The Statute and the Ordinance at Marah

October 12, 2017 at 9:56 am | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: In Exodus 15:25, after the Lord made the bitter water at Marah drinkable, it says that “there he made for them a statute and an ordinance.” What was the statute and the ordinance?

Answer: Moses probably wrote this section of Exodus many years after the events took place, so the Holy Spirit is referencing the giving of statutes and ordinances by God as a foreshadowing of the formal “giving of the Law” which will come at Mount Sinai a few chapters later. The expression, “a statute and an ordinance,” is an example of a hendiadys, meaning that an idea is used and then repeated after the conjunction “and” for emphasis and for clarification. For example, sometimes I refer to “a basic and fundamental” fact. Basic and fundamental are nearly synonymous in that context, but I want to make the point strongly and use two similar words in case one or the other might not be as familiar to everyone who hears or reads it. Lawyers do this when they draw up a “last will and testament.” The “statute and the ordinance” referenced in Exodus 15:25 is described in the next verse:

If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes…

Exodus 15:26

God had Moses tell the people that one of His general laws, even before the Covenant at Sinai, is that His people are required to be attentive and loyal to Him. It will be a really good day for you and me when we understand this and accept it.

Omniscience, Obstacles, Opportunities, and Overruling Oversight

August 15, 2014 at 9:14 am | Posted in Exodus | 16 Comments
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How quickly the freedom of celebration and worship can come to a halt at the first sign of trouble.

So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

Exodus 15:22

Three days is a long time to go without water for a large group of families and their herds of animals. It is possible that they had gulped down the last of their supply, thinking for sure there would be water at the place up ahead which would come to be known as Marah.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

Exodus 15:23

That’s what Marah means – bitter.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

Exodus 15:24

The word “murmur” sounds like two repetitious baby sounds put together, and in Scripture it indicates childish or immature complaining, whining, and grumbling. Why did the omniscient God lead them to a place where He obviously knew the water would be undrinkable? Moses did what everyone else should have been doing instead of complaining. He prayed and he believed – logically and faithfully – that the God Who had delivered them out of Egypt would provide water for them.

And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

Exodus 15:25

The tree may or may not be a picture of the Cross, but I do believe it points to Christ. Just as Adam and Eve brought bitterness into the world by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so too is there a Tree of Life. This tree was glorious (like Christ), and it was cut down (also like Christ.) It was lowered into the bitter water (just as Christ condescended into the middle of our bitterly fallen and sinful world). The tree took the bitterness away and provided life-giving water. Most Bible scholars are reluctant to read this into it, because there are no specific references to it in the New Testament, but I think it’s appropriate.

Verse 25 says that “there He proved them.” They failed the test, but Moses didn’t. They would fail this test again and again. Despite the assurance that their God (unlike the false Egyptian gods) was Jehovah Rophi – the God that Heals.

They now had plenty of sweet water, but they would be tested again concerning food, and this time there is a clear New Testament revelation concerning the incident.

And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 16:1

Elim was a place with plenty of water and 70 palm trees. It is tempting to read the coincidental name of the wilderness of “Sin” as an allusion our English word “sin,” and to build a lesson around the idea that they were wandering into “sin against God,” but the context does not seem to support a strained connection.

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

Exodus 16:2

The murmuring was against God, as well as His spokesman, Moses.

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Exodus 16:3

The people looked back to bondage, slavery, abuse, and the murder of their children as the “good old days” simply because they were faced with an obstacle. They should have looked at this obstacle as an opportunity to demonstrate faith in the God Who had rescued them.

Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

Exodus 16:4-5

Despite their grumbling, cowardice, and lack of faith, God’s goodness and kindness and faithfulness were not thwarted by their sin.

Poetry, Dancing, and the Wondrous Fear of God

July 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Exodus | 6 Comments
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And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

Exodus 14:21

Neither Moses’s hand, nor the staff it held, had any intrinsic power. They were visible symbols of the power of God. The word translated as “sea” is used to describe a vast body of water, such as an ocean, not a marshy swamp or a shallow pool.

And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

Exodus 14:22

The word translated as “wall” is the same word normally used in the Bible to describe city walls, which were typically about 20 feet high.

For centuries God’s people had heard all about all sorts of gods in Egypt who were supposedly powerful and mighty, but none of those so-called gods had ever done anything like this!

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

This was a rhetorical question – which in Hebrew (especially Hebrew poetry) – was used for emphasis. It was a way of extolling the true “holiness” of God. The answer was and is, “No one – and no thing – is like unto God in the slightest.” It is a rhetorical question which inspired the names “Micah” and “Michael.” The little g “gods” were a reference to the figuratively just-defeated Egyptian gods. They were nothing compared to the real God, Who is glorious in holiness. Possibly the greatest foundation of God’s glory is His holiness. It is so great that it forces all who consider Him to fear Him. Even His praises are fearful! The real God is not your buddy, your pal, your “co-pilot,” or “the man upstairs,” and what He does is “wonders.”

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Exodus 15:20

Miriam, Moses’s sister, is revealed here to be a prophetess – meaning she spoke for God or revealed God’s truth or at least proclaimed God’s truth. She is referred to as the sister of Aaron rather than the sister of Moses in this context possibly because of Moses’s humility, or possibly in deference to Aaron as the older brother. It could also be because, as a singer, she is involved in a type of worship which would later be part of Temple worship, and which was to be the province of Aaron the high priest.

The timbrels were similar to what we would call tambourines, and there was definitely dancing involved, as uncomfortable as that may make some of us. The word translated as “dances” could include choreographed moves, rhythmic moves, or even spastic moves. (We can safely assume it was not “twerking,” however!) This was a celebration, but it was also meant to be “didactic” – teaching something about God – as well as glorifying Him for His character – Who He is and what He had done.

When the Lord Becomes Your Song

June 27, 2014 at 10:26 am | Posted in Exodus | 10 Comments
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Exodus 15 features a song about what God did in the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptian army, and this is not the only song in the Bible that mentions this event. Psalm 136 tells us how the Israelites in later years felt about it, and how we’re supposed to think about it.

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Exodus 15:1-2

This may be the first part of the Book of Exodus to have actually been written down, since it was probably written contemporaneously with the event itself. It is one thing to sing songs about the Lord. It is another thing for Him to be your song. “Your song” is what excites your imagination. It’s what you can’t help exalting. Your life will change when your “song” is not the new Playstation 3 or the new season of “The Bachelor” or whatever your hobby is or politics or the stock market or even your kids or your spouse. When the Lord becomes the thing you can’t help singing about, and you realize that you are not really singing “about” Him, but that He is your song – your joy.

The Book of Exodus is written in the genre of historical narrative. It is factual and summarizing, going into detail only when it furthers the theme. It is dramatic, but the drama is not embellished or fictionalized. However, here in Chapter 15 the genre shifts to “poetic” and much of the language is anthropomorphic. Anthro (from which we get the word “anthropology”) means “man” or “human beings.” Morphic means “form.” In anthropomorphism the subject is portrayed in “human form” even though it’s not really a human being.

For example:

Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.

Exodus 15:6

And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

Exodus 15:8

The Holy Spirit is not telling us here that the Lord literally used His right hand as opposed to His left hand, or that He even used a physical hand to dash the Egyptians to pieces. Nor is He telling us that God held up the separated walls of water during the Red Sea crossing with a holy sneeze. This is poetic language used for worship, beauty, metaphor, memorization, and lyrical brilliance.

Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.

Exodus 15:13

This is an Old Testament type and shadow of what Christ would do in a greater reality. God sees His people in bondage (Egypt), delivers them (Exodus), separates them (Red Sea) from the power of their enemy (Pharaoh), binds them to Himself with a covenant (Mt. Sinai), and then leads them and actually brings them to Canaan and ultimately Jerusalem, His earthly holy habitation.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:2-3

Jesus sees His people (as yet still lost sinners) in bondage (to the power of sin and Satan), and delivers them (by the Cross and – experientially for us – by faith when we are saved). He separates us from the power of our enemies (Satan and sin no longer are our masters). He binds us to Himself with a covenant (the New Covenant of everlasting life) and He brings us and goes with us and guides us (by the Holy Spirit) to His holy habitation (Heaven).

What Is God Like?

December 18, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Exodus | 33 Comments
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And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

Was Moses really concerned about what name he would give to God before the people? He told God, “They shall say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say unto them?” But God had already told him in Exodus 3:6: “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”

Moses had several questions – and several excuses – but what he was really asking is revealed partially by what he asked about himself in Exodus 3:11: “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses wanted to know, “Who am I? What am I like?” So, when he asked God, “What shall I tell them when they ask me Your name?” what he was really asking God was, “What are You like? How can I describe You? To what can I compare You? What are You really like?”

The Bible has many names for God: Elohim, El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Olam, Yahweh (YHWH), Yahweh Jireh, Yahweh Nissi, Yahweh Shalom, Yahweh Sabbaoth, Yahweh Maccaddeshcem, Yahweh Ro’I, Yahweh Tsidken, Yahweh Shammah, Yahweh Elohim Israel, Adonai, Theos, Kurios, Despotes, Father, just to name a few. God cannot be fully described by men as to Who He is, so we are given to know Him by what He does. There are many names that describe a part of what God is, but what people throughout Scripture have asked is, “God, what are You really like?”

Micah, Micaiah, Michal, Michael are all Bible names that ask the rhetorical question: “Who is like God?” This question points out the real problem with explaining what God is really like; as several well-known theologians and preachers have pointed out: There is no one and no thing to which to compare Him. I know we’ve all been told, as privileged people, that we’re “special,” but the fact is, as human beings, there are many, many ways in which we are all similar to each other. But God had to say “I AM” because He could point to no one outside of Himself and say, “He is like Me” or “She is like Me,” or “I am like that.” The truth is: He is like nothing else at all.

When we speak of the problem of making a comparison concerning God, we begin to understand the true concept of God’s holiness. Of all the attributes which make up the glory of God, His holiness may be the most significant – especially when it comes to trying to grasp at His true nature – what He is like. The angels near the throne of God do not cry out love, love, love, or righteous, righteous, righteous, or grace, grace, grace, or even mighty, mighty, mighty, although all of these would be true. What they cry out is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3). The name for God’s Spirit is not the Peace Spirit, or the Joy Spirit, or even the Faith Spirit, although He is a Spirit of peace, joy, and faith. His name is the Holy Spirit.

There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

I Samuel 2:2

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Isaiah 43:3

God is holy because of His complete uniqueness, and because in Him is no sin. One of the reasons that, throughout Scripture, the holiness of God is so tied into the idea of sinlessness or freedom from sin, is that a sinful world’s most obvious difference between us and God is that we sin, and He does not.

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

God has no beginning and no end. He is all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, timeless, providential. As one well-known preacher says, God is not like us, only wiser, or more powerful, or more righteous – He is not LIKE us at all!

God told Moses to tell the people that God is “I AM THAT I AM,” and for something like 1500 years people asked, “Who is like God?” Then, Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene – a sinless humble obeyer of God’s Word. Jesus is our best look at what God is really like. It was as if God answered and said, “You want to know who is like Me? He is like Me – now learn His ways, and follow Him – He will show you what I am really like” (Matthew 11:27).

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 1:17-18 (See John 14:7-10.)

Learning what God is really like will be an eternal undertaking – but while we are here on earth we must learn about the Father by walking with, talking with, emulating, worshiping, and magnifying His Son.


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