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).

The LORD our Mighty Warrior – Exodus 14:1 – 14

The Israelites were rescued from their Egyptian oppressors by God’s mighty hand; but as the exodus narrative continues in chapter 14, we again witness the Lord’s judgment and salvation, as for one last time Pharaoh and Egypt come against Israel and her Lord. While chapter 14 is one story, we will look at in two parts – first, chapter 14:1-14 and next time, verses15-31.

The narrative begins with the Lord saying to Moses, ”turn back and encamp facing the sea.” The Israelites were heading northeast when they were instructed to turn around and go south to the sea, thus hemming them in. The Lord’s purpose for this instruction is expressed in verse 4: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”

Meanwhile back in Egypt we learn of Pharaoh’s remorse for letting the Israelites go, as he employs the best of his chariots and men to pursue the Israelites one last time (14:5-9). When the Israelites see the greatest fighting force of their age in pursuit, “they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.” While crying out to God is an appropriate response under such circumstances, we find that their cry is actually a complaint. “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  (14:10-12). One might marvel over the fact that, after they had been miraculously delivered from their oppressors by the mighty hand of God with such great signs and wonders, their faith would so quickly fail. In reality though, most, if not all of us, would have acted in the very same manner. In fact, we act this way every time we fear life’s trials after having been delivered from the power of sin and death.

Finally Moses gives the Israelites and us what we need to hear: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (14:13-14). The Lord is a mighty warrior who will fight for you, brethren. So fear not! Stand firm! And see the salvation of the Lord for the Lord will fight for you! The Lord will be glorified in the defeat of the Egyptians and Satan, for salvation is of the Lord!

 

 

Pillars of Fire – The LORD Leads (Exodus 13:17 – 22)

The Israelites are finally leaving Egypt. The Lord repeatedly called Pharaoh to, “let my people go,” but it took His judgment in ten devastating plagues upon the Egyptians to bring Pharaoh to the place where he finally submitted to God and let them go (13:17). In our text, as the Israelites march out of Egypt we see three things revealed to us about the Lord.

First, God leads the Israelites (13:17-18). Though there was a quicker route to get to the Promised Land, God led them in another direction for their own good. God knew that they were not ready to inherit the land, so He led the people “by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.” Likewise in our lives, often we want to travel the direct route, and while the final destination may indeed be God’s will for us, we often need to learn as we travel a longer route to get there.

Second, God is faithful to Joseph (13:19). Moses took the bones of Joseph with them as they left Egypt. In this one short verse we learn that God is faithful! He kept His promise as Joseph’s remains went with His people to the Promised Land. He was faithful to Joseph and He will be faithful to you if you are His child.

Third, the Lord goes before his people guiding them day and night. (13:21-22). “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to guide them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” What an awesome display of God’s glory as His people saw a visible manifestation of the Lord in this ‘theophany.’ Moses, when first called, saw a similar theophany in a burning bush. The Lord spoke to Moses through the bush. In our text, this theophany led the Israelites for forty years, in a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night! Many of us today would love to be so clearly guided as we walk through this world. While we may not have a literal glory cloud or pillar of fire to follow, we do have a guide – the blessed Holy Spirit who lives within every believer. We also have the completed Word of God in our Bible that gives clear guidance. Praise the Lord, He still guides His people today!