Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
God opened a path through the Red Sea when the Israelites were trapped between the Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, and God provided water to quench their thirst. The Israelites drank the water God provided in the middle of the desert. God even made the water sweet to fit their taste. They were fully satisfied.
Then they started from the Marah, where they drank the water provided by God and traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water. God provided water abundantly more than what they imagined. One spring was good enough to feed the Israelites in Marah, but God provided twelve springs with seventy palm trees in Elim. It was a paradise to the Israelites, and God kept providing. What a blessing it was!
Thus, they lacked nothing because God provided, not because they were faithful to God, but because God was faithful to the Israelites regardless of their attitude. Why? God loved the Israelites because of only one reason — they were God’s most precious beloved children.
God loved the Israelites more than any earthly parents who loved their children. Thus, as loving parents teach their children for their children’s bad behavior, God instructed the Israelites. And God used Moses, who was most humble and always faithful to God. Through Moses, God said,
“If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.” (Exodus 15:26b)
As soon as the Israelites heard, they all said, “We will listen and obey.”
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. Sigh! It reminds us of our behaviors toward God, especially bad ones.
We all know if we pamper our children too much, they are spoiled, which is not good for either our children or us, the parents. Then what do we, the earthly parents, do to our children? We, the parents, first endure with love for our children. We tell them all good words and wisdom while hoping they understand and change their behaviors. We don’t stop telling them what they must do as long as they keep dwelling on their bad behaviors. Thus, being a parent requires lots of love and patience while enduring all things for our children. Even so, we often see our children going away from us by making distance from us while complaining and criticizing more and more. Even so, we earthly parents do not quit being patient with our children because we love them. Then what would our Heavenly Father do to us? Do we have any reason why God does differently to us? No. Indeed, God surely does more than any earthly parent can ever do. Indeed, God, our Heavenly Father, loves us more than any earthly parents can love and endures more than any earthly parents can do.
Even so, the Israelites behaved rather badly. They set one of the worst examples of all. Here is the Israelites’ complaint to God only one month after they became free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
“If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” the Israelites 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)
What was their complaint to God? First, they blamed God for not killing them in Egypt. In other words, God did not let them die in Egypt peacefully after enjoying plenty of meat and bread as much as they wanted. Instead, they were about to starve to death in the middle of the wilderness because they had no meat and bread, which they had plenty of in Egypt. Was it true?
The Egyptians took advantage of the Israelites for four hundred years and lived in Egypt only one month ago. In Egypt, countlessly, many Israelites were poorly treated without any real reasons to be treated in such a way. Some were punished ruthlessly simply because they spoke up about the truth that the Egyptians did not want to hear. Some were even tortured and killed by the Egyptians. Back in Egypt, none of the Israelites liked the Egyptians and did not want to stay even one more day in Egypt. They were slaves, and the Egyptians were masters. The slavery was their fate, and they had to live in the land of slavery. Their miserable lives continued from morning to night, day after day, month after month, year after year, and generation after generation, which was the never-ending reality in Egypt. And there was no hope of getting out of the vicious cycle filled with miseries. Some even rather chose death to be liberated from the miserable reality. Their faith in God was the only reason they could sustain themselves in Egypt. They believed God would surely send a liberator to rescue them from their miserable slavery.
Then God sent Moses, and Moses rescued the Israelites with the power of God manifested into ten plagues, dividing the Red Sea to make a safe path to walk on dry ground to the other side and providing water in the middle of the desert. No human beings had experienced none of these. Miracle after miracle, they saw God’s mighty hand acting upon their enemies – Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and his army. How could they ever forget God and His mighty hand?
They were like a reed swayed by the wind. When they saw God’s glory and power, they rejoiced. When a situation looked bad in their eyes, they immediately blamed God. They created the worst-case scenario without thinking through and assessing it thoroughly while considering what God had done to them. There was no reason to think about the worst, but they did. The almighty God was with them, who liberated them from the four-hundred-year slavery and kept protecting them by walking with them through the Red Sea and the desert.
Indeed, none of the worst-case scenarios was materialized. Suppose that if even one of the worst-case scenarios came true, they would not be there to complain to God because they would have had already died.
For example, they would have been killed on the other side of the Red by the Pharaoh’s army. They would have all perished out of dehydration without water in the middle of the desert. No such thing had happened. Why? Again, God was always with them. God protected them with His mighty hand because they were God’s children. Moreover, God was always patient and kind to them whether they complained to God or not.
On the other hand, the Israelites kept complaining while telling the worst-case scenarios, which had never happened after all. All of them were the creation of their faithless hearts. They were blown by the imaginary storm that never existed and would not come because their heart and minds manufactured such fearful extreme scenarios. How pitiful they were! Even so, God loved the Israelites and cared for them. They were under God’s special care.
Sadly, they never stopped complaining to God. They had gone too far. They always praised their life in Egypt. Had they had a good life in Egypt?
Absolutely not. If the Israelites had a good life in Egypt, why would anyone follow Moses when Moses asked them to leave Egypt? It was their aggression against God, their ever-loving Father, like teenagers who aggressively against their parents for no reason. There was nothing to praise about their lives in Egypt. Even so, they praised. It was their effort to make God look bad and justify their frustration against things happening to them.
Being chased down by the Pharaoh’s army put them into dreadful fear, which was the reality. And it was also true that there was no way to run away from the Pharaoh’s army because the Red Sea blocked their way to escape. Surely, they felt they were doomed.
After three days of journey through the desert, they could not find water in the middle of the desert. They was in a life-threatening situation. They would have died out of extreme dehydration without water if they could not find water immediately. The clock was ticking, and it was a matter of days or even hours.
Both situations were really serious, but it did not mean for the Israelites to praise life in Egypt. Indeed, they focused on God to search for an excuse for the dreadful situations, which was to blame God. It was not enough for them. Almost as revenge to God, they added their praise to the life in Egypt and the Egyptians who oppressed and took advantage of them by enslaving them for four hundred years.
How about us? Do we constantly search for a reason to blame God? As soon as we find one, have we put all our blames on God as the Israelites did? Again, as Israelites did, haven’t we used the worst-case scenario as our basis to blame God, although it ended up not happening while it only existed in our minds? Please look back. Have the worst-case scenarios ever happened in our lives? If so, you would not be here to read this. The worst-case scenarios are products of our faithlessness, and our faithless hearts and minds keep churning out such things to deceive us into separating us from God. Yes, we feel the worst scenario would surely happen in our lives, but it will not and cannot because of God, Our Ever-Loving Father.
Predicting the worst-case scenario had fundamental flaws too. First, it is a fact that we cannot know the exact future. If we can, we are God. Especially if we can predict the future with such precision, why cannot we predict the real outcome instead of the fear-driven worst-case imaginary false future that God does not allow to happen anyway?
Our future is under God’s domain. Nobody can argue about this truth. None, even a single person, has ever predicted the future with such precision in history because we are mere mortals, not God.
What’s faith in God? We believe God loves us, and we are His most precious beloved children. What would be the most logical conclusion if we knew this truth? God, who dearly and madly loves us, will never allow the worst-case scenario, and we have to directly confront the worst-case scenario because it only exists in our fearful minds. But we are driven by fear, and the worst-case scenario drives our behavior toward God, as with the Israelites.
God gave us both Godly and worldly wisdom, but we tend to use worldly wisdom only. Then it quickly becomes an instrument to create the worst-case scenario against God, as our teenagers frequently do, which is detrimental to both our teenagers and us. What do we expect if we keep complaining while insisting on our worst-case scenario to God and blaming God?
Doing so means we run away from God with all hearts and minds. It will certainly damage our relationship with God. Is this what we really want?
How about God? God is not like either the Israelites or us. God is love and patient. God always waits for our return, although we run away from God while blaming Him.
By the way, the most gracious thing God has done for us is, regardless of our rebellious acts against God, God does not allow the worst to happen in our lives. This means that God has one-sided love toward us. His relentless and one-sided love triumphs over our sinful and rebellious behaviors. Yes, God’s love is indeed bigger than all our complaints combined, which we have ever made to God, all the pains inflicted on God’s hearts, and all our sins committed against God. God accepts us as who we are and what we are, no matter what we have done to God and others around us. God always has room to receive us.
The Israelites praised life in Egypt — sitting around pots filled with meat and eating the bread they wanted, which was a lie. Upon their lie, they criticized God, who freed them from the miserable enslaved life. Why? According to them, it was God’s true intention to bring them into the wilderness and kill them. Was it true? What would you do to the Israelites if you were God?
Here is how God responded. Then the LORD said through Moses,
“Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.” (Exodus 16:4-5)
God did not pick up their wrongdoings. God even did not ask why they made up the lie as a part of an attempt to make God look bad. God was silent and extremely patient with the Israelites. Despite all criticism and complaint, God provided.
Indeed, God promised to rain down food from heaven for the Israelites daily. And then God kept raining down food from heaven for the next 40 years. Can we guess? How many times did they complain to God for the rest of their journey with God for forty years?
How about us? How many times have we complained to God while using our own worldly logic and sticking to our worst-case scenario to God as the reality that will come?
Why do we do such terrible things to God? Deep inside of us, we have a desire to be God or God-like. Indeed, it was the first sin of the entire humanity as Adam and Eve committed. Satan knew the very weakness of Adam and Eve and directly attacked. Then Adam and Eve immediately gave in. Here is the sentence that the serpent used:
“You will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5b)
Our God, the one and only one God, always responds with love. Indeed, through which, we can truly experience and grow deeper into God. The prodigal son in Bible truly appreciated his father (God’s figure) and his love as he was returning to the father. In contrast, his older son legally demanded his right to party with his friends, although he had none to claim. After all, all that he enjoyed were still his father’s. As long as his father lived, the older son had nothing to claim as his own.
Like the older son, we want to claim our portion, although it is not ours yet. Then we justify our anger toward God by blaming God’s unfairness and project our worst scenario-driven future. When such a temptation comes, we should remember the truth — the future is under God’s dominion, and our God, the Eternal Father, dearly and madly loves us. To Him, we are the most precious to Him. Also, isn’t it true that Our God, the only Ever-Loving Father, the creator of the heavens and earth? Then why will God spare anything against us?
But we also should remember: God does not blindly give. God is love and lovingly teaches us not to continue our destructive behaviors out of faithlessness. God clearly said to the Israelites, “I will test them [the Israelites].” No, it was not an exam that determined whether the Israelites passed or failed; if they failed, God punished them. Instead, it is a God-given opportunity. Through the opportunity, we can examine our faith and realize where our faith really is. Surely, the first step is to realize the true address of our faith. Then we truly know where the problem is with our faith and how to fix it. The goal is to get close to God, not run away from God.
See how good our God was to the Israelites. God did not teach them by punishing them. Rather God provided them to their complete satisfaction. Then God let them see the result of their disobedience and greed.
Ideally, we always listen to and obey God. How does God feel if we don’t obey God, who loves us dearly? God has never given us anything random but the best. Please make a clear distinction. Obeying God is not like obeying the earthly authority because they are not anything different from you. They have the same temptation and limitations as ours and are as sinful as we are. Most of all, they don’t have the fathomable love that only belongs to God. Finally, they can’t see the future. Thus, they don’t know what’s best for now and the future. Our God knows exactly what’s best for us. He is love and we can always trust Him.
Finally, we have to be humble before God. We think we know what is good and bad to us, but it is just an illusion. We don’t know what is really good and bad for us. What looks good today is not good anymore tomorrow. Instead, what we feel is painful often leads to good counterintuitively.
On the other hand, our God knows our future and what will be really good for us. How many times have we realized this fact later? Then what’s the real wisdom throughout our lives?
True wisdom is to trust in Him under all circumstances. Yes, we must listen and obey. Then we have to give thanks to God under all circumstances. This is the true indicator of our faith. Of course, we have to pray continually. God loves to hear our voice, which is our prayers to God. By doing so, we go into a deeper relationship with God. This is what God wants from us.
All parents truly desire to hear thanksgiving from their children. Can God, our Heavenly Father, be different? No. Again what our Heavenly Father truly wants from us is our thanksgiving to Him under all circumstances while trusting in Him and believing God, who always has and yet again just provided the best, although our eyes might say differently.
Surely, it is not easy to thank God when we are in pain due to things happening in our lives or fear because something fearful is coming at us. Here is the tip on how to overcome pain and fear in Him. Please say loudly,
“THANK YOU, God!”
“THANK YOU, God!”
“THANK YOU, God!”
Not just once, but say three times.
It is the triumphant moment over all things bringing pain and fear to us. Why? As we proclaim our thanksgiving, we are just reconnected to God through the power of thanksgiving. Then don’t lose the momentum. Just talk to God through prayer, carrying all our heart pains, concerns, and fears. Then what will come next? As promised, the peace of God transcends all understanding, which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)