The Gospel According to Moses


Week X


Day 64: The Bitter Waters of Life

And 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 against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"

Exodus 15:23,24

The people of Israel lost no time in resuming their grumbling and complaining as soon as they were on the road again. This pattern is so pronounced in the wilderness wanderings of Israel, that it becomes tiresome and tries the reader’s patience. You may seriously question just what sort of ingrates these people were, until you stop to notice how much grumbling is done today in the church, and for much more trivial causes.

In this instance it was the waters of Marah that provoked them. They had gone three days in the wilderness, and had found no water. I’m sure Moses was aware of that before the journey began, for he knew the wilderness like the back of his hand after traversing it the last forty years with his flocks. He led them to Marah, an oasis that he knew contained water, but upon arriving, they discovered that the water was bitter tasting and possibly even poisonous. So the people said, "what shall we drink?" Moses "cried out to the Lord," the Bible records, "and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet," (vs.25). And the people drank and went on their way to Elim.

The tree is a picture of the cross of Jesus Christ sweetening the waters of life for those who follow Him and believe on His name. Life can be very bitter without Jesus, a continuing series of disappointments with all the things you thought would bring satisfaction. You may be casting about in the wilderness, looking for some relief and contentment—perhaps in drugs, money, sex, partying, or marriage and family. But all these, the bad and the good, the wild and the tame, still end in bitterness without Jesus,. Life can be painful, you find out; and there doesn’t seem to be any cure, any real answer. If you visit an old folks’ home, or senior high rise, you’ll find an amazing amount of bitterness and hurt—after all these years many have just given up on finding anything but bitter waters; they feel alone and rejected, unappreciated, and unrewarded for all the years of sorrow and sacrifice. You can hardly blame them for grumbling.

Only Jesus can sweeten the waters. Some scoffers have suggested that Moses, desert expert that he was, simply knew what kind of tree would sweeten the waters and threw it in. But that destroys the lesson that we’re supposed to learn from the account. Moses’ expertise could lead them to the pool, but he could not bring satisfaction. Even the most well-meaning men and women cannot scratch the human soul where it itches most, cannot really relieve the pain and bitterness of life in this world-system designed by the devil. Only the cross of Christ has the answer, only Jesus can fill the emptiness inside. There is no other way to happiness and satisfaction. All of the waters of life are bitter in the final analysis. All of the highs are short-lived, and leave you more empty and forlorn than when you began. Even your closest loved ones may be found to be careless, or just as helpless as you. But a life lived with Jesus is sweet indeed. No need to look elsewhere. Those who have can tell you there is no other Savior, no other satisfaction but Him.


Day 65: Jehovah-Rapha

And he said, "If you will give ernest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer."

Exodus 15:26

Here is the introduction of God as Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord our Healer. A tremendous promise is made to the Israelites: if they will continue to follow Him the Lord will insure their health. That’s a pretty good deal, folks. The conditions are simple and straightforward—if you continue to be my chosen people, and live a lifestyle based on my values and priorities, I’ll take care of your health. It’s the same as the New Testament, "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you," (Mt 6:33).

I like how He says, "I am Jehovah-Rapha," or, in other words, "I am Yahweh the Healer." If I introduced myself to you and said, "I am Kim the Pastor," you’d know just who I was and what I did for a living, and even my basic value system, etc. That is exactly what God is trying to show us when He identifies Himself as "the Lord the Healer." We’re supposed to assume that He is vitally concerned about our wholeness, that He is willing and able to heal our sicknesses and infirmities, and that this is so much a part of His being that He would even introduce Himself as Jehovah the Healer. That means it’s one of His main concerns, not just something He does once in awhile to give a sign or make a point. He wants to heal us so much that He wants us to relate to Him as God our Healer.

And God never changes. If He related to the Old Testament Israelites as Jehovah the Healer, then it’s not surprising that Jesus spent the majority of His ministry time on earth healing the sick. This is a major concern of God, keeping His people healthy and healing them when they aren’t. Wouldn’t He still be the same today, as well? Is there some reason that every other age would experience God as Jehovah-Rapha, but the church age wouldn’t? Does having the complete Bible, as some suggest, really do away with having the complete God?

My study of both Old and New Testaments, church history, modern-day experiences, and personal experience all point me to the same conclusion. God wants to heal the sick, and He hasn’t changed His mind about it; it’s the same for every age and every people. And He doesn’t do it just once in awhile as an attesting miracle, He does it all the time as a sign of His love and concern for us, and because He cannot deny Himself and His character—or His name: He is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord that healeth thee.

"For I, the LORD, do not change;

Mal 3:6


Day 66: Elim, Israel’s Holiday Resort

Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.

Exodus 15:27

Elim was a true place of rest for the Israelites as they came out of Egypt--and they it. For one thing they weren’t used to hiking around the desert all day. That takes a lot out of you; it sometimes felt like every muscle and bone in their bodies was aching. There was also a tremendous amount of stress, considering the whole showdown with Pharaoh, and all the times their lives seemed to be in danger, the most recent being when they were in fear of dying of thirst in the wilderness. They were ready for a nice vacation.

Now someone might say that they needn’t have had all that stress; after all it was only their murmuring that put them in that stressful place to begin with. Nevertheless, they were stressed out, and many of you listening to me today would be stressed out and mad at the leadership, too, for lesser grievances than the possibility of your family dying of thirst in the desert. True, God came through for them, just as He always does for you and I. Nevertheless they were under a painful degree of stress—people with little faith put themselves through all sorts of unnecessary stress and pain, and it’s just as real and painful as if there were a real problem. That’s the nature of unbelief.

The nature of God, however, is to love His people, even His wayward and troublesome ones, and so the next stop on the Israelites’ agenda was a holiday resort. The Bible doesn’t say how long they stayed there, but it might have been weeks, for in the following verse it says they arrived at the next destination a full month and a half after leaving Egypt. They rested and relaxed and got their heads and hearts together again. They came to realize that life wasn’t so bad after all, and that maybe this exodus idea might work after all. They hadn’t had a vacation ever before—slaves don’t get a day off, you know, much less a week or two with pay.

We all need seasons of rest and relaxation. This is more true if you have a job where there are high levels of stress, or if you put in a lot of hours. You can easily take on a narrow view of life, for the majority of your life is spent within the narrow confines of your workaday world. You start to view the rest of life in terms of how they impact your job. You can ignore the more important things and lose your perspective and get your priorities all out of order. Work isn’t more important than family or church or your personal spiritual life. No job is so important that these things can be neglected.

A vacation helps you relax and think about the things that matter. Don’t fill yours in with a mad schedule that leaves you more tired than you began, and don’t stay at home and work on the house, either. Get away from it all and get into an Elim place where you have time to get to know your family better, and time to reflect about the issues of life. You’ll be a better person for it.


Day 67: How to Take a Vacation

Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.

Exodus 15:27

Elim was the place where the children of Israel had a much needed vacation: from the years of slavery in Egypt, from the stress of the confrontation with Pharaoh, and from the rigors of the first weeks in the wilderness. Yesterday we began to talk about the need to "come apart and rest awhile" as Jesus Himself sought to do in Mark 6:31. If He and the apostles needed rest so do we. Here are three pointers to remember when taking a vacation.

1. If at all possible get away from home. If you stay in your usual surroundings one of the main ideas of a vacation is lost: getting away from it all. You need the change of scenery. You need to be away from the place where you’ll pick up something and start working after a few hours of watching the TV. This is especially true of the housewife—she needs to get out of that house in a very real way. Life-as-usual will suck you in and you won’t have any vacation at all unless you get away. If there’s absolutely no way you can afford to be gone, then take the phone off the hook, go out each day and see sights around your hometown, and make it a change of scenery and a break from the usual as best you can.

2. Take enough time off to slow down to vacation speed. I never used to enjoy church camp because I would just breeze in for one day at a time, because I also had to pastor those who didn’t go to camp. I actually got a little bored if I stayed longer, because all I could think of was all the other more profitable things I might be doing with my time besides sitting up in the woods someplace, pitching horseshoes or fishing. Then one year I stayed the whole week and really got into the flow of camp. It was great. I slowed down, got to know people better, learned to walk slower and everything. I had a vacation. You need a few days just to wind down—a three day weekend will just not cut it.

3. Take it easy; don’t fill the days too full. The most important thing in a vacation is not seeing the sights, but slowing down enough to get reacquainted with God and your family. Don’t get going too early in the morning, but leave plenty of time for prayer and reading. Get spiritually revitalized—most Christians long to have more time for God, but then don’t allot it when they take a vacation. Make time for your family, too, especially for your spouse. You two need a lot more quiet time together than you usually get—it’s kind of like church camp: you don’t really get into the flow of things right away and you don’t really start talking and sharing until the second or third day together. My wife and I like long drives—like two ten-hour days—because that’s the only time we ever sit that close for that long. It really knits us together.

So take a vacation, and take it right. And you will be a better Christian and a happier person, and you’ll raise healthier children and do a better job at work, too. Incidentally, it’s also scriptural.


Day 68: Murmuring, the Real Heroes & Heels

And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

Exodus 16:2

One of the most noticeable—and most discouraging--features of the Exodus is the Israelites’ almost continual murmuring against Moses and Aaron. It seems that these men could not do anything right in the people’s sight. When David was made king a few hundred years later the Bible records that everything he did was right in their sight, but no such luck fell to the two leaders of the Exodus.

Every minor discouragement was greeted by a new round of accusations against the leadership. The Red Sea ahead and the Egyptians behind—why did you lead us into this trap, Moses? we could just as easily have died in Egypt. Bitter waters? It’s Moses fault; he led us into the wilderness to die of thirst; let’s stone him. Here in Exodus chapter 16 they become hungry, and of course it’s Moses and Aaron’s fault again: at least we had bread to the full when we were slaves in Egypt, but you’ve brought all our families out into this desert to die of hunger.

Moses was probably the most unappreciated leader in history, or at least a close second to Jesus Christ Himself, who was mocked and killed for his efforts. The poor man had done nothing wrong at all, yet to his followers he was seen as having done nothing right at all! It was with great reluctance that he had accepted the call to lead these troubled people in the first place, remembering the sting of rejection from his earlier experience with them, but he nevertheless gave it his best. And he did a splendid job. A man eighty years old, walking the wilderness with a bunch of ungrateful people who were ready to dump him at a moment’s notice. Yet he choked back his own feelings of hurt and rejection, prayed for God’s people, and patiently found solutions to all their problems.

Every problem was settled quickly and efficiently, in a way that should have vindicated Moses a hundred times over in their sight. The bitter water was sweetened, the Red Sea parted, manna was provided, quail in abundance... the list goes on and on. Yet there was never an apology made; nobody ever walked up and said sheepishly, "I guess you and God really did have it all together and we were out of line—I’m sorry, buddy, you got my vote from now on." No, they just ate their manna still grumbling and muttering, "well, you got out of it this time, but there better be manna out there tomorrow just like you said, or you’re gonna hear about it."

The truth is, Moses was one of the most noble and gracious men in history. He is today recognized as one of the great heroes, not just of religious literature, but of mankind as a whole. The people that followed him, on the other hand, have become infamous, proverbial, for their ungratefulness and bad character as a whole. What always amazes me when I hear people murmur and grumble today—or when they murmur against me and our church—is why they don’t see they’re on the bad guys’ side. They’re taking the place of the murmurers in the wilderness, and the people who shouted "crucify Him" to Pontius Pilate. The leader, in most instances, is suffering at their hands for righteousness’ sake, and for being leader enough to perhaps make an unpopular decision—like Moses, a hero. But the murmurers are blindly following the path of pettiness and destruction that murmurers have always followed. Don’t get on it with them.


Day 69: Murmuring is Ultimately Against God Himself

For the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.

Exodus 16:8b

There is a powerful, universal truth in the above verse, so profound that it goes down as one of the great texts of the Bible, so insightful that it bears witness of the divine authorship of this book, for no man alone could have come up with a statement so loaded and true.

Grumbling—or murmuring, as the King James Version puts it—is ultimately and always against God, not against the person or thing that is the immediate target. There are a few real good reasons for this conclusion.

In the first place, as Moses put it, "What are we?" He and Aaron were nobody to grumble against. They were in the same boat as the rest of Israel. If the Israelites’ children starved to death in the Sinai desert, so did Moses’ and Aaron’s children. They weren’t making their own decisions; they were simply following the cloud of God’s glory, and speaking those things that God told them to say. They were following orders. The same could be said about church leaders today. Who are they? They’re just calling things as they see them according to the Scripture, and trying to dispense the word of God and the policies of God in as gracious and inoffensive way as possible. They aren’t perfect and they make mistakes sometimes, but by and large they’re in the same boat as everyone else, or even worse: their salary is the first to get cut, their job is the one on the line, if things don’t go right. The same could be said of presidents and other political leaders. They’re in the same boat as the rest; it’s really not their fault if there’s no food in the desert—or if the country is divided by racism and abortion—they’re just searching for answers like everyone else.

Secondly, these people murmured about everything and everybody. I’m sure they murmured against their old slave-drivers back in Egypt, too. If there was a lenient one, they took advantage of him until he had to crack down to get his own job done, and then they murmured even more than they would have against a tougher driver. They murmured against each other: husbands murmured against their wives, and wives against their husbands; both murmured against their in-laws, the neighbors; against Pharaoh and the Egyptians as a whole. Who were Moses and Aaron? Not particularly evil men, just the latest victims of a people who murmured about everything and everybody.

People who murmur about everything and everybody are not just in a bad habit pattern, they’re mad at life in general. They’re unhappy deep inside and just looking for reasons to express their unhappiness. In the case of a believer, he or she is mad at God, for He is ultimately behind everything, and He could have made them a better life if He had chosen to do so. That’s a wrong view of things, but deep down that’s exactly the way they feel: rejected, unblessed, victimized by life, abandoned—and mad. Life for them is not happy, and that’s God’s fault. So Moses hit it on the head when he said, "Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord."


Day 70: More on Murmuring

For the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.

Exodus 16:8b

We saw yesterday that murmuring is a disease carried by the person or people who do it. It is not the fault of whoever is being murmured against or grumbled about at the moment; they are merely the most recent victims of something that was going on long before they entered the murmurer’s life, and something that is going on in other areas of the murmurer’s life, too, with other victims. Murmuring is actually, as Moses pointed out by the anointing of the Spirit, against life in general and against God in particular.

They’re mad at God and life because He seems to have dealt them a bad hand to play with. They feel as though the deck is loaded against them, and it’s not a fair game. Other people get the breaks, the advancements, the blessings. They seem to be magnets that attract bad things. And often this really is the case. Because of their negative, grumbling attitudes they don’t get promoted at work, even though they may take their job very seriously and work harder than others. The boss is looking first of all for loyalty and a grumbler is not perceived as a loyal person. The same thing plagues their social life: their murmuring makes them unpleasant company, so after awhile people tend to avoid them, except fellow murmurers who thrive on the same things. So they hang around with other negative people. Their health suffers, too—everyone knows by now the link between mind and body. Their children have problems in school, and in their own social lives. And finances are usually tight, too, because all of these things cost in one way or another.

Spiritually, murmuring is following in the footsteps of the original murmurer, the devil who grumbled to Eve, "Indeed, has God said..." So if you engage in murmuring and grumbling, you’re also opening doors to the evil one and his hosts, and they know how to bring more trouble across your path, even to the point of bringing you into cruel emotional bondage from which you can’t seem to break free.

Murmurers pass their ugly lifestyle along to their children, bequeathing to them the same hard, unfair life that they themselves live. Get enough murmurers together and they can destroy a church or a company—or even a nation: Israel destroyed their own hopes of entering into the promised land by their continual murmuring. They not only created a dry wilderness existence for themselves, but forced others into it with them, including poor old Moses.

Nevertheless there is hope; there is an answer. Jesus came to set people free from the power and the wages of every sin, and though murmuring is a tough one, it’s not tougher than the Gospel. Next week we start a five part series of messages on getting free from murmuring, grumbling, gossiping, and evil-speaking. Make sure you join us.


The Gospel According to Moses, Week I

The Gospel According to Moses, Week II

The Gospel According to Moses, Week III

The Gospel According to Moses, Week IV

The Gospel According to Moses, Week V

The Gospel According to Moses, Week VI

The Gospel According to Moses, Week VII

The Gospel According to Moses, Week VIII

The Gospel According to Moses, Week IX



All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.

Copyright © 2005  Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

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