Early Lessons in the Wilderness

Soon after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Sea of Suf), they had to begin learning to trust the Lord for their daily provisions.  Their first lesson was at Marah (bitter).  This place was so named because the water there was bitter.  After the people complained about the water quality, the Lord told Moses to put a tree in the water so it could be made sweet.  At that time, the Lord gave the people a statute and an ordinance and He tested them.  He told them if they were obedient, they would not experience the diseases of the Egyptians.  He then revealed Himself as the Lord who heals them.

Exodus doesn’t tell us what these commandments were but the Targum does:

“And there did the Word of the Lord appoint to him the ordinance of the Sabbath, and the statute of honouring father and mother, the judgments concerning wounds and bruises., and the punishments wherewith offenders are punished; and there he tried (them) with the tenth trial, and said, If you will truly hearken to the Word of the Lord your God, and do that which is right before Him, and will listen to His precepts and keep all His statutes, all those evil things that I laid upon the Mizraee I will not lay upon thee: but if thou wilt transgress against the word of the law, upon thee shall they be sent. If thou convert, I will remove them from thee; for I am the Lord thy Healer.”[1]

The healing of the water at Marah was a picture of Christ.  When Jesus died on a wooden cross, it fulfilled Isaiah 53:5 which says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”  NKJV 

The wooden tree Moses put into the water removed the bitterness and purified the water.  As a result of Jesus death on the cross, we can be purified and healed both physically and spiritually.  He will take away our heart of stone filled with bitterness, hatred, and evil desires and replace it with a heart of flesh so we can obey and serve the Lord with joy.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 says it this way, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”  NKJV 

The Israelites moved on and camped by the waters of Elim where there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees.  Then they traveled to the Wilderness of Sin between Elim and Sinai.  By that time, the people were so hungry they began complaining against Moses and Aaron.  They seemed to have forgotten the power with which the Lord had brought them out of Egypt.   At that point, the Lord promised Moses that He would provide meat (quail) in the evening and bread from heaven (manna) in the morning. 

The Lord gave commands regarding the collection of the manna.  By the way, the word manna comes from “man hu?” which means “what is it?”   The Israelites were instructed to collect an omer (approximately 2 quarts or liters) of manna per person per day but twice as much on the 6th day of the week.  They were not to allow any to remain until morning unless it was being held for the 7th day (Sabbath).  This meant the Israelites would have to rely on the Lord to provide for their needs each day. 

These instructions were not only to teach dependence on the Lord for daily sustenance but they were also a test to see if the people would obey the Lord’s law for the Sabbath or not.  It didn’t take long for them to fail the test.  Apparently, some people went looking for manna on the 7th day even though the portion for that day had already been given on the previous day.  Moses had to emphasize that the 7th day of the week (Saturday) had been given to them as a day of rest.  Moses told them not to collect manna or leave their place on the Sabbath.  This wasn’t a punishment.  The Sabbath was a gift of rest they were expected to enjoy.  This is something they would have to learn how to do because they were so accustomed to working all the time.

Do we fail tests God gives us too?  Do we always see His commands as hindrances in our lives?  Do we know how to rest on the Sabbath which is the 7th day of the week?  Maybe we’d be more cooperative if we understood the significance of it.

First Corinthians 10:1-5 says, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”  NKJV

If we are Christians, we are under the Father’s grace.  We’ve passed through a sea of clean and unclean people in order to approach the Lord and have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We eat the bread and wine of the marriage covenant which represents the body and blood of Christ each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus is the Living Water and the Bread of Life that came down from heaven so we can be raised up to have eternal life with Him (John 4:10, 6:32-40, 7:38; Rev. 7:17).  If we do not partake of (accept) Jesus, the Bread of Life and Living Water, we cannot experience the future Sabbath God has planned for us (John 6:5; Heb. 4:1-3).  Please understand that those who ate manna, drank from the rock, and rested on the Sabbath in the wilderness practiced God’s plan or pattern for the future without realizing it. 

When we don’t properly observe the Sabbath, we’re attempting to change God’s pattern.  This is what the Antichrist will do when he attempts to change times and law (Dan. 7:25).  When we don’t properly observe the Sabbath, we’re unknowingly following the plan of the Antichrist.

Instead of following the Antichrist, we should seek shelter from the Rock or Horn of our Salvation and remember He’s our Deliverer, our Fortress, and Our Strength (Psalm 18:2-3).  Our Rock will take care of us and make sure we enjoy our coming Sabbath rest.  Put your trust in Him!

[1] Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Section XVI. Beshalach.   http://targum.info/pj/pjex13-17.htm


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