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An Oasis in the Desert — Exodus Chapter 15

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

This blog post will cover the devotionals #64-67 for Exodus Chapter 15.

**Pictures will be added at a later date.

Please note that this devotional book WILL SOON be for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

#64—Exodus 15:1-21 (Part 1)

When the children of Israel stood on the other side of the Red Sea as free men (after one night of peril was overturned for a morning of praise), they couldn’t help but sing out to God in their joy and gratitude. The joyful chorus rang out across the sea and desert, echoing off the mountains. Moses himself led the people, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to sing one of the first, and most blissful, songs ever. How similar is this to the song that will be sung when God’s people meet Him at the gate of the holy city to receive their crowns of victory! They sang a lengthy song, and Miriam (Moses and Aaron’s older sister) led the women out in a dance with timbrels. Their song included many unique phrases to describe how God overcame their enemies. The song commemorated God’s deliverance and would make a mark on the minds of God’s people for generations. Long after those that wandered in the wilderness had died, it was repeated by God’s prophets to Israel to remind them of God’s power to save—not just Israel, but all of God’s children at the final destruction of the wicked. Revelation 15:2, 3 says that those that get the victory over the beast will stand with harps on the sea of glass mixed with fire, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Your ways, You King of saints.” Moses’ wisdom in pouring out the praise in the form of a song would allow them to commit the words to memory much easier, and to have a recognizable melody for generations to come as an ongoing sermon for what would happen someday. Other important things would be committed to memory via song as well, including the ten commandments (which would be chanted to rhythmic tones along their march). It's amazing how often God responds to His children’s songs of praise with great blessings. We’ll see what happens in devotionals #66 and #67.

[65] Exodus 15:1-21 (Part 2)

In some aspects, I actually wonder if their song was directly acknowledging God’s power, skill, and etc. that they’d seen counterfeited by the Egyptian ‘gods’. Let’s look at just a couple of these. In verse 2, they described their conversion experience from Egypt’s religion to the true religion. They’d built the temples (‘habitations’) for Egypt’s idols (gods) and now they’d build God a sanctuary, but not just a physical one—they’d become one. They’d lift God above all others, as He is the only One who can save them. In verse 7, we see talk about the false gods / idols being lifted up and prioritized over God, and thus, His wrath was Him allowing them to ‘burn’ (come to nothing) (see Romans 1:18-25 and Isaiah 5:24). In verse 8, we can catch a glimpse of the gods addressed in some of the plagues when it comes to the breath / nostrils and water (see devotionals #33 and #34). It says the floods stood up like a ‘heap’, which Strong’s Concordance defines very interestingly—it says ‘to nod’ and ‘to shake the head in sympathy’. We saw in verse 7 how God’s wrath was shown—where His heart is saddened to have to let them go. And here we see that even in the natural calamity that God allowed to consume them. Later in that verse, it says that the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘congealed’ as ‘shrank / thickened (in the sense of curdled milk, clouded skies, or frozen water)’. It’s as if the already overwhelming waters closed in and dragged them down to a tight trap where they couldn’t see a way out. In verses 9, 10, the Egyptians thought they could intimidate and destroy, but the wind and the waves sunk them like lead into the sea. We can compare verse 13 with Isaiah 63:11-16, which discusses how God led them by Moses in order to make Himself a glorious and everlasting name. God’s name was already everlasting—so perhaps it simply means that it was being restored to their understanding / minds. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘habitation’ used in this verse as ‘rest’ (see Deuteronomy 26:15). After years of hard labor and bondage, they'd finally find some rest. In verses 14, 15, we can look at the impact God’s miracles had on the other nations—who were affected only by hearing what was done—whereas the Egyptians (who witnessed it with their own eyes) were hard-hearted about it (see Joshua 2:9-11).

[66] Exodus 15:22-26

After celebrating their salvation at the Red Sea, Moses (still led by the pillar of cloud) led Israel into the wilderness of Shur. The expansive desert views around them were an eye-sore, but they were still happy in their newfound freedom. No complaints came out of them. However, after three days, they’d found no water—their own supply was depleted, and their thirst was great. Unlike Israel, Moses knew the area—and as he watched the pillar guiding them towards Marah, he became anxious. He knew that was the closest water source, but also that it was unfit for consumption. Once they arrived to Marah, his heart sank when the people rejoiced at the sight of water, quickly rushing to relieve themselves, only to be greatly disappointed. Marah got its name due to the bitterness of the water there. Interestingly, Strong’s Concordance also uses the word, ‘discontentment’ to define ‘Marah’, and once again, the people started to complain against Moses for leading them where their thirst couldn’t be satisfied—saying things as bitter as the water there. They thought they had faith when they were in the middle of God’s victory, but as soon as they tasted struggle, they revealed that their faith wasn't genuine. This was an opportunity to trust in God, and as the people should have done, Moses called out to God, and He showed him a tree (which Strong’s Concordance defines specifically as ‘wood’—mentioning several words that point to plank or staff, etc.) to put in the water. When he did, it became sweet and drinkable. I can’t help but consider the contrast between that and what happened to the water the last time they’d put some wood [a rod] in it (recall, from devotional #33, that it turned the clean water of the Nile, etc. into blood?). Just like in Egypt, the wood had nothing to do with the change in the water—but it was God’s power that allowed the change so that people would be impacted. Now here, at Marah, a statute and an ordinance (a commandment and a verdict / sentence) were given, which essentially said that if they’d diligently heed God’s commands, He wouldn’t permit any of the disease (which afflicted Egypt during the plagues, etc.) to affect Israel—because He is the Lord that heals them (see also Deuteronomy 7:15). This was an undeserved, encouraging message of God’s mercy. He had led them there specifically, to begin teaching / testing them. The bitter water was an object lesson for them of how sin caused disease, but how God would still take care of them if they’d just trust. They didn’t need a new method, but again—just God. Why did He say these things at that point along their journey? First, God just saved them from a scary, dangerous scenario (not only decades of slavery, but also major crisis amid the plagues). Second, He revealed in all that happened that He didn’t cause disease but allowed it—and those that turned to Him could be healed (or even given preventative treatment—aka, favor). By using the unconventional methods at Marah (and in Egypt), He showed that He wasn’t restrained by nature, but that He could / would restrain nature when necessary. What I love more is that, just like after the flood was finally totally over with and God gave a rainbow as a promise to never let that happen again, He did the same thing after the Egyptian oppression was finally totally over with. He promised Israel that He wouldn’t let them be affected by the things they witnessed His rejectors experience. As we'll see in devotional #67, after their ingratitude at Marah, they had an opportunity to give thanks for the prosperity and comfort He would provide. God was watching out for His people as He directed their travels.

[67] Exodus 15:27

Marah, they went to Elim and camped by the twelve wells and seventy palm trees (see also Numbers 33:9). Why do you suppose it specified the exact amount of each (especially considering that they weren’t going to stay there, but merely camp before continuing their journey)? I want you to note that both the quantities (numbers) and ‘landmarks’ are both incredibly significant in Scriptures. In Genesis devotional #153, we looked at a bunch of significant things with quantities of twelve throughout the Bible. Recall that we learned that twelve is seen as a perfect number. It has to do with power and authority (especially in the context of a government’s foundation), appointment, and completeness. Like twelve, seventy symbolizes perfection—especially spiritual order carried out with all power. It’s also connected with a time of judgment. I won’t go into much detail here about seventy as I did with twelve in Genesis, but it’s a number seen repeatedly throughout Israel’s history. Even Exodus 24 and Numbers 11 shows seventy elders being selected. I find it interesting that the symbolism of these numbers has to do with perfection and power, since the name, Elim, means ‘the rams’ or ‘the strong’, and God had shown His power to save through the blood of the lamb (ram). Wells are highly discussed in Scriptures and have many meanings and much importance. It was often at the center of a community that the well was located, and it provided life in the arid desert climate. For the individuals that had wells, it meant independence, and often, the right to live in a certain place (if the wells were inherited). Thus, there was both blessing and establishment. Notice that God’s people were heading towards that very thing in the Promised Land. Jesus is also often equated with a well (or water) of [everlasting] life (see John 4:14). There were twelve wells there—one for each of the tribes of Israel. Leviticus 23:40 calls palm trees ‘goodly trees’ which (as we discussed concerning newborn Moses in devotional #8) refers to beauty. Strong’s Concordance also defines ‘goodly’ as ‘favor’, ‘honor’, ‘glory’. King Solomon built the Lord’s house, and the design largely included palm trees (see 1 Kings 6, 7). Ezekiel’s vision of the temple (in Ezekiel 40, 41) was also loaded with palms. The prophetess Deborah (see Judges 4:4, 5) lived and judged Israel from under a palm tree. Jeremiah 10:5 describes palms as being ‘upright’ (which is much like the word, ‘erect’ used by Strong’s Concordance to define ‘palm tree’). The upright stand firm in their faith. Psalm 92:12 says that the righteous will flourish like the palm tree, which represents fruitfulness. The presence of palm trees signified the presence or abundance of water. In John 12:13, people waved palm branches and greeted Jesus as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey (fulfilling prophecy), and in Revelation 7:9, the righteous, sealed people also waved them in praise. Palm trees are often used to represent triumph / victory. Perhaps this was all a sign of what God wanted His people to become. Interestingly, the wilderness of Shur is where the Egyptian, Hagar, had fled from Sarah and encountered God by a well (in Genesis devotional #87). Genesis 25:18 also mentions that her grandsons lived between Havilah and Shur (before Egypt—heading towards Assyria). Recall also that they could’ve passed through the land of the Philistines to get to Canaan (but God rerouted them)—and that’s a place that Abraham had sojourned after his covenant at the well with King Abimelech (in Genesis devotional #105). Thus, it appears that, not only were they returning to Canaan, but also retracing the steps where their forefathers had been. Numbers 33:1-50 details the exact path traveled from day one.

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