Mark 4:26-32

In Mark 4:26-32, Jesus uses the act of planting seeds to say something about the kingdom of God. You might not be aware of this, but there is difference of opinion about what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. Is Jesus referring to the coming millennial kingdom where He would reign as king over the world? Or was he speaking about a spiritual kingdom which He was currently establishing in the hearts of those who believe Him? While the Bible teaches that there will be a millennial kingdom in the future, it seems to me that Jesus was talking about the spiritual kingdom at this point.

This would coincide with what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” He wasn’t telling his followers to seek to be a part of the future kingdom of God on earth. He was telling them to submit to God and make His ways a priority in their lives. So as we look at this passage, that is how I will interpret “the kingdom of God.”

[Read Mark 4:26-32.]

During my summer with Marion Baptist Church, I lived with an older farmer and his wife. While there, I learned that farming was not for the faint of heart. I helped toss hay into the top of a barn, tear down a chicken building, tasted field corn (I hadn’t known there was a difference), and was chased by a rooster. But I also learned that between planting seeds and harvesting crops there is a lot of work. Sometimes, the seeds grow well and provide a good income for the farmer. At other times, the seeds don’t grow or amount to much.

In the verses we just read, Jesus likened the kingdom of God to the process of planting seeds and harvesting a crop. During this message, we will look at four thoughts from what Jesus said about seeds.

  1. The kingdom of God is like a seed that is planted (26).

    The first statement Jesus made about the kingdom of God is that it is like a man who is scattering seed on the ground. This was a picture which all of the people would easily recognize. They had probably just passed several men who were doing that on this day. Jesus was using this imagery to teach something about the kingdom of God. However, to understand the analogy, we must understand what the terms in the parable represent.

    a. What is the kingdom?

    Remember how Jesus told Nicodemus that he would not see or enter the kingdom unless he was born again? He was talking about the new birth that makes a spiritually dead person alive to God. Nicodemus did not understand. But neither did the other Pharisees of his day.

    In Luke 17:21, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom was not something that would be observed by them. It was something that would be within them. More than just a future physical kingdom, God’s kingdom begins inside of those who believe Him and willingly submit to his rule in their lives. The kingdom of God is not just something in the future; it is something God is doing right now.

    b. Who is the man?

    At this point, we might be safe in assuming that Jesus is the farmer in the parable. He was the One who was planting the seeds of truth in the lives of those who were listening. But as the disciples took on this task, this farmer could represent any of them or any of us who are speaking the truth to others. This idea is supported by Jesus’ explanation earlier in the chapter (Mark 4:13-14). As someone presents the truths of God’s Word, he is the sower of seed.

    c. What is the seed?

    Jesus defined the seed as the Word (God’s truth). When you look at the previous parable and consider that he is talking about the kingdom of God, you must come to the conclusion that he was talking about presenting the truth of God that would change the hearts of His listeners. Today this would refer to presenting the good news of Jesus to someone.

    d. How is it accomplished?

    The ancient process of planting seeds was much different than today. The farmer would take a bag of seeds to the field and scatter the seeds by hand.

    At first thought, this may seem like a haphazard method for planting seeds. But I don’t think that is the point. The ancient farmer did not place each seed into a specially spooned out hole. He threw the seed wherever he could, knowing that only a portion of the seeds would germinate and be harvested.

    Jesus was trying to show us that we should not discriminate who hears the truth. Just as he shared it with Samaritans, tax collectors, and religious people, we should tell everyone regardless of who they are. We are not called to only speak to those who are receptive. We are to speak to as many people as possible.

  2. The kingdom of God is like a crop that grows by itself (27).

    [Read Mark 4:26-28.]

    After showing the need to plant the seed of truth in people’s lives, Jesus points out the need to let the seeds grow.

    a. We can do other things.

    The first phrase indicates the life of the farmer after planting the field. Jesus described his life as sleeping and rising. He was showing that planting is not the entire life of the farmer. Although planting does take a good portion of his time, there are other things that he is able to do.

    If we are not careful, we can become so overcome with the need to spread the gospel that we are unable to sleep. Yes, we need to see the need for evangelism and missions, but we must also rest in God’s control of the task.

    Psalm 127:1-2 — “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

    Sleep is a benefit given to us by God. We must remember that our strength for Christian endeavors is not found in our efforts, but in God’s efforts. That ought to take the burden off of us and help us to trust God to accomplish his goals.

    b. We can rely on the Holy Spirit.

    The next thought is that the growth of the seed is not something the farmer understands. It isn’t that he is uneducated or inexperienced. It is just that the process happens without his having any knowledge of how it happens. The farmer scatters the seed and then goes about other business because he knows it will grow. The seed responds to the soil, rain and sun and eventually grows on its own — just as God designed it to work.

    Evangelism is very similar. When the gospel has been planted in the heart of a person who has not yet become part of God’s kingdom, it begins to accomplish something. Remember that God promised that his Word would not return void to him (Isaiah 55:11). And Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

    We are not alone in our efforts to share the truth with people.

    APPLIC. Have you ever been especially concerned about someone to whom you have presented the gospel? Most of us have shared the gospel with a friend or relative. Then we earnestly pray for their salvation. It is good to pray and to present the gospel, but we must temper our zeal with knowledge.

    If you have planted the seed of the gospel in someone’s heart, please allow God to do his work. Don’t be pesky and constantly knock on that person’s door. You may feel like you are being zealous, but you may actually be pushing that person away unnecessarily. Let God do His work.
  3. The kingdom of God is like a crop that will be harvested (29).

    [Read Mark 4:29.]

    After the farmer has planted the seed, he waits for a period of time. For some crops it will take a long time for the plant to develop fruit. So, the farmer has to be especially patient. But he is still waiting for that time of harvest. As he watches the field, he will eventually recognize that the grain is ready for harvesting. At that point in time, he sends out his laborers to harvest the grain.

    What do we learn from this?

    a. There will eventually be a harvest.

    Evangelism takes a lot of effort with not much return. However, Jesus encourages us with the first two words in verse 29. “But when” shows us that waiting is not the only thing we have to do.

    “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” –Galatians 6:9

    God may call us to difficult places of ministry, but as we faithfully proclaim the gospel, there will be results … it just takes time.

    b. There will be a harvester.

    At the time of harvest, the farmer who planted the seeds is often a part of the reaping. In this parable, that is not as clear as you might think. The phrase “he puts in the sickle” can also refer to a master sending his servants into the field to harvest the grain. In any event, the grain is harvested and he is happy with what God has provided.

    APPLIC. It is the same way with evangelism. You may speak to many people about the gospel and not see any response for a while. But as the Holy Spirit works, there will come a time when God may turn that person from his sins to faith in Jesus.
    Will you always see the results of your ministry? No, although you have given the gospel, someone else may be the one who finally sees the harvest.

    1 Cor. 3:6 – “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”

    Paul made it very clear that he didn’t care who got to harvest the spiritual crop. He planted the seed and was sure that others were watering what he had planted. But in the end, he knew the God was in control of the results. It really didn’t matter who got to harvest the spiritual crop.

  4. The kingdom of God is like a small but fruitful seed (30-31).

    [Read Mark 4:30-32.]

    Jesus now begins a second parable about the kingdom of God. In this parable, He compares God’s kingdom to a small seed that produces a surprisingly large tree.

    a. The mustard seed (31)

    Mustard seeds are very small. “The seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimetres… ” (Wikipedia). Compared to a peach pit, the tiny mustard seed seems incapable of producing much of anything. But “it can reach a height of 12-15 feet in a few weeks” (Grassmick 121). That is a surprising contrast with the size of its seed.

    b. The kingdom of God

    Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like the surprising growth of the tiny mustard seed. The work of God’s kingdom begins with the spoken (or read) Word of God. When this truth is planted in the heart of someone or in a certain community, it has the possibility of producing great results.

    Jesus had a short conversation with the woman at the well which later led to the whole city listening and responding favorably to Him (John 4:39-42). Jesus had a small group of disciples at the time of His death and resurrection but look at how the kingdom grew quickly in the days following his ascension. Thousands believed just days later.

    How was this accomplished?

    Jesus and the disciples spoke God’s truth the those who would listen. They planted the seed of the kingdom of God in their hearts and then God’s Holy Spirit caused that seed to germinate and grow in them leading to them to repentance and faith in Jesus and a changed life.

    Rom. 10:17 – “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

    APPLIC. When you present the truth of the gospel, it may seem insignificant. Quoting a Bible verse to someone may seem like a small thing to do. You may think that telling someone about Jesus and what He did is not very important. But God is able to use the small message preached to convert the soul of the worst sinner.

Conclusion

As you consider these parables about the kingdom, do you see the encouragement Jesus gave to us? We have a job to do. We need to proclaim the truth to everyone. But the end result is not our responsibility. God has designed it so that the Holy Spirit will work beyond what we say and do. We can rest in God’s ability to bring about the harvest at the right time.

1. Are you spreading the seed of the gospel?
2. Are you patiently waiting for God to do the work?
3. Are you expecting a harvest?

Smile today and realize that God is doing the work behind the scenes and that He will accomplish his great work in His perfect time.


Bibliography

Alexander, Joseph A., The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1858), pp. 102-05.

Redlich, E. Basil, St. Luke’s Gospel, (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1948), 93.

“Mustard Seed” as viewed at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustard_seed on 6/4/2022.

David Harris, “How Tall is a Mustard Tree?” as viewed at https://www.gardenguides.com/12412948-how-tall-is-a-mustard-tree.html on 6/4/2022.

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, 120-21.

Exodus 16

Memorial Day is a sober reminder to Americans that the freedoms we enjoy were not given to us without a cost. Men and women died on battlefields around the world to insure that we would have the freedoms we currently enjoy. Sadly, we often forget about those people. Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Twin Towers, and many other significant places are already becoming distant memories that don’t mean much anymore.

In today’s Scripture passage, we will see that such forgetfulness is nothing new. The Israelites who had been delivered from slavery in Egypt, defeat at the Red Sea, and thirst at Marah had already forgotten what the Lord had done for them in the recent past.

Read Exodus 16:1-3.

  1. Selective Memory (16:1-3)

    What is selective memory? It is looking back on something in the past as better than it actually was. For instance, I have fond memories of the the $2,000 Jaguar XJ-S I owned in 2008. It had a V12 engine and was a beautiful car. Some days, I look back and wish I had kept it. But then I remember having to keep a case of oil in the trunk, the fact that the heater did not work, and that a mechanic thought it would fall apart if I took it to the race track.

    In these verses, the Israelites demonstrate their selective memory. Their lack of provisions made them think back to the good food they left behind in Egypt. This makes us wonder if their hunger was overpowering their memories of slavery in Egypt.

    a. They had only been gone for a short time (1).

    Had it been 2 months and 15 days since they left Egypt? No, according to Exodus 12, the Lord began their new calender the previous month. The Passover was to begin on the 10th of that month. So, in reality, the people had only been gone for about 1 month and 5 days.

    b. They complained against their leaders (2).

    While it had not been a long time since they left, it had been a while since they had eaten. And, as you know from experience, lack of food often affects the way we think. In the case of the Israelites, their hunger caused them to complain against Moses and Aaron.

    But this time, it was not just the leaders complaining. It was the whole congregation of Israel. On every street corner, someone was complaining against Moses’ lack of leadership in providing food for them and their families. And then it got worse.

    c. They remembered the food in Egypt (3).

    “They had now subsisted thirty days upon the provisions brought out of Egypt, and it may well be supposed that their stock was nearly, if not altogether exhausted” (Bush 201).

    These hungry people started talking nonsense. First, they wished that they had died under God’s judgment in Egypt. Really? Second, they wished they were back in Egypt eating bread and meat. Somehow they forgot about slavery, oppression, or genocide. Third, they accused Moses of bringing the people into the wilderness to kill them with hunger.

    What these people said was ridiculous. After all that the Lord had done for them, and after all that Moses had been through for them, these people complained and started down the path of selective memory. Instead of praying to the Lord for their needs, they complained and wished to go back to Egypt.

    APPLIC. May I give you a suggestion? The next time you are in a troubling situation, be careful with what you think and say. It is easy to forget all that the Lord has done for you and what your leaders have done for you in the past simply because of the difficulty you are currently facing. Remember that the Lord is good and that things are not quite as bad as they seem at the moment.

  2. Heavenly Promise (16:4-12)

    Read Exodus 16:4-12.

    The Lord decided to be merciful to His complaining people. “Instead … of expressing the resentment of an insulted sovereign and benefactor, he utters the gracious purpose of overcoming their evil with good, and of pouring down blessing instead of wrath upon the murmuring host” (Bush 203).

    a. The Lord promised to provide bread (4-5).

    He told Moses that He would cause bread to rain down from heaven. When this happened, the people would go out and gather a quota of it each day. This would be a test given by God to see if the people would obey His law.

    Note that this was stated before the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law. This was a quiz preparing the people to trust in God’s ability to provide for them, but they would not only need to trust Him but would also need to follow His rules. For instance, they were to gather a certain amount every day but twice as much on the sixth day.

    b. The Lord was the focus of their complaint (6-8).

    When Moses and Aaron relayed God’s message to the people, they told them that the Lord had heard their complaint. But they also chided them for complaining against them. Was Moses the reason they were in the wilderness? No, the Lord had led them there. Was Moses the reason they had no food? No, the Lord was using this as a test of their dependence on them. Why then were they complaining to Moses and Aaron?

    c. The Lord should have been the focus of their prayer (9-12).

    Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation for a meeting. As they met, they saw the glory of the Lord in the cloud. Then the Lord told Moses to announce that He would provide meat in the evening and bread in the morning. This would show them that the Lord was the Lord their God.

    Too often, Christians have this same problem. Instead of turning their troubles over to the Lord, they start complaining. The Lord Jesus addressed this with his disciples.

    Matt. 6:31-34 – “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

    Christian, are you trusting the Lord for your daily needs? Or are you constantly complaining about what you don’t have? Take the advice of your Lord and make seeking His kingdom your first priority. Then trust Him to meet your needs each day.

  3. Daily Provision (16:13-21)

    Read Exodus 16:13-21.

    It wasn’t long before the Lord fulfilled his promise to provide their food.

    a. The Lord provided quail in the evening (13).

    That evening, the Lord caused a huge flock of quail to land in the camp. It makes me think of the flocks of birds that fly south in the fall. There are thousands of them that land in the trees in Willard’s park. What would it have been like for the Israelites?

    “In the fall this small game bird, similar to pheasant and grouse, migrates south from Palestine and Arabia to Central Africa, and in the spring returns” (BKCOT 134).

    Apparently, enough birds landed in the camp to supply meat for the hungry families. The Bible says that they covered the camp (13). But that was not all that the Lord provided.

    b. The Lord provided bread in the morning (14-16).

    The next morning, when the dew was gone, the ground was covered with a small round substance which reminded them of frost. When they noticed it, there first response was “manna?” or “what is it?” That is what the word manna means.

    Moses told them that this was the bread the Lord had promised. They were to collect enough for each person’s need. An omer was enough for each person. An omer is approximately 2 quarts. If it helps, you could think of 2 quarts of oil as the amount of bread provided for each person.

    c. The Lord provided manna for each day (17-21).

    “Each day the people were to gather only enough bread for that day. This meant that they would have to trust the Lord to bring the food each morning! … [These] provisions would cause the community to know that He is the Lord their God (v. 12)” (BKCOT 134).

    Moses told them to use up the collected manna each day without saving some for the next day. But some of them didn’t listen to Moses. They kept some of the manna until the next day and it attracted bugs and began to smell bad. Moses wan’t very happy with their disobedience.

    What would make you more happy — having plenty of food in the pantry or trusting the Lord to meet your needs every day? While none of us desires to be poor and destitute, there is something about trusting the Lord that brings peace and happiness.

    “A state of constant conscious dependence upon him is the state to which he aims to bring all his people. And this, could we realize it aright, is a far happier state than any other” (Bush 203-04).

    While we should provide for the future, we must remember that it is the Lord who meets our needs day by day.

  4. Sabbath Rest (16:22-30)

    Read Exodus 16:22-30.

    In these verses, the Lord instructed the people about a day of rest. To do this, he had to make special provisions for them and had to patiently work with those who were not good listeners.

    a. The people gathered double on the sixth day (22).

    Remember what the Lord told Moses in verse 5? He had told the people to gather a double portion of manna on the sixth day. Apparently, Moses had passed this along to the people because some of them did just that.

    But their rulers reported this to Moses as if they had done something wrong. This gave him the opportunity to teach them about the Lord’s provision of a Sabbath day of rest.

    b. The Lord gave them a Sabbath rest (23-26).

    Moses told them that these double gatherers were following God’s plan. They were to gather extra on the sixth and then bake and boil food for the next day. The seventh day would be a Sabbath day of rest for them.

    When the people followed his instructions, the manna did not stink or breed worms the next day.

    c. The people had to be reminded (27-30).

    But certain of the people didn’t listen to Moses. “Disregarding God’s instruction (v. 23) some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather the bread” (BKCOT 134). This didn’t sit well with the Lord. The Lord confronted Moses (as the leader of these rebels) about them not keeping His commands.

    In verse 29, the Lord starts by saying, “See!” He wanted Moses to make it clear that He was giving the people a day of rest. That is why he provided double manna the day before. They were to remain in their camp and rest.

    Do you see the value of having a day of rest? When I was a child, I didn’t like to take naps. My mother told me to take an hour nap by counting to 60 sixty times. After speed counting, I was back in front of her asking for the end of my nap.

    It seems that most people don’t see the value of rest. Instead of taking time to rest each week, we are eager to work through the week in order to get more done. But are we getting more done? Or are we getting more run down? God’s idea of a day of rest each week seems like a good idea to me.

  5. Future Generations (16:31-36)

    Read Exodus 16:31-36.

    The final paragraph is about future generations. The Lord thought it good to save a pot of manna to show future Israelites how He provided for their ancestors during their time in the wilderness. How many of you would be interested in seeing this pot of manna and in tasting it? I know that I am certainly curious about it.

    a. The people called it Manna (31).

    “What was manna? Interestingly, the Israelites asked the very same question: ‘When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat’ (Exodus 16:15). The Hebrew word translated ‘manna’ literally means ‘what is it?'” (GotQuestions)

    b. The people needed to remember (32-34).

    The Lord “told Moses to keep an omer of manna … in a jar as a reminder of God’s goodness for future generations. The manna in the ark was a perpetual reminder of God’s loyalty to His people in supplying their needs” (BKCOT 135).

    I don’t know if this pot of manna was displayed occasionally to the future generations, but it was kept to remind them. It was eventually stored in the tabernacle and probably was kept in the ark. “This Ark was not indeed yet constructed, but the history was written and perhaps the command given after it was made” (Bush 213).

    c. The people were fed for forty years (35-36).

    As you may be aware, the children of Israel traveled throughout the wilderness for forty years. Their principle food was this manna from heaven. “The Lord continued to supply manna until the nation came to Gilgal, where they began to eat the products of the land (Josh 5:12)” (BKCOT 135).

    How gracious God is to provide for the needs of His people!

Conclusion

As you read through this chapter, what was it that caught your attention?

Perhaps you saw yourself in the Israelite’s complaining. They looked at the past and selectively longed for the parts that pleased them then. But they failed to see the Lord’s current hand in their lives. Are you a complainer right now? If so, it would be good for you to stop and think of all that the Lord has provided for you just now. “Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.”

Perhaps you saw God’s gracious provision of food for His people. And hopefully, in their provision, you are reminded of how the Lord can meet your daily needs. As you seek to daily follow God’s direction in your life, remember that He will provide as you seek His kingdom first. Will you do that?

Perhaps you saw God’s gracious provision of rest for His people. As they stayed in their camp that day, they were able to relax and catch up on the sleep or family time that they needed. While we are not commanded in the New Testament to take a Sabbath day of rest, do you see the value of resting? Without rest, we may become more anxious and tired than God intended. Don’t equate constant work with industriousness and rest with laziness. It is possible to work hard and also get proper rest.

Bibliography

John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, 134-35.

“What was manna?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=2789 on 5/28/22.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, 200-14.

How should I identify myself?

A lot of people talk about being [FILL IN THE BLANK]-Americans, nowadays. That word before the hyphen usually has something to do with where the person’s family came from. And that historical adjective might even refer to things that happened hundreds of years ago. I really don’t think that way. And apparently I am not the only one. Someone has compiled a list of strange things that Americans do. Here is one of them:

“Identifying as your heritage instead of your nationality. Americans will say that they’re Italian, German, Polish, etc. when they don’t speak the language and have no real connection to those countries anymore. In other parts of the world people just identify with the country they were born in or have lived in for a significant amount of time, regardless of their ancestry.”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephenlaconte/weird-things-americans-do-reddit

This is something I didn’t grow up thinking about. Yes, I did hear funny jokes about ethnic people. But most of them could apply to just about any other people group. Remember this one?

Q: How many [FILL IN THE BLANK]s does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One to hold the bulb and 3 to turn the chair.

I really don’t have a firm grasp of where my family came from. My brother traced the family tree back several hundred years, but it didn’t make me think that I was from another country. My only recollection about me is that I’m an American from Ohio. What happened hundreds of years ago has little to do with who I am today.

When we think about who we are, our ethnic heritage really doesn’t matter for a Christian. It might shape the way we talk, act, think, or look, but our main descriptor should be Christian.

Think about what the Bible says about this.

  1. What does the Bible say about our past?

    While the Bible was written before we were born, there is plenty of information about our ancestors contained in it.

    a. We all descended from Adam and Noah (Gen. 3:20; 9:18-19).

    When God gave Eve to Adam, he named her because she was the first mother from whom all people came from. Sadly, those descendants spiraled out of control and became very wicked until only one family remained that was true to God. Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment on the Ark and later repopulated the earth.

    Because this is true, we are all related. We are related to the professors in the Ivy League schools as well as the primitive tribes in the jungle. We are all part of the human race irrespective of any differences we may see today.

    b. We have good and bad ancestors.

    It is easy to talk about our famous ancestors but not the ones we dislike. On Sharon’s side, we may be related to Stephen Foster. On my side, we may be related to someone who was in the Olympics. My personal claim to fame is that I was next in line to play a game of pickup basketball with the professional football player, Pepper Johnson. Are you impressed yet?

    If we go back to Noah, we can say that we are related to him. Yes, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. But he also got drunk and took off his clothes after the Flood. Which of these are you more happy to be related to?

    The problem is that we are also related to criminals, pathological liars, and ungodly people. But nobody brings that up unless they are blaming you for something that happened in your family’s past. Were your ancestors slavers? Were your ancestors Nazis? Were your ancestors hateful? Probably, but we didn’t have a choice in becoming a part of our family just as others didn’t either.

    c. We have problems of our own.

    The Bible describes the entire human race in terms that do not flatter:

    Isaiah 64:6 – “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

    Romans 3:9-12 – “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

    These descriptions leave us with no excuses. We all are sinful and much different than what we want to be known for. But God peels away our facade and shows who we are at our core.

  2. What does the Bible say about different people?

    The Bible does talk about different people groups. In the Old Testament, the Bible talks about the color of someone’s skin (the Ethiopian, Solomon’s wife) but it mostly divides people up into nationalities based on where the people live. But even then, the Bible describes people by how they responded to God and his ways.

    When you get to the New Testament, the idea of describing people by their nationality is not as important. Not several verses that show us this.

    a. God loved the world (John 3:16).

    While we are very familiar with this Bible verse, we don’t often think of the context. Jesus was talking to a Jewish teacher named Nicodemus. When these words were spoken, a Jewish person would have expected Jesus to say that “God so loved the Jewish people.” Instead, Jesus said that He loved the world. That includes people outside of God’s Chosen People.

    b. God divides us into two types of people (Matt. 25:31-33).

    Jesus announced that He would divide people like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Apparently, this was necessary at the end of the day. In this passage, Jesus puts some people (sheep) on his right hand and calls them blessed for their character and actions. He then puts other people (goats) on his left hand and calls them cursed. He sends them away because of their character and actions.

    This gives us the idea that it is not one’s heritage that counts but one’s relationship to Jesus. Who are the people who do what is right? It is the people (in any place) who believe and obey the Lord. Who are the people who are rejected by the Lord? It is the people (in any place) who do not believe or obey the Lord.

    c. God unites believers from all over (Rev. 7:9-10).

    This final passage is one that makes me smile. After listing off the tribes of Israel, John writes that he saw an immense crowd of people from diverse backgrounds. The people in this group came from different nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. But these people were not united by those characteristics but by what they all believed. They all agreed that Salvation came from God and the Lamb and they praised God for that fact.

The Bible shows us what God thinks about our identity. While it does not ignore our nationality, skin color, and culture, it does minimize the value of those characteristics. Even being a Jewish person is not as important as you would think.

What God deems valuable is not our historical background, or national origin, but our response to Him. Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Are you listening to and obeying God? Are you unified with the faithful people of God? These are the important characteristics that should differentiate us from other people in the world.

Exodus 15:22-27

In our last study, we celebrated with Moses, Miriam, and the Israelites as they sang about what God had just done at the Red Sea Crossing. Now, with happy conversations continuing about that miracle, the Israelites traveled a three day distance further toward their destination.

  1. Complaining (15:23-24)

    [Read Exodus 15:22-24.]

    In this section, we will look at the circumstances that led the Israelites to begin complaining.

    a. They were in a wilderness area (22 a).

    Note that wilderness and desert are not the same. This was an uncultivated and vacant area where nobody lived. So there were no hotels, gas stations, or cell phone coverage. They were alone in a wilderness area.

    When I was first driving for DSB Transport, my GPS told me to turn left when I should have kept driving straight. The resultant journey took me through a wilderness area in the Pennsylvania mountains. The road turned into gravel and then into dirt with scattered rock embedded in the pathway. If I had run out of gas or broken down, there would have been nobody nearby to help.

    The Israelites were in a similar situation. They were a giant caravan traveling without a AAA membership, a GPS tracker, or many supplies. All they knew was that the Lord had miraculously brought them this far and that Moses would lead them to where the Lord directed. The many unknowns caused the people to stop trusting the Lord.

    b. They had limited water (22 b).

    The size of the Israelites group may have been over 2 million people. Remember that they left Egypt with 600,000 fighting men. So, if you add a wife and two children to each soldier, you will easily come up with a large group of people.

    How much water would they require? According to one article, “most people need about four to six cups of water each day” (Harvard). Another article says that “there is no evidence to support that you should drink eight glasses — or 2 liters — of water a day. Research has found that most people get enough water from the foods and beverages they consume daily” (GoodRx).

    But we all know that this area of the country is usually warmer than what we are used to. So the amount of water for people and animals would have been quite large.

    “A person’s water requirements would have been … 20 quarts approximately … per day in … 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, it is thought that the Israelites would have needed up to 11,000,000 gallons of water each day just to drink, wash themselves and clean dishes etc. This would be equivalent of a freight train of tank cars, 1,800 miles long just to bring water” (Petton).

    I am not as sure with my figures, but if each person needed a gallon of water each day, that would amount to 2 million gallons. How could this much water be available for them in this wilderness area?

    c. They found bitter water (23).

    The Israelites were expecting to quench their thirst but were very disappointed because the water was bitter to taste. The place earned the name Marah which means “bitter.”

    During a recent visit to our house in Painesville, I took our dog with us. This meant that I needed to bring a water dish as well to keep him hydrated. But for some reason, no matter how often I would refill it with fresh water, Diego would not drink from the metal bowl. Maybe the taste of the metal was too much for him to handle.

    The Israelites were unable to use the water because it was too bitter for drinking. This being so, the animals were probably just as unwilling to drink.

    d. They complained about Moses (24).

    If the people had humbly asked Moses for help, the words, “What shall we drink?” would not come across as complaining. But there was something in the tone of their voice and the look in their eyes that showed that they were not just asking for help; they were complaining against Moses.

    “This response is amazing in light of their recent deliverance and triumphal songs of worship. They were so privileged; yet hardship quickly induced them to impugn Moses” (Hannah 133).

    APPLIC. Most of us are not like Pollyanna. Instead of finding something to be grateful for, we often find things to complain about. But is this a good thing? Compare the following two verses.

    Numbers 11:1 “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”

    In this situation, the people were grumblers who were more interested in getting their needs met than praising the Lord for meeting that need.

    Psalm 102:1 – “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord. Hear my prayer, O Lord, And let my cry come to You.”

    In this psalm, the writer was praying to the Lord to meet his need. He had a complain of some kind but he wasn’t grumbling, he was taking it to the Lord and was trusting the Lord to meet that need.

    Which one describes you best?

  2. Receiving (15:25)

    [Read Exodus 15:25a.]

    In this section, we will see the Israelites receiving from the Lord what they needed.

    a. Moses prayed to the Lord.

    “The ingratitude of the people of his charge did not prevail to extinguish in the breast of Moses the spirit of fervent intercession in their behalf” (Bush 196-97).

    There were times when Moses was angry with the people, but this time he prayed for them. Knowing that their attitude was wrong but the need was real, he cried out to the Lord for help.

    This reminds me of Samuel’s response when he confronted the leadership of Israel about asking for a king. After telling them what they did wrong and what repercussions they would face, Samuel said, “far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

    May God grant us to be like Moses, Samuel, and Daniel and pray for sinful people. Perhaps the Lord will answer our prayers by changing the wicked heart as well as meeting the specific need.

    b. The Lord provided a solution.

    This time, the Lord did not have Moses raise his staff. Instead, he told Moses to cut down a tree and cast it into the water. The result was that the water was no longer bitter but had a sweet taste.

    How did this happen? There are two opinions.

    View 1: God did a miracle. “The wood that Moses tossed into the water did not have a magical affect on the water; it was simply a symbolic act in anticipation of God’s working a miracle (like Moses lifting his staff over the sea, 14:16)” (Hannah 133).

    View 2: The tree had medicinal characteristics that counteracted the bitterness. “Unless we admit that it possessed some native efficacy this way, it is not easy to see why a particular kind of tree was pointed out to Moses” (Bush 197).

    “In recent years, the water-clarifying ability of Moringa powder was found to be due to a positively-charged protein called the Moringa Oleifera Cationic Protein (MOCP). When you crush the seeds and add them to water, this protein will kill some of the microbial organisms and cause them to clump together and settle to the bottom of the container” (Swales).

    Although I could not find an article to back this up, I have also heard that moringa can make water taste sweet. My wife used to buy moringa powder to make nutritional drinks. So, you can ask her for more details after the service.

    c. The people had water to drink.

    The end result was that the bitterness was removed and the people could use the water for themselves and their animals. God had provided just what they needed in response to the prayer of Moses.

    APPLIC. It is interesting that the Israelites received God’s blessings despite their bad attitude about their water supply. It is a good reminder, especially after we have failed God in some way, that the Lord is full of grace and mercy. He knows who we are and how we are of such little value to Him, and yet He still continues to love us despite ourselves.

    Be sure to thank Him for that today.

  3. Understanding (15:26)

    [Read Exodus 15:25b-26.]

    In this section, we will see the Israelites understanding what the Lord required of them for future blessing.

    a. They were being tested (25).

    At this point in their journey, the Lord made it clear that the Israelites could enjoy his blessing them so long as they followed this agreement. It would be a test of their faithfulness to Him as they traveled toward the Promised Land.

    It says here that the Lord made a statute and an ordinance for them. This is similar to what Joshua did for the next generation of the Israelites (Josh. 24:25). With these words, the Lord was showing them his regulations for them receiving his blessings.

    What was required of them?

    b. They were to listen and obey (26a).

    “The Lord gave the people a simple principle: obedience brings blessing, and disobedience brings judgment” (Hannah 133).

    They were to listen to the Lord and obey His commands. Notice that he adds the word diligently to listen. It was not to be a grudging obedience but one that showed their desire to please Him. When is the last time that you wanted to hear what God says and then to do what pleases Him? This is what the Lord wanted for His people. He still wants it for us today.

    c. They would be protected (26b)

    The end result of their obedience is spelled out very specifically. Along with the other blessings (protection from the last plagues, deliverance from Pharaoh’s army, drinkable water, and more to come), the Lord promised to keep them from contracting the diseases which He plagued the Egyptians with.

    To help them remember this, the Lord introduced Himself as Jehovah-Rapha or Yahweh-Rapha. This name means, “Jehovah thy healer” (Bush 199). If you tie this declaration to what just happens, it makes more sense. The water was bitter but the Lord made it sweet. He was able to “heal” the water. In a similar way, the Lord could heal them of any potential diseases. If they would diligently listen and obey, they would know Him as the Lord who heals.

    Does this remind you of someone in the New Testament?

    “Jesus Christ showed that He was the Great Physician who heals the sick. In Galilee, Jesus went from town to town, “healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). In Judea “large crowds followed him, and he healed them there” (Matthew 19:2). In fact, “wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed” (Mark 6:56). Not only did Jesus heal people physically, He also healed them spiritually by forgiving their sins (Luke 5:20). Every day, in every way, Jesus proved Himself to be Jehovah-Rapha in the flesh” (Got Questions).

    APPLIC. Unlike the Israelites, we are not promised to be free from the diseases prevalent in the world today. But we are promised that God can heal our sinful hearts. When we put our faith in Jesus, who died for us and rose again, the Lord will heal us of our sins, forgive us, and make us a new creation. Have you experienced this healing of God in your life? He is willing to change you from a sinner to a saint if you will turn to Him today. Turn from your sins and place your faith in Jesus today.

  4. Enjoying (15:27)

    [Read Exodus 15:27.]

    In this section, we will see the Israelites enjoying the Lord’s blessing on their lives.

    a. They followed their leader.

    It is interesting how (after God provided water) the Israelites resumed following Moses. They had complained against him just a little while earlier, but now they were willing to follow him.

    b. They found a good place to camp.

    As they traveled, they came to a place called Elim. At this place there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees. I see this as God’s continued reminder to them that He would provide for their needs.

    The wells may have seemed puny to so many people, but they must have been sufficient for them since they are mentioned here in the text. The date palm trees would have been appreciated as well as they provide “every year about three or four hundred pounds weight of dates. This fruit … is of a sweet and agreeable taste” (Bush 200).

    APPLIC. Sadly, there is no mention of thankfulness during these events. We would hope to hear of joyful shouts of praise to the Lord. But we read nothing of the kind. Perhaps this generation was still uncertain of their need to listen to and obey the Lord. And without this commitment to Him, they were fair-weather friends with the gracious God who had delivered them time and time again.

    Don’t be this kind of person.

    Psalm 100:4-5 – “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Conclusion

As we have studied through this short portion from Exodus 15, we have noted four important truths. Can you remember them?

1. We should stop complaining and instead pray to God.
2. We should recognize what the Lord has done for us and be thankful.
3. We can have our sinful hearts healed by the Lord.

After reading through this message and reading the Scriptural account, you should have some kind of response. Are you a complainer who needs to pray? Are you an unthankful person who needs to open your eyes to see what God is doing for you? Are you a sinful person who needs your soul healed by the Lord? Whatever the case may be, will you turn your heart to the Lord and respond to Him as He desires?

Bibliography

“How much water should you drink?” as viewed at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink on 5/21/22.

“How Much Water Should I Really Be Drinking Per Day?” as viewed at https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/diet-nutrition/how-much-water-should-i-drink-daily on 5/21/22.

Larry Petton, “The Daily Needs Of Israel In The Wilderness” as viewed at https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/84125/the-daily-needs-of-israel-in-the-wilderness-by-dr-larry-petton on 5/21/22.

John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knoweldge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, 133-34.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, reprint 1976, 1994-200.

Jennifer Swales, “Researchers study inexpensive process to clean water in developing nations” as viewed at https://www.psu.edu/news/research/story/researchers-study-inexpensive-process-clean-water-developing-nations on 5/21/22.

“What does it mean that God is Jehovah-Rapha?”, as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovah-Rapha.html on 5/21/22.


Exodus 15

Except for the occasional lyrics of a song, I have little interest in poems. However, there are times when a poem is especially interesting. For instance, I learned a love poem written by Edmond Waller when I was in high school. I still remember some of the words:

Go lovely rose
Tell her that wastes her time and me
That now she knows
When I resemble her to thee
How sweet and fair she seems to be

Tell her that’s young
And shuns to have her graces spied
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide
Thou must have uncommended died

Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired
Bid her come forth
Suffer herself to be desired
And not blush so to be admired

Then die—that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee
How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair

In today’s Scripture passage, everyone was eager to hear the words to this poem set to music. The event that caused such interest was God’s miraculous rescue of the Israelites from Pharaoh and his army. The Lord parted the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to cross to the other side. But when Pharaoh and his army tried to cross, God caused the water to collapse on them and they were all drowned.

“There they stand, seeing the shores of the sea strewn with the dead bodies of men and horses, with the broken pieces of chariots and weapons of war scattered in all directions… all ornaments of the mighty power and distinguishing favor of their covenant God!” (Bush 183-84)

After experiencing such an incredible event, it is no wonder that the people joyfully sang about what the Lord had done.

Now as we read through this song, it would be easy to read it and miss what is being said. You could summarize the song with, “Yay, God saved us. Amen.” However, there is much more than that in this poem. The writer, probably Moses, used Hebrew poetry and song to express his thoughts about what the Lord did for them that day.

To help us understand the poetry better, I have converted the song’s lyrics into an outline of five questions. Hopefully, these questions will help us to remember what the Lord did back then.

  1. What is the Lord to me? (2)

    [Read Exodus 15:2.]

    I like how the song writer points us toward the Lord. In these verses, he points out four things that the Lord is to us.

    a. He is my strength.

    The Lord was the strength behind the Israelites’ deliverance. What had the Israelites done to defeat Egypt or part the Red Sea. They had done nothing.

    ILLUS. When we were in college, the college soccer coach wanted his players to learn to trust in the Lord and to not be proud in their own abilities. One year the team’s theme verse was Psalm 20:7 which says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” That is the right focus.

    b. He is my song.

    The Lord was their reason for singing. As they celebrated the victory over Pharaoh’s army, they made sure to make the Lord the focal point of their song.

    c. He is my salvation.

    The Lord was the One who had saved them from the Egyptian army. As the author of that act, He could right be called their salvation.

    d. He is my God.

    The Lord had been an abstract idea until this point. Yes, they had seen the plagues, but this was something even more eye-popping. Now they could say that the Lord was their God, not just the God of their forefathers.

    APPLIC. What is the Lord to you, today? Is He the One who strengthens you, makes you sing, and who has rescued you? Is He your God or just an abstract idea you think about on Sundays?
  2. What was the Lord for me? (3-8)

    [Read Exodus 15:3-8.]

    If you were to describe what the Lord has done for you, what would you say? Moses and the Israelites were quick to describe Him in war-like terms.

    a. He was a warrior (3-5).

    “Some have thought there was something degrading in a form of expression which seemed to bring down the Deity to the level of a mere mortal hero. … The very same phrase occurs 1 Sam. 17.33, as an appellation of Goliath” (Bush 186).

    Rather than think this is degrading of God, try to think of the best way to explain in English how tremendously powerful God’s defeat of the Egyptian army was. He showed himself to be a mighty warrior on behalf of the Israelites.

    Who is this mighty warrior? The Lord is His name.

    This reminds me of when Pharaoh asked who “the Lord” was. At the time, he was so full of himself that he didn’t recognize the Lord. But he eventually found out that the Lord was His name and He was a mighty warrior.

    b. He was powerful (6-8).

    Moses proclaims God’s power in poetic terms. He refers to God’s right hand and nostrils. While God is a Spirit, we understand things in human terms.

    Right hand – “The right hand, being naturally the strongest from being most employed, is used by an apt metaphor for the highest degree of power” (Bush 187).

    ILLUS. I remember arm wrestling someone in 8th grade. I could not beat him right handed. He was too powerful.

    This is the idea of God’s right hand. His power was on display for all to see and nobody could stop him. With his “right hand,” He dashed the Egyptian army to pieces and overthrew those who fought against Him.

    Nostrils – “The blast of Your nostrils (v. 8) refers to the wind that parted the sea, and the words You blew with Your breath (v. 10) refer to the wind that collapsed the billowed water; these are poetic anthropomorphisms” (Hannah 132).

    This is a curious idea. Are any of you powerful enough to blow water apart with your nostrils? Some might sneeze and make their coffee spill, but no human can make water divide. It almost seems like God’s power was so great that just a sneeze caused the water to stand aside.

    APPLIC. Think back to those events in your life where God showed Himself to be powerful for you. Have you forgotten? Take some time to thank Him today.
  3. What did the enemy think? (9-10)

    [Read Exodus 15:9-10.]

    It is easy to see that Pharaoh and his army had not learned their lesson under the ten plagues. They actually thought they could win against the Lord. These hard hearted men were fools to harden their hearts and fight against the one, true God. And yet they progressively thought of how they would overcome Israel.

    a. We can overtake them.

    First, they agreed that they could pursue Israel and overtake them. Remember how Pharaoh and his servants decided that they shouldn’t have let the people go. They then figured that they could pursue and catch them.

    b. We can plunder them.

    But their pursuit was not to just catch them, they wanted to plunder them. Remember how the plagues had decimated the Egyptian economy. Their crops and livestock had been ruined and many had given away valuables to the departing people. They Egyptians were ready to plunder them and take back whatever they could take.

    c. We can destroy them.

    The Egyptians were ready to satisfy their lust for revenge on the Israelites. They were ready to draw their swords and kill their former slaves.

    d. We were wrong.

    But none of these thoughts ever materialized. The Lord blew with the wind and caused the waters to cover them. Then the heavily armored soldiers sunk in the water like lead.

    They were wrong.

    “Thus it is that men are often never more confident and presumptuous than when they stand upon the very brink of ruin” (Bush 188).

    APPLIC. How said it is that some people are so hardened against the Lord that they rush to their doom still thinking that they can fight against God and win.
  4. Who is like the Lord? (11-13)

    [Read Exodus 15:11-13.]

    The first question is very specific. Who is like the Lord among the gods. Moses and the Israelites had recently seen how impotent the Egyptian false gods were against the Lord. This led them to believe at least three things about the Lord.

    a. Nobody else is so glorious.

    God’s glory is unlike any other. He is holy (totally separated from any other), fearful (so incredibly powerful that we should fear), and a doer of wonders (look at the Red Sea for instance).

    “Though we honor him with praises on our tongues, we should do it with an humble awe upon our spirits” (Bush 189).

    Is there anyone so glorious as our God? The answer is obvious. No one.

    b. Nobody else could have done this.

    The idea of the earth swallowing them seems odd since the army was drowned in the water. But this was just another way of saying how far under the earth they were taken. Jonah used the same words to describe his time under the water inside the great fish.

    Who else could have done this? The answer is obvious. No one.

    c. Nobody else would have helped.

    The Israelites of this time were not necessarily lovable people. They complained against Moses before crossing the Red Sea and at the end of this chapter, they complained about not having water in the wilderness.

    And yet the Lord showed mercy on these people and guided them out of Egypt across the Red Sea, and eventually took them to the Promised Land.

    Who would have done this for such an ungrateful people? The answer again is no one.
  5. How will the nations respond? (14-18)

    [Read Exodus 15:14-18.]

    Think about what just happened.

    “The greatness of Egypt had been effaced, her land ravished, her people left in mourning, and her army destroyed. Other nations, hearing of the power of the Israelites’ God, would cower in fear” (Hannah 133).

    a. They will hear and be afraid (14-15).

    This is exactly what happened later in Israel’s history.

    Joshua 5:1 –”So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.”

    Moses rightly points out that other nations would hear and then fear. He mentions the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Canaanites. Each of them were affected by sorrow, dismay, trembling, and a melting of their hearts. They knew that they could do nothing against the Lord or the people He was protecting.

    b. They will be filled with dread (16-18).

    Have you ever been so afraid that you couldn’t move? We call this being petrified. This is the picture presented in the song. Because of the greatness of the Lord’s “arm,” the Canaanites would become as still as a stone. They would be so overcome with dread of the Lord’s power that they could not resist.

    I would imagine that it would be tempting to think that it was their own power that made them afraid. However, “it was not their own arm which would get them the victory. It was to be the greatness of God’s arm … that the inhabitants were thus rendered impotent” (Bush 191).

    APPLIC. We ought to consider this point as well. Whether we are thinking of our changed life or success in obedience or evangelism, always remember that it is God’s might that made all of these things possible.

Conclusion

At the end of the song, we have two extra thoughts.

In verses 19, Moses summarizes what the Lord did. The Lord drowned Pharaoh and his army in the water. But the Lord allowed the Israelites to walk on dry land in the midst of the water. What could have been a terrible defeat was turned into a terrific victory because of what the Lord did.

In verses 20-21, Miriam gets the women involved in their own response to Moses’ song and celebration. With a timbrel in her hand, she sang an answering chorus which praised the Lord and showed what happened to Pharaoh’s army.

What do we learn from this ancient song?

1. We learn that those who fight against God will eventually lose.

Our world is filled with people who think that they can get away with sin and that God will not hold them accountable. But this is never the case. Pharaoh and his advisers saw the power of God and were given the opportunity to respond, but they chose to harden their hearts and eventually found that they had made the wrong decision.

2. We learn that the Lord loves and fights for His people.

As you read the words of Moses’ song, were you aware of how often the Lord’s power was wielded against the enemy and how often He showed his love for His people? God loves His people. And if you are one of His children, you can be sure that He loves and cares for you.

Will you take a moment today and thank Him for that?

Bibliography

John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, 132-33.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, reprint 1976, 183-94.

Mother’s Day – 1 Samuel 1

Today we celebrate our mothers. Many of us had the privilege of knowing and growing up under the care of a good mother. She carried us inside her belly for 9 months, fed us, potty-trained us, spanked us, clothed us, and dealt with all of our shenanigans. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, she led us in the way we should go and somehow chose to keep us! So, it is fitting for us to remember and honor our mothers today.

If you were to search for every mention of mother in the Bible, you would come up with a variety of interesting events. In my Bible, I found 306 mentions of the word mother. In the beginning, Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all people. Then there was Sarah who gave birth to Isaac at age 90! Then there was Bathsheba who convinced David to make her son Solomon king. In the New Testament, we read of Jesus’ interesting relationship with his mother Mary. Even while dying on the cross, he put his mother in the care of a close friend.

While there are many stories about mothers in the Bible, the one best remembered is probably the story of Hannah and Samuel. It is the story of a woman with a less than normal family situation, a frustrating desire, and a miracle child. As we look at what happened, you will feel the emotions and see God’s hand at work in the situation.

[Read 1 Samuel 1:1-7.]

  1. Hannah’s odd family situation (1 Sam. 1:1-7)

    Do you ever get the idea that someone else’s family is normal and your own is the weird or troubled one? I suppose that every family has its quirks and probably some secrets as well. Sometimes we think that a godly person must have come from a perfect family where nothing bad ever happened and everyone was perfect examples of faith and propriety. The family situation of Hannah says otherwise.

    a. She was one of two wives (2).

    Imagine what it must have been like to live in such a home. Would you be willing to share a husband with another woman? I think not. It would be a bad situation involving jealousy and mistrust. Not good at all.

    i. This was not God’s plan.

    You only need to go back to Genesis to find God’s perfect plan for marriage. There God gave Adam one woman as his companion not two or three. And from this we learn God’s pattern for marriage: one man and one woman.

    ii. This was not a pattern for happiness.

    Having more than one wife may have seemed like a good idea to Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon, but consider how things turned out for each of them. Abraham added Hagar to give him a son but almost lost his wife. Jacob wanted to marry one but eventually had four women. If you have read the Book of Genesis, you know all of the conflict that resulted from those poor choices. Then there was Solomon who had 300 wives and 700 concubines. Can you imagine that Mother’s Day celebration?

    Like these others, Hannah’s home was not a happy one.

    iii. This was not surprising for the times.

    Being that they lived during the time of the judges, it is not surprising that this was the case. At that time, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Does that sound familiar? Perhaps that description could be said of how our current culture operates. And as it was back then, those who stray from God’s blueprint are often frustrated, unfulfilled, and unhappy.

    b. She was unable to have children (2b).

    Many would be mothers struggle with infertility. They have the desire but the desire remains unfulfilled for a variety of unknown reasons.

    i. During this time, children were considered a blessing.

    Have you noticed how angry people are today about “reproductive rights”? Many are angry that the Supreme Court may be overturning Roe vs Wade and making abortion legal. This mindset is at odds with what the Bible says.

    According to Psalm 127:3, “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Instead of looking at children as an unwanted obstacle to happiness, we should view them as God does. Children are a blessing given by the Lord.

    This is certainly what Hannah thought about children — especially because she was unable to conceive.

    ii. Note that children are not always part of God’s plan.

    For those who have not been able to have children, keep in mind that God’s plan sometimes is different than what we desire. There are some who never marry. And there are some whom God does not choose to bless with children. It doesn’t mean that you are any less special to God. Instead, His plan for you is just a little different.

    For Hannah, the constant conflict and ridicule from the other woman was more than she could handle. Every day, it was hard for her to get up and smile because the one thing she really wanted was something she could not obtain.

  2. Hannah’s frustrated prayer (1 Sam. 1:8-18)

    [Read 1 Sam. 1:8-18.]

    During the family’s annual visit to the tabernacle, Hannah would weep and pray. Her husband, who loved her more than the other woman, couldn’t understand her emotions.

    a. She was depressed.

    Her husband didn’t know what to do. As is the case with most husbands (or so I have heard), Hannah’s husband was unsure how to help his wife. They had tried to have children but nothing happened. He even asked why she didn’t value him more than ten sons.

    To make matters worse, the other woman provoked her, making things more miserable than they needed to be. You get the idea that she flaunted the fact that she had children and Hannah did not. What a terrible things to do!

    Hannah was quickly sinking into a deep depression that nobody seemed to be able to help.

    What if you were able to talk to Hannah at this point in her life, what would you say? The words of an old song come to mind.

    Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
    Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
    Are you grieving over joys departed?
    Tell it to Jesus alone
    Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
    He is a Friend that’s well known
    You’ve no other such a friend or brother
    Tell it to Jesus alone

    That song has support in the New Testament. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us that “we do not have a High Priest [speaking of Jesus] who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

    b. She was distraught (9-11).

    After the meal, Hannah went to the tabernacle to pray. Her emotions were so powerful that she wept in anguish. She was at the breaking point and could find hope in nobody else.

    As she wept, she prayed to the Lord and made a vow. She promised two things. First, if God gave her a male child, she promised to consecrate him to the Lord for life. Second, she would never cut his hair.

    The second part of Hannah’s vow may sound familiar. Like Samson, her son would take the Nazarite vow. This was an outward expression of the person’s consecration to the Lord. Besides not cutting his hair, he would never drink wine or touch a dead body. You can read more about this in Numbers 6:1-21.

    Basically, Hannah made a deal with God that she intended to keep. If he would give her a son, she would dedicate the boy to God’s service for his entire life.

    c. She was accused (12-16).

    Did you notice who was nearby when Hannah arrived at the tabernacle? It was Eli, the high priest, sitting by the doorpost. As he watched her weeping and praying, he got the idea that something was wrong with her. He saw her lips moving but didn’t hear any words. So he assumed that she was drunk.

    Why would the priest think she was drunk? Well, if you read more about Eli you will find that his sons were very wicked. Their evil practices are described in the next chapter. Perhaps his own family experience led him to believe that most people were evil. Or he may have seen many people turn to the bottle to handle their difficulties. Whatever his reasoning, he confronted Hannah and accused her of being intoxicated.

    Hannah quickly denied being drunk and explained her situation. In a play on words, she insisted that she had not been drinking intoxicating beverages, but had been pouring out her heart to the Lord. She explained that her grief had led her to pray fervently to the Lord.

    d. She was comforted (17-18).

    Despite his first impression, Eli quickly changed his tune. He told Hannah that he understood and hoped that the Lord would grant her request. Hannah responded with grace and hurried back to her family.

    If you had been there, you would have noticed a completely different woman. She washed the tears from her face, ate a meal, and skipped down the path like a little girl. Well… we don’t know if that happened, but we do know that she was no longer sad.

    In all reality, Eli hadn’t told Hannah that God would answer her prayer. He only hoped that God would do that. Was Hannah reading into what Eli said? Would her hopes be dashed in the coming days?

  3. Hannah’s happy results (1 Sam. 1:19-20)

    [Read 1 Sam. 1:19-20.]

    a. She worshiped the Lord (19).

    When you have prayed to the Lord and been encouraged that He will answer your prayer, what has been your response? Hannah’s response was to rise the next day and worship the Lord.

    This parallels what God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7:

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

    Hannah’s hope in God’s provision had taken away her tears and replaced them with a calm assurance in God’s goodness for her and the future.

    b. She had a baby boy (20).

    Not long after this trip to Shiloh, Hannah became pregnant and had a little boy. How happy she must have been! In thanks to God for answering her prayer, she named him Samuel.

    Samuel (sometimes spelled Samual) is a male given name and a surname of Hebrew origin meaning either “name of God” or “God heard” (שם האלוהים Shem HaElohim) (שמע אלוהים Sh’ma Elohim).”

    It seems that the latter meaning fits best for Hannah’s situation. She had taken her grief to the Lord and was heard.

    c. She gave him to the Lord (21-28).

    [Read 1 Sam. 1:21-28.]

    Can you imagine how Hannah felt after God answered her prayer? The Lord had given her a son but she had promised to give this boy to the Lord. What a conflict of interest! So what should she do?

    After talking things over with her husband, they decided to keep the child until he was weaned and then fulfill her vow. When the boy had been potty-trained and was able to eat regular food (probably 3 years old, BKCOT 434), she made the journey to Shiloh and presented him to Eli the priest.

    When she arrived, she reminded Eli who she was and what had happened several years earlier. She praised God for answer her prayer and explained that she had promised to lend him to the Lord for life.

    Wouldn’t you like to have been there when this happened? All of the women would have been crying and hugging Hannah. All of the men would be scratching their heads and wondering what old Eli was going to do with a little boy in the tabernacle!

    The next chapter reveals that Hannah didn’t stop being a mother to little Samuel. She visited him and brought him a new outfit every year but she kept her promise to the Lord. And because of her willingness to keep her promise, the Lord blessed her with three more sons and two daughters.

Conclusion

Today’s message from God’s Word is heart-warming. We like to see how things turned out for Hannah and her little boy Samuel. But as we read this true story in the Bible, what lesson should we take with us?

1. God can overcome your bad family situation.

If you were to read about Samuel’s future ministry and not know about his family situation, you would think he had come from a godly home with no issues. But that was far from the case, his dad had two wives and his mom didn’t get along with the other woman. It wasn’t the perfect situation, but God chose to bring Samuel into that situation and used him despite of it.

Do you think God could use you despite your family background? We know that God can do anything but often think that we are limited by our upbringing. What if my parents got a divorce when I was younger? What if my dad beat me when he was drunk? What if my family situation contains things I can’t talk about? Could God still use me? The answer is yes. Remember, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

2. God cares for you.

Do you recall how bad Hannah felt while she was childless? Her depression was deep. Her grief was great. Her hopelessness was growing. And yet God was always there.

Sometimes our emotions get the best of us. We think that we are alone and without hope. But is this really the case? Does God leave us to suffer in our situation without showing any interest in our case? I would say no.

Consider what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7. There he says that we should be “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Do you believe that to be true? I think that most of us understand the first part but don’t accept the second. Our circumstances often cloud the truth that God wants us to know.

Today, know that God does care for each of His children. He cares about you and wants you to take all of those burdens that have been pressing down on your shoulders and lay them at his feet. When you do that, believing that He actually does care for you, you will find the peace that only He can give.

It worked for Hannah and it will work for you.

Bibliography

David Erdmann, Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 3 Samuel-Kings, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960, reprint 1980, 47-53.

“Samuel (name)” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_(name) on 5/7/2022.

Eugene H. Merrill, “1 Samuel” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, 433-34.

Angelic Warfare

Have you ever wondered why certain national leaders have taken such wicked or cruel actions? Think about the Egyptian pharaohs during Moses’ time, Jezabel, Manasseh, Stalin, and Hitler. Each of them chose to kill many people and seemingly with no good explanation for their actions. What caused them to go to such extreme steps?

Daniel 10 gives insight into what is happening in the spiritual realm. Angels are fighting other angels as they seek to influence nations in either a good or bad direction. The following quotation is a good summary of what is happening.

“Although the entire subject of the unseen struggle between the holy angels and the fallen angels is not clearly revealed in the Scriptures, from the rare glimpses which are afforded, as in this instance, it is plain that behind the political and social conditions of the world there is angelic influence—good on the part of the holy angels, evil on the part of the angels under satanic control. This is the struggle to which Paul referred in Ephesians 6:10-18.”

John Walvoord in Daniel The Key to Prophetic Revelation, Chicago: Moody, 1971, 247.

Exodus 14

On my recent trip to Fargo ND, I was wondering if the driving portion of my trip would be interrupted with a blizzard. But nothing of interest happened while driving. However, the flight portion of my trip back was not as free from trouble. To begin with my 1:55 pm flight from Fargo was delayed two hours due to mechanical issues. We finally made it to Chicago but then that flight was delayed 2½ hours. Ugggh. This wasn’t in my plan and I was tired. My faithful wife was waiting for me at the airport in Columbus and we finally arrived home after 1 am the next morning.

Trips can be interesting and also frustrating. But for the Israelites, this journey was all sunshine and happiness to this point. The Egyptians had given them gold and valuables as they left. The former slaves were now rich and traveling away with God’s significant blessing on their lives.

But as you know, most journeys have a flat tire or something bad that happens. Otherwise, we wouldn’t remember much about those trips. The Israelites were about to experience a bump in their road that they would never forget.

[Read Exodus 14:1-14.]

  1. The plan (1-14)

    The Lord had everything planned out. Along with his own part in what would happen, he planned for how Pharaoh would respond, how the Israelites would react, and how Moses would lead them.

    a. God’s plan (1-4)

    When a general plans an attack, he thinks through what his actions will cause the enemy to do. In this case, God knew what He was doing.

    He told Moses to have the Israelites camp near Pi Hahiroth, Migdol and the sea. Where are these places?

    The names of Migdol (tower) and Pi Hahiroth (house of mountains) are uncertain. Although their meanings may indicate they were in a mountainous region. (see Wikipedia).

    The Lord knew that Pharaoh would see Israel’s helpless position and pursue them. Once Pharaoh did this, the Lord would gain honor by defeating Pharaoh and his army. The end result would be that the Egyptians would know that “I am the Lord.” There would be no further doubt who was in control.

    b. Pharaoh’s plan (5-9)

    Meanwhile, Pharaoh finds out that the Israelites had left. This seems strange to read as he had already let them go. Perhaps his servants informed him like an agenda driven news reporter.

    The result was that Pharaoh and his servants changed their mind about letting them go. No doubt they suddenly realized that having no slaves would increase their own work and diminish their fortunes.

    So, Pharaoh gathered his chariots and armies. Note that he took 600 choice chariots along with the rest of the soldiers, horsemen, and chariots of Egypt. What were these choice chariots?

    Choice chariots – According to a Jewish source, “Chariots in those days attacked in squadrons of three and charged in the formation of a triangle, one on the point and two on the flanks. The chariots also had knives and sharp instruments on their sides. The result was that three charging chariots could break through any line of infantry. Chariots in the ancient world were the tanks of today” (Pharaoh’s Chariots).

    All of this was a result of the Lord hardening stubborn Pharaoh’s heart. It made no sense otherwise. Why would Pharaoh respond in such a way when the Lord had already decimated the land of Egypt. Was he dense? Yes, he was.

    c. Israel’s plan (10-12)

    The happiness of being delivered from slavery in Egypt drained instantly from their faces when the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army approaching.

    The people cried out to the Lord and complained to Moses. Their fear revealed the thoughts of their hearts. Why did you bring us out into the wilderness? to die? We would have been better to stay as slaves in Egypt!

    Psalm 106:7-8 – “Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, but rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power known.”

    Note: Sometimes hard times and unexpected events can cause us to speak before thinking. Be sure to guard your tongue and be slow to respond.

    James 1:19-20 – “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

    Instead of blurting out your initial thoughts, wait a moment and take the time to pray and consider how you should respond. Are you trusting the Lord? Are you reacting like Jesus would react?

    d. Moses’ plan (13-14)

    Moses’ response to Israel’s complaining was based on his trust in the Lord … but was also based on what God had said to him earlier. See verse 4. The Lord had already told him that He would “gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army.”

    What seemed like a terrifying situation was actually in God’s plan to judge stubborn, unbelieving Pharaoh and his people.

    But think a little bit more about this. The Israelites were afraid of Pharaoh and his armies … after all that they had seen the Lord do in Egypt? Why were they not trusting the Lord to deliver them in this instance as well?

    The Lord had turned the Nile River into blood, caused frogs, swarms, and locusts to infest Egypt. Their flocks has been killed. Their crops had been destroyed. Boils had blistered on the Egyptian bodies. And finally, the firstborn of every family had been killed by the death angel. Why were they still afraid?

    They were afraid because they knew Pharaoh’s intentions.

    If the news reports from Ukraine are correct, there is much reason for the Ukrainians to be afraid of the invading Russian army. The cruel treatment and executions described by the news sound terrible.

    The same could be said of the Israelites. They knew what Pharaoh was capable of doing and were terrified that they would be tortured and even killed.

    But Moses’ words to them were still correct: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” If they had learned anything during the plagues, it was that the Lord was on their side, working for their benefit. What seemed like a hopeless situation was just another chance for God to earn their trust.

    Summary: God’s plan was to gain honor from this situation. No matter how fierce Pharaoh and his army seemed to be, He would be victorious. At this point, the Israelites just needed to wait and trust Him.

    So, how did it turn out?

    [Read Exodus 14:15-31.]

  2. The result (15-31)

    Just as the Lord had planned, so it came to pass. He instructed Moses, protected His people, caused a great miracle, judged the Egyptians, and earned the respect of the Israelites.

    a. God’s instruction (15-18)

    It is interesting that the Lord asked Moses why he was crying to Him. Was he talking about Moses or the people?

    In any event, the Lord told Moses to send the Israelites forward. In order to do this, Moses was to raise his rod over the sea and divide it. In a miraculous, unexplained way, the Lord would cause that portion of the sea to become dry land for them to walk across.

    The Lord promised that Pharaoh and his army would follow them but that He would gain honor by what happened next. They would know that “I am the Lord” after what he was about to do.

    Just what happened?

    b. God’s protection (19-20)

    Remember the heavenly cloud by day and fire by night that led the people? The Lord caused this cloud and fire to stand between Israel and the Egyptian army. Thus the army was unable to reach the Israelites all that night.

    c. God’s miracle (21-23)

    What happened next cannot be explained by science. It was a miracle of God. When Moses stretched out his rod over the sea, the Lord sent an east wind all night that divided the water and dried the ground. The water became a wall on either side of them.

    Throughout the years, people have been skeptical of what God did. One website suggests that a normal occurrence in this area happened that dried the path that allowed Israel to cross the Red Sea. But if this was the case, how were walls of water raised up on either side of the pathway. This explanation doesn’t answer that.

    An old farmer was in the hospital and shared a room with an atheist. The atheist thought that he could outsmart the simple-minded farmer with his explanation of the Red Sea Crossing. He said, “Mr. Farmer, do you think that the Red Sea Crossing was a miracle? Did you know that there are times in that area where the tide causes the water to recede and the wind holds back the water for a period of time so that there are mere inches of water left?” The farmer thought for a minute before replying. “Well, Mr. Atheist, if that is true, it is an even bigger miracle.” The atheist asked for an explanation. “Well, God must have done a miracle to drown all the Egyptian army in just a couple inches of water.”

    We don’t need to explain how it happened other than that God did something miraculous.

    Now where did they cross?

    Several ideas have been suggested for the location of the Red Seas Crossing. The most probable location is Nuweiba Beach on the west coast of the Gulf of Aqaba.

    “If you visit Nuweiba Beach you will see that both ends are bordered by steep cliffs with really nowhere to go. That is why Pharaoh would have said, ‘They are entangled in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ (Ex. 14:3) … Here there is a 10 mile long and a ¼ to ½ mile wide sand bridge which joins the two countries together. This sand bridge is fairly level and has a depth of only 1,000 feet. This would have given the Israelites a gentle slope to walk on and to bring their carts across, but at the same time been plenty deep enough to drown the Egyptian army. Any other area along the Red Sea would not be suitable for crossing given the many cliffs and drop-offs.” (“Where was the Red Sea Crossing?”).

    It is interesting to see that the perfect place to cross still exists.

    d. God’s judgment (24-29)

    When the Egyptians saw what happened, they pursued the Israelites. Not fearing for their lives, they drove their horses and chariots into the same dry land in the middle of the water. But the Lord did not allow them to catch up to Israel. Instead, he troubled them by causing their chariot wheels to come off and have trouble driving.

    When they saw God’s hand against them, they tried to go back. But the Lord did not allow them to escape. The Lord told Moses to stretch out his rod over the sea so that the waters returned to its full depth. The Egyptian army was covered by water and drowned.

    Divers have also found what appear to be corral encrusted chariot wheels and axels on both sides of this area (“Chariot Wheels At Bottom of Read Sea”).

    What happened to Pharaoh?

    While Exodus 14 does not mention Pharaoh’s death, we know that he drowned because of what Psalm 136:15 says. There, the psalmist says that God “overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.” This was the final earthly judgment on Pharaoh for his stubborn, unbelief and unwillingness to obey the Lord.

    As you can see, the stubborn Egyptian ruler finally received the judgment he had earned. This is a good place to think about your own relationship to the Lord. Have you turned from your sin and rebellion against Him, or are you still stubbornly refusing to submit to Him?

    Remember, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). While you may escape God’s judgment during your lifetime, you will eventually have to stand before His throne after you die (Rev. 20:11-15)

    Are you ready?

    e. God’s respect (30-31)

    The end result of this event was that the Lord saved Israel from the Egyptians. What they feared might happen did not in fact happen. Instead, the bodies of their enemies washed ashore showing a vivid picture of God’s deliverance and care for his people. This miraculous event created in the Israelites a deep respect for the Lord and His servant Moses.

Conclusion

Someone once said, “I love it when a plan comes together.” In this case, God’s plan came off just as He had planned it to be. The terrible slavery in Egypt was now ended and those who had treated them so cruelly were no longer able to do so.

If you were to ask the Israelites a year ago, if they would be free from slavery, they would have laughed at you. But now God’s loving plan to free them and take them to the Promised Land was finally coming to pass.

One of the lessons we can learn from this chapter is that God is in control and that we can trust Him to take care of us. No ruler, nation, or Satanic opposition can stand against the Lord God Almighty.

Are you trusting in Him today? I don’t mean to ask if you have been born again, but if you are trusting Him today. Solomon said is best in Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

What may seem like an impossible situation to you, is not an impossibility to the One who created you, sustains you, and maintains the universe. This ought to give each one of us greater confidence in doing what God has given us to do. He is with us. Let Him lead and trust Him to accomplish His plan today.

Bibliography

“Where was the Red Sea Crossing?” as viewed at https://thecalltojordan.com/2018/11/01/where-was-the-red-sea-crossing on 4/30/2022.

“Chariot Wheels At Bottom of Red Sea” as viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIQ-QAKTqZc on 4/30/2022.

John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, 131-132.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis: James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, 168-183.

“Pi-HaHiroth” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi-HaHiroth on 4/30/2022.

“Migdol” as viewed at https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/migdol on 4/30/2022.

“Pharaoh’s Chariots” as viewed at https://www.jewishhistory.org/pharaoh%E2%80%99s-chariots on 4/30/2022.

Works of God: Deer Hunting

While working at Peniel Bible Camp in the early 1990’s, one of Pastor Gassman’s daughters would pray each year that God would provide a deer for their family. Each year, she would pray and then go hunting. And each year, God provided a deer for their family. Being a meat and potatoes guy, I was happy to take part in those family meals with the answer-to-prayer venison on my plate. As I recall, it was very good eating.

Fast forward a few years to November 3, 2019, and something similar happened but in a more unique way. One of the men in our church, had been hunting with no success. Each week, I would ask Dale how the hunt was and assure him I was praying for him. However, each week contained the same negative response — no deer yet.

Then it happened. During our coffee break between Sunday School and the morning service, I heard a thump which I took to be the front door closing. But when I greeted Dale at the front door, he asked me if I had seen the deer. Not sure what he meant, I looked out the door and saw nothing. He told me to look down the sidewalk. There beside the church was a deer which had collided with the side of the church and broken its neck!

For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop smiling. We had prayed and God had answered that prayer in a very unique way. This reminds me of what God said in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Instead of putting God in a small box and expecting him to do as we imagine, sometimes God shows us that He is able to provide in ways we wouldn’t expect.

Exodus 13

The Book of Exodus began with the troubled history of Israelite slaves who were mistreated by the Egyptian pharaohs and their people. As we have studied each chapter, we have seen how God was working on their behalf to deliver them from bondage and to increase their faith in Him.

Last week, we learned about the Passover and exodus from Egypt. The Ten Plagues destroyed Egypt and finally broke Pharaoh’s will. He finally let God’s people go.

After such exciting chapters, you may feel a let down when you come to Exodus 13. There are no miraculous plagues or feisty conversations between Moses and Pharaoh. But what we find in this chapter is nonetheless important because it tells us something about our God and His care for His people.

Despite the lack of “exciting” content, I hope that you will carefully follow along and see the goodness of God in this chapter and also allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart.

  1. The Lord’s Command (1-2)

    It is interesting how the Lord continued to use Moses as his spokesman. Moses had represented the Lord to Pharaoh. Now he is representing the Lord to the Israelite people. With that relationship in mind, the Lord spoke to Moses so that he would convey his command to the people.

    [Read Exodus 13:1-2.]

    I recently listened to a debate about capitalism and socialism and learned that socialism desires for all of the people to be in charge instead of one person. While we like the idea of individual rights, free speech, and the right to vote, this doesn’t seem like a practical way to govern a large company or nation. This thought came to mind as I read these verses. God seems to always use one person to lead, speak, and represent him as opposed to the entire group. Perhaps God’s idea of government throughout the Bible is something that we should study in the future.

    The Lord told Moses that all of the firstborn were to be consecrated to Him. It is interesting to read that this included both the firstborn of people and of animals. Compare this to the tenth plague in Exodus 11-12 and notice that the firstborn of Egyptian people and animals were killed. The Lord seems to continue that idea in this command to consecrate the firstborn.

    Why did the Lord want the firstborn consecrated to Him?

    Isn’t God already the Creator and Owner of all that He has made? Yes, He is. But in this instance, the Lord wanted the Israelites to have a continuing reminder of what He had done.

    So, “to perpetuate the remembrance of that remarkable event, and in token of their gratitude for it, their firstborn … were to be consecrated to God as his peculiar portion” (Bush 154).

    Do you remember the Andy Griffith episode where Andy puts out a fire in a barrel of rags while Gomer Pyle is sleeping? The rest of the episode has Gomer showing his thankfulness to Andy for saving his life. That episode is funny because Gomer becomes obnoxious to Andy and his family.

    The Israelites were in a similar but much different situation. The Lord had saved their lives and delivered them from the oppressive Pharaoh in Egypt. But their devotion would now be shown toward the Lord by doing what He required. In thankfulness for his deliverance, they were to consecrate their firstborn sons to the Lord.

    What about you?

    The command given here was for the Israelites and not for us. However, you too have benefited from what the Lord has done. He gave His own firstborn (Jesus) to take our place and shed his blood to save us from the judgment we rightfully deserved.

    What should we do in response to God? “Does he stand so high in our affections that we are willing for his sake to part with what we love best in this world?” (Bush 154) Instead of giving our firstborn, we ought to consecrate our lives to His service.

    Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

    Perhaps it would be good to mediate on your own response to what the Lord has done for you and to decide how you can express your thankfulness to Him today.

  2. Moses’ Instruction (3-16)

    After hearing what the Lord wanted the people to do, Moses gave more specific instructions to the people. They were to celebrate what God had done and then consecrate the firstborn. Let’s look at the first section.

    [Read Exodus 13:3-10.]

    a. Celebrate what God has done (3-10).

    i. Remember what the Lord did (3a).

    How easily we forget what the Lord has done in our lifetime. Do you remember any of the prayers that have been answered at Calvary Baptist Church? Do you remember what the Lord has done in your lifetime?

    The Lord wanted the people to have an annual reminder of what He had done in Egypt. They were to be reminded that God showed His strength to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt.

    ii. Feast of Unleavened Bread (3b-7)

    To help them remember, after they arrived in the Promised Land, they were to not eat leavened bread for seven days. This was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

    Unleavened bread is bread with no yeast in it. Normal bread rises in the oven because of the yeast in it. But unleavened bread stays compact and flat.

    How would this remind them of what happened?

    “Since the children of Israel left Egypt hastily, they did not have time for the bread to rise, so it was made on that very first Passover without leaven, also known as yeast” (gotquestions). (See also Deuteronomy 16:3.)

    When you are used to eating regular bread, it would be a stark reminder to eat flat, cracker-like bread. Doing this for seven days would cause them to remember the events that took place in Egypt.

    iii. Remind your children (8-10).

    You can probably recall your young child asking questions about why certain things were done in your home. The Israelite children would have similar question. Why are we eating this flat bread? This would have been a good time to recount what God had done in Egypt.

    One of my favorite songs in a different hymnal is “Give ear unto God’s Holy Word.” The lyrics encourage us to teach our children about God’s mighty works.

    “Give ear unto God’s Holy Word and hear His perfect law
    Remember what His hand hath done and tell His works in awe
    Recount unto thy children’s hearts the things which thou wast told
    The truth which thou hast heard and known from generations old.
    So shall thy children hope in God and not forget His name
    But follow in the ways of Him Who ever is the same”

    This is a good time to think about ways to remind the next generation of what God has done in your life and in this church’s time here in Willard. Celebrate what God has done.

    b. Consecrate the firstborn (11-16).

    [Read Exodus 13:11-16.]

    In this section, the Israelites were instructed to consecrate their firstborn male children and animals to the Lord. This practice would begin when they finally arrived in the Promised Land.

    i. The firstborn were to be set apart for the Lord (11-13).

    The act of consecration to the Lord was a setting apart. The Hebrew word means “make to pass over; i.e. from [your] own power and possession; [you shall] make a transfer of it” (Bush 157).

    With this in mind, God was telling them to transfer the ownership of their firstborn son or animal to Him. This would be hard to do. Would any of you be willing to give any of your children to someone else? Most parents would say no.

    It would also be difficult for a herdsman to give up the firstborn animal as there was no guarantee that there would be any future offspring.

    But giving to the Lord was something that should have come easily for thankful people who had just been delivered from slavery. Giving to the Lord would have been an act of thankfulness each time it was done. And (to put your mind at ease) the Lord also expected the parents to redeem (buy back) their children instead of sacrificing them on an altar as the animals were (in most cases).

    “Since donkeys were considered ceremonially unclean animals (Lev. 11:2-4) they could not be sacrificed, but they could be redeemed (padah, ‘to buy back for a price’) by lambs sacrificed in their place” (Hannah 130).

    Now, why was this done?

    ii. The practice reminded them of what the Lord had done (14-16).

    In the future, when a son asked his father about the firstborn, he would hear the story of how the Lord delivered them from Egypt with “strength of hand.” By the end of the ten plagues, there was no doubt who was stronger than stubborn Pharaoh.

    Some years ago, I met a man with extra large hands. His hands were literally half again as big as mine. I can’t say what would have happened if I had arm wrestled him, but I figure he would have had the advantage. His hand strength would have overcome me.

    How do you think a boy would respond to his father’s story about Pharaoh and God’s mighty power?

    He would probably never forget that story. Hearing that the Lord defeated Pharaoh and his gods ten times and destroyed the land would be a constant memory (like frontlets) that the Lord is all powerful and able to deliver them from any future enemy.

    Summary: God wanted the Israelites to celebrate and consecrate. They were to celebrate what God had done for them. And they were to consecrate their firstborns to the Lord in thankfulness and remembrance of God’s goodness to them.

  3. The Nation’s Journey (17-22)

    With all the instruction and celebration, it is easy to forget that Israel was on a journey to the Promised Land. These verses tell us three details about the journey to this point.

    [Read Exodus 13:17-22.]

    a. God’s path (17-18)

    “The shortest route to the land of Canaan was through the territory of the Philistines in the direction of Beersheba and the Negeb. It led along the Mediterranean Sea, the military road of the Egyptians” (Hannah 130).

    However, the Lord did not lead the Israelites on that path. He knew that these recently released slaves were not battle tested enough to handle the Philistines who would oppose them on this route. He knew their hearts and did not want them to become afraid and want to return to Egypt. So, he gave them a different path which went southeast from Egypt through a deserted area (not desert).

    b. Promise to Joseph (19)

    Years ago, Joseph had instructed his children to take his bones/casket back home to be buried. Moses remembered this and brought his remains with them. “Later Joseph’s bones were buried at Shechem (Josh. 24:32)” (Hannah 130).

    c. God’s direction (20-22)

    Such a large group must have traveled slowly. Remember that there were 600,000 fighting men. If you were to add a wife to each man and a couple of children, the total population must have been about 2 million people. Whatever the case, this group made their way from Succoth to Ethan on the edge of the wilderness area.

    As they traveled, the Lord led the way with a pillar shaped cloud during the day. At night, He led them with a pillar of fire which lit the way which would have been comforting in an area which was unknown to them.

    Summary: The Lord showed his care for Israel in these verses. First, He took them down a route that would not discourage them. Second, He reminded them of better times with Joseph’s casket being carried with them. Third, He led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Conclusion

As we conclude our study of Exodus 13, I wonder what caught your attention?

1. God’s command to consecrate the firstborn

As you saw God’s command for the firstborn to be consecrated, did you also see your need to consecrate your life to the Lord as opposed to living it for yourself? He certainly is deserving of anything we can offer to Him.

2. Moses’ instructions to celebrate and consecrate

As you read Moses’ instructions for Israel to remember what God had done for Israel, were you reminded of times when He met your needs and worked out things in your life that you thought could never be handled well? He certainly has in the past and still can today. Celebrate the Lord today.

3. God’s care for the Israelites as they traveled

As you read of the Lord’s care of Israel along their journey, did you realize that the same God has been caring for you all along? He has promised to never leave or forsake His children. So, trust and thank Him for His watch care over you.

Bibliography

John D. Hannah, “Exodus” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1989, 130-31.

George Bush, Notes on Exodus, Minneapolis, James & Klock, 1852, reprint 1976, 154-164.

“Frontlets” in ATS Bible Dictionary as viewed at Topical Bible: Frontlets (biblehub.com) on 4/23/2022.

“What is the significance of unleavened bread?” as viewed at What is the significance of unleavened bread? | GotQuestions.org on 4/23/22.