Everybody wants proof, don’t they? It’s always been that way. I can almost hear Adam those first days as he was walking in the Garden of Eden with God introducing him to all of the new and exotic fruits. “I’m supposed to eat that? Really? You first.” Human beings are skeptical in nature, and sometimes that keeps us out of trouble. It’s kind of like the woman I heard about one time who said that she believed in absolutely nothing. I mean nothing. She was actually so skeptical about everything that it kept her from becoming an atheist. Or like Ronald Reagan when he said that the most terrifying sentence in the English language is, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
Being skeptical can sometimes keep us out of trouble, but there are times when we choose not to believe, when we decide that we need more proof than what we’ve seen, and that gets us into more trouble than we could ever imagine especially when we start demanding that kind of proof from God. But we all do it from time to time. That’s why the story I want to tell today is one of those stories that we need to tell our children and our children’s children just like Asaph recommends in Psalm 78. Do you remember what he says will happen if we do this? If we tell these stories that reveal all of our flaws and our shortcomings and God’s gracious response? He says that they will learn to place their hope in God and follow His commands. They need that especially in our 21st century world of cynical debate about everything under the sun, but we need it as well because too often we find ourselves struggling to live the Christian life because of our skepticism. If only we had the kind of faith that trusts in the power of a Holy God knowing that He has a plan for our lives…. If only we had the kind of faith that trusts in the power of a Holy God knowing that He is able to deliver us from whatever prison that holds us in our bondage…. If we had that kind of faith, we could live in victory and not defeat. And that is the story I want to tell over the next several days.
You find the story in the Book of Exodus between chapters 4 and 12, and if you read those chapters, you will see how God’s Plan Affects His People. God had called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, and Moses was perhaps the biggest skeptic of all, demanding proof and offering excuses. “I can’t talk to Pharaoh,” he said. “How can I convince him? Whom will I tell the people has sent me”? And God very patiently – well somewhat patiently – dealt with Moses’ excuses and provided him with the proof that he needed. But when you get to chapter 5, Moses had his first encounter with Pharaoh and makes that most famous pronouncement, “Let my people go! God wants my people to go into the wilderness to hold a feast. Just a 3 day journey into the desert or God’s gonna kill us.” Now some people say, “How come Moses is lying about this?” And I’m saying, “If God told Moses to say it, it’s not a lie. You know what I’m saying?” But Pharaoh refused to let them go, and instead, he increased their work load. Now, not only do they have to make the same number of bricks as before for all of the building projects, the Hebrew slaves also had to go out and find all of their supplies for themselves. The mud, the straw, everything. And when they couldn’t make their quota, it wasn’t just the slaves that were getting beaten. The Hebrew officers that had been set over the slaves were beaten and harshly treated.
And here is what happens when a skeptical people press for proof that God is able to do what He promises, and it doesn’t happen the way they think it should: The People Pouted. That’s right. These are the same people that were crying out to God for deliverance because their sons were being killed at birth, and their lives had been turned into a living nightmare. But when deliverance didn’t happen immediately, they pouted. They blamed Moses and Aaron. “It’s your fault,” they said. “You’ve made us a stench in the nostrils of the Pharaoh, and you’ve given him a reason to kill us.”
Not that the Pharaoh would kill the people of Israel. They were too valuable to the economy, and that is the root of the issue. Egypt could not survive without the slave labor the Hebrew people were providing. More than anything else, for the Pharaoh, this entire situation was about money, greed, and power.
But when God’s people did not get immediate relief, they pouted, and it wouldn’t be the last time that they did this. In fact, even after Moses led them out of the Promised Land, they brought this whole episode up again. Do you remember the story? When Pharaoh’s army was closing in on them at the Red Sea, once again, they had forgotten God’s promises, and they had forgotten what God was capable of doing and they had started to imagine the worst possible scenario. The Jews were sure that they and their children would die in the wilderness as soon as Pharaoh’s army caught up with them. The frightened people reminded Moses that they had told him to leave them alone, but he had persisted in challenging Pharaoh. Israel was now in a terrible predicament, and to them, Moses was to blame.
Unbelief has a way of doing that to us. It erases from our memories all the demonstrations we’ve ever seen of God’s great power. It removes all the instances we know of God’s faithfulness to His Word. Suddenly even our own culpability as to why we are in the predicament in the first place is gone. We have no idea why God would allow us to suffer or struggle or be where we are (not that this was the case for the Israelites or even for you). That’s why this story is so important. It reminds us. It stirs our memories. It helps us to recognize that God is always there and He is able. It gives us the power to believe.
You can listen to this message at this link.