We excitedly praise and thank God for His blessings upon our lives. Yes, God’s never-ending grace and mercies are reasons to rejoice. But how do we react to the hardships and sorrows of life? There are two groups of believers, those who strive to faithfully obey God, enduring trials and sorrows, and those who are fretful, impatient, following their inclinations, and always asking God for help out of their dilemmas [that are really the fiery trials required for spiritual transformation].
The behaviors of the second group indicate they do not understand the spiritual journey nor comprehend that God’s grace and mercy are not to be taken for granted. The Israelites freed from enslavement represent the second group of believers who acknowledge God but desire a life filled with ease and blessings.
Traveling back in time, let’s enter the life of the freed Israelites in their Wilderness of Despair. “on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” (Exodus 16:1-2). These are the people who God delivered from the Egyptians, parted the Red Sea, and destroyed their enemies who pursued them.
The next chapter, Numbers, reveals their ongoing complaints. “So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!” (Numbers 14:1-2).
Returning to the book of Exodus, in chapter 33, we read the dialogue between God and Moses. God demonstrates that He is fed up with the ungrateful, murmuring Israelites. “For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Say to the children of Israel, You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’ “(Exodus 33:5).
Still, Moses was a loving and dedicated leader and intercessor for the “stiff-necked” people who possessed a rebellious and ungrateful spirit. “Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.” (Exodus 33:7). He did this to establish a “tabernacle of meeting” where he talked to God on behalf of the people.
God showed love and favor to Moses for his faithful dedication. Although we read about other individuals who talked with God in Genesis, none can compare to Moses’ numerous one-to-one encounters with God. “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11). In reading verses 12-17, we become familiar with how Moses petitioned God, “…consider that this nation is Your people.” (verse 13, last part).
Because of their fearless leader, God changes His original promise to remove His presence from Israel. “And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14). Prayerfully, we gain a different perspective of God’s gifts of grace and mercy to the generations of disobedient complainers.
Fast forward to today’s believers, we express our discontent in various ways. A few verbally complain about their fiery trials, but most are anxious, worried, depressed, or have internal anger against God. We seek happiness and ease over the promised gift of Eternal life, which requires hardships. The journey has been extended, Jesus has not come, and many have lost their focus.
Moses could have asked God to make their journey easier by taking their trials away in the meeting with God. But Moses loved God with all of his heart, soul, and mind. And this, God, knew that he had 100% of Moses’ heart. It was through humility that Moses asked:
“And he said, ‘Please show me Your glory.'” (Exodus 33:18).
God’s response: “Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ “”But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.’ “(Exodus 33:19-20).
Sadly, we know of the complainer’s endless wandering of 40 years without receiving their reward of the Promised land. Only Joshua and Caleb from the original generation of freed Israelites were allowed into the Promised Land. Everyone else received God’s just punishment of death.
Today, as we reflect on the greatness of God, His love, long-suffering, grace, and mercies, in humility, we can ask for God to show us His glory. We are not asking for a face-to-face encounter. We are praying for the glory of His goodness, graciousness, and compassion to permeate our hearts. And in return, we dedicate our lives in faithful obedience and service to our Creator God, Jesus Christ, King of King, and Lord of Lords.
Prayer: God, we thank you. We ask forgiveness for being a stiff-necked people. We desire to dedicate our lives through obedience, reverence, and honor. God, please give us strength as we face the wilderness of trials and sorrows as we wait for Your Son’s soon coming. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2022 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers, and Woman, You Are Loved by God Ministries