young boy trying snow shoes February 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Exodus 16, 17, 18

Learning to Live by Faith

Whenever we learn a new skill or face a new challenge we struggle at first. Yet, we have faith that eventually we will learn by experience. Today's Bible study is learning to live by faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrew 11:1, NIV). When our basic needs are met (meaning at least our food, water, clothing, and shelter are provided), we may not see a need for faith. What happens, however, if the economy turns sour, or we lose our jobs or health, and we are not independently wealthy? Will we sink in despair, gripe and complain, or will we turn in faith to God? If we are honest, most of us would do the former. We need to learn to live by faith.

As we have seen in recent Bible studies, the Israelites had been enslaved by the Egyptians and influenced by their worship of false gods. They were not well acquainted with the God of their ancestors. The LORD was concerned about their slavery and misery so through Moses he delivered the Israelites from bondage by ten miraculous plagues. After they were free, he protected them from the pursuing Egyptian army—he opened up the Red Sea so the people could cross, but he brought down the walls of water to drown all the soldiers. The people sang about their victory and gave glory to the LORD.

In today's Bible reading, however, the Israelites face new challenges—hunger, thirst, and enemy attacks. When they complain to their leadership about the lack of food and water for all their people and animals, God is gracious to the grumblers because they have not yet learned to live by faith.

Faith in God is a simple childlike trust. Some have it, but most must learn it. How do we learn to live by faith?

First, we must experience some difficulties where we see no natural solution. There are few places in the desert wilderness where 600,000 Israelite men and their women and children can find food and water—there are no natural resources for them. Is there some difficulty which you are experiencing with no natural solution? God specializes in doing the impossible.

Second, we must learn that God can supply all our needs. The LORD says to Moses,

I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.” (Exodus 16:12, NIV).

From then on, every morning of their forty year trek in the wilderness dew appears on the ground. When it dries, small wafers remain. They call it “manna” since they do not know what it is (manna means “What is it?”). They are to gather it daily and not save any for the next morning. On the sixth day they are to gather twice as much so they can have a sufficient amount for the seventh day. On the seventh day no manna is found on the ground so they can rest on the Sabbath. God does this to test the Israelites to see if they will follow his instructions. Unfortunately, they fail.

In the evening they have quail to eat for meat. God provides their needs even in the desert, and by doing so they come to know that he is the LORD their provider. When he provides their needs in a way which only he can do, they learn to live by faith. The same is true for us.

Jesus describes himself as the Bread of Life from heaven. The Apostle John writes, “... Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35, NIV). Have you received Jesus? Only he can satisfy the hunger and thirst of your soul. Only he can bring you peace (more...). Christians, are you depending on him for your needs? God cares for you. He will provide for you, even when it seems impossible (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19).

Shortly after the incidence with the manna and quail, the people again complain to Moses about not having water to drink. This time they quarrel with him and threaten to stone him. The LORD's response is for Moses to have some of the elders accompany him as a testimony of God's miraculous power. They witness the LORD doing the unthinkable—he provides water from a rock!

A person might ask, “How could striking a rock provide water? Did he loosen an underground spring? If he did, how would Moses know which rock was holding back a spring capable of quenching the thirst of 600,000 men, plus their women, children, and livestock?” What a gusher this must have been! What a miracle! Again, God is the one who can quench our thirst. He is our provider and sustainer in difficult times. Seeing this miracle, the elders are less likely to criticize Moses and are able to lead their families in faith when the next crisis comes.

After this miraculous provision of water from a rock, Israel is attacked by the Amalekites. Perhaps they are threatened by this horde of people in their neighborhood. When attacked, Moses says to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands” (Exodus 17:9, NIV). The staff Moses holds becomes a symbol of God’s power. When Moses raises the staff like a banner, Israel is winning, but when he lowers it the Amalekites are winning. Seeing this, Aaron and Hur prop his arms up. The Israelites win a great victory that day. God is their banner and he helps them win. They are learning to trust in the Almighty. When the LORD helps us win victories, we also come to trust him.

After the victory, Moses is seen trying to administer justice to the masses. He needs help—he can't bear the burden of all the Israelite people alone! Under the advice of Moses’ father-in-law, he divides up his responsibilities to better serve his countrymen and himself. Moses is now God’s representative before the people. The tough cases are brought before him, and he brings them before the LORD. Moses trains the elders to make less crucial decisions with justice. The division of the responsibilities amongst the elders of Israel gives them opportunities to learn to live by faith as they help settle cases brought before them. Parents, teachers, and administrators, this is a good example for us—equip others to do the work and allow them to learn to live by faith. God can help us all make good decisions if we will study his ways (from the Bible) and learn to trust him.

Lessons to Live By

  • To learn to live by faith, we must experience some difficulties where we see no natural solution, and we must learn that God can supply all our needs.
  • The LORD can provide all our needs, even in unlikely places like a desert.
  • Only Jesus can satisfy the hunger and thirst of our souls (more...).
  • God is our provider and sustainer in difficult times.
  • When God helps us win victories, we come to trust in him.
  • Give others the opportunity to learn to live by faith. Do not bear the burdens by yourself.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

Psalm 119:71 (NIV) “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

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A Look Ahead: Now that the LORD is our God, what does he require of us? Our Next Lesson is Living in the Fear of God. Find out what that means and how we should do it.

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