Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
When the children of Israel came into a region where there was no water, they quarreled with Moses and tempted God (17:1-2; Num. 20:2-3). They had seen God’s miraculous acts, but they did not know God’s ways (Psa. 103:7).
Suppose that you had been among the children of Israel at that time. You would have seen God’s miraculous power exercised in sending the plagues on the Egyptians. Furthermore, you would have experienced the Passover and a marvelous exodus from Egypt. Then you would have passed through the Red Sea as if you were walking on dry land. Following that, you would have tasted water which had been changed from bitter into sweet, and you would have enjoyed the twelve springs and the seventy palms at Elim. Just recently, you would have begun to partake of the heavenly manna miraculously provided by God. Now by following the leading of the pillar, you come to a place in the wilderness where there is no water. If this were your situation, what would you do? Would you complain and contend with Moses? When we come into such circumstances, we may think that we would thank the Lord. However, if we could actually do this, we would be the most spiritual of saints. If we were in such a situation, we would surely complain to the Lord. We would probably forget everything, including prayer, and complain about our situation. Like the children of Israel, we might say to the leading ones, “Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” (17:3). I do not believe that any of us would praise the Lord or offer thanks to Him. Instead, we would blame the leading ones and find fault with them.
In 17:2 we are told that “the people quarreled with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink.” While the children of Israel were quarreling with Moses and tempting the Lord, in their midst was the pillar, standing between earth and heaven. But in the very presence of this pillar, the people complained to Moses. Reacting to the people, Moses said, “Why quarrel with me? wherefore do ye tempt Jehovah?” (v. 2, Heb.). The people seemed to forget that the pillar was with them.
We may consider ourselves superior to the children of Israel and think that in such a situation we would never quarrel, complain, or tempt the Lord. We need to realize that for the children of Israel the pillar was outside of them. But for us today, the pillar is within us. Often when we complain about why we have come into a certain environment or circumstance, we have the sense deep within that the Lord who indwells us has brought us into this situation. Many of us can testify that a number of times when we have been complaining, we have sensed the Lord’s presence within us. Sometimes we have had this kind of experience when we were complaining about the elders of the church or accusing them regarding something they had done. While we were criticizing the elders, we became conscious of the pillar within. Therefore, we should not think that 17:1-6 describes only the children of Israel. This portion of the Word is also a picture of us today.
If the children of Israel had known the ways of God, they would not have quarreled with Moses or tested the Lord. Rather, they would have realized that their deliverance from Egypt was not initiated or carried out by them. It was wholly God’s doing, carried out on His initiative. God sent Moses to the people to tell them that He would do everything necessary to bring them out of Egypt and into the wilderness where they would serve the Lord. The people would then have remembered that in Egypt they had seen God’s mighty acts. This should have given them the assurance that God would meet all their needs. They would also have understood that they were not in the present situation by their own choice, but by the Lord’s leading. The Lord led them there, and He was present with them, as indicated by the pillar which stood between heaven and earth. Hence, there was no need to worry about the supply of water. God certainly would not allow them to die of thirst. He would provide the water they needed. Therefore, they could be at peace.
If the children of Israel had been that spiritual, they would not only have offered thanks to the Lord; they would have praised Him with singing and dancing. They could have declared with confidence, “Our God has brought us here. He has His plan, and He will provide us with whatever we need for our living.” Although this should have been the attitude of God’s people, their actual attitude was altogether different. It seems as if they forgot everything God had done for them. Moreover, they even ignored the Lord’s presence in the pillar. They quarreled with Moses and questioned whether or not the Lord was among them.
Lest we be tempted to laugh at the children of Israel or criticize them, we need to realize that our situation today is the same. In 17:1-6 we have a photograph of ourselves. In doctrine and in teaching we may be clear and knowledgeable. But when we are in the actual situation, we forget everything we know. It may even seem to us that there is no God, for we may question whether God is among us or not. At such a time, we may fail to realize that the Lord is within us.
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