I got to thinking about the different sort of paths God leads us on. Sometimes we are actually walking on a smooth, pleasant path...for awhile. The birds are singing, flowers are blooming and there are nice shade trees to protect us from the sun. Often there is pleasant company to converse with. There are nice rest stops along the way and plenty of provisions that are freely available. It's a great road trip and I don't know about you but I love great road trips. I love to hit the accelerator (watch it), crank up my tunes and sing at the top of my lungs! I feel powerful and in control. Nothing seems to ruffle my feathers. I'm in high spirits and ready for adventure. Life is good!
Sooner or later though, the path will change. It always does. Trust me on that one. It might not change tomorrow. It might not change next year but it will change. If you're following God I can guarantee it. It's funny, it always changes at some point for those who don't follow Jesus as well but the enemy doesn't want us to notice that important little detail. He tries to tell us they walk an easier path. Actually, the opposite is true but that's another story.
The children of Israel were following God's path. He had delivered them from the Egyptians. They were no longer slaves. They were free. The bondage was over...or was it? They saw physical manifestations of God as a cloud by day and fire by night. You know, they were out in a desert place and God was their cloud. Think about that for just a moment. The hot desert sun is beating down upon them and God is their cloud. The desert gets cold at night. Wild animals are often about seeking prey. Enemies can sneak up on you in the darkness. God, however, is their fire. God, in essence, is their protector as well as their initial deliverer. When God delivers us, he doesn't ever leave us!
There's barely enough on the desert to sustain a few people let alone a massive crowd of people. I've heard estimates as high as two million people. Imagine that sort of crowd crossing the desert. Yet, God was their provider. He gave them manna, he sent them quail, he made bitter water sweet, he gave them water from the rock, he kept their clothing and shoes from wearing out and he was their healer. They were dependent on him for everything and he always came through for them.
What was their response to all of this? They grumbled and complained. [bible]Exodus 16:2[/bible]The KJV uses the word murmured. I don't care for that particular word because in today's language that means more like muttering or quietly objecting to us. I don't think they were in the least bit shy about it. Maybe it started out that way at first but I can't imagine the whole congregation of people just muttering to themselves about it. I'm sure it escalated to angry shouting pretty quickly!
Things got so bad that even God's patience was worn thin.[bible]Numbers 14:11[/bible] Now here's what I noticed. They were on God's path. He was leading them from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were where God was. They could see physical evidence of him both day and night. They had seen the parting of the Red Sea and God's ensuing deliverance with their own eyes. They even partook of God's blessings. You can bet they were right there gathering manna, eating quail, drinking the water, etc. Yet they were denied entry into the Promised Land. [bible]Numbers 14:22-38[/bible]They had walked on the right path but they had walked it the wrong way. They refused to focus on what God had done and focused on every obstacle that came in their way. Instead of asking God for deliverance, instead of remembering what God had done and trusting in him they only complained that God was persecuting them. They had a "poor me" attitude. Their focus was on themselves rather than God.
This is a heartbreaking story. People who were given such a beautiful promise and had eaten the very food of heaven end up as carcasses in the desert. Only two men were spared. Joshua and Caleb. These two faithful men were on the same path as everyone else. They had experienced the same things. They had seen the same obstacles but they had also seen God's deliverance.[bible]Numbers 14:6-9[/bible] Ten spies along with the people chose to look at the obstacles. Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand chose to look at God and his promises. Guess who got to enter the Promised Land in the end?
It's time for an attitude check. I know I don't do that often enough. Am I walking God's path and complaining about everything I encounter or am I thinking about what God has done in the past, present and future? Doing the latter will not guarantee that the temptation to get discouraged will not try to overtake me. Discouragement will try to attack me even more agressively. However, if I am in the habit of actively meditating on what God has always done as well as claiming his promises, I have a ready weapon in my hand at all times.
Going through the motions is not good enough. The attitude of my heart must also be Where he leads, I will follow...no matter what.
*8/21/11--This blog is now part of a series entitled Walking With God In The Midst of Cancer
The NIV renders it as "grumbled against" Moses, and NLT says "spoke bitterly against". I love reading the different versions to get a fuller picture of what they were really doing, and I agree, "murmuring" doesn't convey it all.
And every time I stop and wonder "why in the world did the Israelites act that way", I am convicted that I do the same thing every day myself.
Especially when you say "They refused to focus on what God had done and focused on every obstacle that came in their way. Instead of asking God for deliverance, instead of remembering what God had done and trusting in him they only complained that God was persecuting them. They had a "poor me" attitude. Their focus was on themselves rather than God."
Great blog, K, thanks!
People are so shortsighted and have such short memories. It is beyond comprehension how quickly the people kept forgetting all God had done for them. It would seem like a miracle such as the parting of the Red Sea would be enough to keep them in line for awhile; but they were grumbling and complaining only a few days after being a part of one of the greatest events in history. It takes deliberate effort to focus the mind on what God has done and not be swayed by current events that arouse doubts.
God's patience with the children of Israel was astounding. He was willing to forgive them time and time again for their shortsightedness and ingratitude. They just couldn't "get it". It truly was a tragedy that all the original millions who left Egypt had to die in the wilderness, but they had their chances; over and over again.
I so appreciate your wonderful insight and heart!
Thanks for the wonderful post.