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Trusting in the Lord: Moses & God’s Provisions (Exodus 15:22-27; 16:1-15; 17:1-7)

“We, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel
we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and
faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set
down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with
us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I. Investigation: An Examination of Exodus 15:22-27; 16:1-15; 17:1-17

A. Introduction

Exodus 15:22 through Exodus 19:25 has been titled “The Journey to God”. This portion of the Exodus
narrative describes the journey of the Israelites from the Song of the Sea to Mount Sinai. We will
examine three episodes during their track to Sinai. In these three events, the Israelites are faced with
the lack of food and water—essential physical needs. However, the Lord utilizes these lessons to
reveal their spiritual needs. This journey was an opportunity for the Lord to reveal Himself and teach
His people. Similar to the Israelites, our problems and persecutions are meant to teach us to depend
upon the Lord and remain faithful.

B. Lessons for the Israelites

1. Bitter Waters at Marah (15:22-27)

a. Problem

b. Israelites’ Response

c. God’s Response

The Lord calls for His people to find life through obedience (cf. Deut 5:33; 6:2; 30:15-16).

2. Lack of Food in the Desert of Sin (16:1-15)

a. Problem

It has been approximately one month since Israel left Egypt (cf. Num 33:3). Note that the
“Wilderness of Sin” is not named after their shortcomings, but the name refers to a geographical
location (i.e., part of the Sinai area).

b. Israelites’ Response (vv. 2-3)

What was once “the people” murmuring (15:24), now the “entire congregation” participates in
the complaining. So great is their grumbling, that the narrative reiterates it four times in this
chapter (vv. 7, 8, 9, 12)!

Several issues exist with their grumbling. First, their complaint concerning their lack of food
isn’t exactly true because in Exodus 17:3, they indicate that they do have livestock—a source of
milk and meat. Second, they exaggerated their former situation. It is highly improbable that
Pharaoh furnished them with meat. And finally, the Israelites impugned the motives of their
leaders. Of course, their discontentment and dissatisfaction was ultimately directed against God.

c. God’s Response (vv. 4-12)

vv. 4-5 – The “need to know” indicates God’s desire for a response and a relationship with His
people. It seems rather odd in light of all the Israelites have experienced. Would they not know
this YHWH who defeated the Egyptians? It would seem that the point of the narrative is a call
for the Israelites to start regarding God, and not Moses, as their true leader.

vv. 6-8 – Observe that the Lord never indicates the “how or when”; He simply promises
provisions for the Israelites.

vv. 9-10 – The presence of God’s glory highlights that He is not only aware of their difficult
situation, but that He is also present with them. The Israelites need to stop complaining and
start trusting. Ryken makes a very important point in his commentary on Exodus, “God did not
perform this miracle simply because his people begged for it. He provided them bread for his
own glory” (p. 427).

vv. 13ff. – The Scriptures describe this manna as follows: (1) small, thin seed which is easy to
pick, (2) white, thus easy to spot, (3) clean and safe to eat, (4) possesses a sweet taste, (5) edible
either raw or cooked, and (6) satisfied one’s hunger. Scholars have debated on the identification
of this substance. Even the etymology of the work is debated. One scholar argues the best
rendering is: “Whatchamacallit”(cf. Hamilton, Exodus, 255). The Apostle Paul refers to manna as
“spiritual food” (1 Cor 10:3; also, cf. Ps 105:40).

Once again, there is a call for obedience and loyalty to the Lord (cf. Deut 8:3 – “So he humbled
you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach
you that mankind cannot live by food alone, but also by everything that comes from the LORD’s

3. Lack of Water at Massa and Maribah (17:1-7)

a. Problem

b. Israelites’ Response

c. God’s Response

“Today, if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that
day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me” (Ps 95:7-9; 78:40-41).

II. Intersect

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment
of the ages has come.” ~ 1 Cor 10:11

a. Problem(s) of Life

b. Our Response

1 Peter 1:6-7 – enduring trials refines our faith

James 1:2-3 – consider it joy as you persevere in faith (also, cf. 1 Cor 10:10)

c. God’s Response

Phil 4:19 – “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

2 Peter 1:3a – God promises to give us “everything we need for life and godliness.”

“A complaining spirit always indicates a problem in our relationship with God.”
~ P. Ryken