For more than fifteen years I have challenged parents to find more time to study God’s Word and train up their children. Oftentimes, I was met with the excuse: “We just don’t have enough time.” For decades, spiritual growth often took a back seat to ball practice, band practice, school plays, or some school club. Parents frequently served as glorified taxi-drivers, chauffeuring their children from one activity to the next.
And then came the coronavirus—and in the blink of an eye we all discovered that we had more free time. Suddenly, our transient lifestyles hit a major roadblock as more and more states began enforcing “Shelter at home” statutes. No more ball practice. School plays were canceled. Even graduation plans have been put on hold, as our nation now watches and waits to see how long this thing will last.
At first, most families enjoyed the break. It was almost like we had been given an extended weekend vacation. But once the newness of “social distancing” wore off, it became tiresome for many. How much longer would we have to endure? Why can’t grocery stores restock flour and toilet paper? How am I supposed to work with the kids at home? Why isn’t Netflix offering everything for free? Why can’t the government get their act together and help fix this mess?
What has been our response to this unsettling time? While there have been some beautiful demonstrations of love and Christianity, one common thread that is woven throughout many social media posts is grumbling and complaining. We don’t like not knowing the future. We don’t like not being able to do all the things we used to do. We don’t like not being able to hug our friends. We don’t like what this is doing to the economy. We don’t like what this is doing to our jobs. We don’t like how certain political parties are handling this. We don’t like…and the list could go on for days.
An honest evaluation reveals that we sound like the Israelites—a people who knew God but didn’t take long to start complaining. In Exodus 14 we find God delivering them safely through the Red Sea. One chapter later, in Exodus 15:24, they are already complaining, “What shall we drink?” They complained about food. They complained about water. They complained that their enemies would crush them. They complained about Moses. Think about that for a moment. God had revealed Himself to them, saved them, and yet—they complained.
According to Deuteronomy 1:2 it is only an eleven-day journey from “Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea.” Eleven days. But because of their lack of faithfulness, unbelief, and complaining they would end up spending the next 40 years walking in the wilderness. “So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone” (Numbers 32:13).
According to Numbers 33 the children of Israel encamped at 42 different places from the time they left Egypt until they were on the brink of the Jordan River. A conservative estimate reveals that about one million people died in the wilderness. That means every day on average 68 people would die…2-3 per hour.
The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us why these people were cursed. “Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:17-19). Why were they cursed? According to Scripture it was because of unbelief. They had seen the power of God and yet, they still did not have faith.
We claim to believe in Him today—and yet, we complain. We are discontented. We seek something else rather than finding our solace in Him. We would all do well to heed the warning given in the very next chapter of Hebrews. “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
God had saved them, and yet they still complained, grumbled, were disobedient, and were full of unbelief. Think about it: Almost two years from Egypt and walking around Mt. Sinai wasn’t enough to teach them humility and dependence on God. God says that even though they saw His glory and the signs in Egypt and in the wilderness of Mt. Sinai these people continued to test Him time after time with their grumbling and did not hearken to His voice or rest in His power. The implication is the wilderness wandering was to humble the people.
And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
So the 40 years in the wilderness was a lesson about humility, obedience, and dependence on Him. It was about revealing their heart. What is your heart revealing during this trying time? Are you content in Him? Are you looking for ways to bless others. Or are you restless and complaining? Let me encourage you, take some time to find rest in Him!