Where are you now?

Children of Israel journey in the wilderness
Children of Israel journey in the wilderness (CC-attrib by Vridar)

Let me ask you: Where are you now? Have you taken your bearings lately?

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost.

He reduced altitude and spotted a blonde woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The blonde below replied, “You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.”

“You must be an engineer,” said the balloonist.

“I am,” replied the woman, “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help so far.”

The woman below responded, “You must be a manager.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well,” said the woman, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault!”

Let me ask you: Where are you? Not physically, but where are you spiritually? I trust you are not completely lost like the balloonist, but have you recently reviewed where you are on your journey since baptism?

On the 15th of the month Abib, the first month of the year, Israel had been led out of Egypt and then settled for the first night of freedom. It was the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread (DUB), and they had left Egypt with a high hand. Unfortunately, only 3 days later they were complaining about the bitter waters of Marah. This was the first of many tests they would go through on their journey to the Promised Land.

You don’t have to read very far before realizing that the one thing ancient Israel loved to do was complain. I had a friend in Cleveland who said that one proof that the United States belongs to a lost tribe of Israel is the American love for complaining.

Today, it has been 29 days since this year’s 1st DUB. Where was Israel one month after leaving Egypt? Did their complaints become less? Did they gain the faith they needed to survive the journey ahead?

16 And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

~ Exodus 16:1-3 (NKJV)

Essentially, this was another test, and of course it was one that many of the Children of Israel would fail to pass.

There are three recurring themes in Israel’s journey from Egypt to Caanan:

  1. Lack of faith. Over and over, we see a lack of faith that God would take care of them. In spite of all He had done, in spite of all the miracles, they constantly viewed Moses, Aaron and God in a negative light. They even accused them of taking them out of Egypt simply to kill them in the wilderness. They did not trust Moses to lead them, and they did not trust God to deliver them.
  2. Murmuring. This is the most obvious effect of their lack of faith. Since they had no faith, they complained. They judged and viewed their situation in a negative light. They complained so much and so bitterly that at one point Moses asked God to kill him. Whenever we are tempted to have a bad attitude, we should consider not only how that affects ourselves but also the others around us.
  3. Instead of beseeching God, they complained and accused Moses and Aaron of malevolence. However, they were not even aware that they were accusing God of malevolence. Not only did they not trust God’s ability, but they questioned His desire to do them good.

Let’s read vv 7 & 8:

And in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord; for He hears your complaints against the Lord. But what are we, that you complain against us?” Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the Lord hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.”

~ Exodus 16:7-8 (NKJV)

Needless to say, this was a dangerous game then, and it is a dangerous game to engage in now.

I want you to consider how righteous Job was. God even called him righteous. Of course, that did not mean he was perfect, although the word used to describe him is often translated that way. While Job was arguing to be able to make his case before God, while Job was declaring his own righteousness, he did not realize that he was sinning in the midst of his complaining. (If you don’t believe me, read what Elihu says at the beginning of Job 35!)

The Israelites were looking to human leaders to solve their problems. Even when human beings are appointed by God, God still expects us to ultimately look to him. When people look to human leaders, they can be led astray. It is interesting, but sad, when people who supposedly proved the truth to themselves hand over their salvation, turn over their crown, to another human being who grants them permission to do what they really wanted to do in the first place.

This is what the world does, though, doesn’t it? The world centers its politics around human leaders who promise to solve all of their problems. It doesn’t work, though.

What should Israel have done? For beginners, they should have trusted in God.

Back up to v4:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”

~ Exodus 16:4-5 (NKJV)

Notice the test. God was testing them in exactly what they were missing — faith. They had to develop enough faith to realize that God will take care of them on a daily basis. Truly, manna was their daily bread. Not only that, but they had to develop enough faith to realize that the Sabbath rest was a greater blessing, and that God would cover for the lack of working on that day.

Whenever we are tested and have a trial, do we consider whether or not it is in the area we are weakest? We can say it is to learn patience, or we can say it is to learn faith, and most likely that is one element of it. Israel had a propensity to give in to physical desires. They complained about food, and what did God use to test them and build their faith? What are we weak in, and is that being used to build our strength of character and faith?

Our trials should show us something. When the Bible talks about finding joy even in the midst of trials, we should take this to heart. If we complain, then we are missing the point. It is when we take our problems to God that we begin strengthening our faith in an area we are weak in.

It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s human to want to give in. However, God gives us something to endure that Israel for the most part didn’t have – His spirit. Let’s face our tests with the knowledge that God wants us to endure to the end.

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