Lessons from Moses - Through the Wilderness

Scripture: Exodus 13:21-22
Date: 03/01/1997 
Lessons from Moses - Through the Wilderness
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Today we’re going to be talking about entering the wilderness, and our next message will be dealing with going through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Join me by turning in your Bibles to the book of Exodus chapter 13.

You remember when we left the children of Israel, they had just gone through the experience of eating the Passover lamb, which was a symbol of Christ. They applied the blood to the doors of their homes, and that angel of judgment passed by because of the blood of the lamb. When that angel of death went through the land of Egypt, there was not a house that was untouched, unless they had the blood of the lamb.

Incidentally, their journey began—and the reason I quit where I did last time—their journey out of Egypt began with the lamb. Immediately after the Passover lamb—they ate that meal (remember?) with their shoes on, their staff in their hand, their loins girt (in other words, they were dressed and ready for action), and they left in such haste after the lamb, that their bread did not even have a chance to leaven. The Bible says they wrapped up their dough in the kneading troughs on their backs, and they made haste to get out of Egypt. Egypt is a symbol of what? Let’s identify some spiritual allegories here. Egypt represents the land of slavery, the lost condition. The pharaoh is who? He’s the devil. Moses in our story represents Christ. As a matter of fact, we’re going to find Christ represented in many images in this experience. As soon as they sacrificed the lamb, they began the journey. Christ is the starting point for the journey.

Turn with me to Exodus chapter 13. I want you to look at verse 9. Incidentally, we’re going to be looking at chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 this morning. But we’ll be doing little snippets. We can’t read through the whole thing. Notice verse 9. After the Passover Moses makes a little commentary. He said this experience, this ceremony, “shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.” The Passover was to be a symbol of something in the hand and between the eyes. Is there another place in the Bible we find reference to in the hand and in the forehead? People say, “That’s the mark of the beast.” The Bible says the seal of God is also in the forehead, in Revelation. As a matter of fact, everybody in Revelation is marked.

Are you aware that we, as Christians, New Testament Christians, still celebrate the Passover? When Christ instituted the Last Supper, it was a Passover. The difference is that now, in the New Testament economy of things, we do not kill a lamb; Christ is the Lamb, and we understand what those symbols better represented. This was an eternal covenant that represented deliverance from slavery because of the Lamb, and that’s what we do whenever we have the Lord’s Supper. It is a type of Passover. It’s to be in our hands and in our heads and in our hearts, that the Lord’s law might be in our mouth. Do you know why it words it that way? Jesus said, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” You can’t change what you say until you have a change of heart.

The Lord begins to lead them, and as He leads them, the Bible says they spoil the Egyptians. They’ve been working for the Egyptians for several years now with no pay, and the Egyptians are so anxious to get them out of the land that anything that they ask for, they say, “Take it. Get out of here. It’s yours.” This is, you have to understand, on the heels of 10 plagues unlike anything in history. And the plagues were because they would not let the Israelites go. Now the Egyptians want the Israelites to bless them, and they say, “Take it,” and they left Egypt with great wealth. You need to know that because later they start building the temple, and you’re going to wonder, “Where did they get all this gold and silver and all this wealth?” That’s what they got from spoiling the Egyptians, and it was also their payment for all the years of working unpaid as slaves.

When God leads them He gives them visible signs of leadership. The Bible tells us He leads them with a pillar of cloud. You go to Exodus 13:21, and the Bible says, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.” Did God only lead them in the daytime, or did He also lead them in the nighttime?

Before we go any farther, again I want to identify some very basic things that we shouldn’t miss. In everything we look at, in the experience of the children of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, we are talking about salvation and how God works with us. Paul said [KJV], “…these things … are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the [earth] are come.” These stories are written for you and me to understand so we do not make the same mistakes. God still has a people. He still has an Israel, a modern Israel, that makes a lot of the same mistakes as ancient Israel, but if we look at their experience, we as individuals do not need to repeat those mistakes. That’s what Paul is telling us, and it tells us that this story was written for us as much as anybody, because he says it is “written for [the] admonition, [for those] upon whom the ends of the [earth] are come.” Turn to the person next to you and say, “The ends of the earth have come for you.” That means these things are written for you. We’re living in the last generation, aren’t we? So these things are written for us to not make the mistake. Are we about to enter the Promised Land? Then we want to be sure we don’t make the mistakes they made.

There’s a pillar of fire. Something interesting about that is the pillar of fire was there to lead them in front of them when they were journeying. But at one point it needed to go behind them to protect them.

You remember the Bible tells us that finally Pharaoh, when he saw that there was a great quiet in Egypt—the sun came up a day or two after the firstborn were slain, and the whole land of Egypt is littered from the plagues; you cannot hear anybody laying brick. You don’t hear the groan and the grunt of the slaves pushing stones, and it was strangely silent in Egypt, and the pharaoh said, “What have I done? What is this going to do to the economy and our construction program? The sun is shining; the plagues are gone. What was on my mind? Why did I let them go?” And he musters his army, every living soldier and every implement of war and chariot and horse that was surviving, and they start storming after the Israelites to bring them back as slaves.

Who does the pharaoh represent? What does the Red Sea represent? Remember we just read (1 Corinthians chapter 10), it says they were baptized in the sea. What marks the boundary between serving the Lord and serving the world? Baptism. Baptism is the ceremony where you publicly trade sides, you change places. They’re heading for the Red Sea. Pharaoh sees what they’re doing, and he doesn’t want them to get out of his territory. The Red Sea, incidentally, was the boundary; it was the boundary line between Egypt and the wilderness. And he did not want them to cross over. He did not want to lose his slaves. What does the devil do when he sees that people are moving towards baptism? Does he chase after them to try and turn them back so he can keep his slaves? I’ve seen it happen many times, especially in an evangelistic people. The Lord is moving on hearts, and they say, “I need to commit my life to Jesus. I need my sins washed away. I want to make this decision.” And as they begin to move towards the wilderness and towards baptism and out of Egypt, the devil chases after them, and he often uses their family to do it. “A man’s foes” are sometimes “they of his own house.”

So the pharaoh chases after them, but do you know what God does? He takes the pillar of cloud that was leading them, and it moves from in front of them to behind them to protect them. You can read here in Exodus 14:19, “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.” God not only leads in front, but God also protects from behind. Isaiah 58:8 [KJV], “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” Now, you’re rearward is rear guard. I’ve heard people read that before, and they say, “The glory of the Lord shall be your reward.” It doesn’t say “reward,” it says “rereward.” Some of you have different translations. Doesn’t it say “rear guard”? They needed protection from behind, they needed leadership from the front, and God was providing all of those things for them.

You notice they’re getting ready to go through the Red Sea. Paul just said they were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. What does a cloud mean? What does it represent? It’s the Spirit. What leads us? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit lead us like that still, small voice? Doesn’t the Bible say unless you are baptized in the water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God? The children of Israel were baptized in the Red Sea and baptized in the cloud. I can just see how this happened. The cloud is in front of them, but the Egyptians are coming up from behind, and in order to protect the children of Israel, the cloud passes right over the camp. Everybody’s baptized in the cloud, and it gets behind them, and it’s a wall of darkness to the Egyptians, the Bible tells us, but it was light to the children of Israel. Isn’t that interesting, the very same cloud was obscurity and darkness for the Egyptians, and light for the children of Israel? I’ve seen that happen, too. Holy Spirit can be leading and moving a person, and the person right next to them, “I don’t understand. What’s moving them? How come they’re so excited?” It’s obscurity to them. It’s light to the other. That’s sometimes how the Lord and His Spirit work.

Let’s go on to chapter 14, some things we notice interesting here. Pharaoh chases after them, God protects them with the cloud, and now the people begin to complain. Now, get used to this. All through the experience of the wilderness, you’re going to hear repeated again and again the people spoke against Moses, the people complained to Moses, the people murmured to Moses, people accused Moses. Who is Moses? He represents Jesus. Moses has done nothing but miracles to deliver them, but every time any test of faith comes, it seems their faith falls on the ground almost instantly with very few exceptions.

God has done all these miraculous plagues, defying the elements, to bring them to the borders of the Red Sea, and I’ll admit it does look a little bit tenuous because here they are, they have an ocean in front of them, there are impassable mountains on each side, the Egyptians come up from behind, and they say, “We’re trapped.” It’s just the most pitiful situation you can be in, from a military standpoint, to be up against the sea. The Egyptians have the higher ground that goes down towards the sea. Militarily, it was a hopeless situation. They said, “Why did you bring us out here to kill us?” Instead of trusting that God would not bring them that far to leave them—.

Now, I want to stop. Did you hear me? God did not save you to drop you along the way. Do you remember reading somewhere, “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it”? He’s the author and the finisher of our faith. How many of you know that God has led you a long way in the past? He will not drop you. He will not let go of you. You can let go of Him, but He’ll never let go of you, so don’t fret when you see the ocean in front, mountains on both sides, and the army behind you, because God is in the business of moving mountains and parting seas. He can take care of these obstacles.

They start to murmur and complain, and Moses says, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Now, this is a story of salvation. Did they fight, or did God fight for them? There are examples in the Bible where God fights with us, and then there are examples in the Bible where they stood still and God did the whole thing by Himself. In the story of Hezekiah, when 185,000 Syrians died in their sleep, God said to Hezekiah, “You’re not even going to shoot an arrow. I’m going to do it for you.” The Bible tells a story where Jehoshaphat and his army just sang, and God gave them deliverance. There are a number of stories in the Bible where God did it for them. God fought for Joshua by sending hornets after the enemy, and they just watched them run. He does that for us, too, sometimes. He wants us to stand still and trust Him, and then God will remove the obstacles.

So the Lord did that. Moses lifts up his staff, the ocean parts—you all know this story; you’ve seen the movie. He lifts up his staff, the ocean parts (I’d like to think you all know it because you read it in the Bible, but I know at least you saw the movie, right?), and they cross over. Now, it doesn’t say they tromped through muddy ground. They cross over on dry land.

I still laugh. I read it on my computer; I have all these commentaries. There are still scholars that say, this was the Sea of Reeds, and it was a marsh and it was not very deep. And it is mind boggling to me how stupid some of these theologians could be, because how can the Lord drown the whole Egyptian army in a marsh that’s six inches deep? Because the Bible says in the morning, when the pharaoh realizes that the ocean is parted and they are gone, he is so determined and persistent in destroying them—wouldn’t you be a little apprehensive about chasing after your enemy whose God had just parted the ocean? I’d be apprehensive if I wasn’t doing the wrong thing. If I was an Israelite, I would be reluctant to march into the sea with walls of water, and it’s just like going to the aquarium there and you see all the fish swimming around in the walls of water there. I’d be a little resistant to do that. But if I was an enemy of God, I’d be really reluctant to march in there. But the pharaoh said, “Charge,” and they charged.

The Bible says that the water, evidently, began to seep in underneath them and turn it back into a bog, and their chariot wheels got stuck in the mud, and pretty soon the walls closed in around them and crushed them from the very sheer weight of the pressure. The next day they saw the bodies of the Egyptians on the sea shore. That can’t happen in six inches of water. The Bible tells us now God delivered them because they stood still.

Chapter 15, the sun comes up that morning, the people are now out of Egypt. They have been through the cloud; they’ve been through the sea. They’re rejoicing; they’re celebrating. After a baptism, a person ought to be celebrating. Baptism is like a wedding. People ought to be happy at a wedding. It’s really a concern for a minister when he’s about to perform a ceremony and they’re not smiling. If they’re not happy that day, then they have a pretty sour future ahead, right? The same way is after a baptism there should be a cause for rejoicing. I think the church ought to shout Hallelujah when people get baptized because you’re seeing folks get rescued from the territory of Egypt, and now they’re beginning a journey towards the Promised Land. You’re seeing them pass from death to life, from sin to holiness. It’s a tremendous transition! It’s a great cause for being thankful and rejoicing. And the Bible tells us the people sang praises.

Now, you didn’t know Moses was a songwriter. It says they sang the song of Moses. Moses and the children of Israel sang this song unto the Lord. Don’t miss that. When you get to Revelation, it talks about the redeemed, who there in Revelation chapter 15 sing the song of who?—the song of Moses and the Lamb. Why do you think Revelation is talking about the song of Moses? That song of Moses is the song of deliverance, salvation, victory from Egypt, from sin. And the redeemed know the words to that song, don’t they? You can incidentally find that song there in Exodus chapter 15, and it’s a good one to look at.

Now they’ve rejoiced. They’re no longer in Egypt. God has delivered them, and they’re beginning a journey. Something very interesting happens here. God does not take them from the borders of the Red Sea, after they cross over, to the Promised Land. Wait, I thought He was going to bring us into the Promised Land. No, God did not say that. God said, “I’m going to take you three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice first.” God told Moses when He first called him at the burning bush at Mount Sinai. He said, “You will lead the people out of Egypt, and you will bring them to worship Me here at this mountain” first.

Before they go north to the Promised Land, they have to go south to Sinai. God never intended to take them directly from Egypt to the Promised Land, because Egypt is where He justifies them; the Promised Land is where they’re glorified. Between justification and glorification you have a big word called sanctification that has to fit in there. God does not take us instantly from justification to glorification. We go through the wilderness to now learn. They were a nation of slaves. They didn’t know hardly anything about worshiping the Lord. They had a lot of unlearning to do from all the years they’d been in Egypt. And when you first come to the Lord—and for those of you who have been Christians for years, be patient with those who first come to the Lord, because not only do they need to learn new things, they have to unlearn old things. God knew this.

So after they begin to rejoice, the pillar of cloud, all the people get their luggage and they start heading north, and the pillar starts going south. And they go, “What?” and they start walking south. They’re already apprehensive now because they’re going the wrong direction. Then they go a little bit further, and the Bible tells us (Exodus 15:23), “When they came to Marah,” there was a spring there. And if I’m not mistaken, there was not only a spring there, but the Bible tells us that there were 70 palm trees and 12 springs. “Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees.”

That’s a little later in the story there, but I don’t want you to miss this, that “when they [first] came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.” Incidentally, do you know what Jesus’ mother’s name was? Marah. The Greek name is Mary. And this is where you get the name Miriam. You can understand why Amram and Jochebed named their first child “bitterness” because they were slaves, right?

So this is water that’s undrinkable. And what do they do? “The people murmured against Moses.” Well, they were just celebrating a minute ago. They murmured before they crossed the Red Sea, and then they murmur right after they crossed the Red Sea. And they said, “‘What shall we drink?’ So he cried out to the Lord.” You notice what Moses is constantly doing? He intercedes for them. What is Jesus’ purpose? He is our intercessor. He is our High Priest. He intercedes for them, Moses cries “out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him”—a forest? What does He show him? Does He show him a brand of trees or a specific tree? He shows him “a tree.” And “when he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet” and drinkable. And “He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them.”

Now, what do you think that tree is that is cast into the waters that makes them drinkable? What did Jesus die on? What did Zacchaeus climb so that he could see Christ? A tree in the Bible is a symbol of the cross of Christ. What do waters represent in prophecy (Revelation chapter 17)? Multitudes of people, nations, tongues, and languages. What makes it possible for people to get to the kingdom, that makes them acceptable to God? It’s the tree that is thrown in the waters. Christ and His cross is the only thing that makes us palatable to God. Otherwise He will spew us out of His mouth, as it says there in Revelation chapter 3.

So he casts that tree into the water. Now go to verse 27. “Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees.” You can’t miss the parallels between the experience of Moses and the experience of Jesus. There was food that came from the palm trees, and there’s water that came from the wells. Twelve wells, seventy palm trees (probably date palms, I’m assuming) that grew there by this oasis. Did Jesus send out the 12 preaching and teaching? At another time in the Gospel of Luke, does He send out 70 preaching and teaching? And those people went out to satisfy the nations with the gospel. All these numbers tie together somehow.

Now let’s go to chapter 16. Don’t miss this, now. God has delivered them from the Egyptians, parts the sea, He miraculously gives them water, they’re continuing their journey towards Mount Sinai, and as they’re on their way, you go to verse 2, “The whole congregation of the children of Israel [murmured, KJV] against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, ‘Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’”

Now, don’t miss what I’m about to say. Did they start complaining about food while their bags were still full, or did they start to actually experience some hunger? I believe they did start to feel a little bit of vacancy in their stomachs. I think they started noticing that their provisions were running low and they were having to stretch things. There was a trial; there was a test. Does God say that we will never experience any kind of test or trial, or does He want us to hold on, and then He’ll satisfy? God may test us. We may struggle; we may get hungry. It doesn’t take any faith to trust the Lord when the pantry and the ice box are full. It doesn’t take any faith to believe the Lord is going to give us our daily bread right when we finish wiping the food off the corners of our mouth with our napkin, and our stomachs are full. But when you start to feel that gnawing in your inner self and you have nothing in the cupboard and there is nothing in the refrigerator and there’s nothing in the wallet, do you start complaining, or do you say, “God will take care of me. He brought me this far. He’s not going to let me down”?

Well, they failed the test again and they started to murmur. So what does God do for them? He gives them bread from heaven. Exodus 16:4, 5, “Then the Lord said…, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.’” What was He going to test them about? What law? He says, “I’m going to test them to see if they’re going to keep My laws.” What laws was He testing them about? There’s only one law that revolved around quantities and days like that, and it was the Sabbath.

Now, many people say, “God gave the Sabbath to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai.” Have they gotten to Mount Sinai yet? No. Did they know about the Sabbath before they got to Mount Sinai? Yes. First of all, it’s there in Genesis chapter 2. God blessed the day and made it holy, and it was a day of rest for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden right there at the very beginning of Creation. The idea that He invented the law of the Sabbath at Mount Sinai is as ridiculous as saying that it was suddenly wrong to kill and steal and lie once they got to Mount Sinai. It was wrong to do those things before they ever got to Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai was simply where God spoke it and wrote it, but it was in existence long before. Joseph knew that adultery was a sin before Mount Sinai. Am I right? Ten Commandments have been in existence since Creation. They were for all men.

So He was going to test them. He gives them bread from heaven. Now, before I rush past it, what is the bread a symbol of? What did Jesus say about that? He said, “Your father gave you not that bread from heaven, but I am the bread of life”—Christ and the Bible. The Bible says that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” So Jesus was the bread.

Now, did God, every morning, while they were sleeping and snoring with their mouths open, did the manna fall in their mouths? Or was there effort involved on their part in going out to gather, to knead, to bake the manna? What does the manna represent? The Word of God and Christ. It’s one of the only times in the Bible you find the word round. It says it was tiny, little round pellets that were on the ground. When the dew lifted, there it was. And if they waited too long to get it, it melted; it dissolved. A lot of people have wondered, “What was this?” But evidently when they packed it together and they baked it, it was nutritious and it fed them.

God provides manna for us every day. We need to make an effort to go get it. And the best time is early, before the cares of the day begin to crowd it out and it melts. Early in the morning is the best time for me to spend time with God, and I hear His voice speaking to me. But when the phone starts to ring and all the kids start to wake up, then pretty soon you get caught without your bread for the day. We need to go out early and get our manna. The Bible tells us Job said, “I have esteemed Your Word more than my necessary food.”

They gathered it six days. On the sixth day, which is what we commonly call Friday, they gathered twice as much, and they were to bake it, and it would be there for the Sabbath day for them to eat. If they tried to keep it over any other day, what happened to the manna? It bred worms and it stank. It looked bad and it smelled bad. Can you live tomorrow on what you eat spiritually today, or do you need to get a fresh supply every day? “Give us this day our daily bread.” God wants us to have a continual flow of His nourishment going into our lives. The reason a lot of people have an experience that’s wormy and stinky is because they’re still trying to live on something they had a long time ago and eat it today, and it gets old. You need a fresh supply if you’re going to stay vital as a Christian.

So God gave them bread from heaven. “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing.” You know when Jesus came in the world, He came as a small round thing, didn’t He? This humble little baby—the bread of life. “…as small as the hoar frost on the ground.

Now let’s go to chapter 17. God feeds them with bread from heaven to show them that He cares. In chapter 17, again they get thirsty, and the people murmur and complain. Evidently they did not learn from the first experience. Water was a real concern in the wilderness; you can understand that. But God is trying to teach them to trust Him. So the Bible says Moses goes to a rock and he smites the rock, and water flows out of the rock. Verse 6, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.”

I had to really struggle when I was preparing this message this week because I thought, “I could talk about just the wilderness experience for the rest of the year. I could spend one whole Sabbath talking about the rock and one whole Sabbath talking about the manna, and I could take one week alone and talk about the water and all these experiences.” Try to imagine how massive this miracle must have been. How many Israelites were there? 900,000 fighting men. Now, calculate the additional women and children and the old men that can’t fight. There were probably 3.5 million people.

When Moses strikes this rock, who is the rock a symbol of? Do you think it was a pebble? Or was it a petra, a rock of immense proportions (in Greek)? It was a mammoth boulder. And when he struck it and the rock split and the water came out, do you think there was a trickle, or do you think it was a gusher? Wouldn’t that have been something to see? Moses strikes this rock, and water begins to cascade and flow and gush and shoot out of this rock, and it forms a river that comes from the rock. In heaven there’s going to be a river coming from the rock. The Bible says the river comes from the throne of God, and the Rock sits on that throne, God Himself. And the whole new earth is watered from the Rock—from the water that comes from the throne of God. We sing about that. He supplied their needs—water from a rock.

What happened to the rock before it was supplying water? It was stricken with the rod. What is that rod a symbol of? The rod was a symbol of judgment, of punishment. Jesus was chastised, He was punished, for our sake, that we might be satisfied. Again it’s a symbol of Christ and His sufferings there.

Well, they’re happy for a little while. And the Bible says in Exodus 17, “Now Amalek”—the Amalekites—“came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.”

I want to stop right here. I want you to have a picture of the terrible thing Amalek did. Look at Deuteronomy 25:17, 18. If you want to better understand the stories in the Bible, compare scripture with scripture. Deuteronomy (last book of Moses) 25:17, 18 [KJV], “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.” What he did was, the Amalekites were a ruthless people. They attacked Israel from behind and got all of the stragglers that were wandering on the outskirts.

There’s a lesson there for you and me. First of all, if you’re going to be going with God’s people, don’t be straggling behind. Who does Amalek represent? The enemy again, right? The devil. He got the stragglers who were following from a distance. He got the ones who were weak. Literally speaking, these were some of the aged, maybe some of the sick or the young. He went and got the weak ones. What does the devil go after? What does the wolf go after? The weak sheep, right?

But as soon as that happens, there was a confrontation and there’s an all-out battle the next day, and Moses sends Joshua into battle. How do you say “Joshua” in Greek? “Jesus.” Jesus leads them into battle. And Moses, another type of Christ, is up on the mountain. And the Bible says as they’re fighting, Moses lifts up the hand, interceding in their behalf, and as long as the people in the valley see that Moses is interceding for them, they’re victorious and they’re fighting back the enemy.

But the Bible says Moses’ hands get tired. I remember it military school they used to punish us when we were bad and you had to hold your hands out straight. You can do it for a second or two. Try and do it for 20 minutes. Your arms start burning in agony. Moses was already an old man. Trying to keep his arms up, he’s 80 years old, and pretty soon he lowers his arms to rest them, but he knows as soon as his arms are down and the people no longer see him with his arms outstretched, they begin to become defeated by the enemy. And he realizes the connection and he puts his arms back up again, but then they get tired and they start to drop. So he says to Aaron, his brother, and to Hur, one of the leaders, he says, “Help me!” And they hold his hands up. And as his hands are lifted up, outstretched in their behalf, interceding, and the people fighting say, “He’s still interceding to God in our behalf,” they win. By the end of the day they completely routed and defeated the Amalakites because Moses’ hands were lifted up.

Two things we can learn from this. First of all, friends, you and I win based upon faith in the intercession of Christ. It really does us good to know that He intercedes in our behalf. We can come boldly before the throne through Christ. Something else is, the very fact that Moses had to be seen with his hands stretched out is an image of the cross. It’s when Christ stretched out His hands that He laid down His life for you and me. Where’s the greatest power for victory in our lives? When you see Jesus dying on the cross for your sins, does it make it easier to resist the devil? I want to say that again and again and again because it’s so important, and I want it to sink in. Friends, the power for forgiveness is in the cross, and the power for victory is in the cross. Forgiveness for the past, we all know about and we talk about and we thank God for, but we forget that Christ on the cross was also there to provide power for us to overcome, because when you see Him with His arms outstretched, you say, “He is in my place suffering for me.” It hurt Moses to keep his hands up. It hurt Jesus to keep His hands up, too. And when we see that Christ suffered for our sins, it should make us want to, because we love Him and we don’t want to hurt Him, resist and fight the Amalekites.

We move on here. Chapter 18. All these experiences are on a journey to Mount Sinai. God is preparing them for something. Moses is judging the people all day long, and it’s wearing them out. Finally his father-in-law Jethro comes to see him. Moses is 80; his father-in-law is even older. They lived a little longer back then, especially when they lived the simple life in the wilderness. And he takes his son-in-law aside, and he says, “What is this that you are doing? You sit before the people all day long.”

And Moses said, “They need me. I have to answer their questions.”

He says, “Maybe you think too much of yourself. They don’t need you for everything. You need to appoint people to help you. You need to get rulers of thousands and rulers of hundreds and tens and fifties, and delegate the different responsibilities so that the more menial cases—they start arguing over a blanket—you don’t need to gather the assembly and meet with them over those things. Let them take care of that. You deal with the weightier matters.”

So they get organized. Does God organize His people? Is it lack of faith for a church to be organized? I think it’s stupid when we’re not organized. God is not the author of confusion. He wants all things to be done decently and in order. Some people think that organized religion is a dirty word. Disorganized religion is the alternative, friends. So He organizes them. It was one of the first things Paul did when he went out preaching is he organized churches and got things set up.

Now you go to chapter 19. They’ve reached Mount Sinai. God is getting ready to meet with His people. He is going to audibly speak with the nation. He has never done this before. A whole nation is going to hear the voice of the Almighty. God is sacred and holy. Sin cannot survive in His presence. He says, “You must sanctify yourselves.” They were to wash themselves. They were to wash their clothes. They were to fast, and part of that fasting was husbands and wives were not to have intimate relationships for three days. It was a time of sanctification, setting aside the lower desires and carnal needs, and they were to humble themselves and present themselves before the Lord because God was going to meet with them and speak to them. And He met with the whole nation.

Now God begins the Ten Commandments, chapter 20, by saying this: “I am the Lord your God.” He is giving them His covenant. The Ten Commandments were the old covenant written in stone. Do you know what the new covenant is? Ten Commandments written in the heart. Same law, just written in a different place. God says, “I’ll give them a new covenant with the house of Israel. I’ll write My law in the heart”—different place, same law. We need God’s law in our heart, right? Love the Lord with all our heart, love your neighbor as yourself, you’ll end up keeping the ten.

He begins by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Some people think the first commandment is “Thou shalt not have other gods before Me.” No. First commandment is, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Have you noticed each one of the Ten Commandments has a little preface to it? It has some explanation built into it. It does with idolatry, it does with the Sabbath, it does with the commandment about honoring your father and mother, and coveting. God adds a little something that explains the commandment. The first commandment and all 10 of the commandments are introduced with this thought (now, you have to take yourself back, friends, about 3500 years): “I am the one who gave you victory over the Egyptians. I am the one who fed you with bread from heaven. I am the one who gave you water that was bitter and turned it sweet. I’m the one who gave you water out of a rock. I am the one who delivered you from the Amalekites. I’m the one who is doing all of these miracles for your benefit,” and then, understood in everything He’s saying is, “If you love Me—I’ve shown you that I love you. If you love Me, keep my commandments.”

Don’t miss this, friends. Did God save them from Egypt because they kept the law, or did He save them based on the lamb, and then came the law? Some people get that backwards, and they have a miserable experience. They think, “I have to keep the law and then I’ll be saved.” No, you can’t keep the law until you are saved! See, it’s after you see how much God loves you by providing for you, by being good and sustaining you and delivering you, then out of love for Him, He wants you to keep the law. There are people that believe you keep the law and then He saves you. Now, don’t miss this. They were not saved from Egypt by keeping the law. Moses did not come and say, “Keep these Ten Commandments and I’ll get you out of here.” It’s not what he did. He said, “Sacrifice the lamb, and we’ll begin a journey to the Promised Land.” But they did not go from Egypt to the Promised Land because the law had to happen somewhere along the way.

The reason for the law was because He loved them and they loved Him. That’s what God wanted. Do you see what I’m saying? He showed them how much He loved them. Then He said, “This is My will.” That’s what His law is. It’s His will. He says, “Now if you love Me, keep My law.” This is confusing to people. Folks say, “Well, can we go to heaven breaking God’s law?” No. “Are we saved by keeping God’s law?” No. And people go, “That’s double talk. We’re not saved by keeping the law, but we can’t go to heaven without keeping it. That’s double talk.” No, it’s not, friends. It’s very simple. Look at the story of the Exodus. They were saved based on faith in the Passover lamb. You and I are saved by the blood of the Lamb. Then after He saves us—this is what righteousness by faith is all about. We are made righteous by faith in Him; then once we receive this gift of righteousness, we are so grateful that He’s done all this, that He loves us, we now want to obey Him because of love, not to be saved. They were not saved from Egypt by keeping the law, but once He delivered His law to them, nobody who deliberately disobeyed it made it to the Promised Land.

You can argue theology with me all you want, friends. You can argue all day long up one side and down the other, but you’re never going to change the story. The story is as clear as it can be. They were not saved by keeping the law, but they did not get to the Promised Land deliberately breaking it. We’re not saved by keeping the law. If we ever keep the law, it’s going to be because we love Him. But God does not give us the law just to show us how weak we are. He gives us the law because He says, “This is My will. If you love Me, then keep My commandments.” We cannot keep the commandments based on the old covenant of the law written in stone. We keep it based upon the law written in the heart.

What God did for them back there He does for you and me today, doesn’t He? Does God give us the living water, Jesus, from the Rock of Ages, Jesus? He feeds us with the bread from heaven, Jesus. He’s Moses, who stretches out His hands. He’s Joshua, who leads us into battle. Everything that happened in this experience is to help us to see that Christ is doing everything He can to save us. And then He says, “I am the Lord Your God who saved you. If you love Me, trust Me, follow Me, obey Me.” Now, you can’t do that by yourself. He’s there with a pillar of cloud like the Holy Spirit to guide us. He’ll be light at night and shade in the day. He’s everything you need as you go through this wilderness. If you’re a Christian, friends, you need to understand this story because you are in the wilderness now. We’re heading towards the Promised Land, and He can get us there if we follow Him one day at a time.

[Hymn—He Leadeth Me]

Maybe you’ve not yet accepted that Passover Lamb to cover your sins, or maybe you’ve become discouraged going through the wilderness. You can’t see that pillar of fire lighting your way, you’re hungry for the bread of life, you’re thirsty for the living water, you’ve lost sight of Moses who’s up on the hill with his hands outstretched in your behalf, and you’re wandering in circles in the wilderness. You can find your bearings again by rededicating your life to Jesus, or maybe accepting Him for the first time. Would you like to know that you can make it through this wilderness, to reset your compass?


One of the wonderful things about this story was the closing thought. Everything that God did for them, He did not do because they were obeying Him. They complained; He forgave them. He gave them water. They complained; He looked past it; He gave them bread. They complained; He parted the sea. They complained; He gave them water out of the rock again and delivered them from the Amalekites. They were not receiving these things based on their goodness, were they? All of these things came based on His love and His mercy and His grace. Some of you maybe have become jaded or hurt because you think, “I’ll never be good enough.” God does not save you based on your being good enough. He saves us based on His being good enough. We come just like we are; then when He saves us, He gives us a new heart that is willing to do His will.

If there are some here maybe who haven’t experienced that joy and that surrender and that peace that comes from knowing He’s leading you and you’re just following one step at a time, we invite you to come. You can get the sequence of salvation straight. You come just like you are; He changes your heart. Then He empowers you to follow.


Just before we pray, I also want to remind you if there are some here, and you’ve not yet crossed the Red Sea, you’d like to be a Christian, you’d like to get out of Egypt and begin your journey through the wilderness, we’d like to talk to you and pray with you.

Father in heaven, thank You so much for Your presence here this morning. Thank You for the assurance that You save us just as we are, based on the blood of the Lamb and our willingness to follow You, and then as we journey through the wilderness and learn sanctification, give us a heart like that of Jesus, willing to do Your will. I pray, Lord, You’ll bless each person in this congregation today. Comfort those who mourn. I pray, Lord, that You’ll strengthen those who are struggling. Help us to see that pillar of fire leading us at night and day. Also, Lord, I pray that we can know that You are in the camp still, Your presence is with us, and that all things are possible through Christ. Be with us as we go from this place and help us remember that You’ve promised to be with us to the end of the age. In Christ’s name we ask. Amen.

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