Summary: We can gain wisdom and gain faith from the lessons Israel learned in their journey through life’s battles.
“The Charge of the Light Brigade: Lessons Learned in Battle”
In 1997 the Detroit Red Wings, along with the State of Michigan, were in ecstatic euphoria following the Red Wing’s capture of the coveted Stanley Cup championship trophy. Celebrations were ongoing and the sweet taste of victory seemed as if it would never end. Life was great at the top. Then, in a flash, the parties ended, as a limousine carrying two players and a member of the training staff crashed — two very serious, paralyzing injuries. The joy was gone, replaced by bitterness and anger. Life had dealt another cruel hand. Stunned but not immobilized, the rest of the Red Wings learned the lessons of tragedy well and moved on with new resolve, repeating as champions the next season. It was a moving, inspirational story largely because it fits the pattern of life as we know it.
It’s a pattern we see in the life of Israel beginning in this 15th chapter of Exodus. Here we can see ourselves and can learn and grow. So let’s join Israel on her journey.
She has just walked through the parted waters of the Red Sea, turned around, and watched in horror as Pharaoh’s army drowned while crossing the same path. They were free at last. But they soon learned that TRIAL FOLLOWS TRIUMPH. They now knew triumph first hand. Chapter 14 ends with these words (31): “And when the Israelites saw the great power of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” Chapter 15 follows with a song of triumph and thanksgiving to God. This was their victory chant as VICTORY LED TO CELEBRATION AND JOY. Praise and worship was the attitude of the hour. Faith had been reborn; in fact it exploded within them. They were acknowledging God as their firm foundation. They were vowing to never mistrust God again.
When the sacred party was over they continued their journey to the Promised Land. But it proved to be a tough trip. Before long, JOY TURNED TO BITTERNESS. The desert was dry, the sun scorching, and the winds filled with sand. Then, by the third day, their water supply was gone and they were thirsty. What a stark contrast to their euphoria and expectations! About the time they could stand it no longer, they came to the waters of Marah and their hopes rose again. Until they drank – the water was bitter – undrinkable! Their hopes turned to bitterness. Like the Michigan weather, great one minute and stormy the next, their felt their lives being jerked around. So they grumbled at Moses, and God.
Let’s pause for a moment. WE KNOW THE STORY; IT IS OURS. We, too, have learned that bitter waters follow the showers of grace. We’ve seen it in the lives of others, including the saints of old. Prince Joseph was falsely imprisoned, eternal King David was dethroned, godly Daniel was incarcerated with Lions, victorious prophet Elijah hid with depression, dynamic preacher Paul was whipped. And we’ve seen it in our lives. Rejoicing in some victory we recommit ourselves to the Lord, we sing His praises, set out to do His work with even more vigor; but then a major setback occurs. We commit the marriage to Him, but then comes divorce. We commit our children to Him, but then comes rebellion. We give our hearts to a loved one but then comes desertion. We build our life around someone but then death shatters that life. We minister through our job but then the job is taken away. We tithe to the Lord but then our income dwindles. We do good work after good work but then our health turns bad. God seems to shatter what matters most in our lives. We hardly dare celebrate the victories for fear of the storms. We grumble and complain; we search for answers, we seek relief. Israel’s story is ours – trial follows triumph.
Now back to Israel at Marah. They were now ready to learn another lesson: TRANSFORMATION FOLLOWS TRUST. They grumble at Moses so He cries out to God. He knew that God does not change, so he prayed. ALL IT TOOK WAS ONE ACT OF TRUST. The people cried to Moses, “You didn’t tell us it was going to be like this!” And Moses replied, “If I had known it would be like this, I’d never have brought you along!” It was unfair for them to expect Moses to give what only God could supply; so Moses simply pointed them back to their source of life. He prayed. To transform our situations, we must always go back to the beginning, back to God. Prayer is never overmatched on earth. Moses prayed and God acted.