Exodus 16-18: Is Jesus Enough?

Great hunger and thirst will turn just about any man into a fool.  The nation of Israel had just found new freedom, but a month to the day after their miraculous exodus from Egypt they found themselves wishing to go back.  This is what momentary trouble causes us. . . it gives us the desire to take hold of the reigns of our own life and do what feels best, even when we know that it isn’t God’s best for our lives.  There is no question that God wants his children to depend on his provision.  It is in this dependence that we find richness in our relationship with the living God of the universe.  It is when we walk independently of God that we dwell in the spiritual poverty of our own self-dependence. 


I hope for each reader of this blog that there was a moment in your life to which you can definitively point to as the moment you were born again of the spirit of God.  As Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:5).  This experience is marked by the incoming of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in your life.  The moment in which you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, there was  a dramatic change in your life. Some can’t remember the day because they were children when they received Christ, but whatever day that was would have led to a dramatic way of life.  A way of life that is different as what went before as light is from darkness. Jonathan Edwards, an eighteenth century congregational pastor and theologian from New England described this change of life as a “divine and supernatural light imparted to the soul.”  This experience, what theologians call our “conversion,” marks a day in which we are no longer dominated by desires for the things of the flesh but now long after a life lived by the Spirit of God (Romans 8).  After this change of heart, God will begin to challenge you in ways that you would not often anticipate.  It is important to remember that it is God’s will that we depend not on ourselves or other people but on his provision for our lives.


 Daily Dependence is the First Step of Christian Discipleship

Yet we must remember that the moment in which this happens to us, God will never leave us there for he will ever challenge us to grow deeper in our walk with Him. It is not difficult for people to who are religious to acknowledge their devotion to God when things are going well.  When times are tough, we begin asking questions like “why me?” and “could a loving God allow someone like me to go through all of this?”  The truth is that God knows that we will ask such questions as we are told in Scripture that Jesus was tempted in all ways like we are and that in the garden of Gethsemane he asked that the cup of his passion be taken away from him.  While Jesus did ask this question, he accepted the Father’s will and went to the cross without sin.  It is critical that we begin to look at our struggles in the same way.  While they are difficult and the circumstances around them can be desperate, God calls us to trust Him in the midst of it.


This text makes it clear that God is now in the process of testing his people who have just departed Egypt with a number of trials.  This section of Scripture will begin to give us a picture of the peoples’ spiritual state.  As they traveled out into the desert, it wouldn’t be long before whatever food the nation had when they departed Egypt had been depleted at this point.  It would have to be a very difficult task to scrounge up food for two million people on a daily basis.  The people began to have doubts about all that had happened and somehow they began to think that the God who parted the waters for their freedom was about to fall short of providing for them under these very difficult, and seemingly impossible circumstances.  The people began to “grumble” and came to Moses and Aaron and protested, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into the desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (16:3-5).  In other words they were saying that they would have been better off to be an enemy of God (“died by the LORD’s hand), then they were as children of God.  This is a very sad but revealing statement about their level of contempt for the Lord. 


Rather than attacking the people for what they had done, God responded very graciously to their cries and sent quail and manna to take care of their needs.  The manna was a type of bread that looked like a wafer like substance that was light in color and sweet in taste.  They were to gather enough for only one day at a time.  If the people attempted to gather more for two days (with the exception of the day before the Sabbath), the manna would be filled with maggots on the following day. Obviously, God was teaching the people to depend on his daily provision.  God knew that these lessons would be essential and this was the first area of growth for their lives.  Daily dependence on God for all life’s needs is the first rule in discipleship.  God provided the manna six times a week for forty years, and incredibly a huge percentage of the population never quite got the message.  When Jesus referred to himself as the “true bread from heaven” (John 6:33), he was using this story as the backdrop of his statement.   Jesus was teaching us that he is our daily sustenance.  Are you feeling weak today? Turn to Jesus and he is the one who will sustain you in your hour in need.  Perhaps you know by turning to him today that you can get through today, but you are not sure about tomorrow.  Jesus is telling us in these verses that we ought not worry about tomorrow.  He is calling us to focus on him today and when tomorrow does come, he will give us the strength to make it through another day.


In chapter 17 we are introduced to another difficult situation that the people faced in the desert.  As bad as it would be to have two million people with nothing to eat, it would be even worse to have two million people with you who had nothing to drink.  The nation would move from place to place as God directed by cloud during the day or a pillar of fire during the night.  The place that God had now moved them to literally had no water and probable mass dehydration was beginning to set in amongst the people.   Once again in the text we read, “They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink’ . . . “then they said, ‘why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’” (Exodus 17:1,3).  God once again was gracious to this grumbling people and ordered Moses to go and strike a rock and flowing forth from that rock came a great amount of water to take care of the nations needs.  Once again, God provided when things seemed their worst.  In fact, I believe that Jesus was also referencing this miracle when he said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  When you have Jesus, you have it all.  Even when you go through great trial he gives you the grace to trust in him and know what it is to never go without spiritual food and spiritual drink.  When we know Jesus truly and intimately we will no longer have to run here and there to find our deepest spiritual desires filled. 


God continued to teach the Israelites moment by moment dependence for as soon as God gave them water news came that they were going to be attacked by the Amalekites.  As General Joshua, arguably Moses’ closest spiritual friend, assembled the men and engaged in the fight Moses was ordered to hold up his staff.  Whenever Moses dropped his staff, Israel would lose ground and when it was raised, their men gained ground.  “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword” (Exodus 17:11-13).  God was giving another graphic object lesson about dependence upon himself: God ultimately controls the outcome of all events and those who depend on him will experience his blessing. 


So many people bounce from place to place seeking spiritual experiences.  We go from church to church, react from one worship style to another never finding the answer to their souls hunger and thirst.  The fact is that those who know Jesus know that he is enough (and sometimes must re-learn this lesson). He is not found simply in having religious experiences in different types of worship services or amongst different sets of friends or in embracing some new faddish theological trend.  Jesus is found in the midst of everyday life.  He is our daily provision; he is our constant companion; he is the source of every good thing.  Is Jesus enough for you or do you need some other experience to accompany him?  When you have trials and you are stuck deciding between what God says is best and what you think is best, which do you choose?  Is Jesus enough for you or do you still think that when it comes to certain matters, your wisdom is superior or generally preferable?  Is Jesus enough for you? Have you partaken in his all satisfying bread or gulped his eternal water? Does his presence in your life satisfy your deepest spiritual hunger and does your relationship with him quench your deepest spiritual thirst?  If you know Jesus, then you know that he is all you need. “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Your forefathers ate manna and died, but eh who feds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:57-58). 


2 Responses to “Exodus 16-18: Is Jesus Enough?”

  1. Derek Says:

    Well said, Bruce. Ever since we studied Abraham, I have been thinking and praying about the very simple but also difficult idea of “abiding in Christ”. We are not in need of an experience, but of His ongoing presence in our heart and life.

  2. Bruce Smith Says:

    This is key because through this process we grow in holiness. Sometimes holiness is difficult to track from week to week, but in Abraham’s life we can see the dramatic changes that were made in his life over the decades that he lived. What a great promise that if we abide in him, he will abide in us!

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