Cross and Flame - Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame).

Testing God

Exodus 17:1-7

The Old and New Testaments speak to God’s relationship to God’s people.  The Old Testament is more of a reference to a people that knew they were chosen by God and recognized by other nations as being God’s people.  The New Testament speak to a people who have chosen to believe in the “Coming Messiah” spoken of in the Old Testament and recognized as Jesus the Christ in the New Testament.

When one has a close relationship with Creator God as Abba, Father and sovereign God, there is an intimate knowledge of the other that reassures us of God’s love and care for us.

As we look at today’s passage of Scripture, we witness yet another miracle of God performed by Moses but on the behalf of the people that he has been appointed to lead out of bondage.  It was no small job to stand against Pharaoh and plead for the release of the people.  Every “yes” from Pharaoh’s mouth on one day, became a “no” on the next day.  Every “maybe” on Tuesday was met with a change of mind of Wednesday.  With each plague one would have thought it was enough for Pharaoh to make up his mind about whether he would honor God’s request to let the people go.

After much ado about a lot of things, the people gather up their belongings and are on their way.  As soon as their travels began, they began to grumble.  In chapter 14 they come through the Red Sea.  Scripture says they feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses, his servant.  Well, as we will see, things change.

In Chapter 15 they went into the Desert of Shur; three days in, they had no water.  When they did find water, it was bitter and they could not drink. They began to grumble and complain.  They were actually complaining against God, not Moses but Moses had to take the brunt of it because he was there in the flesh.  If you remember, Moses was not interested in the assignment, but he went because he was sent.

Leading God’s people has never been easy.  God doesn’t do what we want God to do when we want God to do it.  God doesn’t usually ask us “how” we want it done.  While these people knew whose orders Moses was following, they dogged Moses.  They did not want to face God.  At Marah, the place of bitter waters,

“the LORD spoke and tested them.  If you listen carefully to the voice of 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 Egyptian, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”  Exodus 15:26.

Next, we find this community of people complaining about food.  It is ironic that they would slight the bondage under Pharaoh and how they were treated, and brag about  sitting around eating “pots of meat” until they wanted no more.  Now they accuse Moses of bringing them into the desert to die.  Again, God in God’s infinite mercy, sends bread from heaven and they eat.  Again, God provides.  Again, Moses reminds them that it was the LORD that brought them out of Egypt.  How soon they forgot.

A little bitter water turned sweet to drink; a little bread from heaven to quiet the rumblings in their stomachs and now they are promised meat.  With each provision they are given instructions when to gather and how much to gather.  There is something going on here but they are unaware of what God is doing because they are only thinking of themselves.  They choose to ignore God.  If they think about what God has commanded, they would feel guilty about what they were doing and saying.

I encourage you to read chapters 15-17 and note how many times the people grumbled against the LORD and accused Moses of setting them up to die.  At one time Moses felt they wanted to kill him.

Chapter 17 brings us full circle; the people again remind Moses that they are thirsty; they demand water.  This time Moses has a few words with them as they continue their whining and grumbling to him and against God.  Not only do they complain but they make false accusations against Moses.  He did not lead them into the desert to die.  This time it seems they have gotten on Moses’ last nerve.  Do you have a last nerve?  When folks get on your last nerve, you will find yourself crying out to the LORD as Moses did.

There is something to be said for the people.  Walking around in the desert for days with no water will test your faith in God.  Have you had your faith tested?  Even when you know you don’t have anyone to depend on but the Lord, you can get to the point that it seems you have been forgotten and forsaken.  So, we can give the chosen people of God that, but why hurl darts at the one God sends?  It wasn’t even Moses idea to decide the route out of Egypt.

The miracles keep on happening.  This time it is water from a rock and Moses has witnesses that the people trust and believe; the elders over the different tribes.   Most commentaries bring our attention to the “water” because there is so much symbolism here that points to the New Testament and Jesus Christ.  He is the ultimate blessing and provision from God.  However, in looking at this passage from an application to everyday life, I want to focus on the people’s response to God’s goodness.

Throughout Exodus, we witness a God who cares for His people.  We witness a God who provides in ways we could not even begin to think or dream of.  We witness a God who sends leaders that we fault for honoring God in all things.  We witness a God that is patient and who proves repeatedly that love is the cornerstone of this relationship.

What about us?  How do we understand the trials and tribulations in our lives?  In Exodus, God is testing the people even as they are putting God to test.  Throughout Scripture God’s people are put to a test.  The idea is not to make life any more unbearable or tougher than it already is, but to see where your loyalty lies.  Will you continue to dance with the one who brought you or will you find another partner?  Will you be obedient to the commands and instructions that are given for your good or will you opt for a temporary fix?

Sometimes we cannot see what is best for us.  Sometimes we must follow instructions even though we have our own ideas about how the thing should play out.  We fuss.  We complain.  We ascribe to God things that are not of God.  Remember Job’s friends and their counsel to him.  They just knew that he had done something to make God mad and thus he was being punished for it.  What about the grumblings of these people?  They claim Moses wants them dead.  I wonder what they thought about Pharaoh.  Was he in their corner?  I think not.

The blessing is that God keeps coming to their rescue even though they denied the revelation of God to them in the miracles that they witnessed.  God keeps on blessing them even when they lied on Moses; they denied the blessings of God. This can be the story of many of us who sit in this room and many other Christians.  We all believe in Jesus as long as things are going our way, but when it gets tough, we pull away.  In Ephesians 6:10-18 we are encouraged to

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Do you realize how many people have overcome by standing on the Word of God?  Reality is reality, but faith takes you one dimension further.  It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.  In a few days I will have to give a report at our Charge Conference on the state of this church.  I could whine and complain about some things.  I could grumble to you, but I will face the reality of how things really are.  What you see isn’t always what you get or even have.

I will by faith remember the history of this church and how the saints before us had to lean and depend on God many times.  There was very little money, not because they did not give but because they didn’t have it to give.  They wanted their church to survive so they sacrificed what they had to make sure worship would go on.   At one time there was no preacher, no choir, but they held on to their faith.  It does trouble me that we are going around that mountain again, but I believe we will get in line with what God is calling us to be and do.

As your leader, I am called to trust God and go where God wants me to lead you.  It means being in prayer 24/7.  You are God’s people; the sheep of God’s pasture.  I am the shepherd providing watch and Jesus is the Great Shepherd.

All of this and all of us belong to God.  He is the Creator and it is God that we must follow.  God has made provisions for each of us naturally and spiritually; individually and collectively.  He has given us Jesus Christ as Emmanuel; God with us.  He knows our every thought and every move.  Nothing is hidden.

God will test our faith.  God will test our obedience; It is written that obedience is better than sacrifice.  He has made it plain that He loves us by giving His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  He has made us worthy of every good gift.  It is my prayer today, that we would take some time and meditate on the gifts that have been given to us.  Are we hoarding everything or sharing what we have for the good of all?

Look at where we came from.  Thank God, some of us have survived our worst nightmares.  We are here because God wanted us here.  He wants a relationship with us through Jesus Christ.  Instead of looking around at what is not, look around at what is.  Don’t grow weary because the pew in front of you is empty, invite someone to come in and get to know Jesus.  It is written that if Jesus is lifted up, He will draw the people.  Let Him be the center of your joy when you come into the Lord’s house.  The children of Israel put God to the test. Let’s put God to the test about our lack and see if He has changed.  I believe He is waiting to bless us if we will turn back to Him.  Amen.