I’ve often thought that it would have been amazing to witness some of the great events of scripture. To ride on the ark and see the destruction of the Lord and his feelings about sin. To peak into the lion’s den and behold Daniel boldly standing before a pack of hungry lions that can’t even open their mouths. Peering around the edge of a crowd to see the stone fly out of the sling and land right in the middle of Goliath’s forehead and watch him fall to the ground. Or to be in Egypt and to witness the hand of the Lord being brought against Pharaoh while he stubbornly refused to let the people go. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to witness total darkness or to see frogs everywhere. And at times my mind will go wild imagining the late night exodus from Egypt and the relief and celebration of freedom. I can imagine the satisfaction of breathing free air for the very first time in my life. It would have been a great feeling.
It’s interesting though, even after witnessing everything that took place during the plagues and exodus Israel almost immediately forgot the power of God. In Exodus 13 the people of Israel leave Egypt but in Exodus 14 they already begin complaining wishing they were back in Egypt. Pharaoh has changed his mind and begins to pursue the Israelites to return them to slavery, and instead of remembering the 10 plagues and finding strength in God, the people complain and cry out in agony. “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have brought us out here to die in the wilderness. We told you to let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians.” (Exodus 14:11-12) It took all of one chapter for Israel to forget about the power of God and to complain and grumble wishing they were back in Egypt. Already they have forgotten just how bad Egypt was. Instead of thanking God for freedom they long for slavery.
God, however, saves them again. This time in possibly an even more memorable way than before. As they are camped against the Red Sea Moses lifts his hand over the waters and God parts the waters and creates dry ground and a road to safety. The people of Israel cross through the Sea on dry ground (while God slows down the Egyptians) and then as the Egyptians start to cross the Sea God releases the walls of water and drowns them in the avalanche of waves and furry. Egypt is no more, Israel has been saved.
Yet still Israel complains. In Exodus 15 the people complain because the water is bitter. In Exodus 16 the people complain because they have no bread and no meat. In Exodus 17 the people again complain because they have no water. On and on it goes, never seeming to end, complaint after complaint after complaint. And even though God continues to provide the astonishing point is not God’s provision but the lack of faith and trust of Israel. Even though God has rescued them with a mighty hand and a powerful arm they continue to lose faith, continue to complain, continue to wonder if God will forget them or give up on them or simply leave them to die.
And then I stop and realize that I am not much different. I too have seen the power of God. Maybe I haven’t seen the waters part or the sky become total darkness for days, but I have seen the power of God. I have seen the inoperable cancer disappear. I have seen the family get food that had none. I have seen the job offer come at just the right time. I have seen the beautiful sunrise and sunset. I have seen the power of God, yet I still at times find myself grumbling and complaining. “God, why don’t you work faster? God, why don’t you solve my problems? God, why can’t I have everything I want?” I complain and grumble when things don’t go my way. Or, when life sends me a curve ball, a different set of circumstances than what I expected, I lose faith and trust wondering how I will fix it, never believing God will fix it. I find myself giving up, forgetting that the same God who has acted before can and will act again.
We are not that much different than Israel, which should remind us of two things. One, it’s easy to look down on someone’s mistakes without ever recognizing the things they got right. Israel was full of normal people and probably reacted the exact same way we would have reacted in their circumstances. Instead of getting upset with them for their short comings we should praise them for the great things they did well recognizing that we make mistakes too. Which leads us to an even more important point, we need to quit grumbling and complaining waiting for God to act. God will act, God will do something. Instead of complaining because God hasn’t acted yet, we should cry out in faith to a God that we know can act and trust him to take care of us. Because he always has, and he always will.