Taking the Training Wheels Off

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God desires the hearts of his people to be completely surrendered to Him.

Exodus(37) (Part of the Rescued(36) series)
by Marc Webb(77) on June 9, 2024 (Sunday Morning(345))

Glorifying God(7), Gossip(2), Surrender(5)

Take the Training Wheels Off

There was a little boy who was being trained to ride his bike by his father. On the first day out his father said to him. "Son, there are three things you should always remember if you are going to learn to ride a bike." The excited son committed all three to memory: "Keep your eye on the road, don’t lean to the left or the right, and remember Daddy’s right there." As the boy mounted the bike his father had him repeat the three rules and then ran along beside him shouting encouragement and reminding the boy to keep repeating the three rules. After each ride the boy was excited and thrilled. After the third ride, his father ran alongside him but didn’t say anything as the boy kept reciting the three rules. One day the boy mounted the bike as usual and took off chanting to himself "Keep your eye on the road, don’t lean to the left or the right and remember Daddy’s right there!" Two blocks up the road he looked back and was surprised to find out that his daddy had not made the run with him but was waving from the front yard. When the boy returned the father said "Son let this be a lesson to you in life. You will succeed if you can keep your eye on the road, never stray to the left or right and remember, even when you can’t see him, not me, your heavenly father’s right there!"

(From a sermon by Robert Drake, "Training Wheels" 7/6/2009)

One of the great challenges of youth, after learning to walk, is learning to ride a bicycle. It requires balance and a sense of self-confidence. To assist in this process, manufacturers came up with a special set of wheels that would attach to the back wheel of a bicycle. These wheels were called “training wheels” and they were to help provide balance and confidence for the rider. It provided balance whenever the rider leaned too far to the left or to the right and provided confidence because the little wheels didn’t always touch the ground. Maybe your bike was not equipped with training wheels, and you learned the old-fashioned way, with a parent or another adult running along beside you holding on to you. The training wheels or the adult served a purpose, but there came a time when the training wheels were no longer necessary. In fact, the only way to truly learn to ride the bike was to take the training wheels off or ride without the aid of an adult.

God’s chosen people are right at that point. God has been running alongside them and making sure they don’t fall over. He has been teaching them to trust in, rely on and be obedient to him but he also wants to move them further along in their faith in him. His ultimate goal is to bring them into a covenant relationship with him. He wants a relationship with his people where their hearts are completely surrendered to Him. He wants their faith to become a lifestyle or a “love” style, to move from their head to their hearts, so when they get to the Promised land, they are ready to fulfill their purpose. The same is true for us today. The Lord wants our faith to mature into a “love” style. He wants our hearts to be completely surrendered to him and a step towards that is to take the “training wheels” off our faith. Keeping the training wheels on your bike keeps you from truly enjoying the ride and keeping the training wheels on our faith keeps us from truly enjoying our relationship with the Lord. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is God desires the hearts of his people to be completely surrendered to Him. ​​ The Lord looks to accomplish this in various ways: by making and keeping his promises to us, by showing us his glory and by being faithful to us.

Before we start to unpack what that meant for the Israelites in the wilderness and what it means for us today, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we come to you this morning hungry for your presence, hungry for your Word and hungry to worship you. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and allow us to focus only on you and your Word. Let us feed on your Word and allow it to nourish our souls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our first point is God’s Promise found in Exodus 16:1-5. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

The time of rest and relaxation at the oasis in Elim has come to an end. It was time to go back into the wilderness on their way to Mt. Sinai. The whole Israelite community left Elim and entered the Desert of Sin. “Sin” was probably a shortened form of Sinai, but the desert would definitely be a place where the Israelites would continue to sin by their grumbling, complaining and lack of faith. It has now been a month since the Passover night when the Israelites left Egypt after the Angel of Death passed over, killing the firstborn of all the Egyptians. ​​ 

Seemingly, almost as soon as they enter the desert, the people start grumbling. We can notice a few things here. There is a difference between the grumbling here and the grumbling we studied last week. Last week the reason for the grumbling was mentioned before the grumbling started. They had gone three days without finding water and when they finally did find water, it was bitter, and then the grumbling started. Now the people start grumbling and complaining before there is even a problem. What this implies is that they were not starving at this point. Things were not dire and life threatening as they were at Marah. In fact, they probably would not have gone hungry because of the livestock they had with them. They would have had milk and cheese and possibly could have slaughtered an animal for its meat. This time their grumbling came from a heart of discontent not because they were going to starve. This grumbling and complaining showed where their hearts were. Their hearts were still in Egypt and not with the Lord. Also, we notice that the whole community is now grumbling. Somewhere between the oasis at Elim and the present it went from the “people” grumbling to the “whole community” grumbling. ​​ This was a formal and unanimous complaint. Maybe this discontent was being spread by a few throughout the entire community but at some point, the entire community showed their hearts were not inclined toward the Lord. We also notice that they are now grumbling against Moses and Aaron. This is the first time we have seen Aaron in the desert wanderings, and now he is also getting blamed for what the Israelites are going through.

Next, we notice how the grumbling caused the people to respond. First, it caused them to forget common sense. The Lord had saved them from their cruel treatment and slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. Remember that it was the Israelites who cried out to the Lord for freedom. Now they spurned his salvation and believed it would have been better to die by the Lord’s hand on Egypt. This revealed how little they valued the freedom the Lord had given them. Second, it caused them to forget reality. The way they remembered it, they had all the meat and all the food they ever wanted to eat. First of all, in the ancient Near East meat was not a staple of their diets. Second, slaves were not given the choicest foods to eat. In fact, the Israelites were treated cruelly by the Egyptians who had no problem working them to death so why would they feed them well. Third, it caused them to make cruel and baseless accusations against Moses and Aaron. They accused them of bringing the entire assembly out into the desert to die forgetting that it was the Lord in the pillar of cloud that was leading them through the wilderness. Their grumbling and complaining was an open rebellion against the Lord not Moses and Aaron.

The Lord lovingly and graciously responded to the people as he didn't even acknowledge their grumbling and complaining. He just promises to feed them. In fact, he is going to do the miraculous in “raining” down bread from heaven for them. This pointed to the way the bread would appear and the abundance they would have of it. The Lord knew their complaining spirit indicated a problem in their relationship with him. And he wanted their hearts to be completely surrendered to him, so he lovingly, patiently and graciously promised to give them what they complained about. (Big Idea). The same is true for us, today. When we grumble and complain to the Lord, and we all do it, it shows that we have a problem in our relationship with him. We aren’t content with what he has given us. Or we don’t trust that he has our best interest at heart. Or we aren’t relying on him to supply our daily needs. And by doing those things we are being disobedient to him, and it causes us to struggle in our faith. It’s like we are resisting to take the training wheels off our faith. He wants us to completely surrender our hearts to him which will then deepen our relationship with him. A first step to surrendering our hearts to the Lord is to “fast or stop complaining” and that brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Fast my complaining spirit, surrender my heart and deepen my relationship with the Lord.

The Lord promised to provide food to them which would also include the testing he had for them. They had failed the last test but that didn’t cause him to give up on them. He was going to test them and teach them until they surrendered their hearts to him. The test would be if they followed his instructions as to the food that he was about to provide. He wanted them to conduct their lives according to his divine instructions. He was testing them in a small way before testing them in a larger way at Mt. Sinai. The Lord told Moses that the people were to go out each day and gather just the food that they needed for that day, and no more. Then on the sixth day they were to gather enough for two days and prepare it to last for two days. He was testing them to see if they would trust in him, rely on him and be obedient to him. Here the Lord was alluding to the Sabbath looking backward to the rest that he observed at creation and forward to the fourth commandment that he will give the people later. Stuart says, “The resulting arrangement provided a weekly opportunity for the emerging Israelite community to be tested by God and to learn about his faithful provision. God could see how they were doing in learning to obey him in advance of his giving them his full covenant law.”

Now that God’s promise had been given, the Israelites were going to see the glory of the Lord which was to guide them to respond by surrendering their hearts completely to him. That brings us to our second point, God’s Glory, found in Exodus 16:6-12. This is what God’s Word says, “So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. The Lord said 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.’”

God’s glory was going to be revealed to the Israelites because he had heard their grumbling against Him. In fact, they were going to see the “glory” of the Lord in two ways. First, they would see the glory of the Lord through his provision, and this would cause them to know that he is the Lord that brought them out of Egypt. They needed to be reminded that he was the same Lord who did that for his people only a month ago. The Lord would accomplish this by giving them meat that evening and then all the bread they wanted in the morning. And he did this because he heard their grumbling against him. We see the loving patience, long-suffering and the grace of the Lord here. He didn’t punish them, he didn’t rebuke them, instead he showed them his glory.

Second, they would see the Shekinah glory of the Lord. Moses told Aaron to call the whole Israelite community to come before the Lord. Again, this showing of his Shekinah glory was due to them grumbling. But the Lord was also using this to draw them to himself so they would surrender their hearts to him and come into a deeper relationship with him. While Aaron was talking to the people, they saw the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. We don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe they saw the pillar of fire within the cloud shining out. And we don’t know if the people could hear the Lord’s voice or not, but they knew that the Lord was speaking. The Lord told Moses to relay the information he had previously told him. He repeated that they would have meat that evening and be filled with bread in the morning, and this would cause them to know that the Lord was their God. We can really see the contrast made in this section between the grumbling of the Israelites and the loving patience, long-suffering and the grace of the Lord. Six times in these seven verses it is mentioned that the people grumbled. Moses was reminding them that even though they seemed to be grumbling against him and Aaron, they were really grumbling against the Lord. But the Lord was going to provide for them, nonetheless.

A second step to surrendering their hearts completely to the Lord was for the Lord to show them his glory, so they would know he was the same Lord who brought them out of Egypt and that he was the Lord their God. We need to be reminded of God’s glory in our lives as well. He has proven his love to us over and over again. He has provided for us over and over again. He has shown us that we can rely on him over and over again. He has kept his promises to us over and over again. Seeing his glory in our lives should cause us to give God the glory, surrender our hearts completely and come into a deeper relationship with him. That brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to Give God the glory for the great things he has done for me.

God’s promise had been given and God’s glory had been shown, God would now be faithful to his promise. That brings us to our third point, God’s faithfulness, found in Exodus 16:13-20. This is what God’s Word says, “That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning, there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.”

This section shows the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelites. He was faithful to them by bringing meat or quail that same evening. Notice that it was not just some quail he brought them. This was an abundance of quail as it covered the camp. He showed mercy and grace toward them. Again, he didn’t punish them or rebuke them for their grumbling and complaining spirit. He provided an abundance of what they wanted. Then when morning came and the dew was gone, there was a thin flaky layer like frost on the desert floor. This was something the Israelites had never seen before. They asked what it was, and Moses told them it was the bread from the Lord that he promised to give them. Their question “What is It?” is translated “man hu” and is where we get the word for “manna.” Moses then gave them the command from the Lord concerning the manna. The quantity that each person was to gather was an average of one “omer” per person living in each family’s tent, per day. An “omer” was equal to about two quarts.

We see obedience in that the Israelites did as they were told. In their obedience we see another miracle. The gathering of an omer per person would not have been a precise science. Some ended up gathering more than an omer and some ended up gathering less. But when each family measured it out, the ones who gathered too much didn’t have too much and the ones who gathered too little didn’t have too little. God was faithful to provide for his people. The test was not in gathering an omer of manna but that no one was to keep any of the manna until morning. They were to gather only enough each day for that day. They were not to store it or hoard it for later. They were to trust in and rely on the Lord for their “daily bread.” This was part of having faith in him, giving their hearts completely to him and being in a covenant relationship with him.

The truth he wanted to impart to them was that it would supply all their physical needs, but they had to trust in him to do it in his way and in his timing. But the Lord also wanted to teach them that he had all they needed for their spiritual life as well. Jesus tried to impart this truth to the Jews after he fed the five thousand in John chapter 6. The people were following him because they wanted more physical food. But Jesus in John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus was spiritual bread, the true “manna” from heaven, but they couldn’t understand and in John 6:41 it says, “At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They grumbled against Jesus just as their ancestors did against God in the wilderness. Jesus is our “bread of life.” He is the only bread that satisfies, he is the only bread that is sufficient, and he is the only bread that sustains. Maybe you are here this morning or online and you aren’t feeding on Jesus as the bread of life. You don’t know Jesus as the one who is all satisfying, all sufficient and all sustaining. You don’t know him as your Lord and Savior. But you can know him as all those things this morning. First, you must admit that you are a sinner, second, you must believe in your heart that Jesus was crucified to take the punishment for your sins, was dead but rose again, and third, you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you will be saved. If you have never accepted Jesus then maybe this next step is for you, which is to Admit that I am a sinner, believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again, and confess Him as Lord of my life. If you just made that decision, make sure you mark that next step so we can be in touch with you. We are excited for the next step of your journey with the Lord.

So the Israelites did as they were told and obeyed the Lord commands. But there were some who paid no attention to Moses and, in effect, paid no attention to the Lord. They disregarded his commands. Maybe they were afraid and didn’t trust the Lord to provide for them the next day. Maybe they were lazy, not wanting to get up early the next morning to gather their manna for the day. Whatever the reason they were disobedient and there were consequences: in the morning the manna they had saved was full of maggots and smelled. They had saved it but couldn’t eat it. And Moses was angry with them. Now it doesn’t say that the Lord was angry with them. Again, he doesn’t chastise them, he doesn’t rebuke or punish them. He was gracious and merciful even though they were disobedient, and he was still faithful to them and supplied quail and manna for them. He wanted them to take the “training wheels” off of their faith. So, he was loving, patient, long-suffering and gracious with them, wanting them to surrender their hearts completely to him, and wanting them to be in a deeper relationship with them.

Ryken, in his commentary, tells the story of a woman whose family was almost out of food. The woman writes: Our broken, often discouraged single-parent family lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia.… As usual, bills accumulated, and financial pressure intensified.… We had little food and no money to buy groceries. One Friday while I was home during a lunch break, I did what came easily: I sat on my bed and cried. During my crying and groaning the phone rang.…“I’m from the Philadelphia Inquirer Action Line, and I understand you could use a Thanksgiving dinner.… We would like to know where you shop, so next Tuesday you can go to the store of your choice and pick up a gift certificate for $50.… We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

My reaction was joy, relief, and excitement—plus guilt. I had neglected to trust the Lord, who remains faithful. Glancing at the clock, I rushed back to work and straight to a friend’s office. Barbara had heard me exclaim many times that Jesus loves us. With great enthusiasm I told her what happened. She responded with a glint in her eye. “Ginny, I’ll do one better than that. I have a turkey that was given to us in the freezer… I’ll bring it to you on Monday, and you can spend the extra money on something else.” …On Tuesday … as we put the groceries away at home I was reflecting on how faithful God is even when our trust falters. Then, as I was about to shut the cabinet, the doorbell rang.… “Is your mother home? We are from the Church of the Open Door.… We have brought you your Thanksgiving dinner.”… With my mouth still open we watched as they brought in seven bags of groceries—and a 21-pound turkey.

We had to clear space for the groceries in the bathroom linen closet, the laundry room and under one bed. As we were preparing for bed that night, I received another phone call—Carol, a friend from church. “Ginny,” she said excitedly, “John and I have just come from the market and we bought food for Thanksgiving.… We want you and the kids to come over .… We won’t take no for an answer.”

You may have never been in that exact situation but that’s not what’s important. God provides for each of his children in a different way. What is important is to know that if we were in that situation, it would be for the testing of our faith. All we would need to do is trust in Jesus, who for the sake of his glory will provide what we need when we need it. He wants to take the “training wheels” off our faith so that we will surrender our hearts to him and come into a deeper relationship with him. I pray for each of us this morning.

As the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and as Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn. Let’s pray: God, we thank you again for your Word. We thank you that it gives us instructions on how to live and that it gives us hope and promises directly from you. Help us to grow in its knowledge and help us to fall deeper in love with it and with you. ​​ Help it to guide us this week and into the future. In Jesus’ name, Amen.