Just a month after God powerfully delivered the people of Israel from Pharaoh, they were back to complaining, and quite dramatically at that: “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.” (Exodus 16:3) To quote the late great B.B. King, the thrill was clearly gone!
I want to get all judgmental about their poor behavior: How could they be so forgetful and ungrateful? How could they dare to complain like that to the Lord God Almighty, who had just shown them what He was capable of doing on their behalf? Evidently, their deliverance didn’t mean that they actually arrived, and they were not happy campers! Turns out that God’s purposes were more than to give them a comfortable existence—they did not yet know and trust God. Grumpy, hungry, cranky, disgruntled people – wait, that sounds a lot like me when I get troubled, tired, and out of my comfort zone. Perfect conditions for God to train, correct, discipline, and teach obedience, right?
Ooh, I really don’t like those words much. I don’t like being told what to do, and I am more than a bit stubborn and independent. I much prefer to focus on God’s love, peace, and joy, and would rather gloss over words like discipline, test, training, submit, obey. But, believe me – those words and concepts pop up all over Scripture, and I’m learning that my dislike of them says a lot more about my stubborn heart than about God’s love and goodness.
In the continuing story of Israel, God clearly set about testing their faithfulness to Him, and expected them to obey His commands. He miraculously sent them the food they needed, along with specific instructions as to how to get the food, with a clearly stated purpose: “By evening you will realize it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your complaints…” When some didn’t obey the instructions, God explained further: “How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you. That is why He gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days.” (Exodus 16:28-29) Provision for their needs along with an unexpected gift…but with instructions to be obeyed.
Why do we always think our plan is better than His?
What if obedience is not about being coerced by someone exerting their position, power, and authority, but is a freely given response to evident superiority, knowledge, and ability? What if God knows far more about what we need than we do? Like a good parent, He loves us by training, discipline, and correction to mold our character. He teaches us through both good and bad experiences that we can depend on Him – that He is faithful and trustworthy. We learn to see more and more clearly just who He is – a good and loving Father.
Our Lord never insists on having authority over us. He never says, “You will submit to me.” No, He leaves us perfectly free to choose… He never insists on obedience, but when we truly see Him we will instantly obey Him. Then He is easily Lord of our life, and we live in adoration of Him from morning till night. The level of my growth in grace is revealed by the way I look at obedience.
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest July 19
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