In Psalm 63, David declares:
“O God, you are my God…
My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory” (vv. 1-2).
In many ways, Moses himself might have used such words when facing the grumbling of the people of Israel. As they departed from the defeat of Egypt’s armies at the Red Sea and ventured into the wilderness, they almost immediately fell into hardship. It is tempting to discount their hardships as minor. But being without water in the wilderness is a serious matter.
Yet God had appointed Moses to lead them to this difficult place, this dry and thirsty land, where there was no water.
The sticking point was this: they saw only Moses. They saw him day in and day out, leading them deeper and deeper into difficulty, while water ran low, and meat was scarce, and their children were crying, and all of them were tired. And they tested God, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Ex. 17:7).
Moses, standing beside his brother Aaron, replied, “what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord” (Ex 16:8).
We see a great contrast between Moses’ faithful response and Israel’s faithlessness. Again and again, the people turn to Moses and Aaron, grumbling. Again and again, Moses looks upon the sanctuary, interceding on Israel’s behalf. And again and again, God patiently provides. He turns bitter water sweet (Ex 15:25), leads them to a place of rich springs (Ex 15:27), rains bread from heaven and meat from the skies (Ex16:12-14), and even provides water from a rock (Ex. 17:6).
“Now these things took place as examples for us that we might not desire evil as [Israel] did” (I Cor. 10:6).
Did Israel desire evil? Didn’t they just want water? Indeed, they did desire water. They needed it. But they failed to look to God in His sanctuary, and instead, grumbled over their circumstances.
How like Israel we are? We need to hear the words of Moses, asking us, “why do you test the Lord” (Ex 17:2)? God often leads us into the wilderness to test us. He often guides us through the influence of others, who speak His words. But no matter how dire the need, or how weary we are in our wilderness, we are always called to look to the sanctuary of God, for Christ is “the bread that the Lord has given us to eat” (Ex. 16:15).
Paul reminds us that we are just like Israel, for they “all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:3-4).
Like them, despite our abundant wealth in Christ, we still tend to grumble. These examples remind us that we can never depend upon our own righteousness or faithfulness. “Therefore,” says Paul, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor 10:12).
May we heed these examples, turn our eyes toward the sanctuary, and fix our hope upon Christ our Rock. And as we turn to Him for all our needs, we can also rejoice that in Christ we rest secure, no matter how daunting the wilderness, “for He remember[s] His holy promise” (Ps. 105:42).
Written By Caleb Faires