Why is it so hard to trust God? Sin makes us so short-sighted and forgetful! Ten plagues against Egyptian oppressors ought to be hard to forget. A divided Red Sea and the annihilation of the Egyptian army ought to secure God’s position as the central figure in all future concerns. Daily, the Jewish people watch a visible manifestation of God’s guidance and presence among them, in the pillars of cloud and fire.
Yet, the Israelites were already displaying an ominous propensity to whine before God about their circumstances. In the desert, God tested them to see what was in their hearts. Three times preceding the events at Kadesh-Barnea, Israel complained and incurred the wrath of God:
Taberah- Because of a “strong craving,” the people complain about their misfortunes before the Lord and God gives manna. The Lord’s anger is also kindled and outlying parts of the camp are consumed (Numbers 11:1-9).
Kibroth-hattaavah- The people whine for meat and God gives quail for a month (Numbers 11:19-20), “until it comes out your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.” The people are also struck with a plague.
Hazeroth- God challenges the authority of those who challenge Moses, even those in Moses’ own family. He calls Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to the Tent of Meeting and defends Moses as “faithful in all my house.” Miriam is given leprosy and sent outside the camp for seven days in shame (Numbers 12:1-16).
Three strikes is bad preparation for inheriting the promised land. It signals conflict yet to come. However, before we stand in judgment on the Israelites whining trek out of Egypt, let us examine ourselves:
1. Do we spend more time thinking about the promises of God or the circumstances of our lives?
2. Do our prayers have a whining quality?
3. Do others see in our relationship with God something attractive or desirous?
4. In what ways have I faltered before the culmination of the promises of God?
It is possible, as the passages indicate, that the judgment of God falls even on His people when they refuse to trust Him. A final question gives me pause. Are there signs of God’s judgment at work in my life?