- Step One: “Get out of thy country”: Be ready for a “trust exchange”. God’s promises always come at the same price – Trade what you see for what you cannot, based solely on my Word! (12:1).
- Step Two: “I will”: Understand the source of the blessing. All God’s promises are rooted in His Word to us – it is what we have to follow Him by! (12:2).
- Step Three: “Bless them that bless thee”: Acknowledge the nature of His plan. God uses us to reach into the lives of others – our failures have broader consequences! (12:3).
- Step Four: “As the Lord spoke”: Wear the mark of obedience. It is not brains, nor trust that are the mark of blessing – it is obedience! (12:4-5).
- Step Five: “Lord appeared – built an altar”: Recognize the One who gives victory and blessing (12:6-8). Note that God was blessed when Abraham gave Him worship in the form of giving back to God his own things!
God sometimes shows Himself in the most unlikely places to make a simple point to His followers – there have never been “God-forsaken” places or people. The stage for this lesson in Scripture was set amidst a brewing conflict with the desert tribal people called the Amalekites. The children of Israel were already tired by the beginning of the Amalekite conflict (Ex. 17:8). Part way through the fifty-day journey from Egyptian territory to the mountain of the law (recalled now in the 50 days between Passover or Pesach and Pentecost or Shavuot) they already neared exhaustion.
God’s Provisions in the Past
They had experienced God’s provision at the healed bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:23-26) and the refreshing oasis of twelve pools and ten palm trees at Elim (Ex. 15:27), yet they were compelled to move on to the mountain where God planned a meeting with Moses on their behalf. To the mountain they trudged, sheep and goats, carts and children.
Suffering hunger in the dry and barren wilderness, the Bible records that God rained upon them first bread, then quail from the heavens to fill their stomachs (Ex. 16). Their incessant complaining and overt disobedience led even God to ask, “How long will you refuse to trust Me?” (Ex. 16:28). Yet God continually provided, and the manna in a pot became the first of many memorials the children of Israel made. The pot was later placed beside the tablets of the law that Moses received from God and kept in the Tabernacle (Ex. 16:34).
Journeying into the sand-filled fanlike fingers of the Wadi Feiran system of the Sinai desert (Ex. 17:1-7), a connected system of valleys with water in underground rivers beneath, the Israelites arrived depleted of water in their canteens and very thirsty. Though God had shown them His might at the parting of the Sea, the cloud and pillar of fire, and numerous supply demonstrations, the people again panicked.
The huge uplifted granite mountains of the Sinai peninsula sloped above them, and God directed Moses to take the elders to the slope of a mountain he knew well from his shepherding days (cp. Ex. 3:1). This was the shepherding territory of Jethro the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses. Moses did not doubt that God could and would supply the water necessary for the people. He also knew how to get the water, because he lived in this desert before.
In areas of that desert where the metamorphic rock (sand stone and the underlying granite beds) meet sedimentary rock there are strata deposits of water. Shepherds of the ancient world, as the Bedouin Sinai dwellers today, knew exactly where these deposits of water awaited their needs. Even as we travel through the desert today on camel back through this Sinai landscape, we still see the places where the calcified deposits on the walls of the great Wadi Feiran have been pierced by sticks and rocks to access the water deposits that exists in those pockets behind the walls.
Moses knew the method, and had he had the time to look carefully, he could even predict with fair accuracy the location of water deposits. The appearance of small mosses and damp surfaces can be signs of water deposits. He was, after all, a skilled shepherd from the region before he led the children of Israel.
A modern discovery of this phenomenon by a westerner illustrates what a Near Eastern shepherd of this region knows well. This selection is taken from records of the British governor of the Sinai region of the 1930’s, Major C.S. Jarvis – today a part of the “Palestine Exploration Fund” records:
“Several men of the Sinai Camel Corps had halted in a dry wadi (river bed) and were in the process of digging about in the rough sand that had accumulated at the foot of a rock face. They were trying to get at the water that was trickling slowly out of the limestone rock. The men were taking their time about it and Besh Shawish – the color sergeant – said, “Here, give it to me”. He took the spade of one of the men and began digging furiously in the manners of NCO’s the world over who want to show their men how to do things but have no intention of keeping it up for more than a couple of minutes. One of his violent blows hit the rock by mistake. The smooth hard crust which always forms the weathered limestone split open and fell away. The soft-stone underneath was thereby exposed and out of its apertures shot a powerful stream of water. The Sudanese, who are well up in the activities of the prophets but do not treat them with a vast amount of respect, overwhelmed their sergeant with cries of ‘Look at him! Prophet Moses’!”
God commanded Moses to break the crust of deposit on the surface of the rock and cause the water beneath, pent up from rains of years gone by, to break forth on the dry landscape (Exodus 17:6). What a miracle God demonstrated at the rock! Though it is possible to get water in this way from the desert, the amount of water necessary to care for the children of Israel was excessive and unprecedented. Major Jarvis’ team had only a few gallons compared to the stream that would have cared for Israel’s thirst. Think about it, in order for such a large cask of water to have been stored in the rock ledge deposit, the rain waters would have begun to accumulate long before Joseph had even led the children of Israel into Egypt!
God may have instantly stored the necessary water, but there is no reason to believe He did not begin to supply the answer long before the question! It may well be that hundreds of years before rains began to form in the water deposit so that it was ready for God’s thirty children. It would be just like our God to create the solution before we face the problem. Is that not like His character?
Life gets more and more complicated. I have had to make a real effort at trying to slow down and take stock in all that is happening. I broke my ankle in three places on April 5th, and still can’t walk after surgery and a series of fine looking casts and fancy footwear. The process has helped me to put in perspective some of what I am doing.
Maybe it would all make more sense if I introduced myself. I am a Pastor of a small and growing congregation in Sebring, Florida. I am also the International Director of Global Vision Outreach, Inc. – a small mission team at work in the Near East, Europe, Central America and Africa. As director, I am also the founder and director of the Great Commission Bible Institute in Sebring, an intense “Disciple making factory” in a dormitory style Bible school. We take up to a dozen students a year and take them through all 66 books of the Bible. I also own and operate a small travel company that takes groups on specific Bible related adventures – Christian Travel Study Programs. I have a wonderful wife (Dottie) and three incredible children: Rachel (22), Aaron (15) and Sara (14). Yes, the father of teens – what a joy!
I came to Sebring after serving the Lord in Israel for many years. I still visit at least once a year, and often much more, as I teach travel study programs. For two decades I have been teaching and traveling, and I have tried to find a place to keep all the information in all the little orbits of my life. Now I shall try to upload a bunch of it to my blog.
I intend this to be a place where I can put Bible articles, travel notes, family and leadership notes, and many other curious comments about my journey in service to my King. I am looking forward to getting to know new friends and keep old ones around the globe in touch. Here we go!