Introduction: We ended last week asking God to help us not to miss the spiritual import of His blessings in our lives. After all, what good would it do us to fill our bellies with manna, water from the rock and quail, at the expense of feeding our souls? This is what happened to Israel: they did not wait on the Lord as they greedily lusted after full bellies (Psalm 106:13-15). The result was that they starved their souls of spiritual food even while filling their mouths with manna. Like the Jews of Jesus day, they wanted perishable bread to feed their bellies (John 6:26) but refused to do the work of trusting God for bread that would last forever (John 6:27). Therefore, in this week’s notes we will pause to make sure we appreciate the spiritual lessons which the manna and the other ‘sign gifts’ which God gave Moses were meant to convey. Why rush ahead? Let’s make sure we understand the spiritual lessons which God sent Moses before moving on.
Mon/Tues: read Exodus 16:33-36; 37:1-9 and Hebrews 9:1-4. There is something awesome anticipated at the end of Exodus 16. To underline the importance of the manna as a symbol of God’s generous daily provision for His people, the command is giving to set an omer of the manna in a jar which will be set “before the Lord”; next to the ark which symbolized God’s footstool and throne. Wherever the ark travelled with Israel in the desert, there above it was the glory of God enthroned. Manna obviously takes on a great importance for it to be placed in perpetuity “before” the glory of the Lord in the ark. But we know that the ark was not built until Exodus 37. Neither was Aaron a priest in Exodus 16:33-34 when he was told to take the manna and place it before the “ark of the testimony”! Why then such an urgency to place this command about the manna’s being preserved before either the ark or the priesthood is in place?
The answer must be that when that current generation of Israelites died in the desert, the experience of the manna would die along with them. Lest the manna and its spiritual significance be forgotten, Moses and Aaron were told to place a portion of manna with the ark, where it would be miraculously preserved. Think of that – the very same manna which could rot after one night… preserved with the ark for hundreds of years until the fall of the temple of Solomon in 587 B.C.!
Meditate: Just as the prodigal found comfort knowing there was ‘bread and to spare’ in His father’s house, (Lk. 15:17-18), and the knowledge of that enabled him to walk all the way home on an empty stomach, so with the manna of the Lord firmly and miraculously stored up for us in the Heavenly ark (Rev. 11:19), we can find strength for our pilgrimage to Heaven even though we hunger and thirst down here! The bread of Heaven will truly erase all memory of hunger on our parts.
Prayer of Reflection: O God who gives us our daily bread, thank you that even the most domestic of your provisions in our lives… even your quiet and unobtrusive provision of bread on our tables… is worth perpetual remembrance for your glory. Once again we ask: give us eyes of faith to see you even in the most mundane and discouraging of times. Thank you that you are the God of “small things”, not only of stupendous miracles. Amen. Sing about this in hymn # 615:
Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Here see the Bread of Life, see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.
Wednesday: read Exodus 16:33-17:5 and Hebrews 9:1-4. We discover from Hebrews 9:4 that manna was not the only holy relic preserved before God’s ark. The “rod of Aaron” which budded and blossomed in Numbers 17:8-10, was also kept in the Holy of Holies as a reminder of God’s authority which He bestowed on Aaron and Moses. This staff properly belonged to Moses who wielded God’s power to do signs with it, even though at times it was at Moses’ command used by Aaron. This was the same rod with which Moses shepherded sheep for forty years in Midian (Exodus 4:2,17), and it was the rod with which he struck the Nile river and turned it to blood according to Exodus 17:5. But for today’s notes, the first lesson which we should learn about this rod, which made it so important for God’s people that it was stored alongside the manna in God’s House, is that the rod symbolizes the presence of Divine authority.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that He never failed to impart His Spirit upon the leaders of His people. He ensured that there was always the Spirit of wisdom to guide and direct them! The authority behind the rod of Moses was passed to Aaron and then to Joshua. Ask the Lord to raise up leaders who love His kingdom and His people in this way, using hymn # 353 in our Red Trinity hymnals:
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.
I love Thy church, O God.
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And written on Thy hand.
If e’er to bless Thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These hands let useful skills forsake,
This voice in silence die.
For her my tears shall fall
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.
Thursday: read Exodus 4:1-5; 4:17; 4:30-31 and 7:10-12, 19-20. Thinking about the “rod of Moses” as it reappears in Exodus 17 prompts us in today’s and tomorrow’s notes to review what we know about it from other Scriptures. It was no accident that God chose Moses’ rod as a sign of His power to overcome the evil power of Egypt. Just as God had used Moses’ rod to preserve him in the desert for forty years, enabling him to use it to protect sheep, so now God would use it even more mightily: not only to kindle faith and hope when Israel saw the signs it performed, (Ex. 4:30-31); not only as a “serpent” which would swallow the rods of the Egyptian magicians, (Ex. 7:12), but even as a rod by which the judgment of God would strike the source of life in Egypt, the Nile river, (Ex. 7:19)! How much do we, like Moses and Aaron, need to learn of God’s power! May He in our day smite all the ungodly powers in our lives which hold us in bondage! May we believe that, on every hand, our Lord Jesus stands ready to rebuke “with His rod” everything which would set itself up against God and His people!
Meditate and Pray: Thank the Lord Jesus that He also, like Moses, carries a “rod” by which to exercise His power against all evil in our day. John the Apostle saw that rod and called it, “Christ’s iron scepter, with which He would rule the nations,” (Rev. 2:26-27). On the other hand, how glorious for us, His saints, that He can also gently rule us with that rod, just as Moses the shepherd took care of Jethro’s sheep. What a wonderful Savior we have, with lion-like courage and yet lamb-like gentleness!
Friday: read Exodus 4:1-5; Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:13-15. It was no accident that God chose the symbol of a serpent to teach Moses His authority over the most-feared evils which the serpent symbolized. Some of the ancient Doctors of Scripture used to say that Moses was permitted to grasp the serpent by the tail, (Ex. 4:4), but not the head, since “crushing the serpent’s head,” (Gen. 3:15), would only be accomplished by Christ Himself. But what comes to mind first are the fiery serpents which God sent as a curse on all Israel in Num. 21:4-9, to chastise them for their grumbling and rebellion. Those fiery serpents were symbolic of God’s curse against the sins of His own people! But God also used the serpent as a symbol of the curse extinguished. He directed Moses to make a bronze serpent to be lifted up in view of the whole Israelite camp, (Num. 21:8-9), so that “when anyone bitten by a snake looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Jesus views Himself as fulfilling that Old Testament picture. Anyone who looks in faith to Christ crucified has eternal life. Death as the curse of sin is extinguished because Christ Himself became the curse for us!
Meditate and Pray: Lord, you know the various trials and fears which hinder and prevent your church from going bravely forward to become all that you have purposed her to be. We confess that, like Moses, our weak doubts, and strong foes, can easily beset us. Please remind us that our Shepherd-Savior Jesus bears the rod not merely as a gentle shepherd, but also as a conquering King. Open our eyes to see how Jesus indeed goes before us, “to prepare a table for us, even in the presence of our enemies.” Give us courage, then, like you did Moses, to go forth in your name to smite with the rod of your power, all which would oppose our spiritual progress. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Sing about our determined Shepherd-Leader and the power of His rod, which we too can use by faith, with the words of Hymn # 574 in our Red Trinity Hymnals:
Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground,
How the powers of darkness rage thy steps around?
Christian, up and smite them, counting gain but loss,
In the strength that cometh by the holy cross.
Christian, dost thou feel them, how they work within,
Striving, tempting, luring, goading into sin?
Christian, never tremble; never be downcast;
Gird thee for the battle, watch and pray and fast.
Christian, dost thou hear them, how they speak thee fair?
“Always fast and vigil? Always watch and prayer?”
Christian, answer boldly: “While I breathe I pray!”
Peace shall follow battle, night shall end in day.
“Well I know thy trouble, O my servant true;
Thou art very weary, I was weary, too;
But that toil shall make thee some day all Mine own,
At the end of sorrow shall be near my throne.”