Friday, June 10, 2011

Taste and See: Exodus

What do the Israelites do in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy? Well, I suppose there is more than one right answer. You could say they do nothing but complain--or grumble. You could also say they do nothing but disobey. With brief moments where they do lip service to the Lord. Where they promise to love the Lord and serve Him always. Moses gets impatient. Aaron gets impatient. (Though I'm still confused as to why Aaron went along with creating the golden calf.) And God gets impatient. And ANGRY. And honestly is it hard to see why God and Moses got so angry? There is a certain pattern to everything. God does something wonderful, miraculous, amazing. Yet it isn't enough--it's never enough--and the people complain and disobey. God scolds them, forgives them, commands them to obey, to keep his commandments and laws, and then he goes on providing for them, the people take God's forgiveness--his mercy--for granted, etc.

  • The Jewish people are enslaved by the Egyptians (for generations).
  • God sends a deliverer named Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
  • Moses' "tricks" fail to impress Pharaoh and his sorcerers
  • They get mad at Moses and complain because their work load has increased.
  • God uses Moses to display His glory. These "plagues" are signs for the Egyptians and the Israelites.
  • The plagues increase in intensity, going from annoying to BAD, BAD, SUPER-BAD.
  • The tenth "plague" is the death of all firstborn sons. (Exodus Chapter 11)
  • God makes a distinction between Israelites and Egyptians. He provides a way. He gives the Israelites a way to be saved. He will "pass over" them in his wrath and destruction. The blood of their lambs on their doorposts will save them. 
  • Pharaoh says they can go--but he changes his mind later.
  • God through Moses parts the Red Sea and allows his people to cross over safely. 
  • God causes the Egyptians to follow them--but only so far--before they are destroyed. This is a show he's putting on for his people. (Exodus 14)
  • The people praise God. They sing. They dance. They rejoice. They give God glory. (Exodus 15)
  • They complain about not having water. God gives them water. (Exodus 15:22-27)

So we get to chapter sixteen...what do we find the Israelites doing?
The Israelites said to them, If only we had died by the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger. Exodus 16:3
So God gives them "bread of heaven" (manna). God gives them meat--quail. God continues to provide for their needs--every day, every night.

Yet despite God giving them exactly what they need--when they need it--they bitterly complain time and time and time again. They are bitter and angry and foolish and persistent in their grumbling and complaining and murmuring. They just refuse to see God as he is. It's like they're blind to God's blessings, blind to God's goodness, blind to God's character. They've witnessed God acting in incredible ways--in supernatural ways--in unprecedented ways--what other "god" can compare to THEIR God, their deliverer?--yet they don't trust him or know him or love him. They don't want to be under God's authority. They don't want to submit to God, to obey God, to listen to Him. To go where He leads.

Reading Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, reading about their disobedience and rebellion, reading about their foolish complaints, is almost sickening. It in fact becomes sickening when you realize how similar most of us (if not all of us) still are to the ancient Israelites. Do we do a better job of it? Do we rebel against God? Do we reject His ways for our ways?  Do we complain day and night? Do we refuse to trust God--in the little things--even though we trust him for the BIG things like salvation? Does God bless us and we turn around and complain?

I recently read Joe Thorn's Note To Self. And I read his chapter entitled "Stop Complaining."

Dear Self,

Let's get something straight. You complain, and you know it. You complain in the car, in your home, at church, and about a number of different things. The problem with your complaining is that you do not see it as a problem. You view it as harmless venting. You believe you are just stating facts, that a certain circumstance is frustrating. Your justification of complaining is truly unfortunate, because it certainly bothers God. The reason you complain is the reason it is wrong.

You complain because you misunderstand (or just miss altogether) the grace you have received and the purposes of God in your life. You misunderstand the grace you have received by not recognizing it and receiving it with gratitude. Life, breath, and all of God's provisions for your life are acts of his kindness and are truly wonderful, and yet they all seem to disappear when the small inconveniences of life appear.

In most of your complaining you miss the good purposes of God for your life--purposes he has made clear. "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God." (Rom. 8:28 NASB). This truth should remain a constant meditation, particularly in a world filled with frustration, frailty, and failure. Though we are not always aware of the particular ways in which God causes all things to work out for our good, we have this promise, and it should be enough to challenge and conquer our complaining spirit.

And no, you do not get a pass because you can handle the big problems in life with this promise but not the small ones. Perhaps when sickness, death, and affliction come into your life, you run to God and his promises and find comfort that gives peace and patience. Maybe it is just the small stuff that you sweat. So what is the big deal? Everything! In fact, your complaining about the small stuff is more dangerous than complaining about the big, because life is made up of the small stuff. Tragedies punctuate periods of your life, but it is the smaller inconveniences that make up the bulk of your existence, and this is what most people will see you handle. Those situations are the most obvious testing ground of your faith. If God's grace is big enough for you to handle the big problems, why isn't it enough for you to walk meekly through the smaller issues?

Perhaps the lesson is that you haven't driven the gospel deep enough into your heart and mind. Otherwise it would bear fruit precisely where you need it. Are you complaining today? Consider the grace of God in all of life, and in the gospel particularly. Be assured of his purpose in all things inconvenient and tragic, and you will find the cure for complaining. (109-110)
Is it harsh? Is it a little too harsh? Perhaps. At the very least it makes you think, makes you consider. Am I complaining too much? Why am I complaining again? Do I really not trust God to provide for me? To see me through life? What does complaining say about my relationship to God? Is it making me a weaker witness for Him? Or is my complaining just a bad habit? What do I really mean when I complain? Is it all talk--or does it reveal more about me than I'd like to think? Should I be praying instead of complaining? Should I be taking my cares to Christ, asking Him for help, for guidance, for peace? Should I be using my trials, my frustrations to grow closer to Him?

Human nature is human nature. Open up the Bible and you can see that clearly. People behave the way they've always behaved. They may not dress the same, their customs may have changed, but if you go down deep enough, to the basics, you'll find the Bible still reflects human nature--as we know it, as we experience it--in ourselves, in our families, in our communities. The Bible is ever-relevant. It shows us who we are. It shows us who God is.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Annette said...

It shows us that we must have His grace.