Title: “The Word”
Text: Exodus 15:22-27
Preacher: Stan McMahan
Date: February 24, 2019
There is not audio available for Sunday’s sermon. A summary of the sermon has been provided below:
The book of Exodus is about what it’s like to live in covenant relationship with God. The story shows us that knowing God involves being rescued from slavery and for relationship with God in the promised land. In this passage, the Israelites move on from the Red Sea and have their faith tested (vv. 22-25). Not to make them His people—or so that they can earn their way in. They’ve already been rescued and have been promised God’s presence forever! He’s testing them to show, grow, and purify their faith.
Why do we need to be tested?
After three days without water, the people were devastated when they discovered that the water at Marah was bitter. It took only three days without water for the Israelites to forget God’s miraculous deliverance! We forget God, too. God’s Word is quickly drowned out in our lives by the word of the world, our flesh, and the devil. God, in His wisdom, brings tests and trials into our lives to teach us trust and dependence, and to form us more into the image of Jesus. Everyone who follows Jesus has to have their faith tested: 1 Peter 1:3-4, 6-7: “He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. . . though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith . . . may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." This is the way He worked in His people in Exodus, and it’s the same God who is at work in us today, teaching us how to trust and obey Him through all the different circumstances of our lives.
What gift does God give to help our faith?
The Israelites grumbling is overruled by God’s “ruling and instruction”: God commands Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water so that it would become fit to drink—and amazingly, it did!
God gives us His Word - His ruling and instruction. Moses put the wood into the water at God’s command, turning the bitter water to sweet refreshment. “If you listen carefully to my Word, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians” - the heart of the test is learning obedience to God’s Word. God gives us His Word to lead us along the way of life and blessing. Following our own broken hearts and doing what is right in our own eyes leads to confusion and destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Our hearts lead us, like the Israelites, to misunderstanding God and what is truly for our good. God’s testing helps us delight in God’s Word—training our hearts to love what’s right.
God’s Word promises us ultimate fruitfulness, not temporary comfort or happiness. Even in the desert (in the middle of the test) God is working to provide for us in all the ways we need Him to. In His presence, whether that be in the desert or by the stream, is fullness of joy (Psalm 16). He makes us trees planted by streams of water (Psalm 1). He leads us by still waters (Psalm 23). Jesus entered into the bitterness of the world and was given a “piece of wood,” too—and through the foolishness of the cross He brought salvation for His people!
How does God heal and refresh us—even in difficulty?
God refreshes us by leading us in the paths of obedience by His Word (vv. 26b-27). God gives the Israelites sweet water, His instruction, and then leads them to Elim where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees. Can you imagine what that camp would’ve been like after three days of walking with no water? We have known seasons in our lives where we've felt like giving up. But when we walk in God’s way, we shouldn’t doubt that His healing and refreshment will be provided for us. We need God’s Word to dwell in us richly in order to know refreshment like this.
God summarizes the lesson: if you listen to my word carefully (even when you don’t fully understand it), I will lead you into blessing and refreshment (v. 26). The people camping near Elim is a physical picture of that refreshment (v. 27). Obedience, then, is very important—not in order to be rescued but because they were rescued already by the LORD who heals. In other words, we see that for God’s rescued people, listening carefully to God’s Word is the way to the truly good life.