August 18-26, 1992
Proving, v. 25
This chapter contains the song of Moses, and of the children of Israel, on the banks of the Red sea; in which they celebrate their passage through it, the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in it, and the glory of the divine perfections displayed therein, interspersed with prophetic hints of things future, Ex 15:1-19 which same song was sung by the women, with Miriam at the head of them, attended with timbrels and dances, Ex 15:20,21, an account is given of the march of the children of Israel from the Red sea to the wilderness of Shur, and of the bitter waters found at Marah, which occasioned a murmuring, and of their being made sweet by casting a tree into them, Ex 15:22-25 when they were told by the Lord, that if they would yield obedience to his commandments, they should be free from the diseases the Egyptians had been afflicted with, Ex 15:26, and the chapter is concluded with their coming to Elim, where they found twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees, and there encamped, Ex 15:27. [John Gill]
After the great victory wrought by the Lord over Egypt in the sea, Moses composes a song, and leads Israel in his song of praise for the marvelous works of the Lord.
The first thing that strikes me about this passage is the spelling of the word LORD. As we mentioned at the opening of ch. 14, this particular spelling means the Lord Jesus Christ. When I look over the account of the Lord Jesus' overthrow of Egypt, I am reminded of His appearance in the Book of the Revelation where He is represented as a Lord of Warfare who takes vengeance upon those who are against Him.
However, it was not long, only three days, until the song turned into bitterness because the Lord did not lead them into a situation that was pleasing in their sight. All through this experience with Israel, the grace of God is overwhelming. The Lord brought them out strictly by His grace because of a promise He made with Abraham.
As a thought to introduce this song, let me quote Parker:
The great slave orator, Frederick Douglas, is reported to have said in a mournful speech, on a dark day for his race: The white man is against us, governments are against us, the spirit of the times is against us; I see no hope for the colored race; I am full of sadness.' Having concluded this melancholy utterance, a poor, little, decrepit, colored woman rose in the audience, and said, Frederick, is God dead?' In a moment the whole spirit of the man was changed. He had forgotten the principal thing--speaking about white people, and governments, and spirit of the times, and forgetting the only thing worth remembering.
When we get our minds and attention off the mercy, goodness, strength and salvation of the Lord, we also will be ready to give up in despair. Let us not forget the principal thingThe Lord and His tender care and divine providence for His people.
Again, quoting Parker:
We must be careful to distinguish between true praise and mere rhapsody, The song of Moses is simply history set to music. Through the whole song there is a line of what may be termed historical logic. Are these flowers? Underneath the soil in which they grow are infinite rocks of solid, positive fact and experience. Those who sang the song witnessed the events which they set to music. I protest against music ever being set to frivolous and worthless words. That is profanation. Such music is made into mere rhapsody; it is turned into sound without sense; it is a voice and nothing more. The music should owe all its nobility to the thought which it expresses. Persons who know not whereof they affirm have sometimes foolishly said that the words are nothing--it is the music that is everything. As well say the tree is nothing--the blossom is all. The words are the necessity of the music.
Note, hence, that Moses is not merely uttering empty words that might sound good or lift one's soul from its doldrums; he is singing a song to the God of heaven: a song resulting from something marvelous that the Lord did; his soul is overflowing with the goodness of the Lord to Him and His people. The vast majority of "Christian" singing today is no more than empty words set to even more empty music, which appeals to the natural man. The words are empty because the heart is empty; the words and music appeal to the natural man because the natural man is singing them.
Remember, Moses has "lived" from the time the Lord sent him from the bush; he has lived for this moment of deliverance. It has been his consuming though every moment for many months, and now, according to the promise of the Lord, it has happened. His soul overflows in song of praise and relief.
The deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea and Egypt's destruction, shows us several things, most of which the natural man hates and will create a great conflict over. If Calvin had lived before Moses, Moses would have been accused of being a Calvinist. Is it any wonder that the dispensational, premillennial crowd must remove the Old Testament from the Scriptures?
I. This first is probably the most important, Moses tells us that, beyond any question, salvation is of the LordPs 3:8; 37:39 [But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble. Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.]; 62:1ff &c.
Look at some of the words which Moses uses:
A) v. 2, and he is become my salvation.
B) v. 13, the people which thou hast redeemed..
C) v. 16, which thou hast purchased..
D) v. 17, Thou shalt bring them in..
Moses gives a very humbling thought to the fact of salvation that the natural man fights against with all his might: Salvation is totally of the Lord. He delivered Israel in spit of Israel. The Lord saves man in spite of himself, not because of any good which might be in him, for there is none.
The song of Moses here tells us many things, four of which are: first, salvation is completely and totally of the Lord; second, He can and will overthrow the wicked at His pleasure; third, the divine providence of God is working all things in history for His good pleasure, and fourth, nothing will thwart God's good pleasure.
II. Jehovah God exalted His people over the heathens; He chose a people to show Himself strong through. The natural man fights against the doctrine that the choice is the Lord's and not man's.
III. Note that the Lord God showed His might and power by exalting His people and by destroying the enemy.
IV. Jehovah God glorified Himself as God of gods and King of all kings, including over the heathens.
V. No man, nation or power can defy God with impunity.
VI. Jehovah God is a LORD of warfare; there is a continual
going on between the LORD Jesus Christ and His enemies.
VII. The enemies of His people are His enemies; those who touch His people touch the apple of His eye, Zec 2:18. There is a day of judgment coming against the enemies of His people.
VIII. The LORD continually overthrows the enemies of His kingdom, Rev 15:3. I think it is more than a coincidence that the parallel verse for Exo 15:3 is Rev 15:3 & 19:11ff. The Lord is a God of both physical warfare and of spiritual warfare.
Thus, we see here in Ex 15, a song of rejoicing which is valid for all ages.
As the fact of Israel's deliverance from the power of its oppressors is of everlasting importance to the Church of the Lord in its conflict with the ungodly powers of the world, in which the Lord continually overthrows the enemies of His kingdom, as He overthrew Pharaoh and his horsemen in the depths of the sea; so Moses' song at the Red Sea furnishes the Church of the Lord with the materials of its songs of praise in all the great conflicts which it has to sustain, during its onward course, with the powers of the world. [Keil]
IX. This song is about the LORD'S care for His people, their deliverance from the enemies oppression and His victory over the enemy for His people. Rev. 15:3, identifies Moses' song with the song of the Lamb clearly showing us that His people's victory of all ages is based in the blood of the Lamb.
There are five songs recorded for us by the Lord:
1) the song of Moses celebrates the deliverance of God's people and the death of those who stood against the chosen people of Godnote the last verse, For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen in to the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
2) the song of Deborah celebrates the deliverance of God's people and the death of those who stood against the chosen people of God, Jud 15note the last verse, So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.
3) the song of Hanna, the mother of Samuel, celebrates deliverance of those who love God and the breaking of the spirit of pride in the adversaries of the Lord, 1 Sam 2note the last verse, The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
4) the song of Mary the mother of our Lord, celebrates the exaltation of the lowly who love the Lord and the humbling of the mighty, Lk 1note the last verse, He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy' as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
Her song has a different emphasis: It is upon the mercy and promises of the LORD although she does sing about the strength [of] his arm, with which he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. Of course, Mary sings more of the judgment of the LORD upon the heart because Jesus is His name. He makes known the secret thought and intent of the heart.
5) the song of those who had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name and were standing on the sea of glass. This song is titled, the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb. It is a short song of 2 verses, and it goes like this: Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints [marg. nations, or, ages]. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. This final song sums up all the previous songs, and it sings of the greatness of the Lord God. It speaks of the Lord subduing all nations to Himself.
While we are this close to Revelation 15, notice v. 8 refers to the smoke from the glory of God, and from his power. Israel was led by the smoke of His glory.
Thus all the songs celebrate the LORD'S exaltation of the lowly and humbling of the high; they celebrate the Lord's deliverance and providential care of His chosen people, and they celebrate the subduing of the nations to the LORD Jesus Christ.
X. The death and overthrow of the wicked are a cause for rejoicing. This fact sure is against the modern gospel of love everyone regardless of their beliefs &/or actions against the church. Maybe the saints of our day have not had enough persecution yet because they have not reached the point of desiring the death of the wicked.
I cannot imagine what would take place in any church today that would sing praises to God for the death and destruction of those who stood against the kingdom of God and of His Christ.
Note that songs:
1 & 2, Moses' & Deborah's, celebrate the death and destruction of the wicked.
3 & 4, songs, Hanna & Mary, celebrate the breaking of the proud and the exaltation of the humble.
5 celebrates the nations of the world subdued and worshiping the Lord.
Revelation primarily spoke to prepare the people of God for the terrible judgment that was soon to come upon the murderers of Christ70 AD. Therefore, there were several purposes of the song of the saints in Rev 15: First, to encourage the saints that the Lord was in total control; second, to assure that soon all nations would be subdued to Himself; third, to promise the blessings of standing against the beast of ch 13; fourth, assured that the Lord is in control no matter what takes place, and fifth, reminder that He is holy, and His judgments are righteous.
XI. Egypt, as does all of Scripture, shows us that the Lord delivers and exalts His people through judgment upon the lawless both in and out of His church.
Keil divides this song up into three sections, 2-5, 6-10, 11-18, with each section introduced by praise for the majesty of the Lord, and closed with the destruction of Egypt.
The theme of the song is, of course, the Lord God Almighty:
1) His sovereignty, majesty, glory and power over all creationHe is a man of war, v. 3
2) His overthrow and slaying of the wickedthy wrath hath consumed them, v. 7
3) His mercy and grace toward the people of His choosing in their redemptionThou in thy mercy, v. 13
4) His establishment of His kingdom on earth which causes the kings of this earth to trembleThe people shall hear, v. 14
5) His continuing work through His people for His gloryThou shalt bring them in, v. 17
We could divide this chapter into two parts:
Praise to the Lord for His might, goodness and mercy on behalf of His redeemed people, vs. 1-21. And the peoples first response after deliverance.
The first division is Moses' song, vs. 1-21.
It is a personal song and tells what the Lord has done for him. Of course, it applies for all the people. The Lord showed His might and power, praise and glory by overthrowing the horse and his rider in the sea. His superiority over all earthly power was clearly revealed for all to see, especially the enemies of God. The demonstration of the Lord's power caused the heathens to fear.
(A thought in passing: Notice how much sin has developed and hardened man's heart since the time of Moses. If such a thing would happen today, the pagans would find a plausible explanation for it, and they would only become harder. The faithless have tried to explain away what happened here by saying it was a big wind which dried up the sea. The natural man today is as hardened as was Pharaoh when the Lord hardened his heart.)
[Keil divides this song up into three sections, 2-5, 6-10, 11-18, with each section introduced by praise for the majesty of the Lord, and closed with the destruction of Egypt.]
I will prepare him an habitation; What a marvelous thought. Here in the song praising the might, power and glory of the LORD, it is said that man can prepare HIM a place of habitation. Man can prepare a habitation for the One Who overthrew the king of the world of the day. This is indeed as great a miracle as causing the sea to open and close at the breath of His mouth. Fallen man can prepare Him an habitation: A miracle of grace which is as great as, if not greater than, overthrowing the horse and his rider.
Notice that Moses did not say that he, Moses, must prepare; rather, he said he, Moses, will prepare.
1) The most obvious reference is to 1 Cor 6:19, 20. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they have been redeemed, they have been bought with a price; therefore, they are to purify themselves so they can be a fit habitation of the Holy Ghost. And really, they have no choice. If God's people do not, they will be destroyed, ch. 5.
2) Our redemption should cause us to desire to prepare the Lord a place of habitation.
3) Ex 15:2 has the proper order: a) my salvation.. b) my God.., c) I will prepare.. d) I will exalt.. The four go together, and give us a marvelous view of the Lord. (Although I didn't mention my strength and song.. which comes first in this verse. The wording of the verse says that He was first my strength and song, then He became my salvation, &c.)
4) my father's God... It is evident that Moses' father was a godly man. We read nothing at all about him, but we see his faith in his son, Moses. As our children live out our faith, what will they live? I hope my girls will say that they are serving their father's God as they live godly lives.
V. 3, the Lord is a man of war:.. This is not at all what the natural man desires to hear. The Lord is not a wimp, but He is a man of war. The Lord is at war against all who are against His word.
We also need to be warring against the evil around us.
V. 5, The depths have covered them... would lead us to believe that Israel crossed the sea at one of its deepest points, if not the deepest point. Pharaoh and his army sank into the bottom as a stone.
[Keil divides this song up into three sections, 2-5, 6-10, 11-18, with each section introduced by praise for the majesty of the Lord, and closed with the destruction of Egypt.]
Keil introduces this section, vs. 6-10, thusly:
Jehovah had not only proved Himself to be true man of war in destroying the Egyptians, but also as the glorious and strong one, who overthrows His enemies at the very moment when they think they are able to destroy His people.
And we will add to Keil's observation: Right when His people thought it was a lost cause following Moses, the Lord overthrew the enemy.
V. 7, hast overthrown.. or Thou pullest down Thine opponents... pullest down is generally applied to pulling down of buildings. (Keil) This sounds like Mt 7, and the pulling down of the house built upon the sand.
The Lord's fiery wrath went forth upon His enemies, and destroyed them like stubble... This probably refers to the fiery look of the Lord out from the cloud upon the Egyptians.
It sounds like the rod of His mouth went out, or the sword of His word went out from His mouth and overthrew His enemies. This verse reminds me of the Lord's rule with a rod of iron: He smote His enemies with His rod when the sea swallowed them.
Furthermore, this verse holds a promise for us that, in the Lord's good time, He will overthrow and consume those who are against Him.
V. 8 again confirms that Israel was delivered through the depths of the sea. The Lord did not have to blow hard as we might have to blow a bit of water away, but He simply breathed upon the waters and they fled and stood upright as an heap. The water stood upright in a mass.
Pharaoh and his people were mad. After all, all of their firstborn were dead. Now they are intent on taking out their hatred and anger against Israel, and totally confident that they will be able to fulfill their every desire against them, Ez 38:12.
V. 9 is an excellent description of the desire of the ungodly throughout the ages against the people of God. This describes the enemies of the Lord Jesus of all times. Sometime they have had more success against God's people than other times.
V. 10, the Lord Jesus overthrew those who hated Him with a simple thing as a wind. The power of the Lord is overwhelming, so much so that all it takes is simply the breath of His nostrils, and they are utterly destroyed.
Notice that the waters obey immediately every desire of the
Lord Jesus Christ. They move as though they had life in themselves
to do His bidding.
1) The Lord Jesus rebuked the waters, Mt 8:26, 27. His disciples marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
2) Jesus walked upon the water, Jn 6:19.
The Lord Jesus made it abundantly clear that it was He Whom the Red Sea obeyed. Therefore, the One who led the church in the wildernessIsraelis the One Who leads the church today. (I imagine at that time the disciples missed the point that Jesus was the One Who spoke to the Red Sea, and it rushed to obey Him.)
Moses' song is a song of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.
[Keil divides this song up into three sections, 2-5, 6-10, 11-18, with each section introduced by praise for the majesty of the Lord, and closed with the destruction of Egypt.]
Keil introduces this third "strophe" (11-18) thusly:
On the ground of this glorious act of God, the song rises in the third strophe into firm assurance, that in His incomparable exaltation above all gods Jehovah will finish the work of salvation, already begun, fill all the enemies of Israel with terror at the greatness of His arm, bring His people to His holy dwelling-place, and plant them on the mountain of His inheritance. What the Lord had done thus far,the singer regarded as a pledge of the future...
Notice that the words of this section are not restricted to Pharaoh and Egypt. What happened to Pharaoh and Egypt is only a foreshadow of what will happen to all the enemies of God and His people.
V. 13 - Mercy and redemption.
1) The Lord paid the purchase price to redeem His people, v. 16. The very basis for Salvation and redemption for God's people of all time is found here in the redemption from Egypt. Therefore, we see that the heathen are going to be given for the redemption of God's people. And the wealth of the heathen will be delivered to them.
Ps. 2:8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. (Speaking of Christ.) Ps. 111:6 He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen. Zech 14:14 And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.
The shed blood of the innocent lamb covered Israel's sins while the Lord smote the unbelievers (Egyptians and Israelites, faith in the shed blood made the difference) with death. Thus the price of Israel's redemption was the life of the unbelievers.
2) It was more than spiritual' redemption: He delivered the wealth of Egypt into their hands as they came out.
3) Israel sure did not do anything to deserve their redemption; therefore, it was only by the mercy of God that Israel was redeemed from Egypt. This fact has been evident as we have followed them this far in Exodus. They only agreed to their redemption when things went good for them, and complained vigorously when things didn't.
Israel knew that the mighty hand of the Lord had delivered
Israel knew that the works of the Lord were known by all those whom they would have to confront.
Israel knew that their enemies would melt before them and become as a stone.
Yet when the time came, they would forget all about this and they would fear the Canaanites.
When Joshua took the people in, Rahab told the spies how fearful the Canaanites were of Israel; they had heard of the mighty works of the Lord.
Amazing how short our memory is.
The mountain of thine inheritance.. At first glance, this appears to speak of Mt. Sinai, but upon closer examination, it is probably speaking of the true habitation of the Lord and the new Nt. Zion, the church.
The eternity and finality of the Lord Jesus' rule. There was no doubt in Moses' mind Who was and Who would remain in total and complete control of all things for all time. See Eph 1 & 2.
Again, the indication is that the sea closed in on Egypt while Israel was still in its midst.
Vs. 20, 21.
The women join in the singing of praise to the Lord, led by Miriam, the sister of Aaron. Note that she is not called the sister of Moses, although she was.
II) The second division of this chapter, vv. 22-27.
Within 3 days, the people change from singing high praises
to the Lord to complaining against Moses and the Lord.
Parker gives 4 excellent points here:
1) "-- so the greatest triumphs of life may be succeeded by the most vexatious inconveniences." The people are not wandering out of the way of the Lord, but are following the Lord Himself in the form of the pillar of fire and cloud. They have not stepped one step outside of His leading, and He has led them to terrible thirst. If they had deviated, we could say, "See, that is what you get for failure to follow the Lord." But they did not depart a bit. Such is common with all men, the Lord Himself leads His people, at times, to the most difficult of situations of "near death."
"Suffer not the tempter to suggest that the trial has befallen you because of disobedience. History has again and again shown us that the field of duty has been the field of danger, and that the way which has conducted directly from earth to heaven has been beset by temptations and difficulties to great for human strength."
"2) The people murmured... --so the greatest services of life are soon forgotten." Instead of praising and trusting Moses, they complain and blame him. Leaders today receive the praise and acclaim of the crowd as long as they provide the crowd's desire. But let the leader bring them into difficulty and suffering, and the praise turns to murmuring and whimpering. "We do the same with our preachers. We want our preachers to be but echoes. So long as they will say from the pulpit the things which we have been saying with cuckoo-like regularity for many years, we call them excellent preachers, and pay them their paltry dole with as much enthusiasm as small natures can feel; but if they attempt to lead us into unwonted tracks, if they do but suggest in the most remote and delicate manner that possibly there are some truths which we have not yet mastered, the probability is we shall in an hour forget the pastoral solicitude and the ministerial zeal of years, and treat as enemies the men who have been our wisest and gentlest friends."
"3) And Moses cried... --so magnanimous prayer is better than official resignation." Rather than rail on the people or resign his post, Moses cried unto the Lord, prayers about the situation. God help us to do the same.
"4) And the Lord shewed.... --so where there is a bane in life, there is also an antidote. Things are never so bad in reality as they often appear to be.. The tree was not created in order to meet the case: it was actually standing there at the time of the complaint. The cure is often much nearer us than our irrational distrust will allow us to suppose... the tree was pointed out by the Lord. God is the Teacher of true methods..."
Parker makes the point that everything, art, agriculture, medicine, architecture, &c. which benefits man, comes from God. "Theology contains all that is true in art and in science, as well as the doctrines which apply to our highest capabilities and aspirations... The true physician is inspired of Heaven; so is the true poet; so is the true painter; so also the true preacher. We must not narrow theology until it becomes a sectarian science; we must insist that within its expansiveness ar et o be found all things and all hopes which minister to the strengths and exalt the destiny of human life."
1) Moses brought Israel.. God uses men to perform His mighty work through. The work may stop when that man passes off the scene, or it may continue on under another, as it did here with Joshua.
2) The demand had been to Pharaoh that he allow them to go three days into the wilderness to worship the Lord. The Lord had preformed mighty works to make this possible, and now they are the three days journey into the wilderness.
Vv. 23, 24.
Do they worship the Lord? Hardly! The murmur and complain: Rather than serving the Lord, they are serving their own lusts and desires.
the people murmured against Moses... They murmured four days previously on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, 14:11, 13. Shortly thereafter, the Lord parted the sea so they could safely cross over. Now they are three days past the Red Sea where the waters were walls on both sides, and they find bitter water. The people murmured against Moses.
1) Obviously, the people expected and demanded total care and security from any adversity of life.
2) Even though they had seen the mighty hand of the Lord as no other people ever in the history of mankind has seen it, they still cannot believe that the Lord will take care of them.
Moses took the complaint to the Lord, and the Lord gave him an answer.
1) there he made for them an statute and an ordinance.. Keil says that the leading of Israel to bitter water, which their nature could not drink, and then the sweetening or curing of this water, were to be an institution or law by which God would always guide and govern His people, and a right, inasmuch as Israel could always reckon upon the help of God, and deliverance from every trouble. In other words, God's people of all time can expect God to lead them to "better water" after a great victory, but they can also expect Him to deliver them from those bitter waters.
2) Prove.. (5254 TWOT - 1373.) "In most contexts nasa has the idea of testing or proving the quality of someone or something, often through adversity or hardship. The rendering tempt, used frequently by the AV and ASV, generally means prove, test, put to the test, rather than the current English idea of 'entice to do wrong.'"
5254, BDB - 650a - "3. test, try, prove, tempt [but not in modern sense of the word] a. God tests or proves Abr. Gn 22:1 (E), Isr. Ex 15:25, 20:20 (E), 16:4 (J), Dt 8:2.16, 13.4; c. Ju 2.22, 3.1.4; tribe of Levi Dt 33.8 (poem); Hezekiah 2 Ch 32.31; psalmist Ps 26:2"
Prove... What are we going to do with the word in 974, Mal 3:10, where man is told to prove God? The word is different than is used in Exodus 15:25: #974 vs. #5254. TOWT - 230. "All of the.. (twenty-two times), except three, refer to God's examination of his people. In the exceptions, it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Ps 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah. In Malachi, it is only because of the people's apathy that God calls them to test him (3:10, 15)."
974, BDB - 103b- "c. of man testing or tempting God, Ps. 95:9 Mal 3:10,14." These are the only two passage under this point in BDB. Ps 95:9 is not used in a good sense: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Furthermore, Mal 3:15 does not use the word in a good sense: And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. Therefore, we must conclude that Mal 3:10 is not used in a good sense either. Evidently the people were proving the Lord with their indifference to His law, and provoking Him to judgment against them. Therefore, He tells them to turn that "proving" around and prove Him on the positive side by obeying His instructions.
Prove.., the first word above, is used in 16:4 (before the giving of the commandments); and evidently it means that the Lord led them into particular circumstances to see whether they would walk in my law, or no. He confronted them often with the choice of obeying His law or not; even before His written law was given, they were held responsible to its standards.
Note that the Lord works circumstances to see (prove) if His people will follow His law or not: He tries them to see if they will be faithful to His laws (David prays that the Lord would prove him; try his heart, Ps 26:2.)
Massah seems to the high point of God's proving Israel, although Meribah is mentioned with Massah in Det 33:8.
Prove.. This is the first of many situations into which the Lord led them to prove them: Would they have faith that the Lord would care for them even in trying circumstances, or would they complain and do their own thing. They had just been miraculously delivered from bondage. Would they now turn to the One Who had delivered them for aid in this present distressing situation? The answer is NO, they would not.
A) God is the One who is to prove mansee if man will be faithful to His word. Man is absolutely forbidden to do the same to the Lordwork circumstances to see (prove) if the Lord will be faithful to His word or not.
Man is not to prove God, that is, intentionally get into a situation to see if God will indeed fulfill His word; or, more like Israel did, complain that the Lord is not fulfilling His promises or complaining because the Lord is not working as man expected Him to work.
B) These situations were designed by the Lord to "wean" them from dependence upon themselves and upon other men, and to drive them to dependance upon Him. This generation never made it.
C) Freedom from bondage to other men does not make a people free. Freedom is a religious fact!! These people were set free from their human masters, but they were still bound by security of slavery. "They were slaves which had been set free; they were not free men." A free man can and will accept responsibility under God.
D) Deliverance from the bondage to sin, redemption, is only the first step to freedom. Freedom under God is responsibility, and the Lord brings situations into our lives to prove us, or try us to remove the old slave mentality from our thinking.
E) It is important to notice that God's people were delivered from bondage, slavery and security to a life of proving: a life of trials and temptations, designed to try one's faith, strengthen and draws us closer to the image of Christ. Growth toward Christ comes from proving.
20th century Christianity has reduced the doctrine of redemption to a false doctrine which says that redemption frees one not from power of sin, but from a life of trials and provings. For 40 years, this generation expected their redemption to free them from provings. When it did not, they murmured and complained against God and His man and lost the promised rest in Canaan. (Note that Canaan was not rest from trials and provings. The trials and provings only took a different form. In Canaan, they took the form of prosperity and peace. It is obvious, therefore, that God's people will continually face trials and provings as long as they are here on this earth.)
3) How many people have I meet that said, "If only such and such would take place, I could serve God." Well, it does take place, and what do they do? When a person makes a commitment to serve the Lord, even in the smallest matter, that commitment will be proved by the Lord.
4) Notice here that neither the Lord nor Moses were upset at the people for murmuring against Moses. A person just delivered from bondage cannot be expected to be a mature Christian. There is a great amount of patience exhibited toward the newly redeemed, but that patience does not last forever. After this time of murmuring, things are deferent: The murmuring at the boarder of Canaan lead to death.
5) a tree, but not just any tree. Only the tree which the Lord showed to Moses, which, of course, represents the cross of Christ that alone will make the bitter waters sweet. As Parker said, the tree was there all the time, but the Lord had to give instruction to Moses, and He did in response to Moses' cryprayer.
6) Rev 22:2, tells of the tree of life which produces leaves for the healing of the nations. Furthermore, it removes the curse from the land. This tree of life MUST be the cross of Christ, for only Christ can heal the nations and remove the curse. Therefore, the tree in Revelation 22 is not a literal tree, but a clear reference to the tree upon which Christ became a curse. [See Parker, vol 2, pg. 118.]
7) We need to keep in mind that this is the three day journey into the wilderness where the people were to serve God. Evidently, they expected, as I probably would, some pleasant experience. Instead, they met hardship and difficulty. Serving God, in this case, turned out to be the Lord trying or proving their faith.
Will His people serve the Lord in all circumstances? Most will not.
The people went to a worship service, but they did not hear what they expected to hear.
In their place of service, the Lord now starts to explain their responsibilities and His blessings and curses based upon their responsibilities. He gives an overall view of the conditions for His watchful care of His people.
In fact, notice that the very first message to them reemphasis their covenant-relationship. From here on, the Lord will build upon this first message. He will hold them more and more responsible until He finally kills the unbelievers in the wilderness.
The Lord give v. 26, then the next time they murmured, He and Moses rebuked them sharply, 16:8.
It is important to note that v. 26 is given before the Law was given at the Mount. It is evident that they knew the law well enough that they were still responsible to its requirements: Their health and prosperity depended upon their doing what they already knew to do.
Why should we be discouraged? He redeemed us and our families for a purpose. By His grace, we must not murmur against Him when things are not as we feel they should be. He has given His method of success, v. 26. We preached this many times over. Now, the Lord is going to prove us to see if we just preach this or actually believe it enough to live by it.
For us: Do we allow circumstances to turn our song into Marahbitterness? They should have gone to Mosesor the Lordand presented their problem of the bitter water, and asked him to entreat for them with the Lord. Would we have? How do we respond to our circumstances?
Evidently this water was good. Their first stop could have had good water also, but the water was bad for a purpose: and there he proved them.
Things, good and bad, come into our lives for His purpose.
A few gleanings from different sources:
Luther aptly remarks that, when our provision ceases, our faith is wont to come to an end. [Edersheim]
The statute,' or principle, and the ordinance,' or right, was this, that in all seasons of need and seeming impossibility the Lord would send deliverance straight from above, and that Israel might expect this during their wilderness-journey. This statute' is, for all times, the principle of God's guidance, and this ordinance' the right or privilege of our heavenly citizenship. But He also ever proves' us by this, that the enjoyment of our right and privilege is made to depend upon a constant exercise of faith. [Edersheim]