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Exodus 15:22-18:27: The Faithful Provision of the Lord Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 August 2009

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When I was in seminary, I went through a real struggle with diabetes.  For the most part, I had been able to take care of myself through the years.  Yet, for a brief time, this was not the case.  I remember being in Louisville for a two-week class and waking up late on the first day because my sugar was low.  I scrambled around to get something to eat and get ready for the class.  I got there late and had to explain to the professor what was going on.  While I was driving to the seminary, I remember praying: ‘Lord, I don’t want this anymore.  I don’t want a disease that I cannot manage.  Please take it away.’  In one sense, I would like to tell you that the Lord healed me that day, but you all know that is not the case.  Rather, he provided a wife to help me, a doctor to encourage me, and the discipline to get my diabetes back under control.  It was not exactly what I had in mind, but it was what I needed and the Lord was faithful to provide.

The Lord is indeed a faithful provider.  He takes care of His people.  It may not always be what they expect, but it is what they need.  We have seen this already in the book of Exodus.  The Lord provided the Passover lambs for Israel that they might avoid the death of their firstborn.  He heard their cries in Egypt, raised up Moses to lead them, and redeemed them from slavery.  Yet, is this all the Lord provides for Israel?  I mean, does He simply take care of us spiritually (redemption) and leave us on our own for everything else?  Our passage this morning answers this question with a resounding ‘No’.  The Lord not only redeems Israel from slavery in Egypt, but He also provides for them throughout their journey to Mount Sinai (and later through the Wilderness).  As we consider our text together this morning, I want to point out four lessons that we learn concerning God’s provision.

First, the Lord provides for all our needs.

The Lord meets some very particular needs in these chapters.  First, in 15:22-27, we read of Him providing water for the Israelites.  Second, in chapter 16 we read of Him providing food.  He gives them both bread (manna) and meat (quail).  The Lord provides water again in 17:1-7.  Thus, the Lord provides for them physically by giving them both food and drink.  Third, the Lord gives them victory in battle over the Amalekites in 17:8-16.  Finally, in chapter 18 we read of the Lord providing wisdom and leadership, which also serves to relieve Moses’ burdens.  These are all very different needs and they are met in different ways, but it is the Lord who is providing.  He is faithful to provide for our needs.

Of course, we may already be ‘grumbling’ against this notion.  I am sure we can all come up with stories that speak of ‘needs’ that the Lord did not meet: stories of people not being healed, stories of loss and hardship, stories of bad things happening to God’s people.  Yet, perhaps the problem is in our interpretation of these stories.  For example, when I prayed and asked the Lord to heal me in Louisville, He chose in His Sovereign goodness to not heal me.  Rather, He provided for me in the other ways that I mentioned. 

Now I can either conclude that the Lord did not provide for me or that He simply chose to provide for me in a different way than I expected.  In fact, we see this in our text this morning.  Israel prayed for bread and the Lord gave them manna, which was not exactly what they were looking for.  Eventually they would get tired of this provision and grumble again.  We need to realize as God’s people that the Lord will provide for all our needs.  He may not give us exactly what we want (or exactly when we want it), but He is faithful to provide for us.  Yes, these were special circumstances for Israel, but the New Testament writers make it clear that God is still providing for His people (see Romans 8:32 and Philippians 4:19 for example).  He is faithful.

Second, the Lord provides through means.

One of the interesting things about this passage is how God provides for all of these needs.  Look at 15:24-25.  The people complain about the lack of water because the water that they find is bitter.  So the Lord reveals a log, or tree, to Moses that makes the water drinkable.  The means used in this situation is a tree that makes the water sweet.  Look at 16:13-14.  The Lord provides meat by sending quail to Israel.  Then, in the morning, after the dew had gone up, the Lord provides manna.  Natural explanations have been given for both of these provisions.  They go something like, ‘The quails were migrating and were tired and easy to capture.  The manna was some sort of chemical reaction that produced an edible product in that particular region.’ 

In one sense, even if these explanations were proven without a doubt, then that still does not mean that the Lord did not provide them.  I think it is interesting that the Lord tells the people that the quail will be there in the evening and the manna in the morning (see 16:12), which is exactly what happens.  For the record, I am comfortable with the more supernatural explanation of the quail and the manna.  Yet, the point I am making is that the Lord can use ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ means to provide for us.  This in no way detracts from His work and His care and His provision for His people.  He uses the means that He chooses. 

Look at 17:6.  In this instance, the Lord provides water from a rock.  Again, the supernatural explanation is that God has no problem bringing water from a rock (which is of course true).  The natural explanation is that perhaps there was an underground water source that the Lord revealed to Moses.  Either way, the text makes it clear that it is the Lord who is providing for His people.  I believe that the Lord can and does do supernatural things.  Yet, I also believe that the Lord can use more natural means as well.  He can and does provide for us in many different ways. 

Look at 17:8-13.  Here the Lord has Moses gather an army under Joshua and go to battle.  Then the Lord gives them victory as Moses’ hands are upraised.  Since Moses gets tired, Aaron and Hur help him hold his arms up so that Joshua can win the battle.  Could not the Lord have just struck down the Amalekites?  Sure, but this is not how the Lord chose to provide for Israel in this situation. 

Finally, look at 18:17-23.  Moses was trying to deal with all of the issues by himself and was growing weary.  This time the Lord provides through a priest from Midian.  Jethro gives Moses advice about how to manage the people and yet notice His conclusion in verse 23: If you do this God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people alsow will go to their place in peace.  Thus, it is the Lord providing for His people through the means of Jethro’s advice.

I point all this out to show us that the Lord works through various means.  All of this is the Lord’s work.  It is His provision.  The connection is not always easily seen in our lives and circumstances, but we need to recognize that it is the Lord who is providing for us.  It may not be supernatural or miraculous, but His provision through various means is faithful.

Third, the Lord provides graciously, but commands obedience.

One of the other central themes in this passage is the people grumbling against Moses and against the Lord.  Look at 15:24.  They grumbled for lack of water.  Look at 16:2-3.  They grumbled for lack of food.  Look at 17:2-4.  They grumbled again for lack of water to the point that Moses thought they were almost ready to stone me.  Grumble, grumble, grumble.  ‘Things were better in Egypt,’ they say.  ‘You have brought us out here to die.’  ‘Why did you bring us out here?’  Serious grumbling against the Lord and His servant Moses.  Yet, the Lord shows them mercy and grace by providing for their needs.  He gives water (twice) and He gives them food.  In spite of their grumbling, the Lord shows them unmerited favor.  He shows them grace.

At the same time, His grace is not to be trampled upon.  No, He commands that the people respond with obedience and faith to His grace.  Look at 16:15-30.  The Lord commands the people to only gather enough for one day.  They have to trust Him that He will provide for them each day.  They have to believe and obey.  Then He commands them on the sixth day to gather enough for two days to observe the Sabbath.  They have to believe that He will provide enough for the Sabbath and that it will keep.  They have to obey by resting and honoring the Sabbath.  Yes, the Lord shows them grace but this does not mean that He does not expect obedience.  His grace is meant to lead us to repentance and faith (see Romans 2:4).

Fourth, the Lord provides for His glory.

There is no doubt that the Lord provides for the good of His people.  Yet, the ultimate purpose behind His provision is His glory.  Look at 16:6-12.  Just as the Lord showed Egypt that He was the Lord by judging them for their rebellion, so will He show Israel that He is the Lord by His gracious provision for food.  He is the Lord and He deserves all praise and all glory for His provision.  He could have judged Israel for their sin just as He judged Egypt.  But the Lord was gracious toward Israel and revealed Himself to them as the Lord who provides.  We could also consider the account with Jethro in 18:1-12.  Jethro comes to Moses and Moses tells him all that the Lord has done for Israel.  Look at Jethro’s response in 18:10-11.  Again, the thing to note is that Jethro is from Midian.  He is not part of Israel.  Thus, God graciously reveals Himself to a Midianite who responds by praising and glorifying God.  His provision brings Him glory.  The call to remember these provisions (see 16:31-36 and 17:14-16) demonstrates the same idea.  The Lord is glorified for His gracious and faithful provision to Israel.

The Bible is a book about God’s provision for His people.  He uses various means to provide.  He does so graciously while commanding obedience.  He does this all for His glory.  These truths come together in the person and work of Christ.  Our Passover Lamb, our redemption, our rescue from slavery to sin, was accomplished by Christ.  He took on flesh, obeyed the Father, died for our sins, and overcame the grave.  In all of this the Lord was graciously providing redemption for His people. 

Yet, He does not stop there.  As Paul makes clear in Romans 8:31ff, God has promised to meet all our needs in Christ.  Paul states it this way: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Did you catch the implication here?  If God was willing to crush His own Son in our place for our sins, then how could we ever think that He would not also give us all that we need?  It may not always look like we think or come when we think, but the Lord will faithfully provide for all of those who place their faith in Christ.  We can trust in Him.  He is faithful to provide.  Amen.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 August 2009 )

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