1. We’re going to focus on the last action (murmuring), but before we do, we need to address two other points. They deserve mention in connection with our present topic.
a. v13 is often used to support the idea that God is behind life’s trials, but won’t give us more than we can bear. This interpretation is an example of taking a verse out of context. When we read the entire passage we find that the context is temptation to sin, not the trials of life. The idea is that all of us get tempted with the kinds of things Israel faced (v12). But we don’t have to sin like they did because God always provides a way of escape—if we will take it.
b. Note that these people tempted Christ, or as the Amplified Bible says, try His patience, become a trial to Him, critically appraise Him and exploit His goodness (v9). This is talking about something that happened before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. So, how did they tempt Christ?
1. The Bible reveals that Jesus was very active with His people in the Old Testament. I Cor 10:4 makes it clear that Jesus went with Israel on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. Followed (v4) is literally “went with them”. The Old Testament records many pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus. Pre-incarnate means before Jesus took on flesh (a full human nature) in the womb of Mary.
2. The title most often given Jesus in these appearances is the Angel of the Lord—not AN angel, but THE Angel. He wasn’t given the name Jesus until He was born in Bethlehem (Matt 1:21). Jesus is not a created being. He is the Creator of all, including angels (Col 1:16).
3. In His Old Testament appearances, the Angel of the Lord is identified as God, but He is distinct from the Father. The word angel means messenger. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the visiblemanifestation of God, Old Testament and New (John 1:14; Heb 1:2; etc.).
2. Now, let’s look at Israel’s murmuring or complaining. To murmur means to grumble or mutter in discontent (Webster). To complain means to express grief, pain, or discontent (Webster). Murmuring, grumbling, or complaining is the first step to troubling your soul.
a. Ex 14:10-12—When Israel was trapped at the edge of the Red Sea with Pharaoh pursuing them, they were afraid. That feeling was and is completely normal. In their fear, they cried to God for help.
1. At that point, a process began—the same process we all experience when we encounter fearsome circumstances. We see something that stimulates our emotions. Thoughts begin to race through our mind and we begin to talk to ourselves. However, if we allow sight and emotions set the pace (without taking God’s Word into account) we can quickly become irrational in our thought processes and actions.
2. That’s what happened to Israel. Note how they talked about their situation: Why did Moses bring us out here to die? (Remember, God sent Moses to them.) Slavery in Egypt was far better than death in the wilderness. Yet in slavery they were afflicted, life was bitter, and they had sorrow and anguish, Ex 1:11; Ex 1:14; Ex 3:7
b. Their reaction was completely irrational because, not only had they themselves cried out to be delivered from Egypt, by this point, they know and have seen the following. 1. God’s power and protection clearly displayed over a nine month period through the plagues which challenged the gods of Egypt. Egypt was afflicted, but not them. Ex 8:22-23
2. From the time God called Moses to lead Israel out of bondage, He promised to bring them out of Egypt and then bring them into Canaan (Ex 6:7-8). Why would He bring them this far and then abandon them?
3. They would have known about their ancestor Joseph, the first of the family to come to Egypt 400 years earlier. He died declaring that God would bring them back to their land in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. Joseph made his people swear to carry his bones back to Canaan with them. Gen 50:24-25; Ex 3:19
4. They could literally see that God was with them. Preincarnate Jesus had already begun to manifest Himself in their midst as a pillar of cloud and fire. Ex 13:20-22
c. At the edge of the Red Sea Israel could have, should have brought peace to their souls by recounting these facts about God’s promises and provision in the face of sight, emotions, and thoughts.
3. God helped them anyway and delivered them from Pharaoh’s army through the Red Sea. Once through the waters, Israel held a marvelous victory celebration. Ex 15:1-19
a. Everything looked and felt good. They were out of Egypt, the Red Sea was behind them and the Egyptian army was at the bottom of the sea. It was easy to be joyful and confident.
1. They praised God for the victory, clearly stating that nothing is too big for God (v1-12). They boldly proclaimed that God would guide them to His land and bring them in. The people of Cannan (Palestina) would hear what God had done and be afraid (v14-17).
2. But their emotional excitement and confidence didn’t last. Three days out of Egypt and they couldn’t find water. And they began to murmur again.
b. Ex 15:22-24—What shall we drink? It’s natural to feel like that in the face of lack, and it’s natural and for those kinds of thoughts to fly through your mind. It’s part of living in a fallen world.
1. But you have to be able to correctly address these kinds of thoughts. Our natural tendency in our fallen flesh is to talk about how bad things are and how they are bound to get worse. That’s what murmuring is: discontented complaining.
2. The antidote for discontent is gratefulness to God expressed through thankfulness to God. At this point, Israel had plenty to thank God for, without mentioning that He had just solved a major water problem for them three days earlier at the Red Sea.
c. Ex 16:1-3—Two and a half months out of Egypt, they again murmured against Moses and Aaron: You’ve brought us all out here to kill us with hunger. Wish we had died in Egypt; “at least we had plenty to eat” (v3, NLT).
1. Which is it? You’re upset because you don’t have food in the wilderness so you’re going to starve. But you wish God would have killed you in Egypt. He wasn’t trying to kill them. Note that they’ve already survived for two months in a desert wilderness. But that’s where uncontrolled emotions, thoughts, and self-talk will take you.
2. v4-5—God was patient and helped them anyway. He showed them His help to build their confidence in Him. He promised to give them bread from Heaven.
A. We find another test from God, and once again, His test is His Word, not the circumstance. Would they follow His instructions for gathering the manna? Pick what you need for the day—an omer or two quarts per person. v16
B. God’s purpose in testing them was to teach them the blessing of obeying His Word. If they took too much it spoiled. If they didn’t get enough, they had no lack. v17-18
3. They should have thanked God for His past help, present provision, and promise of future care. It would have brought them peace of mind in the wilderness as it strengthened their confidence in Him. We can learn from their mistakes.