He did not reward their grumbling, but he had compassion on them
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “… Behold I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:3–6a)
Here it is again: grumbling. For the Israelites, it was not the first time and it certainly would not be the last. They sang another verse of “the grumbling in the desert song.” In fact, grumbling became a recurring theme in their journey, like the song that never ends. Even with the miracles God did for them, they continued to question God’s faithfulness.
God’s response to the Israelites is astounding. God did not say, “I heard all this before, so I’m not listening again.” No, he said, “I have heard this before and I see you are still struggling. Let me give you water out of a rock.” He did not reward their grumbling, but he had compassion on them. He understood the exodus out of Egypt had turned their lives upside down and they were in new territory with many uncertainties and questions. God understood their human nature and his mercy prevailed.
On this side of history, it is easy to judge the Israelites until I hear myself singing the second verse of my grumbling song, which is the same as the first. You know what? God understands and his mercy prevails for me as well. Just because I experienced a victory over something last week does not mean I will experience that same victory this week. Israel grumbled because they did not see their problem of thirst as a spiritual problem. I grumble because I do not see many of my daily issues as spiritual problems.
In the book of Philippians, Paul addressed the issue of grumbling when he gave the instructions: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). The phrase “all things” means just what it says.
The antidote for grumbling is gratitude. Take a few moments to list things or people for which you are grateful. Choose to sing a song of gratitude today.
Prayer for the Journey
Today, use your gratitude list to offer thanksgiving to God.