This week’s reading takes us from Pharaoh releasing the people of Israel through the reed sea and into the wilderness. In the course of the journey, the Israelites see several miracles, complain each time they face a potential life-threatening situation, and are finally put into battle themselves.
In the beginning, they find themselves hemmed in at an impassable sea with the Egyptian military giving chase. This forces an immediate decision. The Israelites are being tested. G-d sent them this way knowing that a test would happen. Will they remain faithful or will they quit? The Israelites found out that they were quick to want to give up and return to slavery rather than battle for freedom. They were not ready yet. But G-d was also not ready to return them to slavery. He creates a water miracle and splits the sea for them to cross. As the Egyptians enter the split sea after them, G-d destroys the enemy. The Pharaoh will never again question the power of the living G-d. However, the Israelites will.
They walk into the land for three days and find themselves short on water. There is water to but it is undrinkable because it is bitter. They are at the waters of Marah (bitter). Here we go again. Exodus 15:24 “And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”
Again, the people are not looking for solutions and certainly not yet looking to G-d. They are looking to blame Moses and looking to him for solutions. G-d shows up and does a second water miracle. Moses follows His instruction from the L-rd to throw a tree in the water, and the waters are turned from bitter to sweet. The people are told by G-d to obey His commandments and keep His statutes in order to stay free of the diseases of the Egyptians.
They moved to a place called Elim. Then G-d led them to the wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. The food they brought is now running out and for the third time they begin to grumble and complain against Moses. They again are considering the cost of freedom and many believe a life of slavery better than the unknowns ahead.
The Lord now brings about the third recorded miracle in the first month of their journey. He provides quail for meat and manna for bread and establishes the pattern of not working for food on the Shabbat. He provides enough on the sixth day to feed them on the seventh day.
As they moved further into the wilderness, they faced another water crisis. Again, rather than pray, seek the L-rd or even look for solutions, they chose to complain and grumble against Moses. G-d in His incredible grace and mercy provides the third water miracle and fourth miracle overall. This third miracle is Moses hitting a rock and water pouring forth for the people to drink. The place was called Massah (testing) and Meribah (quarreling).
The reading ends with an interesting moment in the nation of Israel’s early history.
Up until this moment, G-d has provided the food, the water, and fought each battle against the Egyptians without the people. Each of the victories has been G-d partnering with Moses and Aaron only and doing extraordinary works which have defeated the enemy and provided for the people. With each of these events (crossing of the red sea, bitter water turned sweet, manna from heaven, water from a rock) the Israelites complained and did not have faith. In this last bit of the reading this week, Exodus 17:8-16, Israel is attacked by the Amalekites. Moses instructs Joshua to choose men for battle and take them to war. Finally, the people will have to stand and fight. But they are not alone. Moses goes onto a hill above the battleground and as he held his arms up the favor of G-d rested on the warriors and they succeeded. This is a lesson for us.
G-d provided four miracles without the assistance of the people and yet they complained and did not have faith. Here, the fifth miracle will require faith which means action as well. They will be required to risk their lives to win the battle. G-d does it with them.
Questions to consider.
What trials would drive you to consider giving up freedom for slavery?
In what ways do you see yourself in the Israelites of this story?
How would you feel if you were following G-d through a leader who led you into potential life-threatening circumstances?
Rate your heart 1-10, 1 being no faith or trust and 10 being full faith (trust)
a. G-d will provide for my physical needs.
b. G-d speaks to me through others.
c. G-d speaks to me personally.
d. The Bible is true and for me today.