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Thinking Points by Mickey ChiangAre You On Fire About Firewood?

One of the most amazing true stories of all time is Godís freeing of the 2 million Israelite slaves in Egypt. And God started it all with a burning bush in the desert of Midian in what is now northwestern Saudi Arabia. It was a miracle, for although the bush was on fire it was not consumed by the flames. Although this amazing miracle probably went unreported by the media of Midian, we are fortunate that Exodus 3 has an account of it.

The amazing sight caught the attention of a shepherd called Moses who had been raised as a true-blue Egyptian prince only to find out that he was a common-redblood Israelite. What a mixed-up kid he must have been. The anger he harboured against the Egyptians oppressing his people, the Israelites, eventually led him to kill an Egyptian man (Exodus 2:11-14). Mixed up or not, Moses was an inquisitive man, so he walked over to see the bush Ė and met God. We do not know the name of the bush, but it was definitely not called George. Well, amazing adventures followed, in Egypt, in the deserts of the Sinai Peninsula, Edom and Jordan, and finally the conquest of the Promised Land. But remember, it all began with a burning bush.

Moses later led 2 million Israelites out of Egypt into desert areas. Many articles have been written by learned scholars about the humanly insurmountable problems of providing enough food and water to keep 2 million people alive as they travelled through hot desert or semi-desert areas.

For instance, if each Israelite needed a minimum of four litres a day for drinking, cooking and washing purposes, thatís 8 million litres a day, not counting what their livestock needed. For simplicity, letís round off the total to 10 million litres a day. Thatís a whole lot of water. Where could Moses find so much water in the desert every day? Well, God caused water to gush out of rocks to keep the thirsty Israelites alive (Exodus 17). Many years ago, my wife and I took an old non-air-conditioned taxi from New Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We passed through semi-desert areas so hot that our saliva became like glue, and our tongues got stuck to the roofs of our mouths. We felt like drinking four litres at one go! How much more thirsty we would have felt if we had had to walk through that area in that 440C heatÖ.In that situation, Shakespeare might have shouted, "A jug! A jug! My kingdom for a jug of ice-cold water!"

An equally big problem for the Israelites was that of food. How much do 2 million people need per day? If each Israelite ate one kilo of food a day, thatís 2 million kilos of food a day. Where would Moses get 2,000 tonnes of food a day, every day? It would have taken around 400 military trucks to keep the Israelites supplied with food. The trouble was that Moses did not have 400 trucks at his beck and call, did he?

But even if the Israelites had received all the food supplies they needed each day, how would they cook it? With firewood, of course. But I have not seen any estimates or articles on how much firewood they would need on a daily basis. But letís use a bit of logic on the matter. Letís say it takes about half a kilo of firewood to cook one hot meal for one person. Then 2 million Israelites would need one million kilos of firewood per hot meal. And letís say they eat two hot meals a day. This means they would use 2 million kilos of wood a day. Now where would Moses get 2 million kilos of firewood in the desert? Are there a lot of trees in a hot desert? Of course not. Even if the Israelites ate only one cooked meal each day, they would still have needed a hefty one million kilos of wood a day.

So, was Moses such a stupid or non-thinking fellow that he did not foresee at the outset the enormous problem he would have in getting enough firewood? I do not think so. Moses had seen with his own eyes that God could cause a bush in the desert to burn without being consumed by the flames. If you burn a piece of wood and it is not burnt up, then it can be used again and again, providing fire for cooking each time. This implies a limitless use of the same quantity of fuel, for the fuel is not consumed! Is that why we do not see anywhere in the Bible that Moses was ever worried by the problem of getting fuel for cooking? This is not to say that God did provide such firewood, that burned and was not consumed, but since Moses knew that God could cause wood to burn without being burnt up, he would naturally not have any fears about not getting enough wood for cooking fires.

But we all know that in the end God came up with what mathematicians call "an elegant solution". God knows the beginning and the end of everything, and God must have foreseen that the Israelites could not grow crops in the desert to feed themselves, and, even if they received their normal food supplies every day, would need enormous amounts of firewood that was just not available in the desert. So God in His wonderfully creative way had planned to miraculously provide the Israelites with a new kind of ready-to-eat food called manna. Since it did not need to be cooked, the Israelites did not need firewood after all! Thus, God solved the two problems with great finesse, and also saved the environment at the same time. Wowww, what a wonderfully amazing God we have.

The Israelites had to learn to trust Him to take care of them when they had no food, no water, and no firewood. Today, do we realize that we are also totally dependent on God for everything: our food, water, fuel, health and even our very lives?

  1. BGST Lunchtime Talks. Dr Augustine Pagolu will be speaking on "Poverty and Globalisation in South East Asia - A Christian Perspective" on 7 July, Friday, 12.45-1.30pm, at 31 Tanjong Pagar Rd. All are welcome to attend.

  2. Courses commencing in July, 2006

    • Biblical Hebrew II (BH112, 3 credits), starting 4 July, 7.30-9.30pm. Lecturer: Dr Augustine Pagolu.

    • The Educational Ministry of the Church (CE101, 3 credits), starting 11 July, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng.

    • Greek Exegesis II (BG212, 3 credits), starting 15 July, 4-5.30pm, at 4 Bishan St 13. Lecturer: Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

    • The Christian Faith (TS101, 3 credits), starting 17 July, 8-9.30pm. Lecturer: Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

    • The Life & Theology of Paul (ME160/NT313, 1.5 credits), starting 21 July, 7-10pm. Lecturer: Dr Fritz Deininger.

    • Introduction to Church History (CH101, 3 credits), starting 22 July, 5.30-7pm, at 4 Bishan St 13. Lecturer: Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

  3. Counsellor Development: Personal Framework for Biblical Counselling (CO210, 3 credits) by Mr Yam Keng Mun. At the moment, we have only four registrations. So CO210 which is scheduled on 28 June will be pushed back to 12 July to allow for further registrations.

  4. Chapel this week (28 June). Andrew Lee is unable to take chapel this Wednesday because his wife is about to give birth. BGST alumnus, Rev Samuel Kim, together with his wife Sarah, and sons Joseph and Daniel, will be sharing about their ministry at Cape Town, South Africa, with the Korean Seamen's Mission. Chapel speaker on next Wednesday (5 July) will be Mr Peter Lim.


Mrs Jane Kee 3/7

Mr Adrian Teo 4/7

Mrs Yeo Ee Ee 4/7

Mdm Woo Jin Ok 4/7

Ms Noelle Yee 4/7

Rev Eman Kumar 5/7

Mrs Lim Eng Khin 7/7

Mr Lewis Lew 8/7

Mrs Lucy Lim 9/7

Ms Denise Ng 9/7

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