Thoroughly Equipped: The Wilderness of Sin

Today’s reading includes Exodus 15:19-17:7, Matthew 22:1-33, Psalm 27: Proverbs 6:20-26.

In today’s reading we find the people rejoicing in the great triumph of the Red Sea.  They had personally experienced a great miracle and a great victory from their oppressors.  It was over at last.  Their chains were gone.

But how quickly they forgot the power of God; how quickly their trust in Him waned.  Moses led the people through the desert and they became very thirsty.  When they finally came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink.  And so, they complained and turned against Moses.  They became as bitter as the water there.  And bitterness is never satisfying; it never quenches our thirsty souls.  They had forgotten their God, for if they had remembered Him, they would have known He could have provided water for them.  If He parted the Red Sea, He certainly could have provided them water to drink.  And yet, we see no reference of consulting or petitioning the Lord, only complaining.  Moses did what the people would not.  He cried out to the Lord for help and the Lord quickly responded.  The Lord showed him a piece of wood.  Moses threw the tree into the water and it made the water good to drink.  Many scholars believe this tree is reflective of the cross to come; for surely only the cross can provide the remedy to our bitter hearts and our thirsty souls.

It was at this bitter place that the Lord gave them a decree to follow, a standard with which to test their faithfulness to Him.

26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

                                                                                                            Exodus 15: 26

This was a cause and effect statement.  If you, then I.  “If you listen and obey, then I will heal you, because that is Who I am.”  And at first, it appears they listened to Him.  And He led them to another oasis.  It was at this oasis of Elim they found 12 springs and 70 palm trees.  Look at those numbers.  What does that tell you?  This was an abundant, holy place of God’s provision.  A place to quench their thirst and rest in the shade.

The LORD himself watches over you!

The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.

The sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon at night.

                                                               Psalm 121:5-6

But then they traveled to the wilderness of Sin.  How interesting that the name of the wilderness was Sin.  They left a holy place of peace and rest and they entered the wilderness of sin.

Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin,[a] between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.[b] There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.

                                                                                                Exodus 16:1-2

If Elim represents the introduction to the God of our provision, Mount Sinai represents our final destination, our resting place.  And in between the two is the wilderness of Sin.  How true.  We come to saving knowledge of Lord and we bask in this new knowledge and relationship.  But we aren’t home yet.  And the land in between is often wrought with trials and temptations. This is life on earth.  It is our challenge until the day we go home.  And we can be bitter and complain and think that surely the time in slavery is better and have false memories of the “good ole days”, all the while ignoring the fact that our God is still providing for us and leading us day in and day out.  Or we can trust in the daily Provider, the sender of the manna.

God could have zapped them for their dishonoring forgetfulness, for their incessant complaining. But what did our good Father God do?  He rained down food from heaven.  Each day He provided.  And all they had to do is gather.

We, too, have a choice.  We can go out and gratefully gather what He has graciously provided, or we can complain and grumble and become bitter souls.  I have certainly chosen both paths at different times of my life. But today I choose to gratefully gather all the promises and provisions of my gracious, loving, forgiving God.

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