One time my wife and I took our four year old grandson to a small arcade/park, the kind
that has gocarts, boat rides, water balloons, etc. After a very long two and a half hour ride,
we pulled into the parking lot and he said, “This doesn’t look like a fun place.” Actually he had
a very good time, but his initial impression didn’t meet with his expectation. We are often like
that with God. When we pray for something, we expect God to hand it to us all neatly tied up
with a bow. When the Israelites finally got to the Promised Land, they had to conquer it. It
wasn’t just handed to them.
The Israelites had two major problems with God, while being liberated from Egypt and
attaining the “Promised Land.” One was lack of faith, and the other was lack of faithfulness.
At first glance they might seem to be one in the same, but they are not. One is failure to
believe that God is able to do what He says. The other is a failure to show continued allegiance
to Him, even when we know He can do what He says. God was not meeting their
expectations. Sometimes, it seems, that is how we pray; ‘God I want you to do this for me, but
I want you to do it my way’.
When Moses came back to Egypt, in answer to the prayer of the Hebrews, they were not at
all happy with the way things were going. “And they [the Hebrews] said to them [Moses
and Aaron], ‘May the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the
opinion of Pharaoh and his servants, so that you have given them an excuse to kill us!’”
[Exodus 5:21NET] This was because Pharaoh did not agree, at first, to let the Hebrews go. At the
first sign of trouble, they were ready to give up. Then God brought ten devastating plagues on
Egypt. He showed Egypt and Israel that He is God, and there is no other. God showed,
without a doubt, that He was on the side of the Hebrews; that He was able and willing to free
them and bring them to a land of their own, and make them a great nation.
After God showed His mighty power in Egypt, the Hebrews should have had no problem
believing He would continue with them. Instead when Pharaoh perused Israel, they
completely lost their confidence. “And they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no
graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert? What in the world have
you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt, ‘Leave
us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians, because it is better for us to serve the
Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ ” [Exodus 14:11,12 NET] It is easy to see there was no
lack of finger pointing on the part of Israel. They were more than ready to blame Moses (and
through him, God) every time they had a problem.
So God parts the Red Sea, and the Israelites are saved. Again, He shows His mighty power.
They should now be completely convinced. Are they? Then Moses is on Mount Sinai and
receiving, among others, the commandment that says: “I, the Lord, am your God, who
brought you from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other
gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of
anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water
below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a
jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the
third and fourth generations of those who reject me, and showing covenant faithfulness
to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. [Exodus 20:46
NET] At about the same time, the Israelites are making images of golden calves and
worshiping them.[Exodus 32] This was not lack of faith in God’s ability to do what He
promised. This was a lack of faithfulness. This struggle continued between God and Israel,
even after they reached the “Promised Land.” In fact, the name Israel means ‘struggles with
The believer today should not look disparagingly at the Israelites of that day, because we
have done far worse. The things that Christ did and said far exceeded what the Hebrews saw in
the desert. In addition to that, God, through Christ, has sealed His Covenant with us, by giving
us the indwelling Holy Spirit. We still want God to meet us on our terms. We still put
conditions on our prayers. We are still saying, like my grandson, “This doesn’t look like a fun
place.” We must put full confidence in Him and pray for His will in our lives, on His terms,
because He knows what is best.
I have often seen the bumper sticker ‘God is my copilot’
; for the Christian, it should say
‘God is my pilot’. We pray for His will and then we say, “This doesn’t look like a fun place.”
We don’t need to have the whole route mapped out before us. We just need Him to tell us
where the next turn is. Let me rephrase J.F.K., ‘Ask not what God can do for you, ask what
you can do for God’. Always remember that it is a privilege to be counted worthy to work for
the Lord, and that we are looking forward, with confidence, to the reward of our labor, which
we will receive in eternity with Him.
We have more than enough proof that God is able. We have every reason to put our faith in
Him. We MUST have faith and be faithful. Even after the Israelites rejected God by making
the golden calves, and after they continued to grumble against Him, He remained faithful to
them, by continually providing food (manna) and water to them for forty years in the desert.
He is faithful, even when we are not. He promises “I will not abandon you as orphans, I will
come to you. [John14:18NET] “…..And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the
age.” [Matthew 28:20NET] So let us pray with confidence, being fully faithful to Him who is
able “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that
is at work within us”. [Ephesians 3:20NIV]
To The Glory Of God