The Lord provides. Through the provision of manna and water, the Lord sustains His people. Strong in Him, they press on to victory. This is a picture of the Christian life. Before we can be soldiers of Christ, we must receive our strength from the Lord. We come to Him, looking for strength – His strength. Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water (John 6:51; 4:14). Strengthened by Him, we will not be defeated. We will be victorious – ‘more than conquerors through Him who loved us’. His love will give us the victory. Nothing will be able to separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39). In the provision of manna and water, we see love. In the victory over the Amalekites, we see the victory of love: ‘Love has the victory forever’. In the Exodus, God revealed His love for His people. In the wilderness, He continues to show His love for them. In love, He gives them the victory.
In 16:1, we read of a journey from ‘Elim’ to ‘the Desert (or Wilderness) of Sin’. ‘Elim’ was a good place to be. It had ‘twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees’. In one sense, ‘the Wilderness of Sin’ was simply a geographical location - a wilderness which lay between Elim and Mount Sinai. ‘The Wilderness of Sin’ is more than a geographical location. It is a word of warning. We read about ‘the Wilderness of Sin’. We hear God’s warning, ‘Do not go into the wilderness of sin.’
What happened when the people of Israel went into the Wilderness of Sin? – ‘The whole congregation of the people murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness’ (16:2).
Murmur – what a horrible word! The very sound of the word is sinister. They murmured. There was something wrong in ‘the Wilderness of Sin’. There was something wrong with the people. In one sense, the place was just a place – a place in which the people were to learn how to trust God. There was, however, something wrong with the people. They were murmuring. They had been redeemed. They had been delivered from their slavery in Egypt. Now, they wanted to go back to Egypt. They had been redeemed. They had made some spiritual progress. Now, they wanted to go back to the way things were before they had been redeemed by the Lord. What about you? Do you feel like you want to go back to ‘Egypt’? Do you feel like you want to return to a worldly way of living? Where are you now in relation to God? Are you determined to go on with God? Perhaps, if you are honest with yourself and with God, you may have to say, ‘I am in the wilderness of sin.’ To acknowledge honestly that you are in the wilderness of sin is the first step towards getting out of this wilderness. It is the first step in your return to the Lord. It is the first step in your walk with Him. God does not want you to remain in the wilderness of sin. He wants to lead you out of the wilderness of sin.
In 17:1, we read, ‘All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the Wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord’.
They moved on ‘according to the commandment of the Lord’. God wants us to move on with Him. He does not want us to stand still. He wants us to move on in our obedience to Him.
They moved on ‘by stages’. Some were the first to make the move. Others came along behind them. It is still the same today. Some make the first move. They go on with God, making significant spiritual progress. Others lag behind. It seems that they will never make any significant move towards God. What about you? Are you going on with God? Are you holding back from following Christ?
The people of Israel had moved on from the Wilderness of Sin. They still had problems – ‘there was no water for the people to drink’, ‘the people found fault with Moses’ (17:1-2). They were still murmuring.
How did God respond to His murmuring people? He was gracious to them. Twice – in chapter 16 and chapter 17 – God provided for them. This is the ‘amazing grace’ of God. He is so patient with us. He is so faithful in His love for us. He does not want to leave us in the wilderness of sin. He does not want us to remain trapped in the wilderness of murmuring. He wants to lead us into rest – ‘Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). He wants to lead us into rejoicing –‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’ (John 15:11). Are we ready to follow Him?
The Word of God tells us what God has done for His people: ‘the Lord saved them’ (18:8). The Word of God teaches us that being saved by the Lord places us under responsibility to be obedient to Him (19:4-5).