The Ministry of the Body – Exodus 18:13-27

In next Sunday’s text we reach the second scene of two involving Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, before the epic encounter with the Lord at Mount Sinai. In the first scene we saw how Jethro heard what the Lord had done for Israel, believed the Lord, proclaimed what he believed, and ultimately worshipped the Lord. Now in this second scene, which takes place the next day, Jethro observed Moses dealing with the people of Israel around him all day long. He said in verse 14 of chapter 18: “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”  And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the decrees of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.” You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Jethro saw that all Moses did was not good, so he gave him godly counsel to seek help from other men who feared God. Jethro’s counsel was both for the good of Moses as well as all of the people. Moses heeded his counsel and Jethro went back to his land.

First this text teaches us that no man, not even Moses, can handle everything. We see something similar today in our churches where pastors, deacons, teachers, and evangelists are getting burned out from doing all the work of the ministry. Much wisdom comes with godly people helping those whom the Lord has ordained as under-shepherds. All of us in the body of Christ need to serve where we can. But this scene is also profound in its meaning and place just prior to Israel’s reaching Mount Sanai, where they will receive the Law of God. The people needed to know the Lord’s decrees and laws. They were having disputes without knowing how to resolve them. At Mount Sinai the Lord would formally give all of the people His law (Exodus chapters 20-23). There they will find out how to respond to one another, as the Lord reveals to each of them how they should live. But, as we’ll see as we continue in Exodus, even this will fall short; as ultimately their need is to have the law written on their hearts.

 

 

What the Lord has Done in Me – Exodus 18:1-12

The Lord has brought the Israelites out of Egypt and they are closing in on Mount Sinai where they will witness a tremendous manifestation of the Lord’s presence in the giving of the Ten Commandments. Many call this epic event the heart and center of the book of Exodus. But before they reach the mountain of the Lord, there are two scenes involving Moses’ father in-law, Jethro. In the first scene, Jethro, a priest of Midian, meets Moses again for the first time since Moses left Egypt. Although Jethro had heard all that God had done for Israel, Moses gave him a first-hand account of what the Lord had done. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them (18:8).

Hearing these words from Moses, Jethro rejoiced for all the good the Lord has done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Jethro exclaimed, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”  Jethro heard, rejoiced, and he believed, exulting, “Yahweh is greater than all gods!” Jethro worshiped the Lord along with Moses and Aaron, with a sacrificial offering before God.

It is an amazing scene! Although only the Lord knows if Jethro was truly converted, nevertheless it is a wonderful picture of how the Gospel of God is spread – this good news of salvation, not merely from Egypt, but from sin and its penalty that changes hearts and minds. The good news of salvation must be declared (see Psalm 96:3; Mark 16:15). We are all called to be witnesses of what the Lord has done and will do. It is done corporately and individually. Let us continually proclaim the glories of the Lord to our family, friends, neighbors, and the world, Salvation is of the LORD Jesus Christ!

Hosanna, Hosanna, to the Lamb that was slain. Hosanna, Hosanna, Jesus died and rose again.

The Lord is my Banner – Exodus 17:8-16

While the Israelites are still at Rephidim in the wilderness, they face another trial of a different kind. This time they are attacked by the Amalekites. This was the first time they encountered a military force to fight against in battle. The Amalekites were most likely descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau. This will not the last time that Israel will battle these desert-dwelling people. In our text we are introduced to Joshua and Hur the son of Caleb. Joshua’s appearance in this battle foreshadows his role in taking the Promised Land. The description of the battle is brief, but amazing – Moses said to Joshua “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. (Ex 17:9-13)

Joshua and his men are told to physically fight the battle while Moses, Aaron and Hur go up to the hill with the staff of God in Moses’ hand. This was the same staff of God used to turn the waters in the Nile to blood and other plagues upon Egypt; the same staff of God used when Moses stretched out his hand to part the Red Sea. Now the staff is lifted upwards to intercede for the battle below. Through Moses and this staff the Lord is working to win the battle and defeat the Amalekites. We see this by what follows: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”  And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner,  saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:14-16). It is the Lord who will defeat the Amalekites! Moses built a memorial stone and called it “The Lord is my banner,”  because he attributed the victory unto Yahweh!

 

Water from the Rock – Exodus 17:1-7

The Lord is guiding Israel forward moving them ever closer to Mt Sinai. It’s been two months since they miraculously left Egypt, having been tested in the wilderness first at Marah with the bitter waters, and second, with their desire for food and the Lord’s provision of manna. Israel failed both tests, and in chapter 17 they will be tested a third time. Of course these were not tests for which God did not know the outcome, for He knows all (Ps 139:1-3), but they were tests for Israel to see whether they would trust the Lord’s promise and provision. But again they failed. Without any water whatsoever, Israel failed this time, not only by grumbling as they had before, but this time with quarrelling. As we see, Moses feared, “they are almost ready to stone me.” (v. 4); and “they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (v. 7)

The Lord answers His peoples’ complaints; just as He had in the two prior scenes, again the Lord is longsuffering towards Israel, and He graciously provides for His people. He tells Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your staff with which you struck the river, and go.  Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (v. 5-6). The same staff that struck the Nile and brought death to the waters in the first plague in Egypt, would now bring forth fresh waters from a rock! The Lord called Moses forward to go before the people and strike the rock. He also told Moses He would stand before him; God’s presence is with them. Once again in our text we see that the Lord provides for His people; and by the same mighty hand that brought them out of Egypt, He will bring His people into the Promised Land to which Israel is moving ever closer.

From these three tests in the wilderness we learn that we, like Israel, are a sinful people. Like them, we need to trust in the Lord and in His ways. Like Israel, God does not always bring us directly to the place of promise. But, He does promise to bring us to our ultimate destination in His time. For all the promises of God in Him are yes and in Him Amen, to the glory of God. How gracious and precious is the Lord!

 

Three Tests in the Wilderness (Pt 2): Want of Food – Exodus 16:1-35

About a month after the Lord delivered the children of Israel from Egypt by His mighty hand, we left them at Elim (15:27) where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. The Lord brought them there after they had grumbled against Him because of the bitter waters of Marah. However, their foretaste of the Promise Land at Elim would come to an end in chapter 16, as they enter the wilderness of Sin. It is here where the entire congregation of Israel grumbled against God again saying, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (16:3). In spite of their grumbling, in mercy the Lord replied to Moses, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God’ (16:12).

While the quail He sent would be temporary on this night and another to come, the bread would rain down for the next 40 years on every day, except on the Sabbaths. This “manna” was supernatural bread from heaven which God miraculously provided. It was unlike anything ever seen before or after. The Psalmist spoke of it as bread from heaven and of angels (Ps 78:24-25), and the apostle Paul called it spiritual food (1 Cor 10:3). The bread that God provided was sufficient as He gave them enough for each day with a double portion for the Sabbath. The bread was also sacred in the sense they were to keep some as a memorial of the Lord’s salvation and provision. Future generations would know what the Lord had done for Israel by this memorial! Lastly, the bread was sanctifying, as Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

These aspects of the manna point to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life. Jesus who miraculously fed 5000 with bread, is Himself far more precious for men to feed upon than the manna they had continually in the wilderness. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35; 53-58).

The Song of Moses – Exodus 15:1-21

After being delivered from sure death by the hand of the Almighty Lord God, Moses and the people of Israel sang a song of praise!

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

This is the first song sung in the Bible, but it will not be the last; songs of redemption are prevalent in Scripture. David sang a song of praise to the Lord near the end of his life, recorded in 2 Samuel chapter 22, praising the Lord for deliverance over his enemies.

“David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.  I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

In Isaiah chapter 42 another song is sung, a new song about the coming deliverance of the Israelites from Babylon, the lyrics of which are reminiscent of our text in Exodus 15. In response to God’s goodness in granting them a child, Hannah and Mary sing a song of praise to the Lord for giving them Samuel a prophet, and Jesus Christ, prophet, priest, and king, and the Savior of the world! Songs of praise continue to be sung by God’s people to this day. As believers, we have so much to be thankful for and therefore so much to sing about. We have been delivered, are being delivered and will ultimately be saved to spend eternity with our Lord. Like the saints in the bible, we should delight to sing praises to the Lord every day He graciously blesses us with, for salvation is of the Lord. There is no one like our God, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, and mighty to save!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” Rev 5:12

Salvation and Judgement at the Red Sea – Exodus 14:15-31

We have reached the climax of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. All that happened from the opening of the book of Exodus, when the Israelites were persecuted and made slaves, leads to this epic event on the edge of the wilderness of Egypt. In one miraculous act the Lord sets His covenant people free while finally judging Egypt for her sin against His people and their God, Yahweh. The Lord told Moses in verse 16 of chapter 14, “Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground.” Yahweh divided the Red Sea in this way so that He would be glorified in His action against Pharaoh and his army and charioteers – that all shall know once and for all that Yahweh is Lord! In verses 19-20 the angel of the Lord, manifested in the pillar of cloud and fire, moved between the Egyptians and the Israelites so that the Lord’s people would be protected as Moses raised his staff; miraculously, the sea parted revealing the dry ground. Imagine the sight; the waters of the sea are described as walls on both sides of their passage! The Israelites, who by all accounts were two to three million, passed through the sea in a passage estimated to be a half-mile wide. The Lord is mighty to save and at times does so miraculously.

God’s people were saved as the Egyptians were held back by the pillar of cloud. After a while, as the children of Israel passed through the sea, the Egyptians were released to again pursue them. But the Lord threw the armies into confusion as they realized that they were fighting against Yahweh Himself (14:23-25). Finally the Lord told Moses to once again stretch forth his staff, and the waters returned and not one Egyptian remained alive. The text ends saying Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (14:30-31).

 What an amazing God we serve – the One who declares the beginning from the end! You can be sure at the end of the age that there will be a final judgment where those who are apart from Christ will be judged unto eternal punishment. But those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus, by His grace, will be found righteous by an imputed righteousness that comes from Christ alone. God is righteous in both judgment and salvation. (see 2 Thess 1:5-10).