Beginning of the End


Israel Meets With Difficulties

This chapter is based on Exodus 15:22-27; 16 to 18.

From the Red Sea the people of Israel again set out on their journey under the guidance of the pillar of cloud. They were full of joy in their new sense of freedom, and every unhappy, complaining thought was hushed. BOE 140.1

But as they journeyed for three days, they could find no water. The supply which they had taken with them was gone. There was nothing to quench their burning thirst as they dragged wearily over the sun-burnt plains. Moses, who was familiar with this region, knew what the others did not: at Marah, where springs were found, the water was unfit for use. With a sinking heart he heard the glad shout, “Water! water!” echo along the line. Men, women, and children joyfully hurried and crowded around the oasis, when suddenly a cry of anguish erupted—the water was bitter! BOE 140.2

In their despair the people blamed Moses, not remembering that God’s presence in that mysterious cloud had been leading him as well as them. Moses did what they had forgotten to do; he called earnestly to God for help. “And the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” Here God gave the promise to Israel: “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.” BOE 140.3

The people journeyed from Marah to Elim, where they found “twelve wells of water,” and they stayed there for several days. BOE 140.4

When they had been gone from Egypt for a month, their stock of food began to run out. How could such a large number of people be fed? Even the rulers and elders joined in complaining against the leaders God had appointed: “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” BOE 140.5

They had not yet actually gone hungry, but they feared for the future. In imagination they saw their children starving. The Lord permitted difficulties to surround them and their supply of food to be cut short, so that their hearts might turn to Him who had been their Deliverer. If they would call on Him in their need, He would still give them evidence of His love and care. It was sinful unbelief on their part to think that they or their children might die of hunger. BOE 140.6

They needed to encounter difficulties and endure hardships. God was bringing them from corruption and shame to have an honorable place among the nations and to receive sacred trusts. If they had had faith in Him, remembering all that He had done for them, they would have cheerfully accepted inconvenience, lack of food, and even real suffering. But they forgot the goodness and power of God in delivering them from slavery. They forgot how their children had been spared when the destroying angel killed all the firstborn of Egypt. They forgot the grand display of divine power at the Red Sea. They forgot that their enemies, in trying to follow them, had been overwhelmed by the waters of the sea. BOE 141.1

Instead of saying, “God has done great things for us—we were slaves, but He is making us into a great nation,” they talked of how hard the journey was and wondered when their weary journey would end. BOE 141.2

God wants His people in these days to review the trials through which ancient Israel passed, in order to learn how to prepare for the heavenly Canaan. Many look back to the Israelites and are amazed at their unbelief. They feel that they themselves would not have been so ungrateful. But when their faith is tested even by little trials, they reveal no more faith or patience than ancient Israel did. They complain about the way in which God has chosen to purify them. Though their present needs are supplied, many constantly fear that poverty will come on them, and their children will be left to suffer. Obstacles, instead of leading them to seek help from God, separate them from Him because they bring out unrest and discontent. BOE 141.3

Why should we be ungrateful and distrusting? Jesus is our friend. All heaven is interested in our welfare. Anxiety and fear grieve the Holy Spirit of God—it is not God’s will for His people to be weighed down with care. BOE 141.4

Our Lord does not tell us there are no dangers in our path, but He points us to a never-failing place of safety. He invites the weary and care-burdened, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Take off the yoke of anxiety and care that you have placed on your own neck, and “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29). Instead of grumbling and complaining, the language of our hearts should be, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). BOE 141.5

God knew all about Israel’s needs. He said to their leader, “I will rain bread from heaven for you.” God directed that the people gather a daily supply, with a double amount on the sixth day, to maintain the sacred observance of the Sabbath. BOE 141.6

Moses assured the congregation that their needs would be supplied, that the Lord would give them “meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full.” And he added, “What are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” They must learn that the Most High, not merely Moses, was their leader. BOE 142.1

At nightfall the camp was surrounded by massive flocks of quails, enough to supply the entire company. In the morning there lay upon the ground “a small round substance, ... like white coriander seed.” The people called it “Manna.” Moses said, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.” The people found that there was an abundant supply for all. They “ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it.” “And the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Numbers 11:8; Exodus 16:31). BOE 142.2

They were directed to gather an omer? each day for every person and not to leave any of it until the morning. The amount for the day must be gathered in the morning, because all of it that remained on the ground was melted by the sun. “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” BOE 142.3