EXODUS 16:1 – 18:27 and MATTHEW 18:1–35
The journey of Israel continued from Elim, where they experienced a season of refreshing. Let us not forget that God is gracious in allowing such times in our walk. These seasons often come after being stretched beyond physical limits. It is here where we can enter into Rest from our own labors; simply because we cannot go further. It is a needed process so that our reliance will ultimately be upon Him.
Once again Israel quickly resorts to complaining when things do not go according to plan. Are we any different? Already they are looking back to Egypt (the world) even though they are physically out of Egypt. This indicates an inner work of cleansing and circumcision that would need to be done. In verse 4 God speaks to Moses that He will rain down a daily provision of bread. It is not just for the purpose of provision but it also will serve as an indicator as to whether they will follow God’s law or not. God was preparing them for the delivery of the law which was to come in short order (Exo 19).
Moses was quick to indicate to the people that their murmurings were not against him or Aaron but against God Himself. We find this to be true in other accounts in scripture (1 Sam 8:7). Moses gives instruction in how they were to gather the manna. God brought them to a place where there was no means of being provided for to demonstrate His ability to meet any need. Manna, (Hannah, Anna) has the connotation of grace. Perhaps we can think of manna in today’s terms as a daily apportioning of grace. What do we do with it? How do we appropriate it? Israel came to loathe the manna (Num 4) and began demanding meat to satisfy their lusts.
Let’s say you get in an argument with someone and you are insisting that you are right while tempers increasingly flare. It feels good being able to ventilate your rights but is that really the right response? What if you paused, took a breath and asked God for a measure of His enabling “Grace” to prevail in your spirit? Would this not change the situation? Can you see the numerous opportunities we have to grow in grace (manna) throughout a given day? It does not come easy, it requires the ability to die to flesh while acknowledging our need for help. If we learn to do this daily we become candidates for increasing measures of grace. That is why Paul can say “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1 Cor 15:10). It is because Paul learned how to die daily (1 Cor 15:31).
In verses 22-26 the law regarding the gathering of manna on the Sabbath is given. We find that there were those who violated this command resulting in the Lord stating “How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and laws”? The 10 commandments were not yet given but we already see the tendency of law breaking in God’s people. If they violate a simple commandment they would be prone to break others. We often fail to realize how we can be tested in seemingly minute areas.
The purpose of the Sabbath was to teach on the principal of Rest. I am afraid that this principal has been lost in today’s modern world. Is it possible that we too gather extra manna on the Sabbath by filling our “inner baskets” with other priorities at the expense of the Lord? True, we may be faithful churchgoers nonetheless it is vital that we come into a position of Rest. If God worked hard for 6 days and rested then why should we be any different? May God help us to take stock of our labors during the course of the week, celebrate them and then honor God by learning to worship Him from a position of Rest. This truth has an eternal message. Though the manna in its current form lasted for 40 years it is commemorated on a perpetual basis. This was expressed by the golden pot of manna which was to be placed in the Holy of holies of Moses Tabernacle which would soon be constructed. The hidden manna also speaks of hidden truths that would be available for those who fervently seek after Him. This is affirmed in the 6th Kingdom Parable of Math 13 concerning the man who “seeketh” after goodly pearls. The hidden riches of God’s grace (manna) goes beyond measure.
The journey continued to a place called Rephidim. The children of Israel would again murmur and complain to Moses. This time it’s because there is no water to drink. Moses tried to make clear that their complaints were being registered against God. (vs 2) We must see that it is the Lord that is orchestrating their path. The people are still rather young in the faith and only now coming to terms in what it is like being set free from Egypt. I am not trying to make excuses for them nonetheless this is a whole new experience. Still, they did see the miraculous parting of the Red Sea and have been provided water and manna on previous occasions so they should be coming to see God as being able to provide.
In verse 6 God instructs Moses to strike the Rock with the ROD. Moses did so resulting in water flowing forth. It is a picture of Christ. Waters were provided previously when God told Moses to cast a tree into the bitter waters of Marah. It was there where we had a picture of the Cross. We should also note that we have a picture of the longsuffering quality of the Lord as He again meets the need of the people in spite of their protests and complaining. The name Meribah means contention while Massah means temptation (Exo 17:7).
In verses 8-16 we have the account of the war with Amalek. Amalek can be traced to Esau who contended with Jacob from the time of their birth. Esau and Jacob may have made peace when they met in Genesis 33 but the enmity that existed through their respective seed was still playing out. We can get a window into the tactics used by Amalek by looking at a few verses from Deuteronomy.
Deu 25:17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
Deu 25:18 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.
Remember when Jacob and Esau were born?
Gen 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
The children of Amalek were devious in their attacks against Israel. They would sneak up behind them and take out the young and vulnerable. This is why the Lord had such disdain for them. In this battle, Israel, under Joshua prevailed as long as the arms of Moses were extended with his ROD in hand. His arms had to be held up by Aaron and Hur. This speaks of devout loyalty. One of the most highly regarded qualities that God looks for in His people is that of loyalty. Loyalty breeds loyalty. Once the arms of Moses would become heavy and vulnerable the army of Amalek would prevail. How do we treat our leaders? Do we undergird them in prayer? Do we uphold their arms knowing that they serve on the frontlines of mighty battles? On the other hand do we criticize and constantly find fault with appointed leaders?
God takes a strong look in how we handle situations involving leadership. There will be times when leaders are vulnerable and open for criticism. How will we respond? Will we take advantage when they appear weak and exploitable? This is what Ham did when his father Noah was found drunk and naked. We never know when motives and intents of our hearts come under scrutiny. We are responsible to pray for leadership and undergird their arms. To the extent we exude loyalty will be to the extent God will bring loyal people under our leadership.
In verse 14 the Lord instructs Moses to note as a memorial His intent to totally destroy Amalek at a future time. That future time came about during the reign of King Saul. Their iniquity became ripe and it was time for the fulfillment of God’s declared Word from Exo 17:14. Saul, did battle against Amalek and won but did not fulfill that which God had established in His Divine plan. This is why it was not yet time for Israel to be governed by a king. They wanted to have a king to be like the other nations. The problem was that they did not want a king to reign over them, meaning over their hearts (1 Sam 8:7). Being a king is not enough. It also requires a priest who desires to do that which is in the Lord’s heart. It was Samuel, a priest, who ultimately killed Agag the king and fulfilling all that God wanted him to do. This is instructive for us.
There is so much talk about kingdom living but little regard given to kingdom issues within. People do not want the Lord to reign over them just like the days when Israel cried out for a king to rule over them. In these last days God is looking for a bride, a people consisting of both kings and priests who will flow in direct harmony with HIs will. God is allowing iniquity to come to ripeness and He is calling out for those who hear and obey His voice. Lord, give us ears to hear.
Moses has a reunion with his father in law as seen in verses 1-12. Jethro was a man of wisdom and integrity. Moses was able to share with Jethro all that God had done on behalf of Israel. It must have been most gratifying to hear the account of God’s faithfulness. Jethro was a key figure in helping to facilitate God’s plan of the Exodus. He gave Moses his daughter to wife and provided him the means of a living. This means of a living was the training Moses would need for the monumental task of leading Israel out of Egypt towards their inheritance.
I have learned through the years to appreciate the day to day experiences; seeing how they contributed to the future ministry opportunities that God would open up. It could be a boss, a job, a circumstance or any event that God can use in one’s preparation. The ROD Moses carried was the ROD he used while tending Jethro’s flocks. We must cry out to God for the ability to see situations from His perspective. Jethro plays an even more important role at this time as well. He recognizes that Moses is overwhelmed with administration duties, taking way too much responsibility upon himself. He gives good counsel regarding the establishing of proper delegation so as to alleviate much of Moses work load and responsibilities. In order to do this you must have capable people who can take on these important tasks. God’s economy requires both delegation and administration qualities. If it was needed in Moses day, it is more so today. I also feel this is one of the keys to entering into proper rest. Our daily priorities need to be administrated and delegated well. Jesus had a demanding daily schedule but He was able to manage due to making time with His Father a priority. The art of delegation and administration must be learned at a personal level; without it we will be overwhelmed.
Jesus will be addressing an issue that comes up on a number of occasions. The disciples are questioning Him as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom. This is even seen in the upper room just prior to the Lord going to the Cross (Luke 22:24). We need to look at how the Lord responds on these two occasions. In the account at the Upper Room, Jesus demonstrates the role of a servant, by stooping down and washing the feet of the disciples. To be the greatest one must first take on the posture of a servant. Put another way, we must seek the interest of others before our own.
The motive that is seen in this question is one of self-positioning. Sadly, this motive is alive and well today. We oftentimes equate being great by the wrong criteria. The standards of the world become the determining benchmark. The remedy Jesus presents to the disciples in our account here is that we are to become like little children. What are some of the qualities that Jesus is seeking to highlight? Being childlike in faith is one example. There is a simplicity in how a child can believe what has been spoken. As we grow in this world we become conditioned to its ways and methods. This conditioning makes us logical in our thinking which can counter faith and being able to take God at His Word. If we are too aligned with the world, even as a church, we can lose this quality.
Another quality that is addressed here is that of humility. To grow and advance in God’s kingdom one must have this beautiful garment of humbleness of mind (Col 3:12). Humility as a garment knows and understands its true positioning in Christ. Such a person is not threatened by what others are doing or what their status may be. The disciples here are expressing spiritual insecurity. It is an arena where the enemy is effective in provoking the body of Christ.
In verse 6 Jesus casts a strong warning towards those who would cause “little ones” to be offended. The Lord is not speaking here about age but rather those who are young in the faith. How can such a “little one” be offended? It can be due to wrong and altered doctrine. I have sadly witnessed this on many occasions where a new believer comes into the faith and soon becomes disillusioned by wrong teaching. The teaching may have a certain appeal but what is its end? To teach that one can never, ever lose their salvation no matter what they may do is a doctrine that can lead a person down a wrong road. Putting an overemphasis on a prosperity type gospel can result in disillusionment when everything seems to be going wrong. As teachers, we must present a balanced Biblical viewpoint that will nourish and hold our people in any situation. To be otherwise puts us on very dangerous ground.
The Lord continues His teaching by building on this thought of offenses (vs 7-14). Jesus makes clear that “offences” cannot be avoided; it is very much a part of a Christian’s journey. The question is how will we handle them when they do come? It is at times like this when the true person is revealed. Perhaps, we have been wrongly accused, how will we respond? The normal reaction would be to vindicate ourselves. Sometimes a potential offence will come via a person we look up to and respect. How would you respond in such cases? If we allow offences to fester it becomes like a cancer. It affects our heart and ultimately our character. It must be plucked out. This is one of the reasons why the communion table is such a vital part of our Christian walk. It allows for the people of God to be introspective, to allow the Holy Spirit to pinpoint attitudes and feelings we might be holding against others, even people in leadership. Learning to forgive is one of the greatest remedies and deterrents in guarding against offenses. In fact, Jesus picks up on this subject in answering Peter’s question about how many times we should forgive (vs 21-22). You may recall we discussed this verse when looking at forgiveness in a previous commentary. (see commentary on Genesis 44) The Lord further develops the subject of forgiveness by looking at the life of a man who was forgiven an enormous debt (vs 23-35).
There are many messages tied up in this parable. First you have a man who has a great debt that he is unable to repay. This can be likened to us who are born into sin with an inability to cover its debt. The Lord takes responsibility for our debt (sin) thus setting us free from its grip. Now that we have been liberated how do we treat others? To understand this truth further let’s look at a statement that the Apostle Paul makes:
Rom 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
He saw himself as one who was a debtor to all men. He received forgiveness and pardon for his sin and now he sees that he owes all men the opportunity to hear the Good News of the kingdom. He was not looking to take anything from people or assert his authority for his benefit. His heart and motive was to serve people by preaching the gospel. His motivation was “compassion” for souls. True” compassion” helps ensure that we put the interest of others before our own. True Compassion does not worry about what is owed but becomes more concerned what is owed to others. We have freely received so we must be able to freely give (Math 10:8).
This is what distinguishes the Lord in this parable from the servant. The Lord of the house was moved with compassion (vs 27) in forgiving the debt. The servant on the other hand was not likewise disposed. He asserted his position of authority over a person who was beholden to him. Let us be warned as to the consequence of such motives of heart (vs 34). This chapter can be summed up by learning to be childlike in Faith and humility. That we do not offend “little ones” in the faith by espousing wrong doctrine and teaching, that we learn to anticipate offences and know how to respond to them and to be warned about carrying or harboring offences. This chapter also majors on the subject of forgiveness and to know of its power. That we be motivated by compassion in our dealing with others. This thought of compassion really sums up the matter. If compassion is our motivation we will fulfill all the lessons taken from this chapter.
Jud 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
May we seek to be debtors to all men. This will ensure greatness in God’s eyes.