What were they thinking? Hadn’t they just walked out of Egypt loaded down with Egyptian plunder? Hadn’t they just walked on dry ground through walls of water that once were the impassible Red Sea? Hadn’t they witnessed those same waters come crashing down on their enemies’ chariots, completing destroying those who would force them back into bondage and slavery? Short answer . . . Yes? So what were they thinking?
What were they thinking when they started to murmur against Moses, “Great show last night, Mo. But did anybody think about how we’re going to eat? I’m getting hungry!” What were they thinking as they whispered under their breath, “Does God have any idea what He’s doing? Has He started something He can’t finish? At least in Egypt there was meat and bread to eat. What do we do now?” Did they think that because they muttered it under their breath that God didn’t hear?
Guess what! He heard!
The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, . . . And the LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel.”
(Exodus 16:2, 11-12a ESV)
The repetition in the first part of Exodus 16 is deafening. The drum beats again and again. Grumbling . . . grumbling . . . grumbling . . . grumbling!
Eight times in the first twelve verses . . . it rumbles with grumble.
Obstinate in heart, sarcastic in tongue. Talking under their breath against Moses and Aaron, but actually shaking their fists at God. Lack of food the least of their problems given their lack of faith. What were they thinking? Would God really deliver them from slavery in Egypt so that they could die of starvation in the wilderness? I’m thinkin’ not. But how often do our irrational, unbelieving hearts trump the facts that our faith is built upon.
But more than being instructed concerning the hardness of the human heart, I’m more blown away by the response of a gracious God.
So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because He has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against Him — what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your grumbling.’”
(Exodus 16:6-9 ESV)
You wanna grumble? I’m going to show you My glory. Wanna complain about how little I care? You’re going to feast on meat at night and manna in the morning. Wanna whisper behind My back? Come near and I’ll show you My blessing.
Who answers like that? Our God. Our slow to anger, compassionate, grace-exuding God of steadfast love.
He knows our cynical whispering and still moves to meet our need. He hears our ego-centered complaining and doubles down on revealing His glory. He endures our obstinate murmuring and yet beckons us to know Him more.
I know what they were thinking. Cause I’m prone to go there too. To grumble against the God of my deliverance. To question the God who has shown again and again His might. To whisper against, if only in my heart, the God who has given me unfailing promises.
He heard. And He still hears. But He blessed. And He still blesses. Acting to meet our need, show His glory, and invite us to come near.
Grace beyond grace. For His glory alone.