Free files for my fellow student pastors…
It was probably the most hungry I’ve ever been in my whole life. When I was a 9th grader growing up in my youth ministry in Alabama, my youth pastor took us on a 50 mile hiking trip over some of the toughest terrain in the Appalachian Mountains. After a week of hiking and struggling to eat the hiker’s diet of oatmeal, trail mix, and fig-newtons, this southern-bred boy was ready for some real food. Like an oasis in a desert, as we exited the trail we saw a Pizza Hut. From the feeling of starvation and the smell of long-awaited greasy meat, I ordered a large pizza of my own. The rest is a blur, but what I barely remember is barely making it into my third piece before I had to make a run for… Well, you get the picture. Read Exodus 16-18.
In Exodus 15:22 – 18:27, Israel has run into a serious problem: thirst and starvation. After creating the cosmos, humanity fell into sin and rebelled against God. He called a people to Himself to be His “treasured possession.” He delivered from their Egyptian oppressors, and now He is leading them to a land He has promised them. As they are trekking through the wilderness, something doesn’t seem right. They haven’t had water to drink in three days. Extreme thirst doesn’t make sense to them if they are the chosen people of God. Finally, they find water, but it is bitter-undrinkable-poisonous. The people begin complaining because they are in extreme desert heat, and even their children are thirsting. God tells Moses to throw a log into the water, he did, and it became sweet. God was teaching His people to completely depend upon Him for everything – water and the way of life (Exodus 15:22-27). Jesus tells us that He is the Living Water from which we will never thirst again. We are all so thirsty that we will be drinking from something else to quench our thirst if we’re not drinking from Jesus (John 4:14-14).
In Exodus 16, the people of God begin to complain to Moses again that they would have been better off staying in Egypt since they at least got to eat and feed their children meat there. God graciously hears their cries. But let me ask you, “Did Israel ever see their situation and humbly cry out to God in prayer to request their needs?” I can’t remember a time they did this in all of Exodus. It’s so easy to look down on them when we usually have more than what we need to live, yet we complain in life about what we don’t have whether its better food, better stuff, or a better situation. How often do we humbly cry out to God in prayer with our requests? God answers by providing bread to fall on the ground fresh every morning. They people were instructed to only gather enough bread for that day, and the day before the Sabbath they were instructed to gather enough for two days since bread would not be provided on the Sabbath. In John 6:31-35, Jesus links Himself with Moses’ manna and calls Himself the Bread of Life. Feeding from Christ must be fresh every day, and special on every Sunday – the Lord’s Day.
Just when you’d think they’d learn the lesson of prayer, Israel rebels farther past complaining and starts doubting God’s presence among them and goodness to them (17:1-7). They are thirsty again, and all they can see is huge Mount Horeb before them. God tells Moses to strike the rock (Mount Horeb), and He will provide water. Moses does, and waters comes out. Did you know Paul tells us that the rock Moses struck was Christ (1 Cor 10:1-4)? Again, God was teaching His people to depend on Him by following and being nourished in His Son.
Lastly, we see why God was teaching them to rely on them for nourishment, health, and safety. Israel runs into the Amalekites (17:8-16). God designs the battle so that as long as Moses’ arms are lifted in the air, Israel wins. As his arms are dropped, Israel gets defeated. Battles take a long time, and arms get tired. Moses ended up sitting down with Joshua and Aaron at his side to hold his arms up. Could this be a pattern for victory that God is setting into place? God has called us to fight as Christians, but the true victory comes through the out-stretched hands of Jesus Christ on the cross. The Old Testament truly is filled with historical truths written to show us how dependent we must be on Jesus – our Water, Bread, and Victory.