I have been reading through the Old Testament account of the Israelite journey in the wilderness. One thing that I noticed was when the Israelites came out of Egypt and traveled through the wilderness, the majority of what they had to say were complaints. They complained about their circumstances even though they experienced great miracles of God. Here’s one of those complaining moments in Numbers 20:5 while in the wilderness.
“Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.”
As I read these complaints, I can’t help but think to myself … “Come on … don’t complain! Why do you guys keep complaining and complaining? Didn’t God split the Red Sea right in front of your eyes? Don’t you know by now that God has a special favor on you? He saved you from the Egyptians. How can you lack so much faith?!” And I have to admit, as I read these complaining accounts, it’s easy to read it with a prideful and righteous heart. I think to myself, “If I were an Israelite, I wouldn’t have complained.”
But the Holy Spirit convicted my heart and helped me to realize that I would have done exactly the same thing if I were part of this mass exodus, constantly on the move to an unknown place. The Israelites were not complaining about lacking “middle class” luxuries and comforts. Often, they were asking for the bare essentials – food and shelter. And if I were traveling with my family in this massive caravan through the wilderness, experiencing a certain measure of discomfort, I know that I would be in the front of line demanding food and shelter from Moses.
I realize something about reading the Bible. It’s very easy for me to have pride and think to myself, “I would have never done that.” “Don’t they see it?” “Come on … Don’t eat the apple!” It’s a sobering thought to me about the human condition. Pride is even evident in how we read Scripture.
One of the things that I appreciate about the Bible is that it’s a complete, unedited, honest depiction of the human condition. It tells it as it is. And the reason for this is not to make us feel good about ourselves, thinking that we could have changed the trajectory of humankind if only, the Bible story was about me – that in some way I am better than those people of the past. No way! Rather, the Bible is like a mirror that reflects accurately our depravity as human beings. Reading these Bible stories shouldn’t puff me up with pride, but rather humble me because I am susceptible to the same types of sin and disobedience against the Lord.
But the good news is always the gospel! We don’t have to stay in despair because of our condition. Rather, the gospel gives us hope and strength when we realize that our only hope is in the Christ righteousness and God’s amazing grace.