We leave the Red Sea behind and travel into the wilderness. Three days later, the water they had was exhausted and they cried out for more. And God answered their cries!
It has only been three days since the greatest miracle imaginable happened and the people are already grumbling. I recognize the absolute need for water for survival so I’m giving them a little bit of a pass on this first grumbling. But we, on the other side of history, know this is just the beginning. Let’s join them on their journey.
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The songs of praise the people sang were SO refreshing! Moses’ heart soars with pride at their response. Of course ANYONE would be awed by what the Lord had just accomplished. Israel was safe and their enemies were decimated.
But it is time to move on. They cannot stay here. The bodies on the seashore will begin to stink right away. Their “neighbors” might also get embolden.
Before leaving the bodies are stripped of anything the people might need including water skins. As slaves the Hebrews carried water skins all the time as a measure of self-preservation. All of these were refilled as well as any they recovered before leaving the seashore. What food was available was also gathered each time they paused. The Lord waited while they completed these tasks. Finally it was time to move on.
The pillar of smoke began to move into the wilderness. Moses had been keeping an eye on it and the people while they refreshed their supplies. When the pillar begins to move Moses raises his voice and instructs the people, “It’s time to move on!”
Because of the Lord’s clear working through Moses, the people did not fight against his instructions. They were a little slow getting moving as a large group but quickly complied on an individual basis. Soon the whole multitude was following the pillar again. The Lord led the way and Moses and the people followed.
The pattern of stopping for short rest breaks and meals resumed as before. The people moved both day and night. The nights always had some traveling in them but they also included enough rest to refresh the people for the next day. They did not “make camp” but slept in groups by the wayside. They knew rest was coming when the Lord’s pillar stood still. This is how the Lord led the people each day.
Three days into their journey from the Red Sea the people’s water skins had been emptied. They were thirsty. They hadn’t come across any fresh water to replenish their skins along the way. Finally water is spotted ahead. The Lord’s pillar is leading them straight to it. “Praise God! Water is in sight!” echoes through the multitude.
Moses is ready for water too. He is just as thirsty as his neighbor. Moses is feels the responsibility for caring for this vast number of people. As they approach the water Moses notices something. There are no animal tracks here. In the desert ANY source of good water would bear tracks of its use. Before anyone can rush to the water to quench their thirst Moses commands the group to stop. He needs to check the water first.
Moses goes to the edge of the waterhole and puts his hand in. He then brings it to his nose and mouth. It is bitter! It is not good for drinking. He stands and shakes his head. He looks around into the distance but doesn’t see any other nearby watering holes.
The people begin to cry out. “What are we supposed to drink? We are thirsty!”
Moses knows this thirst too but he also knows where to turn. He cries out to the Lord. “Lord God of Heaven and Earth, Your people need water for they thirst.”
Immediately Moses attention is drawn to a log lying near the water. His spirit responds to the Lord’s unspoken command for he has learned to trust the Lord’s leading even without words. Moses lifts the log and throws it into the water. He KNOWS this was the Lord’s leading so the water is now ready for the people. He bends down and scoops some of it up and into his mouth. It is sweet and refreshing.
“Come to the water the Lord has provided” Moses calls to the people. “Quench your thirst. Do NOT fill your water skins but share what is here with your brothers and sisters.”
The people began to move around the water and bring drinks to their lips with their hands. Moses watched as the people’s thirst was quenched. After a few minutes the group at the water hole would move back so others could take their place.
Moses heard some in the group discussing filling their water skins. “We don’t know when the next water will come. We need to be prepared.” Moses stepped up immediately and addressed this rebellion.
“The Lord has provided this water for you. He has this to say to you; ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep ALL His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your Healer’ (verse 26).”
That stopped the perpetrators in their steps. No one uncorked or lifted a water skin again. As soon as the whole group had quenched their immediate thirst they set off again with the Lord’s pillar leading the way.
The Lord led them to Elim where there was plenty of water, shade, food and a resting place. Here He commanded Moses to have the people build their second camp since leaving Egypt. Here they would stay for a refreshing rest. This rest too was a reward for their obedience.
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Father God You know where all the best resting places are. Sometimes I want to sit down on the way and choose my own “refreshing places” instead of letting the stop be a short stay along the way instead. You never push me past the point of survival but sometimes You stretch my abilities of trust. These are times of faith building for what is to come later. But You also ALWAYS bring me rest. You know my needs and my limits.
Sometimes You obscure the “resting places” from my view as a test of my reliance on You. You knew there was water just ahead for Israel just as sure as You know what lies ahead for me. You only let them have a little so they would still rely on You and go to the next step with You. You do the same with me. My whole life is moving from one resting place to another until I reach my final resting place with You. You provide EVERYTHING I need along the way! Including the opportunities for growth. Thank You for those as much as for the rests in between.