Everytime I read or hear of the Israelites, I partly laugh, partly question myself, partly wonder what was wrong with them. I’ve never fully grasped what it is that goes on in my mind when I think of them. Oh yes, part of me just rolls my eyes at their utter lack of gratitude. But over the weeks, actually, months, I have been battling with a thought in my heart and mind. Allow me to take you back:
I have been going to a cell group (Regional Bible study or whatever you call it) for the past 5 years – This year we begun with a journey through the Bible and while doing Exodus, we came across the part where the Israelites had been released from Egypt and on their way, they reached the red sea. You know the story… They COMPLAINED to Moses, saying surely he brought them out there so that they could die!!! Hahaha… Like seriously??? And God performed His miracle, and they crossed the sea, the Egyptians, their enemies, getting drowned. They were jubilant, understandably, given the circumstances. Then afterward, they complained about not having food, and God provided Manna, they complained about lack of water, they got water gushing out of a rock!!! Can you imagine the kind of things they experienced! But… But… But… The Israelites still complained when they got uncomfortable – slight discomfort if I may add.
Now, part of me understands – They had been slaves for over 400 Years and knew the Lord would deliver them and take them to the promised land and when their release came, they expected to go right into the promised Land. Their experiences since they left Egypt did not match their expectation of the Land flowing with milk and honey so maybe they had a ‘right’ to murmur against God. Unfortunately however, they took 40 Years…!!!! 40 entire years to get into this land, and faced a myriad of challenges on the way.
As understanding as I would like to be however, I also do not understand one thing – that they complained against God. In my limited vocabulary and limited understanding of this English Language, there is a difference between just complaining and complaining against God. I mean, it’s one thing to say that our politicians have literally fed us the wolves and complain at their lack of a moral compass; But, and this is where it hits me hard; it is quite another to say that we do not understand why God, in His infinite wisdom, allows us to have such leaders. And this is my crucial point right here. The Israelites did not just complain about their circumstances, they complained AGAINST God.
So while discussing the text in BIble Study, I very quickly pointed out that Israelites were a special breed of people. I mean, they complained against God-after seeing His miracles with their own two eyes; and not just one miracle, but tonnes of them, one after the other. Yet they had the audacity to question why God released them from Egypt to suffer in the wilderness. And as I said, while I understand their lamentations, I do not understand why they were complaining against God. Being the blessed Nation and experiencing God first hand, I would actually expect that they at least pray before complaining. But nah, they just complained against God.
In the practical application bit, everyone, save myself, was of the opinion that we are just like the Israelites. I beg to differ. Yes I do complain about things and situations around me – but I do not in any occasion, question God or as the Bible says, murmur against God. Then I realised, maybe my approach is even worse than those who do complain against God. And I have been praying since to understand what God is saying to me, about me. I’ll try to break it down:
The fact that I do not argue ‘against’ God doesn’t mean my opinion of God is superior or that I have such a bridled tongue, or that I am more mature in Christianity (Haha! God knows I’m nowhere close to maturity)… In my heart and in my mind, God is sovereign – He does what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, whether we pray or we don’t. And that is the danger in my faith. I believe in the sovereignty of God, His decision making, even when it makes no sense, His ultimate answer to prayers. He doesn’t do what we ask of Him, He does what He wants to do (or how we would say it in Christian circles, His Will) – this may be in line with what we ask of him, or not…
We talked about grief too, and how it is impossible to not question God in times of grief and this part, I said I cannot comment on it. Because grief does something to people. So even here, don’t lecture me on the fact that it’s because I haven’t been grieved.
My argument is centered on the Israelites-they were not grieving someones lost life, they were complaining about food amongst other things!!! That they wanted meat and spices and were bored of the manna that fell from heaven-and they said it would have been better for them to stay where they were, than come to this place where they would ‘suffer’. And I genuinely haven’t met people who complain against God – enough to make them wish they had gone back to where or who they were before Christ. Or who have questioned why despite their righteous ways, their obedience to God, etc., they suffer. I haven’t – and when I do I’ll just be shocked. Because I won’t understand why they feel high and mighty enough to feel God has a debt to them that He hasn’t cleared.
This idea is so embedded in me, I do not have the ability to murmur against God – because who am I? Who do I think I am in God’s grand schmeme? In my thinking, the very act of questioning God is saying that God owes you this, that or the other; and I am not there yet. I don’t think God owes it to me to answer yes to my prayers, I don’t think He owes it to me to rid me of my pain, I don’t think He owes it to me to answer prayers I have prayed my whole life and not seen His response. He doesn’t owe me anything, not even this life I live!
But perhaps this is indifference. Perhaps this is resigning to the knowledge that God’s sovereignty doesn’t serve me, must not serve me, will probably not serve me. And I don’t think my prayers are full of faith any more-they are crippled with the fact that He will do as He pleases. This is very confusing-It shakes the very foundations that I have so eagerly built. A faith in a God to whom I am indifferent…
Still soul searching – and asking God to make me see Him, and make me see the folly in my ways…