“Where are we going!?” My oldest son asks as we settle into our van after taking in a Mariner’s game. Weaving in and out of neighborhoods really isn’t the ideal route to the freeway entrance.
“I don’t know, but Google Maps is usually pretty accurate,” I assure him. But so far, Ms. Google seems to enjoy leading us on a wild goose chase. I don’t know why 20 minutes passes before the now obvious clue is processed: There is a sprawling bike path beside every meandering street Ms. Google leads us on.
Alas, the light-bulb flashes! (Okay, at least for my husband.)
“Is Google Maps on bike mode or car mode?”
I peer down at my phone. “Uh, that would be bike mode.” . . . . Despite our ignorance, we manage to laugh at ourselves. After all, our trip marked a special get-away as we celebrated my son’s and his team’s baseball state championship.
The Israelites did their own meandering. But instead of wandering throughout neighborhoods in a vehicle, they wandered through the Sinai wilderness. Although they didn’t have Google Maps, they had a far superior navigational guide: God Himself.
God led them through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Although He knew the easiest and most direct route to the Promised Land, He led them instead where they would encounter difficulties. This passage marks the second time that God leads the Israelites to a place without water. About three months passed since He had miraculously delivered them from Pharaoh and his army. And now their celebratory mode faded with every dusty step.
You may read Exodus 17:1-7 here: Bible Gateway.
Why would God lead the Jews to Rephidim, where for the second time there was no water? Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “The Lord was still directing Israel into difficult and trying situations in order to prove His power and build their faith and character. After all, life’s journey involves much more than merely reaching a destination. If we aren’t growing in faith, in the knowledge of God, and in godly character, we’re wasting our opportunities.”
I wonder how many times they demanded: “Where are we going?” And, “Are we almost there?” before working themselves into an irrational desire to stone their leader (17:5)!
Wiersbe admonishes: “Every difficulty God permits us to encounter will become either a test that can make us better or a temptation that can make us worse, and it’s our own attitude that determines which it will be. If in unbelief we start complaining and blaming God, then temptation will trap us and rob us of an opportunity to grow spiritually. But if we trust God and let Him have His way, the trial will work for us and not against us (Rom. 8:28; James 1:12-15) and help us grow in grace.”
On the bright side, Moses held true to his unfailing resource: God. He called on Him for help. The Lord instructed him to take the staff that symbolized His power, along with some elders, and strike the rock in the sight of the Israelites. As Moses obeyed, the water streamed out. God once again graciously met both the people and their livestock’s needs.
I always wondered how the Israelites could doubt God when He so powerfully worked miracles on their behalf and led them in such an obvious way. But Scripture tells us that their hearts were hard. Instead of submitting to God, they rebelled against Him. As a result, God disciplined them by making them wander in the desert 40 years. Sadly, the older generation remained unbelieving throughout their entire wilderness journey (Ps. 95:6-11; Heb. 3). Consequently, they never did enter the Promised Land.
Wiersbe offers a good challenge to help us identify our past attitudes during trials: “On the map of our lives, how many places ought to be named ‘Testing and Quarreling’ because of the way we’ve complained about our circumstances and failed to trust God?”
I know I haven’t always associated difficult circumstances as being a test from God. I also know I’ve failed a few tests. But after digesting this section, hopefully I’ll be more discerning and better equipped.
I hope you are enjoying spring. We’re finally getting some much wanted sunshine. 🙂