Greetings in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
God was good to the Israelites. God freed the Israelites from 430 years of slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land. On the way, their progress was blocked by the Red Sea. Then they camped alongside the shore of the Red Sea.
Soon one person at the rear of the Israelites spotted Pharaoh’s army chasing them down to where they camped. They hurriedly tried to run away from the Pharaoh’s army, but the Red Sea blocked their way, which was an immovable impediment.
All were trapped between the Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. They wailed about their sad fate. They were about to be killed by the Pharaoh’s army. The Pharaoh’s army was rapidly approaching, but the Red Sea blocked their way. They looked up to heaven and then blamed and complained to God.
But Moses was different. He kept faithful to God, although all others complained to God. Using Moses’s faith, God opened a passage through the Red Sea. Moses led the Israelites and walked on dry ground through the Red Sea to the other side. On the othe hand, the Pharaoh’s army chased down into the Red Sea, but God destroyed the Pharaoh’s army chasing them by returning the water of the Red Sea where it was.
The Israelites on the other side saw what was happening before their eyes, which was an awesome scene that they had never seen before. Suddenly, joy broke out among the Israelites. Yes, they shouted in joy and praised God by singing and dancing. It was the day that they were saved from Pharaoh. They knew there was no more fear of Pharaoh because God destroyed the Pharaoh’s army, and the Red Sea permanently separated Pharaoh from them.
God protected and saved the Israelites not because they were faithful but because God was faithful.
Sing to the LORD,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider
into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21b)
Then they walked into the desert from the Red Sea. They walked for three days without finding water. The sun was hot, and the land was bone-dry. Their thirst reached the limit, and some fainted. It was getting harder and harder to walk down every minute. They badly needed water, but what they saw was the desert. Then their mouths started being filled with complaints to God, which was only three days after their praise to God after crossing the Red Sea.
Then they spotted an oasis. They felt they were saved. Many believed that their prayer was answered. However, the water produced by the oasis was too bitter to drink. It would have been much better off if they had not seen the water that they could not drink. They again complained to God, for this time, even louder. They felt God was deaf to their prayer, and they truly wanted their prayer to be heard by God. Then they shouted even louder to God as they complained to God.
Of course, God heard every prayer and every heart desire of the Israelites. What God wanted was their faith in God. What God did was to make them realize how shallow their faith was. After all, it only mattered which one they believed: what they saw or God’s faithfulness that they could not see immediately.
Unfortunately, they chose what they saw. Then they reacted, but Moses believed and kept faith in God while trusting in Him. Even so, their failure to be faithful to God did not end their relationship with God. Why? God was faithful. God oved them regardless of their failure. Their failure means sin because sin means failing to hit the target set by God, which was holding faith, not relying on what they saw. God’s desire is to be faithful to God with immovable faith, but their faith was like chaff blown by the wind.
God again used Moses, who was faithful despite all the Israelites complained to God and turned against God. Then God asked Moses to pick up a piece of wood and put it into the water. Moses obeyed.
The entire Israelites closely watched what Moses was doing, and all were skeptical about what Moses was doing. Anyway, they did not like Moses because he brought them into the desert for three days without finding water. Then Moses brought them to an oasis that only produced water too bitter to drink. All of the people hated Moses, and some tried to stone Moses.
Moses knew what was going on in the Israelites’ minds, but Moses obeyed God obediently, although he felt extreme pressure from his fellow Israelites. Then Moses obediently scooped the water. Moses even bothered to taste the water and gave it to one of the Israelites standing beside him.
The person who received the water from Moses met a dilemma. He always supported Moses and even at the moment he was standing next to Moses. Now he got the water from Moses’ hand, but he knew it was the same bitter water. He would have looked impossibly stupid before the other Israelites if he drank the water, expecting something other than a bitter taste.
He struggled whether he drank the water or gave back the water to Moses. Then he looked Moses again. Moses eyes were calm and confident in faith. He was hesitant for a while. Then he chose to drink the water because he saw the true immovable faith in Moses’ eyes. Yes, Moses’ faith, not his own, made him drink the same bitter water he had tasted before, although he expected the same bitter taste.
Because of Moses and His eyes filled with confidence in faith in God, he drank the water. His body actually resisted as he was drinking the water. Then he was confused. He did not taste the same bitterness as he had tasted before. It was completely different. It even took time for his brain and his mouth to adjust and sync again. Yes, the water was not bitter. It was not the water that he drank before. There was no bitterness at all. Even it was sweet. Indeed, it was sweeter than any water he had tasted. It was truly the best water ever. He shouted in joy, “Yes, the water is sweet now. Please come and drink. Praise God!”
All ran to the oasis and drank the water turned sweet. Then all were fully satisfied. Again the Israelites were satisfied not because they were faithful to God but because God was faithful to them regardless of their unfaithfulness. This is the reason why we praise God is faithful. God is indeed faithful always under all circumstances to us.
After all, were fully satisfied, God set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He 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.”
God taught them as if parents teach their children after providing what they want, although they doubted and disobeyed. What parents want is to have a truly loving relationship with their children. Trusting each other under all circumstances in a loving relationship is what parents want. God is not different.
After leaving Marah, where they tasted sweet water tuned from bitter water, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.
After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped beside the water, which God provided them in His unfathomable love.
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.
For one month, the Israelites saw God’s miracle of splitting the Red Sea, utterly destroying the Pharaoh’s Egyptian army, and tasted God’s loving hand turning the bitter water to sweet despite their unfaithfulness. They always complained. They crossed the Red Sea while looking at the rapidly approaching Pharaoh’s army, not finding water for three days while walking through the desert, and tasting the bitter water from the oasis found after a three-day journey. But God faithfully and always provided despite their complaints.
God also taught them to trust and obey, not complain and disobey. It did not take long, though. The whole community of Israel also complained about Moses and Aaron.
“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.”
They craved meat and bread, although they had enough water and were satisfied. Indeed, they had no real immediate reason to complain, but their hearts started to make up dissatisfaction about God. Yes, they had enough, but their hearts were not satisfied. The dissatisfying voice of their hearts was small initially, but it kept growing bigger and bigger. Soon it took over all, including their hearts and minds.
Then they even rationalized their dissatisfaction. Indeed, they were not lacking, but their hearts were filled with dissatisfaction. Let’s ask: is it ever possible to be fully satisfied with earthly stuff? No. Even kings’ hearts were never fully satisfied with earthly things. Surely no one cannot be satisfied with earthly things, and none will not be.
Earthly satisfaction is a bottomless pit that cannot be filled, and an open grave that exposes the ugliest part of us, eventually swallowing up all things, including our lives and those we love. Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother, Abel, because he was not satisfied. He wanted more, and killed his brother to get what he wanted. Cain reasoned. If his brother were no longer with him, then all things would become his. How logical it was! Yes, our human logic in greed often kills and destroys while God’s logic in love builds up and mends brokenness in and between us.
What would be the answer from God for those who crave more and more, although God fully provides all that they need? If God were impatient, what would be the next? God would have wiped out all those unsatisfied in His anger. But God has not. If God were really angry and wiped out those who are not satisfied in anger, then is God truly different from us?
Yes, God is truly different from us. He is not like us at all. God does not pay back tooth to tooth, eye to eye. Instead, God gave back all Isreatlies’ complaints with God’s love with extreme patience. Yes, God provided again and again despite the fact that the Israelites complained again and again.
They complained about the Pharaoh’s army, who was dashing into them to try to kill on the other side of the Red Sea. Then they complained they were about to die without water, which was less urgent than the first threat of the Pharaoh’s army. Then they complained again because the water provided by God was bitter while refusing to drink it simply because it was bitter.
Can we see the trend? God gave smaller and smaller challenges to the Israelites. Why? God wanted the Israelites to overcome the challenges with their faith. Thus, God gave smaller and smaller challenges, but they kept failing. But God provided again and again after all failures, and finally, God explained what they had to do in love for them.
Then God stopped giving additional challenges to the Israelites. Was it the end of their complaint to God? No. Their hearts were busy making yet another complaint to God. Sadly it is not just for the Israelites, but for us too. It happens to all, including us.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
The temptation created by our own mind is actually stronger than anything coming at us from the outside. For the Israelites, there was nothing life-threatening, but they craved meat and bread. Then they equated their cravings with the worth of their own life. Of course, it looks absurd or even stupid. Unless getting into the vicious tail-spinning trap of a temptation manufactured by our own hearts and beaten hard by the temptation, it is not easy to even grasp the power of such temptation.
Look around the world. From day one, one brother killed his one and only one brother because his heart manufactured temptation, which did not exist at all. God loved both brothers, but Cain felt that he needed more. Indeed, he wanted all and did not want to share with his brother. Thus, he eliminated his brother.
Have we changed since then? Are we different? Can we find any war in human history without the same temptation that was in the heart of Cain? Yes, how many times did our human history witnessed a small temptation burgeoning in people’s hearts that led to a war and destroyed countlessly many lives?
Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
Jesus Christ was tempted by bread, earthly power, and glory. He knows exactly how strong the power of temptation lives in our hearts.
Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:7)
How did Jesus respond? Jesus, although He was God Himself, used God’s Word, which is the only weapon to fight back against such temptations so suddenly popped up, harboring in our hearts, and growing to fully mature, then which completely overtakes the entirety of ourselves.
Jesus did more. Jesus gave up all things rather than owning and holding tightly with all hearts and minds, even with two hands if needed, with all strengths.
Then Jesus quietly endured, which sadly made the world even more jealous. Jesus’ earthly mission was to save all by becoming the eternal sacrifice for all, but the world hit Jesus hardest at the last moment.
Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him. (Mark 15:32)
But Jesus endured silently and obedient to God until his death on the cross, which was a huge defeat for the eyes of all at the scene who hurled insults at Him. As they saw Jesus’ death on the cross, they felt that their thought was correct and their position as priests and religious leaders were justified. However, Jesus endured till the end, which led to an eternal victory of bringing down God’s eternal salvation to all.
We are not Jesus, but how the world attacks us is the same. First, it maximizes all that we have in our hearts, which is the weakest of all. Once conceived with our earthly desire of craving, no one can stop it until it sees the end, which leads to the complete destruction of all good things in and with us.
All of the miracles of splitting the Red Sea and turning the bitter water to sweet did not matter before the internal craving for earthly comfort. The sinful nature in their heart took over and made them complain. They said, “We would rather die if we don’t get what I want.”
Are we different from the Israelites? Please count how many times we complained to God. Aren’t they countlessly many? Then how did God respond? Likewise, wasn’t God always faithful regardless of our complaints? Yes, God has always been patient with us and provided the best to us despite all our complaints. Why? God loves us and is loving and extremely patient with us because we are His children. And He is our ever-loving Father forever.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” (Psalm 89:2)