We need to be careful as we look at these chapters and the ones that follow. It is easy for us to judge the people in the wilderness. We can judge their unbelief, disobedience and their lack of thankfulness; but are we not the same as they were? God had provided freedom, protection, food and we will read very soon that He didn’t even allow their clothes to wear out. But they were still complaining and disobedient. It is easy for us to look at those who have passed so long ago and think “I would have never done that.” It is also easy to realize how undeserving the people were of the mercy they were given along with their daily needs. Oh but how quickly we (at least I do) fall into the same attitudes. We live in the lap of luxury, especially here in the States; but when one small thing goes wrong we begin to doubt and become angry with God and His leaders. If a car breaks down, an unexpected bill comes in or an unpleasant change at work occurs we so easily turn into the whiny, complaining, faithless Israelis in the desert.
What is so amazing about these circumstances is how God handles them and us. How easy would it have been to just start “smiting” folks to show them the error of their ways! But He doesn’t; God tests them and grows them and does not destroy them. They received nothing from God because of their worthiness. If they were given what they had deserved the book of Exodus would only be two chapters long and the outline would look something like this:
I. God led the people out of bondage
II. The people were thankless and disobedient
III. Their bones can be found to this day 200 meters outside of Egypt
But God did not give to them according to what they had done; but instead, because of who they were affiliated with. The mercy was promised to Abraham years prior and God made a decision to use those people to glorify Himself by all means. In the same way, although we deserve the wrath of God; He is not merciful with us due to our actions or attitudes; but instead He is merciful to us due to our affiliation with His Son. God has decided in eons past that He would do a work on this planet using those whom have trusted in His son. Although we make it very difficult most of the time; God, when He makes a promise, He fulfills it by all means necessary. As we continue to read about the people of the desert, If we will take an honest look, it may just mirror our own lives and the awesome grace, patience and forgiveness of God.