Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1)
God blessed richly His people, the people of Israel. They left Egypt where they were enslaved for 400 years by the power of God. God punished the Egyptians, and God protected and blessed the people of Israel. Using the ten plagues rained down from heaven on the land of Egypt, and the awesome power of splitting the Red Sea, God guided His people, the people of Israel. But the Egyptians suffered and were terrified by the ten plagues, and then the Egyptian armies were destroyed and sank deep into the Red Sea like a rock. The people of Israel saw the bodies of the fearful Egyptian armies washed up on the seashore. To Pharaoh, it was a terrifying day, but to the people of Israel, it was the most blessed day after the long 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Yes, the people of Israel were freed. Completely released from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
God made a clear separation between His people and the Egyptians. God put a great chasm between them, which was the Red Sea. The people of Israel were safe from the Egyptians and ready to receive God’s blessings alone. Finally, the greatest joy fell on the people of Israel. Their 400 years’ slavery was no more, and they became God’s people. Their forefathers dreamed about this moment for 400 years. All died without seeing this blessed scene, but the people of Israel saw the greatest day provided by God in His mercy and love to His people. God did not forget any of the prayers of their forefathers and remembered. Yes, God was faithful. His faithfulness was magnified on that day. How blessed the people of Israel were!
God has not changed at all since rescuing the people of Israel from the Egyptians because He cannot be changed, who does not have a rotating shadow. He is also faithful to us because we are His children like the people of Israel. Under all circumstances, we should not be dismayed because God, who is infinitely faithful, carefully, attentively hears all our prayers from our mouth. He surely listens to our prayer word by word while closely paying attention to even our breath by breath while we are praying because He truly cares for us and loves us. To Him, we are the most precious. Although He created the entire universe, among them, we are the ones on whom He always has the highest affection because we are His beloved children. God, who is our Ever-Loving Father, is always with us. He answers all our prayers according to His infinite goodness and wisdom to provide the best for each of us. We shall surely see and experience His greatest mercy and love, lavishly pouring down from His throne in Heaven.
However, the people of Israel were not like God. They were repetitively unfaithful. As they saw the fearful Egyptian armies rapidly approaching, they immediately dropped their trust to God like a hot potato, and they believed what they saw. Then they were terrified. The fear of the Egyptian armies was much greater than faith in God. Their spiritual eyes got blind and could not see God anymore. Their trust in God suddenly was vanished. Then they raised their voice by pouring out their harsh criticism to God. In addition to this sin, they added another sin that they praised their former life of slavery in Egypt.
And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. (James 3:10-12)
A spring does not give both fresh water and bitter water. A fig tree does not produce both figs and olives, nor a graph vine figs and graphs. In the universe, none except our mouth can produce both fresh water and bitter water, and the bitter water often penetrates deep into the heart of the hearer to destroys the hearer. And then this often ends up destroying both parties because almost certainly the one who hurts reciprocates by spewing out even more bitter water. One drop of bitter water quickly becomes stabbing of both. It is not rare (especially nowadays) that one who hurts ends up physically stabbing the other. This is the manifestation of our sinful nature.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live….
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
Our God is not an exception. God hurts when we complain and make harsh criticism to Him. Indeed, He hurts more than anyone on earth because God loves us more than anything else in the universe. Thus, He hurts, and He hurts the most by us. That’s why it is a great sin that we complain and make hash criticism to God, Our Father.
As parents, there is no more painful than when we know that our children want to associate with people whom we don’t want because we know they will surely harm our children again and again. To God, the Egyptians were such a person who would harm the people of Israel again and again. Thus, God freed the people of Israel from the Egyptians who gave tremendous harm on them for 400 years. But the people of Israel wanted to go back to the Egyptians while praising the Egyptians instead of God, their Ever-Loving Father. As soon as they returned, they would become slaves again in the land of Egypt. The Egyptians would give even harsher treatment to the people of Israel than before. How much breaking God’s heart was!
God was infinitely patient to the people of Israel. God kept loving the people of Israel because they were His beloved children. Indeed, the people of Israel were just babies without knowing left and right. God kept loving and nurturing them. This is God’s character that appears, again and again, numerous times in the Bible. And the pinnacle of His love toward His beloved children in the Bible is the cross where God sacrificed His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, for us. Jesus Christ had no sin at all, but God put all our sins on Jesus Christ and sacrificed Him as an atoning sacrificial ram for all.
Then God declared we are no longer under the curse of sins — eternal death. Instead, we possess eternal life by the mercy of God. This is the gift of God, freely given to all who believe in Him by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal savior. Then we become His eternal children, no longer the children under the eternal curse of sins. This is the reason why we praise Him, and we live out a new life in Him by walking with Him and glorifying Him as we continue making our journey on earth. We are sure of our destiny and His guidance and protection because God will surely lead us through the paths of righteousness. We are no longer alone throughout our journey on earth. God, our Ever-Loving Father, is always with us. This is the promise of God and the assurance that is given to us. Thus, we can continue hoping in Him on earth always under all circumstances.
“Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14: 11b-12)
Unfortunately, the people of Israel were still too immature. They were much like a baby just born out of the mother’s womb. Their mouths were fast to complain and criticize God, and their feet were in a great temptation to move back to where they came from – the terrible place of slavery. However, God was infinitely patient to the people of Israel and loved them. God made a way for the unfaithful but beloved people of Israel to avoid the Egyptian armies quickly approaching to kill them. (In fact, the fear felt by the people of Israel, which was not based on the fact, but their perception. There was no reason why the Egyptians would kill them. The Egyptians badly wanted the people of Israel back as their slaves.)
God raised His mighty hand through Moses who kept faithful unlike the other people of Israel. As Moses raised his hand in faith, God split the Red Sea. God provided a way for the people of Israel through the Red Sea. All walked through the Red Sea on dry ground and reached the other side. But the Egyptians chasing the people of Israel were buried into the Red Sea buried deep into the Red Sea as God returned the Red Sea as it was. God protected and guided the people of Israel with His mercy and love, but God utterly destroyed the Egyptian armies. This is God’s character. Thus, we can believe God and trust Him in all circumstances including a dire situation that we have searched for but cannot see even one single way to get out of our life storm. Yes, due to the severity of the life storm our heart might not be truly faithful like the people of Israel, but we should not be dismayed. Please remember how many Israelites did truly trust and pray to God under the dire situation? There was none except Moses. Just one out of two million people of Israel trusted God without doubting. Even just one faithful prayer to God is heard by God, and God answers as God did to the people of Israel.
Let’s look back. Was it easy to continue praying to God while trusting Him and His goodness as our life storm hits hard and we couldn’t see any glimpse of the end of the storm? It was definitely not. Very difficult. No. It was humanly impossible, but somehow we passed the storm. How? God knew our weakness and God was there with us. Our faith was also going up and down with the wave of the storm, but God was always with us. Then God made us through the storm. Again, not because of our steadfast faith, but because of God’s unfathomable love, we were able to make through the storm.
Then what God wants from us? Our trust in Him under all circumstances. Surely, through our life journey, we might be struck down, but we will not be destroyed by the power of God. We might also be swapped away by a big wave, but God’s mighty hand holds us tightly. This is our faith and hope. Thus, we can fix our eyes on Jesus Christ as Peter did as sinking fast into deep water. Surely, we might be not like Moses who was faithful against all odds including the opposition and complain of the two million people, but God accepts us as we are including all our sins and unfaithfulness in us as long as we look up our eyes and see God’s loving eyes with an authentic, contrite and repenting heart for His mercy. One thing always true is that God is always waiting for us without ceasing. The most terrible thing that we can do is not to return to Him, and we try to go back to the world again. In the worst case, we might be ended up in the world again. Even so, one thing we should not forget — God is always waiting for us. He is ready to embrace us into His bosom where His mercy, love, and grace abounds.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
As they crossed the Red Sea, the people of Israel saw again God’s power and His love and mercy. They praised God and gave thanks for God had done for them – crossing the Red Sea safely under God’s protection. However, their thankful hearts were quickly challenged by their thirst after three days without water, and their mouths were filled with complain to God again!
Are we different from the people of Israel who complained only in three days? Not much different from the people of Israel. As the situation changes, our hearts change. We even then complain to God. The three days seem short, but in reality, it is not. Having not water and walking the wilderness for three days is real torture. Our hearts can change in three days or even shorter periods. The power of the world is so strong and immediate that it quickly erases all good memories of God including our praises in our mouths a few days ago. God knows our weakness and failure. What God wants is our continual relationship with Him. God has not and will not give up or abandon His own children simply because His children have failed. Once we become His children, no matter what happens, we are His children. God will continue to hold us no matter what happens because we are the most precious children whom he dearly and madly loves.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15)
Our God is Our Ever-Loving Father. A mother cannot forget her nursing child. Let say, even if such an unthinkable thing happens, God will never forget us. This is the solemn and holy promise of God. Yes, Our God is love, and His love is more secure than the love of mothers. Indeed, nothing can separate us from His love. Thus we are infinitely secure in Him. God will love us always and forever under all circumstances. This is our assurance in Him, and He sealed this assurance on the cross.
Although the people of Israel complained, God was again patient to the people of Israel. God used His faithful servant, Moses who endured the enormous pressure of two million people and turned the bitter water to sweet fresh water so that the people of Israel could drink. God made the people of Israel completely satisfied.
God’s love is unfathomable. Our lives are often getting bitter, but His love converts the bitterness to sweet. Once we taste His sweet, nobody can forget, and we can come to Him again and again. Why? None can provide such a life-giving and sweet water that revives our hearts and minds even in the bone-dry wilderness in our lives.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)
Many people followed Jesus, but most of them left Jesus. Jesus asked, “Then do you want to leave me also?” Then Peter, one of the Twelve disciples, answered, “Lord’ to whom shall we go? You have the Word of eternal life.” Peter found the sweet and life-giving water from Jesus. Once Peter tasted the sweetness of the water from Jesus, he could not leave Jesus. Some of us surely have tasted the bitter water of this world. Even at this moment, some are tasting the bitter water oozing from the wilderness of the world. But we should not fear. Jesus overcomes the world, and His disciples tasted the sweetness that only comes from Him. So we taste the same sweetness only coming from Jesus. Then to whom shall we go?
The people of Israel tasted the sweetness of God. They were fully satisfied. Then they marched through the wilderness. Again, the journey through the wilderness was not easy. As their food that they hurriedly prepared and carried out of Egypt was bare minimal and getting low. They started missing good food, such as meat and bread. Such a small temptation of having good food quickly grew and took over their entire hearts. As a small yeast quickly spreads to the entire batch of dough, their hearts were completely occupied for a craving desire of eating meat and bread in the middle of the wilderness. They knew it was impossible to have meat and bread in the middle of the wilderness, but they cried and complained to God. All of the people of Israel were quickly infested by the sinful craving for good food in the middle of the wilderness. All complained and demanded to God. They were almost threatening God also.
“If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” (Exodus 16:3)
Are there any parents who let their children starve to death by not providing food although they have enough food to feed their children? Absolutely not. God is our Ever-Loving Father, and He created everything and owns everything. Is there any reason for God to keep His children from food although He had more than all the people of Israel could consume?
If the people of Israel believed God and trusted His faithfulness and love, they would have had not complained. They would have had waited for God’s provision or just gently reminded God for their needs.
What the people of Israel did was completely opposite from what they should have had done. They complained to and even threatened God, the Ever-Loving Father. God, because He dearly loved the people of Israel, decided to show Himself to the people of Israel.
the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud. (Exodus 16:10b)
God showed His glory to the people of Israel to know who God was. We, all human beings, are not so smart as we think. We often need evidence to continue believing in God. This is the reason why God from time to time shows His glory in a form of a majestic view, a miracle of healing, or something else supernatural. Have you had any experience of suddenly realizing His majestic creation reflected in nature, such as a majestic view of sunrise or sunset over a vast ocean or huge mountains, a crystal clear night sky filled countlessly many sparkling stars along with the milky way that crossed the entire night sky from one horizon, passing through the zenith and reaching to the other side of the horizon?
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20)
The people of Israel were again provided by God although they were neither qualified nor entitled to receive God’s provision of meat and bread in the middle of the wilderness. Indeed, the people of Israel received what they wanted. Please note that what they got was meat and mana instead of bread. Mana was much better than a garden variety of bread. God always provides the best, which is often much better that we desire. Our Ever-Loving Father is God of upgrading not downgrading His blessings. This is God’s character, and we should not forget and believe. Then what God wants from us? What God wants is our ever-deepening relationship with Him by trusting and loving Him more and more. This desire of God is not so different from what our earthly parents want from their children.
The people of Israel got from God more than what they asked. Like babies who are quite for a while when they get what they want, the people of Israel were quiet and obediently followed God again. At God’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sina and moved from place to place following Moses. Nobody complained because they were fully satisfied with the meat and mana from Heaven. However, their thankful hearts did not last long though because they were still of their own, not of God.
They came to a place called Rephidim. Guess what happened at the place. They complained again! There was no water for the people to drink. Once more they raised their voices against God telling Moses.
“Give us water to think!” they demanded. (Exodus 17:2b)
It is unbelievable. This was the fourth time that they made a complaint to God, and it is also the second time that they complained to God for water. We might want to ask the people of Israel, “Do you complain about water again? Don’t you remember what God did last time when you did not have water to drink?”
Moses was sick and tired of hearing complaints from his people. It was not a distant past that they complained and got water from God. Moses was so much patient and had immobile faith in God, but Moses was a little bit agitated.
“Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?” (Exodus 17:2b)
But the people of Israel were not so receptive to Moses’s warning. Moses wanted them to look back God did for them when there was no water to drink. But for them, their torment by thirst was the primary concern. They argued back to Moses.
“Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3b)
Again, the same rhetoric. The source of their torment by thirst was God, and God would let us, our children, and our livestock die by thirst. When they were well fed, they believed God, and when they had the slightest pain, then they blamed God as describing as a killer! We all know God is love. God is not a killer, who would ruthlessly kill the people of Israel with their children and their live stocks. Again they did not trust God. Where was their faith in God anyway?
How about us? Do we believe God only when God blesses us in an earthly measure? Or do we continue believing God and trusting His infinite goodness regardless of what’s happening in our lives, i.e., even in the middle of life storm? Of course, we know the answer — how the people of Israel behaved to God. Did they know God’s power and His provision and care for them? Yes, they knew because they experienced God’s mighty, caring, and protecting hand multiple times. Then why didn’t they trust God?
The answer is that faith is not knowledge. If so, the people of Israel would have had a wonderful faith. Faith is a manifestation of our ever-deepening relationship with God. Moses’ faith was a spiritual product of God, which took 40 years of Moses’ life as a humble shepherd walked with God while fighting against his ambition and ego-centric temptation after falling from the towering Prince of Egypt. Moses walked his ever-deepening relationship with God, and God called Moses as the set time came. In other words, to create Moses, it took 40 years.
Then what shall we do? Should we also spend 40 years to be ready to do God’s work? There is a way to shorten the training period and quickly graduate His training course. The secret is to give thanks to God under all circumstances. Why? Giving thanks to God is one of the most formidable weapons against temptations that we get. Satan, our enemy, secretly plants various earthly temptations in our hearts. But when we give thanks to God even under the most unlikely situation, Satan immediately knows his battle is over, and quickly leaves us.
Then how can we possibly give thanks to God under the most unlikely situation? We already know the answer based on what the people of Israel didn’t do. Please count what God did to us. Although the people of Israel experienced the best blessings ever like passing through the Red Sea by walking on dry ground and eating meat and mana in the middle of the wilderness, they did refuse to count their blessings, and just demanded to satisfy their earthly craving desires instead. Yes, regardless of whether we are in peace with God or in midst of an unbearable life storm, it is time to give thanks to God with our loudest voice.
“Thanks to God!”
“Thanks to God!”
“Give thanks to God for what He has done!”
Surely the peace of God that transcends all understanding will come into our heart and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This is God’s promises given to us, His precious beloved children, which is assured by His faithfulness in His love, mercy, and grace. Thus, let’s together be victorious in Him over our daily spiritual battle. Let’s not be a loser by being deceived and beaten by Satan. Dear brothers and sisters, let’s rise together in God, the Ever-Loving Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us while fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, Our Savior!
Count Your Blessings
by Johnson Oatman Jr
- When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.
- Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
- When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
- So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, … (2 Peter 3:9a)
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:37)