Greetings in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
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. This means it was not the first time that they complained to God.
They were freed from 430 years of slavery bondage. For the long time, they had cried out to God for their freedom. Many of us have the same experience of crying out to God for His help. We prayed for months, years, and even decades to God for His merciful answer. But no answer, although we waited and waited patiently for God’s answer with hope and faith. Although we have made every effort, we cannot find even a glimpse of the smallest hint that God would answer our prayers. Nothing. The Israelites felt the same. They had no sign that God listened to their prayer and planned to answer! Even so, they prayed for their freedom generation after generation for 430 years.
Then they suddenly received freedom suddenly overnight. What a joy! Freedom. God hit Egypt hard and killed all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. But even one single Israelites’ firstborn son did not die. It was the tenth plague, which was the deadliest, and it became the last.
Not only got freedom, but the Israelites also received wealth from the Egyptians. In fear of God, the Egyptians gave their clothing and articles of silver and gold to the departing Israelites. The Egyptians feared God and also feared the Israelites because they found God favored and protected the Israelites. The Israelites, thus, left Egypt with the blessings of the Egyptians.
Even one day prior to that day that the Israelites were slaves despised by the Egyptians. They were treated badly, almost like animals. But they did not abandon hope. Then the day of freedom came.
Even the Pharaoh, the Egyptian King, who was the most powerful on earth then, could not do anything against God. The Pharaoh was also worshiped as a god by the Egyptians and by the surrounding countries conquered by the Pharaoh. But God utterly destroyed the Pharaoh, his power, and his ego and made him surrender to God. And God freed the Israelites with a mighty hand, and God was with them.
Then God told the Israelites not to forget what God had done. To help out the Israelites, God gave them Passover to commemorate the day that God passed over the households of Israelites. In contrast, God passed through all Egyptian households and killed all Egyptian firstborn sons.
The Israelites all heard wailing and crying Egyptians, but they were safe in God, who protected them. They watched their beloved firstborn sons sleeping soundly through the night. Could any Israelites’ parents forget the night? Absolutely not.
Even so, God knew the Israelites would soon forget what God had done. Their unforgettable memory would quickly fade and be forgotten in the individual’s mind and the entire community. It was why God set Passover for the Israelites and made them keep it annually.
God spoke through Moses to all of the Israelites, “We will keep God’s commandment by keeping Passover annually, and we will never forget God and what God has done to make us free from the bondage of 430 years of slavery.” Then all the Israelites solemnly promised before God, and, following Moses, they left Egypt like an army.
Does anyone remember how long they were faithful to God and joyfully followed without complaints? Yes, you are right. It lasted only a few days. According to the Bible, they complained to God twice during the first month. They blamed God and even wanted to return to the enslaved life in Egypt while praising the life in Egypt, which they hated for 430 years.
Here is what they said when they saw the Pharaoh again. who changed his mind and chased down the Israelites with his best army:
“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)
In fear of the Pharaoh’s army, they chose the enslaved life in Egypt over the freedom they had just received after their 430-year prayers. Can we imagine how many prayers they gave to God for 430 years? Because they could pray in hope, they could sustain for the last 430 years. Every evening after a long day of slavery, they told and retold their hope of freedom in faith in God. Indeed, it was the only engine they made endure yet another day in Egypt.
Indeed, their enslaved life was harsh and torturous. They had to work and work every day from sunrise to sunset. What made them sustain was telling and retelling the hope to be freed from bondage. It was their only true hope and comfort.
It was not all that they had to endure. Daily they had to live with tragic stories from their fellow Israelites. It was routine news to hear that one neighbor’s father, whom they saw in the morning, did not return due to an accident. He worked on a dangerous task erecting a big stone pillar for the Egyptians, but it fell on him before he ran out of the huge chunks of falling pieces of stones.
Then the following day, they heard yet another tragic story about another neighbor’s father. He got into an argument with his Egyptian slave driver, and then the situation escalated. He resisted and then revolted against the Egyptian slave driver. Then the Egyptian slave driver attempted to contain him, but he strongly resisted, which resulted in another tragic casualty.
They heard daily such tragic stories, but, indeed, nobody knew how to respond. It was true that such tragedy could come to anyone anytime.
Under the miserable situation, was there anyone who did not want to break the bondage and be freed? No. But they knew the bondage would never be broken. As far as they remembered, since they were old enough to know and understand the enslaved life, it was always with them and would be with them indefinitely.
Even so, they prayed with hope, which made them go. Then they got freedom because God brought it for them, but soon they forgot what God had done for them even before hitting one year mark. Only a few days later, they complained to God and even praised the enslaved lives in Egypt, which they had hated for 430 years.
Then why did they complain? The answer is easy. The Israelites immediately became fearful of the Pharaoh’s army! They saw their impending death by the swords of the Pharaoh’s army riding chariots and horses, and their fate quickly approached them.
Surely none at that time would say they were irrational. They saw the Pharaoh’s army quickly approaching with swords, and they responded. They thought that they would soon die by the swords of the Pharaoh’s army. Thus, they blamed God. Surely, they believed what they saw much more than God, who rescued them with His mighty hand.
They should have remembered how God saved the Israelites. Then they carefully reckoned what the Pharaoh could actually do to them. Only a few days ago, God subjugated the Pharaoh by killing all Egyptian firstborn sons, including his firstborn son, but the Pharaoh couldn’t do anything. He just became a passenger in God’s grand salvation plan specially crafted for the Israelites, His people.
God drove to His plan, and the Pharaoh was helplessly driven to the destination set by God. In the process, the Pharaoh lost his own firstborn son, and he freed up the Israelites. Indeed, the Pharaoh knew exactly how critical the enslaved Israelites were for Egypt. They were the main economic engine that made their nation go. No slaves meant no economy. To the Pharaoh, it was a truly hard decision to send away the Israelites. But he had to. He could not take another plague like the tenth plague of killing all Egyptian firstborn sons. He was in extreme fear, and his fear was much greater than anything that he could think of.
Should the Israelites have trusted in God while believing God would do the same for the Israelites again? Then why didn’t they believe in God? In fear, they looked at the Pharaoh’s army and lost their mind. They fixed their eyes on the Pharaoh’s army and failed to see God in faith. Then they forgot God.
Why had they done it illogically? Were they stupid? No.
God was invisible, but the Pharaoh’s army was not. They could even touch the sword carried by the Pharaoh’s army, but God’s almighty power was not. Although they experienced God’s unfathomable mighty power only a few days ago, it just lived in memory, which was intangible. To their eyes, the Pharaoh’s army was more real and imminent than God.
The Israelite’s struggle is a battle for anyone with faith in God. The swords carried by Pharaoh’s army were visible and tangible, while God was invisible and untouchable. Sounds familiar?
Reasoning and deciding based on what we see and touch is not faith. Faith means trusting and obeying God, although we don’t see and touch our God. However, we all know that we are naturally programmed to understand and act rather than to trust and obey.
If we act only after understanding, why do we need faith? Faith is completely different. Faith transcends all our understanding and directly connects us to God so that we can experience God and peace even under a situation we cannot, like when the Pharaoh’s army chased the Israelites. God provides. Then why peace? Imagine what God would do for us, who is our Ever-Loving Omnipotent Father. Thus, if we truly trust in Him, then they will be nothing to fear on earth.
Thus, Bible tells us:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6)
Please compare the above Word with what the Israelites did – complaining to God and praising the enslaved life in Egypt. Then look back at what we did to God, which is not much different from what the Israelites did. But we don’t deny the fear that the Israelites and we experience. Yes, it is real, but we have faith.
God sympathizes with all our fears and pains because He knows how real it is to the Israelites and us. God also wants us to have faith that transcends all understanding, fear, and pain.
Then when should we trust in God? When we see danger coming at us, surely and rapidly. Naturally, our brain makes us focus on the danger coming rapidly, telling us it will surely come and get us, which puts us in fear. If we let the fear control us, instantly, all things go in one direction together while amplifying fear, making us even more fearful and irrational, although it is time to fix our eyes on God, be calm, and have peace with Him.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Then how did God respond to the unfaithful Israelites? Despite all the Israelites did, God responded faithfully to the Israelites. God was always and unconditionally faithful to the Israelites. God provided a way through the Red Sea to walk safely to the other side. On the other hand, God utterly destroyed the Pharaoh’s Egyptian army by returning the water of the Red Sea. Indeed, God’s mercy was greater than their complaints and unfaithfulness.
The Israelites saw, experienced, and learned God’s unfathomable faithfulness and His absolutely mighty hand. God was on their side, although they were against God. Why did God protect the Israelites? There was only one reason. The Israelites were God’s people, but the Egyptian army was not.
Then shouldn’t they learn enough about God? But they didn’t. Less than one month since they left Egypt, they complained once more. The second complaint did not look much different from the first one:
“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)
However, this complaint was fundamentally different. There was no Egyptian army rode chariots and horses with swords to kill them, but they created their craving desire for meat and bread and demanded by complaining to God. This implies doubting God’s goodness.
After all, the most formidable enemy exists in our mind, making us more fearful than what we are getting from a tangible danger outside. The first murder in human history was driven by intangible jealousy that percolated in Cain’s mind. He became jealous of his young brother, Abel, because he felt God loved Abel more than him. Then his jealousy did not disapper, but it grew and grew in his heart, which, in turn, made him more painful every day. Soon his jealousy took over him.
Thus, God warned Cain,
“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
Did Cain listen to God and change his mind? No, he followed his own heart’s desire. Cain decided to eliminate Abel to stop the pain ever-growing in his heart. Then one day, he took his brother Abel to the middle of the field where nobody could see and killed his brother, Abel.
Although the Israelites experienced two unforgettable miracles of God, which freed and protected them from the Egyptians, they could not overcome their craving desire for delicious meats and freshly baked popping hot bread.
Yes, the biggest and most fearful enemy is in us. Even God’s unforgettable miracles could not make the Israelites overcome. Once caught up by an earthy desire, we cannot easily get out until we utterly fail. Then how to overcome the most formidable enemy in us? Here is how.
After Jesus’ forty days of fasting, Satan came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus overcame and won with the Word of God. After all, the Word of God is the only offensive spiritual weapon against our enemy living in us, our earthly desire craving for earthly comfort and satisfaction. We know as the Israelites failed, we will be, too, because we are not much different. Only the solution is to fix our eyes on Him and be equipped with His Word to fight against earthly desires popping up constantly in our hearts. Then, pray to God without ceasing, which is the breath of our spirit. Please present your heart’s desires to God and receive the peace of God that transcends all our understanding.
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)