Morning Bible Study
Over the next four weeks, Caleb and I will be looking at four different
times in the life of God’s people when they faced transition.
Our church is in the middle of several transitions this year, and that’s
one of the things that’s driving our series.
At the end of the year, Caleb will become the new Sr. Pastor, and I will be
one of his assistants.
Yet the subject of “transitions” goes way beyond what’s happening at
Life is filled with “Transitions”.
Some are wonderful – like getting married, birth of a child
Some are hard – like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, failing
Some are carefully planned – like buying a new house
Some are unexpected – like an automobile accident
Another word for “transition” is “change”.
I really don’t like change.
The older I get the more I like to know what to expect.
I have about five favorite restaurants, and at each one there’s one particular thing I’ll order from that restaurant. I know what to expect.
The problem with the “same”, is that life doesn’t stay the same.
Life is like riding a roller coaster – there’s all kinds of ups and downs,
and sometimes you don’t know what to expect around the next corner.
It can be terrifying or exhilarating.
Video: Disneyland Big Thunder
In life, whether you like it or not, you are on that roller coaster of
The question is, how will you ride it?
The time of “transition” I’m going to examine today was what took place in
the wilderness for the nation of Israel.
Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness covered that transition from being
enslaved in Egypt, to entering the Promised Land.
For Israel, this transition came because they were praying for it.
NKJV) —23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died.
Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out;
and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24 So God heard
their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and
In answer to their prayer, God raised up Moses to deliver the nation from
The deliverance started with the ten plagues, and
came to a completion with God parting the Red Sea so Israel could leave Egypt.
Yet as powerful as it was to get out of Egypt, that wasn’t God’s end game.
God wanted to get the people to the Promised Land, and that required going
through the wilderness… a time of transition.
The many stories of this wilderness time are lessons for us as we are in
the process of moving forward in life.
Corinthians 10:6 NLT) These things happened as a warning
to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did,
We’ll look at three vignettes during this wilderness time…
NKJV) —8 Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight
with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God
in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And so it
was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down
his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became
heavy; so they took a stone and put it under
him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported
his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were
steady until the going down of the sun. 13 So Joshua
defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
When we are in transition, we will find ourselves facing plenty of battles.
Sometimes we look at the Amalekites as an illustration for the flesh, and
indeed some of our greatest battles in times of change are the battles of our
Exo. 17:11 when Moses held up his hand
Prayer wins the battle
Moses raised his hands because he was crying out to God in prayer.
I sometimes wonder how Moses came to the conclusion
that he needed to keep his hands up for the battle to be won.
Did he raise his hands for a minute, then let them down,
then raise them up … and watching the battle line go forward and back?
However it happened, Moses and his little group on
the hilltop realized that Moses needed to keep crying out to God in order for
Joshua to win the battle.
When Paul was telling the Ephesians about the spiritual armor we must learn
to wear, he wrote,
6:17–18 NKJV) —17 And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying
always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this
end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
Prayer is vital to spiritual warfare.
The prophet Daniel wrote about wrestling in prayer over a
difficult situation, when an angel showed up (Dan. 10:12-14).
10:12–14 NKJV) —12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear,
Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to
humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because
of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of
Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief
princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of
Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your
people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet
The angel explained that he had been in a great spiritual
battle, and he had come as a result of Daniel’s prayer – it had taken him 21
days to get there.
If you are going through a difficult time of transition – you need
prayer. You need to pray. You need others to pray.
Prayer wins the battle.
Exo. 17:12 Aaron and Hur supported his hands
We need each other
In the battlefield, Joshua learned that he needed Moses praying in order to
Moses was learning that he too needed help.
Moses needed Aaron and Hur to steady him and lift up his hands.
When you are going through a difficult transition, understand that God
doesn’t want you to go through it alone.
There is strength in numbers.
Paul said that we are all members of the body of Christ, and that we need
Corinthians 12:26 NKJV) And if one member suffers, all the
members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members
rejoice with it.
The next vignette…
As Israel moved through the wilderness they
received God’s Laws, they got organized, and they built a portable worship
center called the Tabernacle.
And then they moved right up to the border of the Promised Land.
At God’s direction, Moses sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan to
check it out.
NKJV) —23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol,
and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between
two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates
and figs. 24 The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut
down there. 25 And they returned from spying out
the land after forty days. 26 Now they departed and came back to
Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the
Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back
word to them and to all the congregation, and showed
them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him,
and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with
milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless
the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are
fortified and very large; moreover we saw the
descendants of Anak there. 29 The
Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the
Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along
the banks of the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before
Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well
able to overcome it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him
said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are
stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel
a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through
which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and
all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak
came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so
we were in their sight.”
14:1 So all the congregation lifted up their
voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the
children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole
congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if
only we had died in this wilderness!
Num. 13:30 Let us go up at once and take possession
Times of transition are scary at times.
There’s nothing we’d rather do than to get back to where life was safe.
Yet most of that time we don’t have that luxury.
For Israel, they often talked about going back to Egypt.
The problem is, you really can’t go back.
Time marches on and stops for no one.
The movie “The Great Escape” (1963) is the true story of allied POWs and
their attempts to escape a German prisoner of war camp.
Did you get that last little bit? It was his 17th tunnel.
You’ll never get out of that prison camp if you quit
The Israelites heard two accounts – one about how wonderful the Promised
Land was, and the other about how hard it would be ahead.
Both accounts were accurate – the question was which one would inbluence their choices?
The people chose to follow the latter account and refused to move forward.
Instead of moving into the Promised Land, they will be delayed 40 years.
Num. 14:2 the children of Israel complained
There are actually three different Hebrews words
that are translated “complain” in the books Exodus-Deuteronomy.
11:1 NKJV) Now when the people complained, it
displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was
aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the
outskirts of the camp.
complained – ‘anan – (Hithpael)
1x in the wilderness
1:26–27 NKJV) —26 “Nevertheless you would not go up,
but rebelled against the command of the Lord
your God; 27 and you complained in your tents,
and said, ‘Because the Lord hates
us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of
the Amorites, to destroy us.
complained – ragan – to murmur, whisper; complain, grumble
The Hebrew word used here and 12 other times in the wilderness is:
complained – luwn
/ לון – to grumble, complain, murmur
13/14x in the wilderness
The wilderness use is all in six chapters: Ex. 15, 16, 17;
Num. 14, 16, 17
It’s always accompanied with the preposition “against”.
The most common target of their complaints is Moses.
For those of you in leadership, you will hear the same kinds of grumbling
Sometimes it seems justified – sometimes leaders are super
Video: Captain Underpants – Super
I’m not trying to justify being super-dumb, but sometimes
God chooses to use those of us who might be “super-dumb”.
(1 Corinthians 1:27 NKJV) But God has chosen the foolish
things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak
things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
Even though their complaints were initially aimed at Moses and Aaron (Num.
14:2), the root of the problem the people had was with God.
14:26–27 NKJV) —26 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall
I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have
heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.
Sometimes we identify a person or a leader as the chief change agent in our
It might be a doctor who is treating your illness.
That stupid boss who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
That a family member who isn’t acting responsibly.
The bigger issue is this – do you trust God to work, even
if there’s a dumb person involved?
2:14–15 NKJV) —14 Do all things without complaining
and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and
harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of
a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
My complaints during these times of transition affects my
testimony to the world that is watching.
The last vignette…
NKJV) —4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the
Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people
became very discouraged on the way. 5 And the
people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of
Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and
our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the
people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore
the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against
the Lord and against you; pray to
the Lord that He take away the
serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent,
and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he
looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and
put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked
at the bronze serpent, he lived.
Num. 21:9 he looked at the bronze serpent
We might criticize the Israelites for their constant complaining, but they
were complaining about things we would consider legitimate things to complain
about – like food and water.
Isn’t that reasonable to complain about food and water?
Yet is it reasonable to complain when God has consistently provided exactly
what they’ve needed?
God sends the “fiery snakes” as a way of teaching a lesson.
Moses fashions a bronze serpent and puts it on a pole.
If you wanted to be healed from the fiery snake, you had to be sure to look
up at the snake.
Jesus explained it as a matter of faith.
Faith is the opposite of complaint.
If I truly trust God, I’m not going to complain.
(John 3:14–15 NKJV)
—14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever
believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Ultimately, the way through the transitions of life is by trusting in God,
trusting in Jesus.
Some of us find it hard to trust anyone because we’ve been let down so many
And yet as hard as it is to trust, this is exactly what we need if we’re
going to move forward in life.
King Solomon wrote:
NKJV) —5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not
on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall
direct your paths.
As any recovering addict will tell you, one of the earliest steps they
learned to take in their recovery was step 3, surrender:
We make a decision
to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
When an addict chooses to not surrender to God, they will find the same
thing that Luke Skywalker found when he watched Yoda lift his X-wing out of the
Video: Star Wars – Don’t
Believe It, that is why you fail
Though some recovery programs are pretty vague as
to what that looks like to trust God, the Bible is quite clear.
You need to put your life in Jesus’ hands.
Jesus went on to say in John 3,
(John 3:16 NKJV) For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not
perish but have everlasting life.
It starts with that first step of faith.
God loved you so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross and pay for
your sins –to survive and find eternal life, you need to look up at Jesus and
Other Wilderness Stories
Exodus 15:22-27 – Marah – bitter waters made sweet
Exodus 16 – Manna in the wilderness
Exodus 17:1-7 – Massah/Meribah – Water from the Rock – strike it
Exodus 18 – Jethro – share the load – elders
Exodus 32 – Golden Calf – stay on track with Jesus
Exodus 40:34-38; Numbers 9:15-23 – Led by the pillar of cloud
Numbers 11:1-15 – Complaining about food, remembering Egypt
Numbers 16-17 – Korah – questioning leadership, fruitful proof
Numbers 20:1-13 – Moses’ sin at Kadesh/Meribah – speak to the Rock
(Psalm 81:7 NKJV) You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered
you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
(Psalm 95:8 NKJV) “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in
the day of trial in the wilderness,
Numbers 21:16-18 – Spring up O well
The wilderness is a desert – there is very little water.
There will be times of great thirst.
Three instances –
Massah – strike the rock
Meribah – should have spoken to the Rock
Beer – sing to the Rock
Numbers 25 – Baal Peor – idolatry