At the end Chapter 6 of The Story, Moses gives a final motivational speech to the Israelites, reminding them of the need for an attitude of gratitude. Moses reminds the Israelites of the many blessings they had received from God. God had brought them out of Egypt, freed them from slavery, guided them through the wilderness, and provided for their needs along the way. Signs of God’s presence, power, love, and goodness were all around the Israelites and yet they persistently complained about their circumstances. Worse still, they acted in direct disobedience to God.
There are several instances of ingratitude, lack of trust, and disobedience on the part of the Hebrews on the journey to the land God had promised them. For example, God provided manna for the Israelites when they were hungry, but eventually they complained and wanted meat. On another occasion, as they moved closer to the promised land Moses sent scouts to explore the land of Canaan. When the scouts returned from their 40-day journey they described the rich land as flowing with milk and honey just as God had promised. However, instead of encouraging the people to press forward into the land, the Israelites came up with excuses for why this could not be done: the people were too powerful for them, the cities were well fortified, giants occupied the land.
In both instances God’s anger burned against the Israelites and he used severe measures to discipline them. When they complained about eating manna and demanded meat, God gave them what they wanted — to such an extent that the people were struck with a plague and many died. When they refused to enter Canaan and wanted to return to Egypt, God did not allow any of the older generation which he had led out of Egypt to see the promised land of Canaan. None of the ones who treated God with contempt lived to see the land.
What is the lesson here? God was testing the Israelites. He wanted them to trust him, obey him, and give thanks to him for the blessings they had received in the challenging circumstances they encountered. God’s blessings should have been reason enough for the Israelites to trust God, but their lack of patience, fear, and disobedience got the better of them.
In applying this to our lives we should be alert to our own complaining, which can easily work its way into our lives. I know it does in mine. Further, when we fail to put our trust in God and insist on doing things our way, we risk suffering unpleasant consequences. When we do make mistakes and suffer consequences for our sin, we need to remind ourselves of the unending love God has for us. His discipline comes from this amazing love. Ultimately, God uses the circumstances and trials in our lives to shape our character. As we learn to humble ourselves before him, express thankfulness for his blessings, ask for his guidance, and trust him in all circumstances, we will discover that God has the very best in mind for us.