My church started a new Bible reading plan a couple of weeks ago, and I’m really enjoying it. This morning, as I sat down to read, I asked God to help me make a new connection. I love it when He answers this kind of prayer!
The way this particular reading plan is structured, we read a chapter from the New Testament each day for five days, and then we read a chapter from the Old Testament that connects with what we’ve been reading in the New Testament. This week, I’ve been reading John’s Gospel each day, and today’s reading was Exodus 16.
So I started reading …
“They <span value='(A)’>set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.”
I was doing OK in verse 1.
“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel <span value='(B)’>grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, <span value='(D)’>when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'”
But after reading verses 2 and 3, I felt a sense of conviction that has never come over me before while reading Exodus 16.
So what convicted me? The phrase “when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full” – that’s what convicted me.
I’m sure many of us have read about the grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness. We’ve probably been at least a little appalled by it, maybe a little uppity in our reaction toward them. “Seriously, Israel? Seriously? God just performed a whole slew of Red-Sea-parting-sized miracles and you’re grumbling because you’re HUNGRY? Seriously?”
The Israelites’ grumbling indicates a level of disbelief. In spite of God’s miraculous protection during their deliverance from slavery, they didn’t believe God would provide for their basic need of food. Even though God had just provided for their basic need of water (cf. Exodus 15: 22-27 for the miracle when God transformed bitter water into sweet drinking water for them), the Israelites still doubted. They doubted to the point of grumbling (out of the overflow of the mouth the heart speaks (Luke 6:45)).
These Israelites, the very people of God, the ones whom God had delivered out of horrible slavery and oppression (the Egyptians killed the Israelites’ baby boys in order to oppress them (Exodus 1)), would rather return to slavery than be hungry.
The last phrase of verse 3 indicates the Israelites had a poor understanding of the character of God: “for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger”. Their hunger led them to doubt, which led them to grumble, which expressed a root problem of an ill sufficient understanding of the character of the loving, mighty, just, kind, holy God who led them out of Egypt.
“Oh, Israel, how could you be so foolish? You probably still have sand on your shoes from crossing the Red Sea, and you’re doubting God. Oh, Israel. Tisk, tisk, tisk.”
“Oh, Rachelle, how could you be so foolish? Your jeans are loose because of God’s kindness to you in your weight loss efforts, and you’re whining because you want to drink queso for breakfast. Oh, Rachelle. Tisk, tisk, tisk.”
Oh, I may not admit out loud that I want to drink queso for breakfast (seriously – think I could mix it into a smoothie? delicious, no?). I may not grumble OUT LOUD each day that goes by.
But I grumble.
A whole lot.
I have a grumbling spirit as I fall into my old habits. “God, I know You’ve done so much for me. I know You are holy. I know that because of what Christ did for me, my response should be loving obedience. I know I should make healthy choices, but Imma gonna eat Taco Bell again today.”
I have a grumbling spirit as I ignore my new habits. “God, I know You were working miracles in me, and I actually enjoyed exercising on a consistent basis. I enjoyed it! I know exercising would be a good choice of obedience today, but I’m going to stay in bed instead. For many hours more than I need.”
I have a grumbling spirit as I ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, promptings either toward good deeds or away from poor, sinful choices.
Guys, I just don’t want to do this anymore. I am at a point in this journey where I would rather go back to being enslaved to FOOD than continue walking in the freedom of Christ.
I needed to admit that to myself today. I needed to admit it to God. I needed to admit it to the handful of sweet, loyal readers I have.
So I’m going to remind myself of some truth, and then I’m going to ask something of you.
“Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ … ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst'” (John 6:32-33, 35). (This was the big connection between my reading in John this week and the reading in Exodus 16 this morning.)
Yes, Jesus was talking about more than physical hunger and physical thirst. That’s the point! I need to stop focusing so much on what I can and can’t eat right now. I need to focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, the one who lived a sinless life, died a gruesome death on the cross, and was raised from the dead so I could walk in FREEDOM from the sin that so easily entangles me. I need to remember that there is SO MUCH MORE to living the abundant life Jesus came to give me than the physical food that sustains me. HE is the one who sustains me ultimately.
There is a lot more floating around in my head, and I may write more this week, but I’m going to finish up for now.
Here is what I would like from you: Share your stories with me. Has there been a time in your life when God performed a Red-Sea-parting-sized miracle for you and you grumbled afterward?
Maybe you prayed and prayed for a job opportunity, and then you grumbled when He gave you the job, wishing you could go back to your old one.
Maybe you were in a terrible, possibly even abusive, relationship and you asked God to free you from it, and then you grumbled and wanted to go back to the relationship after God freed you from it.
Maybe you prayed for God to provide a way for you to stay at home with your children, and then you grumbled once you were finally at home with them.
There are so many situations I could list. I want to know if you’re in a grumbling season now, because I’d love to pray for you. I want to know if you’re on the other side of the grumbling season now, because I think many of us could be encouraged by you. I want to know about the miracles God has performed in your life, because we could all use a reminder that God is still in the business of doing miracles, and I’d like to rejoice with you.
Thank you for reading!