COC 22 Exodus 16 sermon

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Christ in the Old Covenant 22

Exodus 15:19 – 16:36

Overview of Text

Our text this morning is a very lengthy section, stretching from 15:19 – 16:36. I want to begin by overviewing this section for you. Remember that last week we studied the dramatic deliverance through the miracle of the Red Sea crossing. Last Sunday night we moved ahead into chapter 15 and meditated on Moses’ inspired celebration song. So we pick up the text at 15:19 READ 15:19-21. Of course Miriam is also Moses’ sister, and she is called a prophetess here because God apparently put the same inspired words in her mouth that He had put into Moses’ mouth, and she leads the women in the celebration of this display of God’s power. Many times in Israel’s history the men and women would celebrate together, but for some reason in this instance they celebrated separately.

But only days after this celebration, they face yet another major test of faith. As they head into the wilderness, they are quickly running out of water. Arriving at Marah, they discover that the water there is so laced with minerals that it is undrinkable. Understand that this is not a minor inconvenience, like having Coldstone run out of your favorite flavor – this is a genuinely desperate situation. But was this any more desperate than being pinned by the Egyptian army? And Yahweh was still leading them – was He more than enough for this situation?

They grumbled again at Moses, and God graciously worked another miracle to change the waters so that they could drink them. We’ll see the magnitude of God’s mercy here, as in both chapters 15 and 16 He responds to their grumbling by providing just what they need.

READ 25b-27. Verse 26 is not teaching that God’s people will never get sick. The point is that if they were faithful to God they would not experience the same kind of plagues that they had just seen God pour out on the Egyptians. Actually this is a warning: if you are stubborn and rebellious against me, you will taste the same things the Egyptians tastes.

At the beginning of chapter 16 they face yet another similar test of faith. It has been exactly one month since their last night in Egypt, and now they are running out of food.

This is the third major test in a row: at the Red Sea, at Marah, and now in the wilderness of Sin (seen).  For the third time in a row, they grumble against Moses and Aaron, they grumble that they were ever taken away, and they wax eloquent about the good old days back in Egypt.

God responds with remarkable provision. READ 16:8 A little sidetrack here, a principle: there is no such thing as grumbling against someone else without grumbling at God. We can’t say “I’m not upset at God, I’m just upset at him or her.” The God of providence brings every him and her into your life – and to grumble about them is to grumble about Him. So Moses rightly says “Your grumblings are against the LORD.”

But the Lord whom they grumbled against is going to provide for them. But first He will once again take their focus off of themselves, and get it back onto Himself. READ 16:9-10. Apparently something in the appearance of the cloud changed in some way so that it was evident that the glory of the Lord was there. They could sense the glory of the Lord – they were unmistakeably reminded again that God was there, that God had led them there, that God was listening to their grumblings, that God was right in the middle of this situation.

God worked two miracles for them. The first is only mentioned one time, though it is possible it happened other times. But for one evening, God sent quail that covered the ground, an abundant supply of meat for them.

But the second miracle would happen six days a week for decades until the next generation entered the promised land. Of course that is the miracle of the manna. Each morning the manna was on the ground, and God gave them very specific instructions that they were to gather one omer per person for that day. Of course some tried to gather more than one day’s worth, and found out that God wasn’t joking. On Friday they were to gather two days worth, because there would not be any available on the Sabbath. But of course some people went out on the Sabbath anyways expecting to find some, and found again that God meant what He said.

READ 16:31. Honey was a real delicacy – they didn’t haul beehives around with them. You had to find honey in small quantities out in the desert. Wafers would be a thin bread like a cookie. So wafers flavored with honey would be like a really special cookie. Just think about the lovingkindness of God illustrated here: they get angry about being taken out of Egypt, they grumble about not having water, they grumble about not having food. And what does God do? He gives them food, but not just food. All the meat they can eat – and then fancy cookies, free, every morning, six days a week. Isaiah 55:2 Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. What a wonder – that God would take rebels and pour out blessing upon them. That God would delight in delighting His people.

How important it this? At the end of the chapter God told them to save a jar of it so that they would not forget – and when the tabernacle was constructed that jar was one of only three things placed inside the ark of the covenant.

TRANSITION: Now I want us to focus on a key word that appears here in this text: that is the word test. This is a very important word in the Bible – the only time we’ve seen this mentioned previously was in Genesis 22 when God tested Abraham with Isaac. But from this point on this theme will be very prominent, as God develops His relationship with His people through testing.

In our text today God is testing the children of Israel – as soon as we get into chapter 17 the children of Israel are testing God, which we’ll talk about next week.

Intro re: Testing

So if you look at READ 15:25b. At Marah he tested them – tested them by allowing them to become very thirsty, and then come to a place where the water was not drinkable. Then if you go down READ 16:4. He tested them by sending the Manna.

This Hebrew word has the general idea of “testing or proving the quality of someone or something, often through adversity or hardship.” It’s used in Daniel 1 – the Babylonian tested them for 10 days while they ate vegetables and water instead of the kings’ food. The word is used in I Samuel 17 when David volunteers to go take on Goliath, and Saul suggests that David wear his armor. David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them." And David took them off.

So that’s the general idea of the word, but we’re talking specifically about God testing His people.

Purposes for Testing

Why would God test His people? There are many different reasons that overlap with one another – I’ll just mention a couple aspects of this.

First, there is an overarching purpose for tests: God takes rebels who hate God and run from God and by His tender grace turns them into people of faith who love God and trust God. I Peter 1:6-7 teaches that God then uses testing to show off that faith – to display the priceless treasure of faith. And the result will be praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

That’s the big picture – but more immediately, I think the purpose we usually think of first is purification. Tests help us grow and mature and obey. TURN TO Exodus 20. James 1 says that when testing finishes its work you will be mature and complete. READ Exodus 20:20 Through the testing they would understand God better and that would lead to holiness. Did you notice that at the end of Exodus 15 and the beginning of Exodus 16, obedience was stated as a clear purpose of the testing? So certainly one purpose of testing is holiness or Christlikeness or obedience.

TURN TO Deuteronomy 8. One of the ways testing helps us grow and obey is by showing us our need for growth and our lack of obedience. READ Deuteronomy 8:2. God can test to humble us and to reveal what is in our hearts. To know it says. But God doesn’t need to know – He already knows. We are the ones who need to know: we are the ones who need humbled by a clearer view of our own hearts. And testing often acts like a magnifying glass, showing us things we had not seen in our own hearts. Simply put, God tests us to show us our spiritual needs. 

TURN TO II Chronicles 32. Hezekiah was a good king, who obeyed God and sought the Lord. The Lord worked an amazing miracle to rescue him from defeat. The Lord rescued him from a life-threatening illness. But as he experienced the blessings of God Hezekiah ended up with a pride problem. This was displayed especially when an envoy from Babylon came and Hezekiah showed them all of his riches, didn’t keep any secrets, but showed off everything. Not a very smart idea with a potential enemy. READ II Chronicles 32:31. Notice the phrase “God left him.” God forsook him or abandoned him, God left him to himself. I don’t know for sure what that means, but it seems to suggest that the gracious, sustaining hand of God is strengthening us to obey and keeping us from destroying ourselves like we would if we were just completely left on our own. But God can choose for a moment to withdraw that protecting hand, and leave us on our own, leave us at the mercy of our own sinful hearts. And then we really see what is in our hearts – we catch a glimpse of the truth of Jesus words “Without me you can do nothing.”

TRANSITION: TURN TO Exodus 16. God is not developing His relationship with His people. They have to learn what it means to be God’s people; they have to learn what it means to trust God and obey God, no matter what. They need to see their own hearts – they need to learn that without God the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. So we aren’t surprised at all that they face a series of tests.

Means of Testing

  • Now how did God test them? What means did He use? We saw the word test 2 times: in 15:25 he tested them by allowing them to run out of water and face a severe need. In 16:4, He tested them by providing manna. This is a point we must not miss: God can test us through adversity or through prosperity; through suffering need or through having abundance.
  • Let’s consider those one at a time. First, He tested them by letting them run out of water. What did this test reveal about their hearts: grumbling, distrust, fear. They needed to see that. They needed to see their own hearts. Will we obey Him even when life is hard, even when we experience loss? We may not think we have a problem with certain sins, but then we lose something important to us: a possession, or a relationship, or time, or health, or comfort – and suddenly we find in ourselves sinful tendencies we never knew were there. Adversity or lack can expose our hearts and humble us by showing us some needs we didn’t see before. Several years ago I read a book by Erwin Lutzer called How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit. I’ve never forgotten one line from that book: he said “The Israelites didn’t realize how rebellious they were until they got hungry.” God can use loss or adversity or lack to show us our hearts.
  • But prosperity or abundance can also be a test. God tested rebellious people by giving them abundant blessing when they grumbled! He tested them by giving them manna! Will we obey Him and be faithful to Him and be good stewards when we have more than enough? When he pours out his blessings upon us? That’s really what we see in the middle of Exodus 16. God sent the manna, with clear instructions, and they didn’t obey. They tried to get too much; they tried to hoard more, and it didn’t work. They tried to go get more on Sunday, and it didn’t work. God poured out great abundance and blessing on Hezekiah – but the prosperity was a test that revealed a prideful heart. Prosperity can reveal some things about our hearts too.
  • TURN TO Deut. 8. READ Deut. 8:11-17. You see the key phrase in verse 16: that he might humble you, so that verse 17 doesn’t happen. Verse 17 is clearly viewed as a great danger. It will be very dangerous if you start to think you are a self-made man. Pride and self-sufficiency are spiritually deadly. So he tests you to humble you, to show you what is really in your heart. And you see that verse 16 says “He might test you to do good to you in the end.” God is not being mean to us when he tests, when he exposes our pride or our self-sufficiency. He’s being good to us, rescuing us from the deadly disease of pride.

TRANSITION: So how did God test them? Through adversity and prosperity; through need and abundance.


  • Is God testing you through adversity or prosperity? Are your reactions embarrassing: is he humbling you and showing you what’s really in your heart? Don’t respond with despondency and giving up: He is testing you to do good to you in the end. If He is showing you the spiritual needs in your heart, that is great. That’s what we want! Whether He does it through adversity or through prosperity, we want Him to show us our needs, so that we can grow and change to be more like Christ.  
  • Ultimately, the manna is a type of Christ. Of course the manna in Exodus 16 ends up being a picture being a picture of the bread from heaven – Jesus Christ. He said it himself: I am the bread of life. 49 "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 "This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." (John 6:48-51)
  • All of our testing is to magnify Christ by showing us our need of Christ. Without Him we would die spiritually, just as they were going to die in the wilderness with no food. And we don’t just eat one meal and then we don’t need Christ any more, but the daily provision of the manna pictures our daily need for Christ, our daily need to feed our hearts on the Word and walk with Christ and trust Christ and think about Him and pray and depend on Him.
  • But we become self-sufficient, we start to drift away from Christ because we think we’re doing pretty well on our own, and God uses testing to show us the needs in our hearts, so that we will turn back to the bread of life, Jesus Christ. Feeding on Him through the word of God each day is the key to spiritual life, it’s the key to spiritual change. If we don’t really begin to feed on Christ, so that we grow in Christ, God will continue to send the tests that humble – the tests that expose our spiritual needs – until we truly see how much we need Christ.

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