“What are we to drink?” Exodus 15:24

It’s easy for us to condemn the nation of Israel for the abandonment of their God as they wandered in the relentless, hostile environment of the desert. In the few short verses which summarise their trials and tribulations, we see them over and again grumbling against Moses and against God. They knew full well that they could not survive long without water. “What are we to drink?” they moaned (Exodus 15:24). Faced, as they were, with a spring of undrinkable water, it’s not, one might think, an unreasonable question. God sorts it out.

They move on, to find,a few verses later, a place where there were no less than twelve springs of drinkable water (Exodus 15:27). So more than once the God of creation has provided them with water in plentiful supply. But are they happy? “True, Moses struck the rock and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly, but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?” (Psalm 78:20). Again, they have a point. They knew full well that they could not survive long without a good supply of food. Again, God sorts it out, giving them a seemingly inexhaustible supply of manna and quail.

Time and again their needs are met. The very presence of God, protecting them day and night, was there for them to see. Time and again God blesses them. God sorts it.

But these were times of hardship on a scale we can easily overlook. The wilderness is a hostile and unforgiving environment. Not surprising then, that again and again they look back at their time in Egypt through rose tinted spectacles and see themselves well fed and watered, and protected by the armies of Pharaoh.

But now, they are in this barren, hot, dusty desert, struggling to exist.

In Exodus 17, water is a problem again, and they are ready to stone Moses. In Exodus 18, people are queuing up to bring him their problems. Before we know where we are they are pooling their golden earings to build themselves a golden calf to worship. God was angry. Very angry. But He sorted it out.

In spite of their moaning, God blessed these people in extraordinary, miraculous ways, even when they didn’t deserve it. When he did, they rejoiced and celebrated. Yet their memory of his blessing was short. Their current hardships meant that again and again they forgot the ways in which God had blessed them in the recent past. 

In the aftermath of personal horrors, Job remained faithful to God. His wife was overwhelmed by the situation, and exasperated with her husbands persestent reliance on God. “Are you still maintaining your integrity?” she says, “Curse God and die.!” He remains faithful, dismissing her foolish talk. “Shall we accept good from God and not troubles?”

It’s easy to condemn the Israelite nation for their selfishness. Their apparent tendency to ignore the blessings of God, and focus on the despair of the moment. But then again, human nature is like that.

Again and again in our own lives, if we bother to take notice, God sorts it out. God blesses us. Yet given the opportunity, we’re just like the nation of Israel. It’s so easy to step over the blessings and talk endlessly about our problems. Like the Israelites, and Mrs Job, we too easily forget the ways in which He has blessed us, preferring to grumble and moan. And yet for most of us, compared to the nation of Israel, our problems are transient and trivial.

It’s easy to condemn the Israelites for their weakness of faith, but would I have been any different if I was wandering with them while my children were hungry and thirsty? Probably not.

“We are too prone,” wrote Charles Spurgeon, “to engrave our trials on marble, and write our blessings in sand .”

The Israelites were doing it. Across the world, generation after generation has done it. 

As for me?

Guilty as charged. (I am a work in progress – #transformation)

Keep praying.



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