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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


March 2022

Exodus 16:9-12: ‘Father-like He tends and spares us…’

Then Moses told Aaron, ‘Say to the entire Israelite community, “Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.”’

10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked towards the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”’

It’s a bit of a ‘gulp’ moment. It could have been like being called into the Head’s office (and much worse)!! But again…’amazing grace.’ In the face of their grumbling the Lord showed them His glory and gave them food.

Words from two different hymns come to mind:

‘Saviour breathe forgiveness o’er us, all our weakness thou dost know…’

‘Father-like He tends and spares us; well our feeble frame He knows…’

Although the Lord knew all about their grumbling, it seems to me that in His grace and mercy He wanted to bolster – to strengthen and support – their weak faith. He not only provided free meals for them, but did far more than they could ask or think. He manifested His glorious presence.

Tom Hale explains the presence of God is described in different ways in Scripture: the ‘glory’ of the Lord, the ‘angel’ of the Lord, the ‘face’ of the Lord. We also see Him manifesting Himself in such things as a cloud or fire.

PRAYER: Lord God, I pray that as we meet together you will show your presence and manifest your glory. May we have a real encounter with the living God – and not just go through a religious ritual.

Exodus 16:6-8: Grumbling, grace and glory

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?’ 8 Moses also said, ‘You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.’

Reading verse 6, I am reminded of these words from Isaiah 42:8: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.”

(See verse 3 where the people said Moses and Aaron had brought them out of Egypt.)

Not only did the Lord bring them out, but He also provided them with all they needed, day by day, for 40 years. He fed 2 million people every day over that time span. The manna only ceased when they finally settled in the land (35,36). As a testimony to future generations, an Omer of manna was preserved in a jar (33). It is still bearing witness to the faithfulness of God as we read this today.

What is remarkable is that this is set in the context of the people’s grumbling and it highlights God’s grace.

In 1 Cor.10:10 Paul writes: “And do not grumble as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel.” (Although this refers to another time, it underlines the seriousness of grumbling. It’s not a trifling matter).

Paul also writes in Phil.2:14-16: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”

Nonetheless, we see here God’s ‘amazing grace’ in the face of His peoples’ gripes and grumbles.

Of course, this was not just about physical food. God wanted to show them that “…man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut.8:3; Matt.4:4). Looking back to verses 4,5, Tom Hale says we need to ‘gather’ our spiritual food every day. He asks, ‘Do we gather into our soul the word of Christ each day? Our life depends on it’ (John 6:57,58).’ ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary,’ p.233.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for your grace and faithfulness through all the years of my pilgrimage. I am unworthy of your great kindness. I am sorry to say I have often grumbled and complained, but your provision has been constant, generous and abundant. I am deeply undeserving and profoundly thankful.

Exodus 16:4,5: ‘Our daily bread’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.’

For the Israelites at this time the guidance of God was clear and unmissable. Wherever they were on their journey, it was because God had led them there. At chapter 13 verse 17 the Israelites came to a crossroads and took an unexpected turn. Where they would have anticipated heading north, they instead turned south, and this was because they were following the Lord’s instructions. As we have noted, they soon found themselves thirsty and hungry. But God was going to show Himself powerful on their behalf in these tests/trials, in spite of their bad attitudes and responses.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Give us today our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). From that time until now, many people praying this prayer have not known where the next day’s food is coming from. They live a day-to-day, hand-to-mouth existence. Someone said we should learn to live in ‘day-tight compartments.’ We have no guarantee of tomorrow, but we are in today, and we can trust God to meet our needs today.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Warren Wiersbe makes the point that this principle applies also to spiritual feeding. Each day we should come to God in Scripture and prayer, gathering the nourishment we will need for this particular day. Don’t allow your walk with the Lord to go stale.

I also note that God looks for our obedience in small ways as well as big ones (4b).

‘When circumstances are difficult, we’re prone to pray, “Lord, how can I get out of this?” when we ought to be praying, “Lord, what can I get out of this?” It isn’t important that we get our way, but it is important that God accomplishes His purposes and receives all the glory (Matt.6:33). God permits trials so that He can build godly character into His children and make us more like Jesus. Godliness isn’t the automatic result of reading books and attending meetings; it also involves bearing burdens, fighting battles, and feeling pain.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘OT Commentary’, p.172.

Exodus 16:4a: ‘This is amazing grace’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you.

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

‘The heirs of salvation, I know from his Word,

Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.’ (John Newton: from the hymn ‘Begone, Unbelief!’)

We have seen in recent days, that the freshly redeemed people of God quickly ran into trials and tests. First there was a lack of water, and now, soon afterward, a lack of bread.

I find Alec Motyer writes helpfully about this in his book ‘The Message of Exodus’:

‘To say that the book of Exodus is full of visual aids in no way calls into question its historicity. Rather, it is just because it is history that it is spiritually reliable: here is history ordered in the hand of God for the instruction of his people’ (p.175).

He goes on to say: ‘There is no such thing as an untried faith…’ (p.176).

 Motyer points out that the people of Israel were in the wilderness precisely because God had led them there. (We can’t argue that they were suffering because of Satanic attack or because they were ‘out of the will of God’).

We have seen that their response was to grumble against Moses and Aaron (but ultimately it was against God).

So when I read in the next line the Lord saying He will “rain down bread from heaven”, my response can only be, ‘This is amazing grace.’ God is not only going to provide bread to this ungrateful, unbelieving group of people; He’s going to provide it abundantly.

We find, when we turn to the New Testament, that Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of this “bread” (John 6:33-35). He is God’s greatest, most generous gift, and He satisfies the spiritual hunger of all who feed on Him by faith.

Exodus 16:1-3: Selective memory

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat round 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.’

The ‘season’ changed again. Following a winter of thirst, they had come into a beautiful spring/summer at the oasis of ‘Elim’. But then it was time to move on again, and they arrived at an autumn of hunger, and could feel the winter chill approaching. But whatever season we are in, we can trust God to provide for our needs. The question is, ‘Will we?’

You will see that they weren’t long out of Egypt (1). The newly redeemed people quickly came into trials and tests. The life of a pilgrim is not an easy one. The Bible never encourages us to believe it will be.

Memory can be selective (3). As we recall, they hadn’t mentioned the great meals in Egypt previously (!!) – just the terrible suffering of slavery, causing them to cry out to the Lord. Memory can also be distorted.

As we saw previously, their grumbling was really against God (8), but Moses and Aaron were convenient targets. You might say they got ‘caught in the cross-fire.’ They got credited with bringing the people out of Egypt, and blamed for the lack of food. They deserved  neither.

PRAYER: Lord God, please help me to turn away from grumbling and trust in you in all circumstances.May I remember the past with thankfulness and accuracy, and meet today and tomorrow with faith.

Exodus 15:25b-27: Changing seasons

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

We saw again yesterday that in the Christian life there are ‘mountains’ and ‘valleys.’ Thinking in terms of the Joseph story, we can say that there may come patterns of  famine and abundance. Not long after experiencing their water shortage, the children of Israel came to a place of water a-plenty.

We need to recognise that the ‘seasons’ will change, and choose to trust God in them all.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13)

It may sometimes be easier to deal with want than with plenty. May God give us grace to steward wisely whatever we have in whatever season we find ourselves.

(‘If life were nothing but tests, we would be discouraged. If life were all pleasure, we would never learn discipline or develop character. The Lord knows how to balance the experiences of life, for He brought  His people to Elim where they found plenty of water and opportunity for rest. Let’s be grateful that the Lord gives us enough blessings to encourage us and enough burdens to humble us, and that He knows how much we can take.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘Old Testament Commentary’, p.171).

Exodus 15:22-25: A change in the ‘weather’

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’

25 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 fit to drink.

From singing and dancing they quickly turned to grumbling (24 – poor old Moses! Leadership can be  tough!!). Tom Hale points out that although they grumbled against Moses, they were really grumbling against God (16:8), which is not a wise thing to do (Numbers 16:41-49; 1 Corinthians 10:10) It indicates, above everything else, a lack of trust in God.

However, I find I cannot easily point the finger, because I know the ‘weather’ can change abruptly in my own soul. One moment in the sunshine; the next the mist comes down. (This happened within three days of their magnificent deliverance).

We have much to learn from the wilderness wanderings of the people of Israel. One lesson is that disappointments, frustrations, trials come along. They are part of the journey of faith. It’s not going to be all ‘mountain-top’ experiences; we must also spend time in the ‘valley.’ But there are godly ways to respond – ways other than grumbling.

In all our difficulties we can earnestly pray (25). God is able to show us the way through. The Israelites had searched and searched for a solution – for drinkable water. The answer was, actually, close at hand, but it was only the Lord who could ‘show’ it to them. It could be that your answer lies nearer to you than you can imagine.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5)

When I come back to this passage, it causes me to reflect that God has shown us “a piece of wood.” (I think one translation renders this “a tree”) It is the wood of ‘the wondrous Cross.’ It is ‘the tree’ upon which Jesus died. His death is transformative. Through His Cross Jesus makes the bitter sweet for all who trust in Him. There is no natural explanation for how the piece of wood made the bitter water sweet. It was a Divine miracle (see also 2 Kings 2:19-22). It is the greatest miracle of all when lives are changed through the sacrifice of the Cross.

Exodus 15:19-21: Follow the leader

When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

‘Sing to the Lord,

    for he is highly exalted.

Both horse and driver

    he has hurled into the sea.’

With these words we come full circle; we are back to where we started (1,4). We surely cannot miss the emphasis on what the Lord has done, and He is joyfully praised. Above all, God is the Leader of His people, and He still makes a way “through the sea on dry ground” (19).

But we also have an insight into leadership among the people of God. This human leadership comes under the umbrella of Divine leadership, but it is something to notice (20) If, as someone said, ‘leadership is influence’, well, here is leadership. This influence is not limited to one sex only.

It’s also been said, ‘If you want to know whether or not you’re a leader, look behind you and see if anyone is following!’ Miriam, who is described as “the prophet” (20), had her followers.

Often, it takes just one person to give a lead.

It might be that they do a small thing; even a very simple thing (such as pick up a tambourine). But it’s enough to act as a catalyst, and, who knows, a whole movement may be born.

PRAYER: Lord God, I thank you that in Christ there is neither male nor female.May we all find our God-given place in your church, whether as leaders or followers, and worship you by life and by lip.

Exodus 15:12-18: ‘Your Word is mighty…’

‘You stretch out your right hand,

    and the earth swallows your enemies.

13 In your unfailing love you will lead

    the people you have redeemed.

In your strength you will guide them

    to your holy dwelling.

14 The nations will hear and tremble;

    anguish will grip the people of Philistia.

15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,

    the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,

the people of Canaan will melt away;

16     terror and dread will fall on them.

By the power of your arm

    they will be as still as a stone –

until your people pass by, Lord,

    until the people you bought pass by.

17 You will bring them in and plant them

    on the mountain of your inheritance –

the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,

    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.

18 ‘The Lord reigns

    for ever and ever.’

I note here:

  • God’s Hand of restraint on His enemies: ‘What was poetically envisaged was historically borne out. The word of God as a weapon of our warfare is mighty to pull down strongholds (2 Cor.10:4). The reference to the neighbouring territories is a list of potential or inevitable opponents: Edom and Moab on the invasion route; Canaan, the promised possession; and Philistia, a more remote power but a future threat. In whatever category opponents fall, they are immobilised while Israel takes its promised possession (16).’ Alec Motyer: ‘The message of Exodus’, p.168.
  • God’s fulfillment of His Word to His people (17,18): The Lord who “reigns for ever and ever” will do for them just as He promised;
  • God’s glorifying of His own Name: At the heart of my prayers for the current conflict is a desire that God will bring honour to His own great Name and cause the nations to fear Him. He has done it before and He can do it again.

PRAYER: Lord may all nations come to see that you are God, and bow the knee to you.

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