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Shemot/Exodus 15:27 And they came to Elim; and there were twelve springs of water and seventy date-palms
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Also mentioned as one of the way-stations in the journey from Egypt in B'Midbar 33:9, Elim was a wooded freshwater oasis, generally identified with Wadi Gharandel; this is near to the plain of el-Markhah, a convenient camp site1. After the bitter waters at Marah, the Israelites could enjoy not only sweet water but natural shade from the heat of the sun as they relaxed before moving on to the Wilderness of Sin. TheMekhilta suggests that they stayed for only three nights, while Ibn Ezra's opinion is that they encamped at Elim "beside the water" for 20 days or more. Quoting Rabbi Eleazar of Modi'im in the Mekhilta, "On the very day when the Holy One, blessed be He, created His world, He created there twelve springs corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, and seventy palm-trees, corresponding to the seventy elders", Nachmanides explains that the text tells us about the springs and palm-trees so that we should know that each tribe camped at its own spring, and the elders sat in the shade of their own trees, and so we should marvel at the detailed provision that G-d had made beforehand for this time.
Throughout Israel's history, as recorded both in the pages of the Bible and in the rabbinic writings, the hand of G-d can be seen at work preparing things in advance or making amazing provision in the most incredible circumstances. King David knew how this worked as he wrote the poems, prayers and songs that make up many of the psalms. David describes the way in which G-d provided for him during his challenging wilderness years: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows" (Psalm 23:5, NASB95). He knew too G-d's constant presence and comfort even in the most extreme of circumstances: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4, NASB95).
The same thoughts and feelings obviously passed through the minds of the prophets so that Isaiah could write: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you" (Isaiah 43:2, NASB95). Though this latter promise is, of course, given to Israel, it is symbolic of the way G-d cares for and looks after those who belong to Him; its nearest recorded outworking at a personal level being very close to the literal words of the promise: "The satraps, the prefects, the governors and [King Nebuchadnezzar's] high officials gathered round and saw in regard to [Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego] that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them" (Daniel 3:27, NASB95).
During Yeshua's ministry there were many instances whereHaShem had prepared people and situations beforehand so that Yeshua could demonstrate the power of G-d and His status as Messiah through the miracles that He performed. Apart from the over-arching destination of His crucifixion and resurrection, a number of examples stand out: firstly, at Yeshua's baptism, John tries to protest because He - the Messiah - is coming to be baptised by him - the fore-runner or herald - but Yeshua calmly brushes that away by saying, "Let it be this way now, because we should do everything righteousness requires" (Matthew 3:15, CJB); in other words, this is a divine appointment, part of G-d's plan, and we need to do this. Secondly, when the paralysed man was lowered through the roof by his friends so that Yeshua might heal him, Yeshua first forgives his sins and then when the watching scribes and Pharisees began to murmur about only G-d forgiving sin, Yeshua responds, "I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins - I say to you, pick up your mattress and go home!" (Luke 5:24, CJB) Then, when Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha dies, Yeshua having stayed away in spite of being summoned, He then tells the disciples, "E'lazar has died. And for your sakes, I am glad that I wasn't there, so that you may come to trust" (John 11:14-15, CJB). Another divine appointment where Yeshua not only shows no surprise but demonstrates that He knew of the situation before hand that He might show G-d's power and glory to people.
Rav Sha'ul applies the same logic to believers in Messiah when he writes to the Ephesians: "For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared before hand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). We need to know that in no less way than that G-d engineered circumstances in the lives of the patriarchs, the prophets and His Son Yeshua, He similarly designs and orchestrates situations where we are to obey Him and show the glory of G-d in the good works that we do, the constructive words that we say or the good attitudes that we display - quite possibly against normal human expectation - for His praise and glory! Knowing that, we should be on the look-out and always be ready to fulfil the purpose of G-d in our lives.
1 - J. Simons, "The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament" (Leiden: Brill, 1959), sec 428, pp. 252f.
Further Study: 2 Kings 6:15-17; Ephesians 1:3-4
Application: How good are you at sensing those G-d-moments when He has set you up to say or do something for Him? Ask Him to help you be more attuned today and to provide an opportunity to put this into practice. You won't be disappointed for He longs to use us to touch the people around us each day!
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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