Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wilderness Complaints

Israel was saved from their abusive relationship with Egypt when God sent Moses and Aaron to lead them out of Egypt.  He could have led them on a shorter journey to the Promised Land - 250 miles taking about two weeks - but He did not want to send them through the land of the Philistines because He didn't want them to fight with them.  He wanted to protect them.  So He took them another route which ended up taking two years.  He gave them food.  Their clothes and shoes did not wear out.  They had what they needed.  The people grumbled in the wilderness.  They complained against God.  They looked to the past and looked upon that abusive relationship as BETTER than what God was providing.  They remembered the excess meat they had eaten, then looked at the manna God had provided.  They remembered the homes in which they had lived, then looked at the tents the carried around with them.  What they chose to ignore was that they were now free.  Free from the Egyptians that had enslaved them and abused them.  God provided for them every step of their journey.  He didn't give them excess - they couldn't have handled excess on their journey - but He gave them exactly what they needed.

"It seemed like no matter how many times God provided for the Israelites, they still found something about which they could complain."1

Doesn't this sound like us?  Like you?  Most definitely like me?

There are times in our lives that God leads us away from something that is no good for us.  Sometimes we go through the wilderness because God is protecting us from something worse.  Sometimes we go through it because there is a lesson we need to learn or we need to grow before He can lead us to the Promised Land.  "In the wilderness, character is built."2  

Regardless of why we are in the desert, regardless of how we ended up in the wilderness, He always provides.  He doesn't take us there and leave us to manage on our own.  He provides.  For the Israelites it was manna, protection, clothing and shoes, etc.  They didn't live extravagant lives.  He didn't give them excess because excess is not what they needed.  They were travelers.  They were wanderers.  Excess would have made it more difficult to get to the promised land.

How I am like the Israelites of that day!  God has taken me out of abusive relationships.  Some with people, some with material items such as food, or from greed.  Every step of the way He has provided.  Maybe it wasn't always the way I had hoped or expected.  Maybe at the time I couldn't or chose not to see the provision, but in hindsight I can see His hand and his providence.  Sometimes I was grateful for the provision, then the next day was already thinking about what else I "needed."

I have the proof from my own life that He always provides.  He doesn't provide me with excess.  He provides me with something so much better.  He provides me with what I need.  No more.  More is excess and excess leads to sin.  Excess leads to bondage.  Excess makes me believe I can do all things through me, not through Christ.  

And just like the Israelites, if it isn't what I want or if I remember the "good ole days" with fondness instead of sadness, I grumble against the Lord and his provision.

I know for a fact I have been through the wilderness the last couple of years.  Don't get me wrong, it has been a great wilderness.  I have had the time to spend with my children.  A time to really grow, while paring down my life.  Removing the excess I didn't need.  God knew I needed to remove excess.  The last several months have been really hard.  Yet, when I look back over them, He always provided for us.  Every single time.  No one in my house went hungry.  No one in my home lacked clothing.  No one in my family spent a night homeless.  I am still removing excess.  I imagine this will be a lifelong journey.  But I have come so far from where I was, where we were filling a house full to overflowing.  Where money was being spent wherever we wanted for things that have no eternal impact, other than to keep us in bondage.  

I thank God for this wilderness.  I thank Him for providing for my family during this journey.  I thank Him for the lessons, the character building, the removal of excess which enslaved me.  

I don't want to be like the Israelites of Moses' day and grumble about God's provision, or be thankful one day and forget the next.  This day I choose to remember His provisions and His love, rather than to complain that I had it better or easier in the former days.  This day I choose to be grateful.  And I pray that I never look back at and pine away for the "good ole days", but that I always remember that God provides for His people, even in the midst of the wilderness.  

"Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide, Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You've never failed and You won't start now."3

1-2.  Hovind, Chad. Fast Track: Genesis to Revelation. Nashville, TN: Lifeway Press, 2013. Print. 39. 

3 Oceans. Hillsong United. 2013. Music/song. 

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