Monday, December 16, 2013

God 1, Desert 0 -- Exodus 15:25-27

--> Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.  There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.  And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”  Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.
When studying the passage just before this, I suggested when we hit a wall we need to stop trying to be self-sufficient.  Stop crying out to other men.  Stop drinking from our Marahs.  Our God has not changed.  We need to cry out to Him and Him alone.  And in this passage, Moses does exactly that -- in clear contrast to what the Israelites did.
The text says, Moses “cried out to the Lord”.  That is the only door to select and open, as difficult as it may be at the time.  And what does the Lord do?  He “showed him a tree”.
Now what we do not know is what else was said between that phrase and the one right after it, which tells us that Moses “threw it into the waters”.  We do not know what connected God’s provision with Moses’ action.  Did Moses have a hissy fit, which he does not want to tell us about?  Did he say to himself, as many of us may well ask, “How on earth is a tree going to give us water?”  And thus out of anger, did he uproot the tree (assuming it was in the ground) and throw it into the water?  Or was it more likely that God gave Moses instructions as to what to do with the tree just as He had in the past with regards to his staff or the snake that appeared?  Alternatively, we can take the text at face value and just think that Moses was so in tune with God that he knew exactly what to do with the tree that the Almighty showed him.
A question we can well ask ourselves is this: Do we know what to do with what God shows us, especially when we hit a wall in our life?
Pick your choice of the options above.  Clearly, how Moses got to do what he did is not the key point of the story right here.  He did it.  He threw the tree God provided into the bitter waters of Marah.  And the Bible says the “waters became sweet”.  Let us not for a moment think it was the tree that turned the bitter waters sweet, any more than it was the wood in the cross on which Jesus died that saved us.  No, it was the awesome power of God that made the Marah waters drinkable.  And it was the grace of God that saved us.   Did Moses have any doubt as to the miracle that took place that day in the desert?  I think not.  More important is the question, “Do we have any doubt of what took place on Calvary the day Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified?”
The next sentence in our text is also interesting.  We are told it was there at Marah that God made a statute and a regulation for them.  This was the second statute referred to in Scripture but the first regulation.  The first statute was not made by God but rather by the Patriarch Joseph back in Genesis 47:26.  A ‘statute’ in biblical days was a law or decree passed by a sovereign or God.  In the case of Joseph, his statute had to do with what the Israelites had to give back to Pharaoh from the produce of their land.  All were subject to it except for priests.   But here in Exodus 15, it is God that is making the statute and in fact, it is also a regulation.  Strong’s Lexicon defines ‘regulation’ as an ordnance, justice, or judgment.  So here was a requirement (statute) with a consequential regulation (a judgment) or penalty that would follow were the statute not observed.  So what exactly was involved?
The ‘statute’ part was simply this: Give heed to the voice of the Lord your God; do what is right in His sight; give ear to His commandments; and keep all His statutes.
The ‘regulation’ part was given in the positive: If you follow the statute in its entirely, you will not be visited by the diseases which I gave to the Egyptians as this is My way of healing you and keeping you well. We have to notice the “If you” for without it, the regulation makes no sense.
As we consider what God is asking us for, we can see some commonality with what a loving parent asks of a child he/she loves, or for that matter, a doctor asks of a patient he/she cares for immensely – “Listen to what I tell you; do what you know I would expect of you; obey my requests; and follow all of my instructions.  Then you’ll be fine, you’ll be safe.  You’ll get well and stay healthy.”  The conditions of the statute are reasonable.  Of course, to make it all possible, we must be able to recognize God’s voice, be familiar with His word in a way that we know what He expects of us, and clearly understand what He considers to be sin.
And while this was God’s first statute and regulation, He also wanted the children of Israel to keep all the other ones He was going to give them down the road.  God was basically saying to them, “Look, if I’m your Lord and warrior and all the things you sang about just a while ago, I need you to be ready to meet my requests now and in the future.  Can you do that?”  Good question.  And it’s asked of us as well.
If the children of Israel could do that, their reward was worth it.  Israel would be spared the diseases that had befallen the Egyptians.  First of all, we need to realize that God was talking about the statutes that Moses was going to give the Isrealites in the Mosaic Laws he was going to lay down for them.  Chuck Smith talks about this at length in his commentary.  I quote him here:
There is a very interesting book called, "None of These Diseases" written by [two] medical doctor[s], in which [they go] into the law that God gave to Moses, and into especially the dietary aspects of the law, and into the washing ordinances within the law, and actually shows that if a person would keep the law of Moses; that it was a sanitary code among other things. And that by the keeping of the law, following the laws of sanitation, and diet and so forth, that a person would live a much healthier life, that there are the rules of health in the law of God. . . . So the promise being if you keep the law and so forth, then I will keep you. "I'm the Lord that heals you." But the healing is so often through preventative measures, of proper diet, proper sanitation and so forth. So as we get into the law of Moses, we're [going to] find that much of it deals with just health, and healthy practices. God wants you to be healthy, and He's given you the rules. – [italics mine]

David Guzik echoes the comments of Smith in his commentary.  Matthew Henry on the other hand, sees this whole section as God wanting to make sure that the children of Israel did not think they did not have any “master” now that they had been freed from their life of slavery.  Both perspectives are possibilities although I prefer Smith and Guzik’s thinking on this one.

No matter what, the bottom line is, as God Himself declares – He, the Lord, is our healer.  And, God Who had now declared this statute and regulation, did indeed “test them” as the text states.  How hard could that be for the children of Israel?  I mean they were in strange territory on route to the Promised Land after years of slavery and having just experienced incredible miracles.  All they had to do was just satisfy the statute and avoid the penalty of the regulation.  But could they do it?   Can we do it?

Nevertheless, God Who is all loving, continued to lead them though He knew they would fail Him.  He then took them also to Elim where He provided them with not one, but “twelve springs of water”, perhaps one for each tribe of the children of Israel.  And if that was not enough, He also showed them “seventy date palms” that they could eat from.  Our God is not only a Healer, but a Provider, a Nourisher.  And so, the Israelites now with their thirst quenched and their stomachs filled, could rest beside the waters.

If you are grumbling today, may I suggest that you heed the statute and regulation of God – listen to His voice, do what He expects, and follow His commandments.  And if you do, you will be given Living Waters to drink, the Bread of Life to eat, and perfect peace in Him.

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