Identifying with Isreal
In Wavering Hearts: Part 1 we looked at how Israel was continually vascilating between praise and complaints from the very beginning of their journey out of Egypt. I closed that article with a personal question for reflection: Have you ever found yourself in a position where you could identify with the Israelites? Praising God when everything is to your liking and doubting or complaining when something is not?
Before we can learn anything from the Israelites’ wavering hearts we have to put ourselves in their shoes and identify with them. It is easy to kind of vilanize the Israelites for their vascilating. We like to wag our fingers at them when we read the story and wonder, How could they be like that after all God did for them? Unfortunately, most of us honestly are not much different then they were.
Just take a quick look at their complaints:
- They complained because Pharoah made their work harder after Moses and Aaron requested that Pharoah let them take a three day journey to go worship God.
- They complained when they were trapped between Pharoah and the Red Sea and thought they were going to die.
- They complained when they didn’t have any water to drink.
Have you ever had a bad day at work? Had to deal with a bad boss? Or just outright hated your job? Bills late, not enough money to pay them? Family getting on your nerves? Girlfriend, boyfriend, friends, friends’ friends, husbands, wives… just getting on your nerves?
Things just aren’t going right? You’re always stressed out? Or just had to deal with a crummy waiter after sitting in stop and go traffic for an hour? Got your flight moved back an hour because security took too long after you got to the airport three hours early? Ever get a little grumbly?
I think you get the point. There is actually a lot of meat we can pull from the Bible by studying Israel’s complaints. Here are a few observations I pulled from just the first 17 chapters of Exodus:
- They never complained directly against God. There complaints were always against Moses or Moses and Aaron.
- Their complaints always centered around immediate physical needs and comforts.
- They continually cried about going back to Egypt.
What does all this show us? Two things really stick out to me:
- Their complaints arose out of genuine concerns for their well-being.
- Their complaints arose out of a lack of faith, not a lack of gratitude.
These are two things I believe we can all relate to. We’re only going to cover the first one for now.
By all outward appearances it would have seemed to the natural eye that Moses was making their lives harder, not better. As soon as he shows up on the scene things start going sour for them. First their workload gets harder because of Moses’ initial conversation with Pharoah. Then their lives are put in danger as they face certain death from Pharoah and his chariots with no apparent escape. Then they are stuck in the wilderness with no food or water.
Personally, I have always had a tendency to look at them and think, How ungrateful! But when I stop to think about it I can really put myself in their shoes. Some guy, who is a known murderer, walks into my life claiming to be sent by God to take me to this beautiful promise land. But so far all he has done is make my job harder, put my life in danger and gotten me stranded in the desert with no food or water.
I can’t speak for you but there is no doubt in my mind that I would be pretty upset along with the rest of Israel and seriously doubting whether this guy really was sent by God or not.
We all have legitimate concerns for our well-being. The examples of Israel’s complaints given in Exodus fit perfectly into our lives. Our jobs, our safety and our health. These are all normal and legitimate concerns that each of us have.
Nobody gets mad at someone for wanting a good job that they enjoy and pays the bills. Nobody gets mad at someone else for wanting to make sure they are safe and their family has food on the table. You don’t get mad at people for having a bad day at work or complaining about their crappy boss.
But we will get mad at the person(s) who make our jobs harder, our lives harder or puts our lives or the lives of our loved ones in danger.
Now can you see things from the Israelites perspective a little better? You may be thinking, Yeah, but they had God on their side. They had no reason to worry or be mad. Which brings us to our second point: Their complaints rose out of a lack of faith, not a lack of gratitude.
It also brings us to our reflection question for the day:
Don’t you have God on your side too?
At least you do if you’re a Christian. If you don’t maybe now is the time to fix that. Just think about that next time things don’t seem to be going the way you think they should be. Remember also that Israel didn’t complain directly against God.
Their complaints against those whom their natural eyes responsible (Moses and Aaron) showed their lack of faith in God who promised to take care of them. Keep that in mind too next time you’re wanting to launch complaints against those whom your natural eyes hold accountable for certain things.
We will discuss Israel’s lack of faith as a source of their wavering hearts more in the next article.
– Joseph Sterling
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? – Matthew 6:25-26, NASB