Exodus 17:3-4 and a Crisis of Faith

moses_water_rock_strikeI have always wondered why the Israelites had such a crisis of faith immediately after their deliverance from Egypt.  They saw the mighty acts of God in the ten plagues–systematically decimating the gods of Egypt.  They saw the Passover–where the firstborn of Egypt dropped dead and all of the Israelites were spared.  They walked through the Red Sea on dry ground–and saw the army of the superpower of the day destroyed.  They gave all the glory to the Lord for all of these actions (see Exodus 15).

And then they look around in their freedom and say, “We don’t have any food or water.”  They begin to grumble against Moses and Aaron for even taking them out of Egypt.  They see bitter water turned into fresh and experience a miraculous provision of quail.  Then they are introduced to manna.  All of this is God’s wonderful, grace-filled provision for them.  After all of this, they respond:

But the people were very thirsty for water there, and they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”  So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with this people? They are getting ready to stone me.”

Amazing.  After all the wonders they saw God perform on their behalf, they still do not trust the Lord to provide for them.  It is as if they forgot everything that had just happened in their lives up to this point.

And yet, most of us do this as well.  We can look back on our lives and see how God has been there every step of the way (we may not have noticed it at the time, but in retrospect we can see it), and we can know that God has seen us through tough spots in our lives.  But when we are confronted with another tough situation, we cry out in despair as if we had no experience of God’s presence in our lives.

We can get so focused on our present distress that we forget the Lord is on our side.  We implore, beg, and plead with God as if he has never helped us in the past.  And we cannot find comfort in God’s deliverance in our own lives in the past because of what we face in the present.  That God he is gracious!

As Christians especially, it is important to not only remember that God had a plan for Israel, and thus would not let them perish (no matter what they thought in their immediate circumstances), but also that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, promised to never leave us or forsake us.  This is big.  The God of the universe and all therein has promised to constantly abide with us until the end of all things.  Wow.  He did not promise that it would all be easy, or that we would always prosper, but he did promise to always be with us no matter what happens in life.

Take heart.  God is with us.  Thanks be to God.

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