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Series: Other Speakers; Passover 2013
Sun am 31 March 2013 – Justus Swart
Ex. 14:21-31; Ex. 15:22-25; Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:1-13
Transitions take up the majority of your life; we are always transitioning from one place to another. A transition can be from being saved to being in the kingdom; from immature to mature. Transitions are a very important part of how we go from the start to the end. How do we define a transition? Where does it end? Where did it start? It feels like it is moving along at a very steady but slow pace. When the Israelites transitioned from Egypt it took them forty years! So we are not doing too badly but I do feel we have reached an apex in our transition. Our pilgrimage has reached a point where we are offered the best perspective we have ever had. This does not mean we have reached the end of our journey.
We will look at four different stories in the book of Exodus with four central characters. God, Moses, the people and water. Water is the type of the word; we are talking about the relevant word of God that reaches into your life, that when you read it you feel it like it is speaking straight into where you are at. Each of the four stories holds specific keys with which we can help ourselves move along in this transition.
The Lord told Moses to stretch out his arm, and the seas were divided. This is the first point in the journey in the forty year stretch. The Israelites had no idea that it was going to be a forty year journey. We see that the waters cleared overnight and they had a way through. This sounds like the first part of a transition. You see the way forward, you know where to go; you have the conviction and the burning drive to say, “That is where I need to be.” Secondly, it formed a pillar on either side, signifying the protection. You are closed off from all the negativity, the things that drag you down. You are so ready and so devoted to the step you have to take. There are no obstacles, no hindrances; there is enthusiasm and excitement. Thirdly, behind them the sea closed up again, which signifies that there is no turning back. They were bound together as a community on a journey (Exodus 14:21-31).
Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet (Exodus 15:22-25). Three days into the journey and the people are already starting to grumble. They find that the water at Mara is undrinkable. Their first reaction was to grumble against Moses. Suddenly the journey became a little more complicated. They realized that in the desert they had to rely on God to provide for them. They find themselves vulnerable, they have left everything they know and now they have to trust God. Moses turned to God because he needed a solution and needed to get water for the people to drink. He throws a piece of wood in the water and it becomes sweet. In our walk we come into bitter situations and ask God to make it a little sweeter so we can deal with it. God does not leave us there; He takes us on and helps us. We need to realize that this is but a milestone in the journey. If we stay there, the water will dry up and we will stagnate and get lost. We have to move on.
They turned to Moses and started arguing with Moses even though they travelled as the Lord had commanded. They started looking back at how “wonderful” slavery was because at least they had water. We start to miss something because it was familiar to us. The unknown frightens us. God spoke to Moses to go ahead of the people and take some elders with him. As strong a leader as Moses was, he was instructed not to go further by himself. This is another transition happening. He was told to perform the miracle before the elders, and “let them see that I am God.” Moses was told to strike the rock, and as he did, the people were once again provided for. He had to apply force because the people were angry. It had to come from his own strength and force; it has to come from deep within you to strike the rock and get the water (Exodus 17:1-7).
The same four characters are in every story yet there is a steady transition happening (Num. 20:1-13). Again they were in the desert and could not find water. There is no time in the transition in which you will not need water. Whenever you are on the move, water is the life source. You can never go without it otherwise you dehydrate and die. Water is the key to this journey to get from one side to the other.
They are again quarreling with Moses and he intercedes and goes into the tent of meeting and falls face down before the Lord. The Lord gives him an answer that is never the same. He never provides the same way as before; there is always progression with God. This time God tells Moses to gather the entire assembly, let them all see this time. He was told to speak to the rock before their very eyes. This is significant on two levels: 1. it was the time of commanding. He reached a level of authority where he could call forth the water. The provision was his to bring forth. 2. He had to do it before everybody’s eyes. They needed to see that it was not Moses who was providing for them. In the past they would complain to Moses and expect him to take care of things. Now the ownership had shifted. The Lord was Israel’s provider. They needed to find the real, true Source of their provision.
Moses was fed up. Justified as he may have been in his response, the action he took after that was against what the Lord had commanded him. He was infuriated by the fact that Israel had been so passive, always expecting miraculous provision, yet never actually having the faith for it. Did you ever think that Moses needed encouragement? The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12). Moses definitely paid the price for striking the rock the second time. Why was it wrong? He was angry and frustrated. That was the way God did it last time, so he did it again, not just once, but he stuck it twice. This was his mistake. He went back to the way God had provided for him previously, and instead of honouring Him for what He did, he wanted it the same way again. God’s command had progressed to the next level, He said, “Speak to the rock now”; it was his to call forth. God said, “You did not trust Me enough”. His actions before the Israelites were wrong because He had to show that he was following God. God had said clearly, “Let them see how you are doing this.” His big mistake was losing control even though God had given him a very special and specific instruction.
When you look at the journey, if you are at a place where you may have stopped and need water, you need something from God; you are at a cross-roads, you are at a point where you say, “God I do not have any water left. What is next? How do I take it from here to the next point? What is it that I need?” It is impossible to say that we are at a point where we are perfectly located and we do not need any more water. None of us can say that. We are always in search of water, this life, something that is going to keep us going. How we get that makes a very big difference.
These transitions often start with a strong and often arrogant enthusiasm, yet very rarely do we count the cost when we start something. We think we have enough to make it now, and then three days later we are out of breath, we are panting and saying, “I need water, I need God, I need something to come back in my life and invigorate me.” We are quick to reaffirm our choices by quoting the Word of God, but it is not long before we are left having to wait for His provision. The most painful and most difficult place in a transition is waiting for that next step. You are saying, “God I am reading the word, I am reading my Bible, but I cannot find You! Where’s the water?”
The latter part of the story shows that God never provides the same way. Provision is not predictable. In the beginning Moses was told to go ahead of his people, to pave the way forward. It was pioneering; it was the beginning of something and it needed someone to stand in the front and say, “This is the way.” But later God spoke to him and told him not to go alone. He was to take with him those closest to him, the elders, and let them see. The next step was to let everybody see that “It is not you, but it is I, the Lord of Israel who is providing for you.”
Have our eyes been opened and have we seen God provide for us in our own lives? If yes, it is time to act that way. If we are early in our journey, that is fine, just do not stay there. Get to the point where your eyes are open and you can see God providing for us as a community and leading us on a journey. Do not stay at the pool of bitter water saying, “Lord, make my situation sweet so I can come through.” Rather say, “God take me to the next watering hole, let me go and strike water from the rock, let me get it out myself”, and next time speak to the rock. Do not stay at one place too long because you will be left behind and you will not know why.
The future is in us and we have to sustain that future by the word of God. The word of God is what keeps us on track. We need to come on this journey prepared for it to be a progressive journey; nothing is predictable on this journey, we need to evolve, we need to move forward.