Seems that way. Wasn’t my fault I got the flat tire, my children got sick, I lost the job. It didn’t take long for the children of Israel, freshly redeemed from Egypt, to gripe. Maybe they expected to live on miracles. They had seen plenty when God put the pressure on the Egyptians–and they went free every time. Perhaps they felt so special that they figured it would always go that way.
Not this time: “Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sa, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter…And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet” (Exodus 15:22-25).
The obstacle became the opportunity. Too bad they didn’t see it that way from the get-go. Too bad they didn’t say, “If God could deliver us from the strongest army in the world, I’ll bet He has a solution to this water problem.” Then the test would become a testimony. Instead it became an example of how easily people complain when situations turn on them. It’s not about our circumstances–it’s about ourselves. Can we trust God when things turn south or must we register our displeasure?
The verse before this paragraph reads, “And Miriam sang to them, ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his ride he has thrown into the sea’” (21). Too bad they couldn’t just keep worshiping instead of whining. Worship proves that our center of gravity is the character of God rather than the situation at hand.
Did they expect to get a smooth ride? Do we? Do Christians miss their plane, have car trouble, cranky neighbors, work issues, financial pressures? Life is full of tests, trials, tension, the very thing that give us character–IF we keep our focus on the Lord who has triumphed gloriously. Otherwise, we simply prove that we are members of a human fallen race by grumbling.
Some prefer to keep worshiping–like Paul in the prison cell after being unjustly beaten, or Daniel after his life was threatened if he prayed to any god besides the king, or the apostles who praised God after they left a rugged meeting with the religious leaders because they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name.
God is God, and that is what He expects us to do. And if we do, we learn to ride higher than our trials, and they turn to triumphs. You probably know people like that. They have come into a rhythm of life that their focus is so much on beholding the Lord that they appear not even to taste the bitter water. They live on a higher plane. That’s where I want to be. How about you? Their answer came from a tree. Ours does too! Would it have helped if they had known that their next stop was Elim–with twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees? (27).