Word of Encouragement (07/26/2022)
And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?" (Ex. 15:24)
After they departed from the Red Sea, the people of Israel spent three days in the wilderness but could not find water. They finally found some water at Marah but the water was too bitter to drink. So, they said to Moses, “What shall we drink?” Even though the people of Israel were saying this to Moses, we will consider this as an example of prayer. Since Moses was God’s spokesperson, they often addressed God through Moses, whom they could readily approach.
We can say the same thing in a thousand different ways. How our words are perceived depends not only on what we say but also how we say it—the pitch and tone and timbre of our voice as well as our facial and body language. A girl can say “I hate you!” in a cute way. A psycho can say “I love you” in a chilling way. “What shall we drink?” on paper seems innocuous enough. But we are given important information: “they grumbled against Moses....” This was not an innocent inquiry.
It seems that they expected their new life in the wilderness to be as comfortable as it was in Egypt with all the wells and springs and the Nile (even though they were slaves there!). Why would they be shocked that they could not get water whenever they wanted as they passed through the wilderness? It’s like going on a camping trip and expecting all the amenities and conveniences of home. That defeats the whole point of going on a camping trip to “rough it,” doesn’t it? Why did the Israelites think God brought them into the wilderness?
It is hard to ignore a tone of blame in their (rhetorical) question. It was as if they were saying, “How can we not have any water to drink? What is God doing? Isn’t He supposed to have water ready for us?” Maybe it was precisely because they experienced God’s amazing miracle only a few days ago at the Red Sea. It was not that they did not believe in the power of God to provide water for them; their problem was that God inconvenienced them (how dare He!) by not preparing the water for them in advance!
This warns us against the thinking that God is just our divine Butler, who is there to make our lives as comfortable and easy as possible. When God brought the Israelites into the wilderness, He was not planning on letting them die of thirst or starvation. He would feed them with the manna from heaven. He would quench their thirst both by natural means (e.g., the already existing oases) and by supernatural means (e.g., the water from a rock). God graciously obligated Himself to sustain them on account of His covenant with their forefathers. But they should not feel entitled to any of God’s blessings. Unfortunately, that was exactly what they did when they grumbled against Moses, asking what they should drink.
What should they have done? Why did God bring them to Marah, where the water was too bitter to drink? They should have prayed to the LORD for water. That might have been easier said than done. Maybe they felt more hopeless because the water was there already, but it was undrinkable, dashing their hope to pieces. They might have felt, what could God do? But if God could part the Red Sea, could He not do something about the bitter water of Marah?
I want to draw your attention to this simple yet significant act of prayer as God’s ordained solution to Israel’s (and our) problems. Israel might have wanted God to automatically solve their problems. But God wanted them to pray because He wanted to cultivate His relationship with them. How do we cultivate our relationships? Isn’t it through interaction? When we bring our petitions to God, it is an expression of our trust in Him. This brings delight to God. Do we not feel honored and loved when our children open up their hearts to us and ask for our help instead of suffering alone or going to someone else for help? And when God answers our prayer, we are assured of His attentive love for us, which deepens our trust in Him. We all know how important trust is in a relationship, right?
God is gracious. Because He knows what we need even before we ask, He provides us with so much more than we ask. But if we want to grow in our intimacy with God, we must pray. Let us be diligent in creating lots of beautiful memories of being in the presence of God and being heard by Him.