Summary: In this sermon, we try to learn from the mistakes of Israel, so that we might not grumble, but we humble.


A. I like the story of the man who decided to join a monastery and one of the rules of the particular monastic group was that you were only allowed to speak two words at the end of every ten years.

1. At the end of his first ten years he said, “Food Bad!”

2. At the end of his second ten years he said, “Bed Hard!”

3. Finally, on his 30th anniversary at the monastery he said, “I quit!”

4. The monk in charge responded, “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. You’ve done nothing but complain ever since you got here.”

B. Let me ask you: Is that an apt description of you? “You’ve done nothing but complain ever since you got here?”

1. As we will see in our lesson today, that is a fitting statement about the Israelites.

2. About all they have done since they left Egypt is grumble and complain.

C. So let’s spend a little time today trying to learn from their mistakes, so that we might not grumble, but be humble.

I. The Story

A. Last week in our study of the life of Moses, we witnessed the miracle of the Red Sea crossing and the destruction of the army of Pharaoh who pursued the Israelites into the sea.

1. After witnessing this awesome event, God’s people feared the Lord and trusted the Lord and sang a song of praise to the Lord.

2. But as is often the case with many of us the trust and praise were short lived.

B. The first story we are going to look at today is found in Exodus 15:22-27.

1. It presents for us a picture of the Israelites’ wilderness experience in miniature.

2. They are going to wander in the desert for 40 years and this cycle is going to happen repeatedly.

3. The cycle goes like this:

a. First, comes abundance – we have what we need and we are content and thankful.

b. Second, comes expectation – when we enjoy abundance, we expect that it will continue.

c. The third step in the cycle, is disappointment – the abundance we expected disappears and we are disappointed.

d. Fourth in the cycle is complaint – disappointment leads to grumbling and complaining.

e. The final part of the cycle is provision – God, in His grace, often after discipline, provided what was needed.

4. Let’s see how this cycle reveals itself in today’s episodes in Moses’ story and let’s see if it is a cycle we recognize in our lives as well.

C. The Bible says: 22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) [Marah means bitter] 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (15:22-24)

1. How would you like to travel three days in the desert without water? Not too fun.

2. If I don’t take enough water on our annual mountain hike and I begin to get thirsty, it is uncomfortable. Fortunately, usually someone else on the hike has enough to share with me.

3. Is it unreasonable to need water after three days in the desert? No.

4. Is it wrong to ask for water to drink when we are thirsty? Of course not!

5. But there is a big difference between making a humble request, and making a prideful complaint.

6. They didn’t just ask Moses if he could provide something to drink, they grumbled against Moses.

7. I can imagine the grumbling sounded something like this: “What’s the matter with that guy, he leads us out here in the desert and gives us nothing to drink! What kind of leader would do that? Certainly not a smart one or a caring one!”

D. Again, like last week, I’m proud of Moses and his response to the crisis.

1. The Bible says: 25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. (15:25)

2. Moses did the right thing - he took the matter to the Lord and God provided the solution.

3. God certainly knows what we need and wants to supply what we need.

4. Our first response should be to make a request, not a complaint.

E. We are then told about a covenant that God entered into with Israel and then moved them to a much better place – what a blessed provision.

1. The Bible says: There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

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