened but what has changed? Sinai!
It seems as if from now on the Lord EXPECTS Israel to get it together better than they did and when they get it wrong now, He deals with them. No longer does He just provide; now He challenges them. This is that accountability thing again and He has clearly raised the bar of His expectations in respect of them. They have had so many unique experiences over the past couple of years, more than you and I can ever expect to have in our entire lifetime, that really and truly they OUGHT to have learned. We won’t go over their testimony again, we’ve done it at least twice already. The simple lesson: they have no excuses.
Now having said that about them, can I say it gently, how about us? We may not have been around seeing plagues and all the other stuff we’ve been seeing in these studies, but how about THE Book, how about the INDWELLING Holy Spirit, how about GIFTED MINISTRIES in the Church, how about the TESTIMONIES of great saints down through the ages, we have all this.
Our younger son used to do high jump. He’s very tall but he could easily jump over a bar higher than his head. I say ‘could easy jump’ but whenever we went to watch him jump for competitions and every time he started his semi-circular run up to approach that bar, I held my breath, inwardly thinking, he can’t do that’ it’s impossible – but he did it until he was the last one left jumping. The bar has been set high but you can do it, God has given you the grace to do it, whatever the ‘it’ is that God has put before you and you’ve been backing away from. You have His word, you have the Law, you have the testimony of all he has done and specifically done for you, you have His Holy Spirit, you CAN do it. No more excuses, you are not Israel, you are a child of God with all that that means. Do it! Go for it! Be blessed!