Good morning!

Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.


The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

       His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

       his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:21-22)

Israelites left the oasis in Marah, fully satisfied with the water that was sweet to their taste. They also carried the water from the oasis as much as possible for the next journey because they could not forget the pain without water through the desert.


Only a few days ago, they were trapped between the Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea because they camped beside the shore after leaving Egypt, where they were enslaved for four hundred years. Their joy was unparalleled to anything they ever had in Egypt for the last four hundred years. In Egypt, their lives were miserable. They were born enslaved, lived as enslaved people, and died as enslaved people. No Egyptians cared about their birth and death. They were just enslaved people possessed by the Egyptians. They worked day and night for the Egyptians and died, but the Egyptians took for granted their services because they were Egyptians’ slaves.


Often, some of them were tortured and beaten to death without a serious fault, but the Egyptians had never felt guilt for what they had done to the Israelites because the Israelites were just the Egyptians’ properties like a house, furniture, or farming equipment. The Egyptians did whatever they liked to the Israelites. The Israelites’ life was full of misery from birth to death. Some of them felt death was the only way to escape their misery.


They cried out to God every day. Some shed tears out of the misery at night before going to bed. Only were their comfort their prayers to God, which liberated their hearts and minds from the miserable enslaved reality. Their prayers comforted them because they felt God heard their cries. They believed someday God would liberate them. Thus, they could endure yet another enslaved day getting out of bed and returning to bed at night. God was the only source of strength and sustained them in Egypt.



While the Israelites were in misery and crying out to God, God raised Moses for forty years. During that time, Moses had gone through God’s special training. Forty years ago, Moses thought that he was fully ready and capable of doing God’s monumental work of liberating the Israelites from the bondage of slavery. He acted on it and miserably failed. Rather than becoming a hero for liberating the Israelites and getting all the fame of being the liberator, he became a fugitive to the Midian wilderness to barely save his life. Yes, Moses had all the power, knowledge, and skill to lead the Israelites, but God did not give Moses what Moses wanted.


From God’s point of view, Moses was not yet ready to be a true servant of God who would liberate the Israelites for God, which absolutely needed God’s power, strength, and wisdom. Thus, God sent Moses through special training that lasted 40 years. During this time, Moses slowly became a truly humble servant of God.  


Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth. (Numbers 12:3)


As Moses was ready, God started His salvation plan for the Israelites. God sent back Moses to Egypt to liberate the Israelites. Through Moses, God utterly punished Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and the entire nation by sending down ten plagues that had never been heard before. Pharaoh lost his firstborn son in the tenth plague and finally freed the Israelites. Pharaoh tried hard not to release the Israelites, but the tenth plague made Pharaoh truly fear God.


For the Israelites, it was the day waiting for four hundred years. All were truly joyful and happily left Egypt. Yes, nobody complained and resisted leaving Egypt. None loved living in Egypt as slaves for four hundred years. They did not even want to look back at what happened in Egypt. All joyfully followed Moses. Yes, Moses finally received praise from the Israelites, which he wanted to achieve with his own knowledge and might. Moses fully realized how God worked in his life and for the Israelites. What Moses thought was not even close to what God had done to make Pharaoh release the Israelites. It took ten plagues that only God could bring down. 


We often underestimate what has to be done to change one’s life, a community, or even a nation. We are quick to think things can be done by clever planning and influences with various earthly means, but when we look back on our lives and even history, we can see how childish thinking was. Only God knows and can change a human’s heart, community, and nation. None is even close. 


Moses experienced God and learned enough to be humble before God. How humble did he become? He was very humble – more humble than any other person on earth. Then Moses had never forgotten the special training he had gone through with God. Indeed God was always with Moses all the way till Moses became fully ready with His unfathomable love. Without God’s love, how could Moses overcome his misery of being expelled from the towering prince groomed to be the next Pharaoh to a fugitive who ran away for his life to the Noman’s land – the Midian wilderness?


God was there when Moses struggled in the Midian wilderness, and God prepared all things before Moses. God introduced Moses to one family in the wilderness who tendered sheep, and Moses became a humble and poor shepherd. God kept walking with Moses for the next forty years. Then God called Moses through burning bushes. God gave God’s mission to Moses, and God sent Moses. By the power of God, Moses faithfully and humbly accomplished God’s plan, not repeating the mistake he attempted forty years ago.


When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, the Israelites followed Moses, but no one truly appreciated what God did because they had no true experience with God. They were just happy being liberated. Was there anyone who truly thanked God while praising Him with the loudest praise? Sadly none did.



God saw through their hearts. They were not truly grateful to God. They were not ready for the Promised Land, and God made the Israelites take a detour. Soon they met the first obstacle, the Red Sea, which blocked their way. They just camped along the shore. They were still happy being free people without knowing what was coming next.


No thanksgiving to God practically means no true faith in us. Giving thanks to God is an essential part of our faith in God, which is the true barometer of our faith. Do we want to know about our faith? Then just count how many times we give thanksgivings to God in our lives regardless of a good time or a most stressful time. If our thanksgiving to God is getting few every day, then we should be alarmed our faith is getting fading away. Even the smallest hardship in our lives makes us fail and leave God altogether. Our earthly good things tend to do the effect described above. As we have more earthly good things, our faith is prone to fade away by being drowned in earthly prosperity and good things. We might still have a shape of faith because we still attend church services, but the substance of faith becomes hardly found.


How about the Israelites? Unfortunately, they were trapped in the greatest blessing that God brought to them – freedom from slavery. God liberated them, but they possessed the most amazing present of God that their ancestors had been yarning for four hundred years. But they hardly gave thanks to God.


They were spiritually newborn babies who were just happy as they got good things and then complained when they got something not so desirable to their eyes. Then if we were God, what would we do? Would we punish them? No. God is love. God loved the Israelites and helped them to grow spiritually. 


Let’s see Moses’ example. How did Moses become mature in faith? He became mature in faith one day. He had to go through a painful period with God, which indeed lasted forty years.


It does not mean all of us would go through forty years of special training with God as Moses did. It is up to God. If you are chosen to do a monumental task of God as Moses did, then God will surely take you through His specialized training as God did to Moses.


Indeed, each one walks with God as God has planned. And going through the training designed by God is not easy, but we should not forget God is always with us because God dearly loves us.  Yes, we are His beloved children and the most precious to Him.


God sent Pharaoh and his chosen soldiers among the most formidable army with the finest weapons of Egyptian chariots, swords, and spears in His love, not to punish them. On the other hand, the Israelites acted completely opposite. They heard the noise made by the Pharaoh’s army. What was the first reaction of the Israelites, even before seeing the Pharaoh’s army? Here is what they said:


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)



Really? Did they protest Moses not leave Egypt? No. We might say how illogical they were.  Didn’t they see what God did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians with His mighty ten plagues?  Then they took off their eyes from God and focused on the Pharaoh’s army. We might blame the Israelites. But well, how much would be different if we were the Israelites? We would respond the same as the Israelites if we didn’t possess the faith of Moses in our hearts and minds.


What was Moses’ response in the Bible?


“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13b-14)


Shouldn’t Moses’ answer be the response of the Israelites? What a difference between those who have true faith and don’t have true faith in God.


Then upon Moses’ prayer, God opened up a path through the Red Sea, and made them walk on the dry ground that God prepared. The Pharaoh’s army chased down the Israelites into the path.  But as soon as the Israelites reached the other side of the Red Sea, God returned the water. The entire Pharaoh’s army was drowned to death. The Israelites saw the bodies washed up to the shore. 


Then the Israelites finally gave their true thanksgiving to God. They sang and danced while praising God. It lasted throughout the day. They saw God’s power and His protection not because they had a strong faith in God but because God was merciful in His love of them. They did not believe and complain to God, but God was patient and kept loving them. God’s love was greater than their sin of complaining without trusting in Him. But God was merciful, and His mercy was magnified on the complaining Israelites.



Didn’t they learn anything spiritually out of the unforgettable miracle of God – parting the Red Sea, letting the Israelites, returning the water, and utterly destroying the Pharaoh’s army? Apparently, very little or none.


Let’s see what happened after the miracle of crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. They walked into the wilderness. It was a desert. The sun was hot, and the desert was bone dry. They walked for three days.  Along the way through the desert, they used up all water that they started with. The entire Israelites were truly thirsty. Some were faint due to dehydration.


Then they found an oasis in Marah. They were relieved, but it did not last. The water was too bitter to drink. They complained to God about the bitterness of the water. It was yet another complaint to God after getting out of Egypt. What they complained about was not the water but the taste of the water. God was patient again with His love. Again God used Moses, who was truly humble and faithful to God. God showed Moses a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. All drank and were fully satisfied.


Yes, God’s mercy was greater than all their sin combined. Not just one, and many complained to God. It was the precious reflection of their faith. After crossing the Red Sea, they finally learned to thank God for the first time. But it did not last long. Only three days later, as they were greatly dehydrated almost to death, they found an oasis. Then they complained about the taste of the water. If they were truly dying, would the taste of the water matter?



How about us? When God provides what we prayed for, what do we do first? Don’t we taste what we get? If it does not fit our taste, haven’t we spit it out from our mouths and complained to God?  


Although the Israelites complained, God kept loving the Israelites. Then God provided what they wanted through Moses, faithful under all circumstances. They were fully satisfied, and then they left Marah. The Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.


Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. 


The Israelites said to them, 


“If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  (Exodus 16:3)


The Israelites were hungry, and the food brought with them ran out. They looked around, but nothing but the wilderness. They really worried, and they looked their children, who were starving. But they could not do anything because they had no food for their children. Indeed, they thought that they all would starve to death in the middle of the wilderness. 

Yes, we can understand their situation, but it exposes how little their faith was. It was only one month since they were freed from slavery in Egypt. How many times did they complain during the one month since they got out of Egypt? Three times. How many times had they seen God’s mighty hand? Three times. Whenever they complained, God was patient. Then God provided every time: God opened a path through the Red Sea when they feared death by the Pharaoh’s army. Then they complained about the taste of the water, and God made the bitter water sweet despite their complaint to God. They now complained again to God because they were hungry. Didn’t they see and learn God’s power and His love? God always provided, and why wouldn’t God provide again even though they were in the middle of the wilderness? 

Without faith, they thought that they would starve to death. 


God punished Pharaoh and the Egyptians with the ten plagues, parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass, but utterly destroyed the Pharaoh’s army, and made the bitter water sweet when they were extremely thirsty. How many times had they experienced God’s almighty and caring hand? Would God let them die in the middle of the wilderness? Please answer yourself.

Please also try to answer this question: what did God really want from the Israelites? Wasn’t it the Israelites’ absolute trust in Him? 


The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9)

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