The Journeys of the Children of Israel

Exodus chapters 13-17

The Principle – God was in control of their lives.

The first reference to journeying is found in Exodus 13.20-22:  “And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.  And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”

Note there was

  • Direction in His leading – The Cloud to lead them the way (verse 21)
  •  Illumination in His light – The Pillar of fire to give them light (verse 21)
  • Communication through His word – Chapter 17.1, where “command” simply means “mouth” or “word.”

How much are we consciously being led by and given light from the Lord, and receiving communication through His word?

Paul says in Galatians 5.18: “If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”  And, in verse 25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  That word “walk” means to walk in an orderly way, or to have our steps guided.  In the journeys of the children of Israel, God determined when they went, where they went, how they went, and for how long they went.  Read Numbers 9.17-23 to see how God regulated their movements.

17.  And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.

18.  At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.

19.  And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not.

20.  And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed.

21.  And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.

22.  Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.

23.  At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.

Notice that the tabernacle was the focus of their camp, and everything they did was ordered around it.  It is called the “tent of the testimony” in Numbers 9.15 and was an ever-conscious part of their daily living.  How much is my life governed by the local assembly of God’s people where His testimony rests today?

The Places they visited – God Himself brought them to these places.

Not all of the places are mentioned in the book of Exodus, but a full catalogue is given in Numbers 33.  These places are typical of experiences into which God may bring us in the course of our lives.  Deuteronomy 8 reveals the reason they found themselves in adverse situations:

2.  And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

3.  And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

4.  Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

5.  Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.

Marah, for example, reminds us that God is able to make bitter experiences sweet (Exodus 15.23-26).  “… the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.”  Is there a bitter experience presently burdening us?  Perhaps because of the loss of loved ones, maybe difficult health situations, or personal problems causing trouble in our experience?  Look to the tree and bring the Man of Calvary into your experience, and you’ll find a sweetness that leaves no bitter taste.

Elim was where they found twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees (Exodus 15.27).  It speaks of the blessedness of fellowship that strengthened them in God.  Elim means “strong ones, and there they experienced the shade of the palms and the satisfaction of the refreshing waters in fellowship with God.  Those who absent themselves from the gatherings, deny themselves that refreshment and rest which renews the strength of those that collectively wait upon the Lord.

In Exodus chapter 17.1 they have been at the Wilderness of Sin (Bush), and there God’s fulness of provision is seen in the manna, when God rained for them bread from heaven.

The manna on the wilderness is a lovely picture of the fulness of Divine provision in the Person of the Lord Jesus.  Note those features of the manna which are emphasised in Exodus chapter 16.

Its source – from heaven (verse 4)

Sufficiency – bread to the full (verse 8)

smallness – small as the hoar frost on the ground (verse 14)

shape: round –the eternal character of Christ (verse 14)

suitability – an omer for every man (verse 16)

stench – when they left of it until the morning and it bred worms and stank (verse 20) – a lesson on the importance of freshness

stainless character – white (verse 31)

sweetness – taste of it was like wafers made with honey (verse 31)

The Lord Jesus is the answer to the manna, as He is the living bread that came down from heaven.  Are we gathering our portion every day and feeding our souls on Christ?

Rephidim means “plains” or “reclining places.”  It represents the leisureliness of the people.

This could be representative of a good relationship with God, as in Psalm 25.13: “His soul shall dwell at ease,” that is the man that fears the Lord. However, it can also suggest the complacency of the people and lead to complaining, as in Exodus chapter 17.2.  Note that there was a cause: 

There was no water there (verse 2) and

The people thirsted there (verse 3).

Psalm 107.5 says: “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” “Fainted” here means “showed itself feeble.”  It would seem this was God’s way of teaching them about the feebleness of self!  Have we learned that lesson in the experiences of life?

Do we faint, or are we like the psalmist in Psalm 63?  “My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”

The apparent lack of necessities can never be used as an excuse for carnal behaviour and murmuring against God.

“He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness,” we read in Psalm 107.9

Notice now in Exodus chapter 17

The People’s Contention

      • Demands are made upon Moses by the people – strife and contention is evident (verse 2)
      • A disaster scenario is painted by them (verse 3)
      • A confused attitude towards the Lord results (verse 7): “Is the Lord among us or not?”
      • Moses’ Challenge
      • Why chide ye with me
      • Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord
      • Sometimes we fail to realise the consequences of complaining!
    • Moses’ Cry – He turns to the Lord for help.
    • “What shall I do unto this people?”
    • Such behaviour needs to be challenged, but a solution also requires to be presented.
    • The Lord always has a solution!  The answer is threefold:
      • Leadership – “Go on before” (verse 5)
      • Fellowship – “take with thee of the elders” (verse 5)
      • Stewardship – “thy rod … take in thine hand and go.” God had given him in his hand what he needed.
  • In Verse 6 we have Moses’ course of action
  • The Lord stands before him
  • Moses smites the rock (Note not the people)
  • Water is supplied in abundance
  • “He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.” – Psalm 105.41

“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10.4

It is a picture of God’s provision through the smitten Saviour (Isaiah 53.4). “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

In Micah 5.1, we read: “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.”  And in Zechariah 13.7, we read: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”

The answer to strife and contention among God’s people is to drink deep from the supply that comes from an appreciation of the smitten Man of Calvary!

May we be encouraged to look again to Calvary in the varied struggles of life, knowing that the answer to our need is always found in Christ.

Colossians chapter 4.10-18


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The final section of this letter is not just casual greetings formally presented.

In it we understand who accompanied Paul at Rome and supported him in his first imprisonment.  Some of these servants of God had travelled many weary miles and borne hardships in spreading the gospel with Paul.

Have we gone the extra mile with the word of life, and have we borne any hardships for the Lord Jesus?

Paul’s care for the assemblies is also evident in the mention of Laodicea and Hierapolis along with Colosse.  Evidently he desired the same truth contained in the Colossian letter to be accepted and practised by the other assemblies as well.

It is a reminder to us that what is truth in one assembly is without doubt truth in every assembly!  We cannot pick and choose what to accept and what to refuse.

Colossians chapter 4.10-18


In verses 10-11, three of Paul’s companions in Rome, who are Jewish men, send greetings: Aristarchus, Marcus and Jesus Justus.  There was great antagonism against Paul among the Jews, but here were three men who stood with him, soothing and consoling him, and prepared to be prisoners for Christ.  Aristarchus is with Paul in Acts 19, and is mentioned again in Acts 20 as a man of Thessalonica, and he evidently travelled to Rome with Paul, as Acts 27.2 confirms.  Marcus is identified as the relative of Barnabas, whom Paul and Barnabas disagreed about in Acts 15.37 – 38. However, any questions or doubts Paul may have had regarding Mark are no longer valid, and he confirms Mark has to be received by the Colossians.  Later, in 2 Timothy 4.11, Paul requests Timothy to bring Mark with him as “he is profitable to me for the ministry.”  Mark, of course, is also the disciple who wrote the Servant Gospel, which bears his name.

Do we embrace all the believers in our greetings?

Of the next three men, we can highlight the fervent prayers of Epaphras, the faithful presence of doctor Luke and the faltering position of Demas. The intimacy of Epaphras with the Colossians is seen in that he is one of them.  Then we have underlined for us his dignity as a servant of Christ, and his consistency as a man of prayer, always energetically interceding that they may be consolidated and complete according to God’s will for them.  The constant presence of Luke in ministering to the needs of Paul was undoubtedly a tower of strength to the Apostle and draws out the affectionate term “the beloved physician.”  In 2 Timothy 4, Paul writes “Only Luke is with me.”  Demas is mentioned, but only in sending greetings, and we are left to wonder if Paul already had some sense of the defection that he would later record in 2 Timothy 4.10, where we read: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.”  The third Jew is Jesus Justus, of whom we know nothing else but that he was a co-worker with the others in presenting the claims of God’s kingdom through the gospel.

Three final names are recorded: Nymphas, Archippus and Paul himself. There is some textual uncertainty as to whether we should read “Nympha” – in the feminine – and “the church which is in her house.”  If that be the case, here is a sister noted in scripture who provided accommodation in her home for the assembly at Laodicea to gather together.  As such, she joins others like Priscilla and Aquila (1 Corinthians 16.19) and Philemon, who also made room in their homes for the assembly to gather.  Paul refers here to another letter from Laodicea which is to be read at Colosse, and some think this may in fact have been the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was intended to be circulated to the other assemblies in that region.

In verse 17, Archippus – who is also mentioned in the epistle to Philemon – is exhorted to make sure of the accomplishment of the work of God which he has received from the Lord.  It is sad when the service of God is littered with unfulfilled tasks, and the challenge here ought to be felt by all of us!

The last verse gives authentication to the whole epistle.  Paul writes the final greeting in his own handwriting.  Forged letters were used to undermine the faith of the believers, as referred to by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, for example.  It was necessary then to complete the dictated epistle by signing it off in his own hand.

Thus he concludes with an appeal to remember his bonds, and an assurance in his final benediction of the accompaniment of grace, ever present with them.

Colossians chapter 4.1-9


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Great importance has been given to prayer from the start of this epistle. Now here, at the end, the apostle encourages the Colossians to keep on praying.  Elsewhere (Luke 18.1) we are told that “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”  Are we tempted to give up?  No, don’t lose heart, for “God’s eyes are over the righteous and His ear is open to their cry.”

Sometimes servants of God ask us to pray for them and their circumstances.  How often do we say we will, and then forget them?  Let us try to be more faithful in remembering them!

Approaching and reaching unbelievers is quite a daunting task.  We need to pray for two things here:

  1. How to be wise in our approach, and not just to blunder in, cutting off ears.
  2. That God would open up opportunities for us that may not be missed and will prove to be fruitful!

Colossians chapter 4.1-9

The chapter break is very unfortunate, and it is evident that verse 1 belongs to the final section of chapter 3.  Christian masters are reminded that they must maintain a sense of what is right in dealing with those who work for them.  Equal treatment forbids the indulgence of favouritism or partiality.  Finally, masters must ever be aware that they are responsible to a superior master who is above, in heaven.

Watching in prayer, walking in wisdom and words of grace (verses 2-6)

Three features ought to qualify our prayers: namely perseverance, perception and praise.  We have to work at our prayers and not give up, following the example of the widow in Luke 18.  We are also to be alert and aware of circumstances around us when we pray.  The Lord instructed the disciples in the garden to “watch and pray,” but sadly, when He returned, He found them heavy with sleep.  Paul himself is a great example of giving thanks in prayer, as chapter 1 verse 3 and verse 11 demonstrate.

Paul requested that he and the servants with him might have a place in their prayers.  He wanted a door to be opened, not a door of liberty from prison, but a door of opportunity to speak the message of the gospel, which he calls here the mystery of Christ.  Verse 5 emphasises that it takes wisdom to approach non-Christians, but nevertheless we are to buy up the opportunities afforded to us.  Time is passing swiftly, and the question is, are we using it to present Christ to the perishing?

People around us are looking for answers, but it is important not only to know what to say but also how to say it.  That is why, like the Lord Jesus, we will use gracious words and guarded words, guided by God to put before individuals the very specific response that they need.

Paul’s commendation of Tychicus and Onesimus (verses 7-9)

Paul has spoken little about his own personal circumstances in the epistle. He leaves the details of that to the discretion of Timothy to inform the assembly when he arrives in Colosse.  How precious, though, the confidence he has in Tychicus, who will carry this letter and the letter to Ephesus, along with a personal letter to Philemon.

Paul tells of his intimate affection for him as a brother, his complete trust in him as one who has proved faithful and his fellowship with him in the service of God.  The earliest reference to him is in Acts 20.4, where we learn he was a man of Asia and accompanied Paul with others at the end of his third missionary journey.  Besides this passage and Ephesians 6, Tychicus is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4 and Titus 3, where Paul would send him to help the saints at Ephesus and Crete.

Accompanying him was Onesimus, no longer returning as a runaway slave but as a faithful and beloved brother.  Notice that faithfulness comes first here, to demonstrate the trust Paul now had in a man whose life and character had been changed by the power of the gospel!  Paul’s affectionate relationship with him was the basis to endear Onesimus to the Colossians that they might warmly receive him.  For, says the apostle, “He is one of you.”

Next time:

Meaningful salutations