I was randomly thinking about the story of the Israelites in Exodus the other day. We all remember those disobedient Israelites when Moses had gone up the mountain to be with God and ultimately receive the Ten Commandments. What did those Israelites do while he was gone? They started to whine, complain and get in their heads about how they thought things were going. Doubt crept in. Entitlement took power as they magnified their perceived injustices. They started to use the excuse that if they all agree on something, it made it right. So ultimately, they fell into sin. Deep sin. Fast.
Now just a few chapters earlier, In Exodus 15:1-3, these were the same people singing to the Lord and saying,
“I will sing to the Lord,
For He is highly exalted;
He has thrown the horse
And its rider into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.
This is my God and I will praise Him,
My Father’s God, and I will exalt Him…”
That’s quite a switch in mindset – just sayin’. These people had experienced the manifest presence of God. Like actually saw Him with their human eyes. He had provided water through a rock and food from the sky. He could visibly be seen as He guided them along the way as a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have been guilty on more than one occasion of being SO frustrated with those people and if I’m honest, downright jealous of them. There have been times in my life where I have been so desperate for God to show up as a cloud for me to physically follow or for His voice to speak to me like an earth-shattering thunder. Matter of fact, confession time – I’m walking through this road at this very moment.
God’s presence seemed so wasted on people who didn’t even appreciate what they had. Insert the Holy Spirit’s voice here saying, “Don’t be angry with them. I am just as present to you now as I was for them. You just have to be still, wait and listen.” Ouch. Yes Lord. I’m sorry.
After Moses had not returned from Mt. Sinai, the people began to fear the worst. Their leader must be lost to them, or so they thought. Hmmmm, my brain never goes to worse case scenarios that quickly, how about you?Meanwhile, God isn’t on their schedule but rather is investing in Moses to set forth loving laws to govern His chosen people. The Israelites had suddenly decided that their timeline had been interrupted and therefore needed a new series of gods for them to worship – something to do ‘cuz they just couldn’t wait.
Not God’s timeline but theirs. That was their seemingly valid reason to rebel and turn their hearts so quickly from Him. When I read this account in Exodus I am always amazed at how quickly God’s own people turned on Him. No judgie! We do it all the time. I do it all the time. Maybe I don’t use those words. No no, I dress it up with excuses and perceived injustices like the people of Israel did….
“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!!” (Ex. 16:3)
“Why did you ever bring us up from Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex. 17:3)
Modern day translation:
God, I was comfortable where I was before!? Why did you let this happen?! Why did this situation not pan out the way I expected it to!? You’re trying to kill me here!! I can’t do this anymore! I’m so done! Wah wah wah!
Do you notice the pattern here? God moves the people, they arrive somewhere new, they start complaining and accusing, God provides for their need, they quiet down for the moment and then the cycle repeats itself again and again…..for FORTY years!
Let’s apply this closer to home here. Like the Israelites, instead of waiting on His timing, I go out and create other things to do in order to convince myself that I’m doing something worthwhile. Surely God wants me to act and not just sit here, right? In our culture of glorified busyness, I would be perceived as lazy. But at the heart of the matter, I am just like those people I get frustrated with. I am a wandering Israelite who can turn her heart so quickly away from the God who saved her and is patiently crafting a plan for her good.
In Bible study last year, I learned a game changer when I find myself in situations like this. I look around and realize I’ve strayed. I’ve complained. I’ve allowed my weakness and fears to excuse my lack of faith and just plain bratty behavior toward God, just like the Israelites.
When I find myself here, I am reminded to go back to the place that God last spoke to me and sit there and wait for His next directive. Just as Abram did in the desert in Genesis chapter 12:4-8, as God leads me along the journey and gives me a word from Him I am to build an “altar” in my heart and mind to help me remember God’s word to me. God knows how short sighted we are, and he knows our enemy’s ruthless attempts to distract us from what He says. His desire is for us to trust His timeline and wait in contentment– yeah I’m not good at this part-and trust for Him to give us our next step.
Man, that’s tough. In a world where productivity equals perceived value, to do nothing means I am worthless. Oh no! I can’t let people think I am worthless! That’s what the enemy wants desperately for me to believe. He wants to flood my day with images of go-getters and achievers all reminding me of what I’m not doing or accomplishing. Don’t miss this!!He wants to create frustration and insecurity in my mind with the end goal of motivating busyness that will distract me from God’s voice and ultimate direction for me. My enemy wants me in the wilderness, whining and complaining like an ungrateful and needy child. He wants me to believe God is out to punish me or hide his will from me. He wants distance and discord between me and the One who loves me most.
But when my focus is on Him and His Word, what do I know to be true?
“As for God – His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is pure.
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is a Rock? Only our God.
God – he clothes me with strength
and makes my way perfect.”
So, the next time you’re like me and tempted to get oh so frustrated with those bratty Israelites, stop and remember that we are one in the same. We are prone to wander. We turn on a dime when made to feel slightly uncomfortable. We are weak. BUT….
We are also loved and chosen by God our Father just as they were. He is infinitely loving and patient with us and He still works all things for our good. His timing is always perfect, and our uncertainties are NEVER His uncertainties!
I pray you can give yourself permission to rest and wait at that last altar where you clearly heard God’s voice speak to you. I pray you will have the strength and power of mind to resist the enemy when he tempts you to act when you should wait in stillness. His timing will be right and His will, perfect. Rest dear friend, rest.