Summary: Indecision and False Hope is not from God, People talk about the good old days as an excuse to stop discovering the new. God has a plan for us even when we do not know the future.
A few years ago when we first started out fresh from college, we had many dreams. Some wanted to get more education and some talked about making money. Others wanted to live in the big city far away from their parents and some wanted to stay close to parents. Some were not comfortable with change and so they sought jobs close to the college town. It did not matter that there were not so many jobs in the college town. A few friends decided to stay and as one put it, “I want to stay here for a while and figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life”. One gentleman was very blunt. He said that he was scared of leaving the comfortable and the familiar and so staying in the small college town to him was the best option. He found a job at the college copy center and married a local girl. A few years later I ran into him at a city in the southwest United States where I was attending a convention. He told me “if I had to live my life again, I would have left with you guys and sought opportunities elsewhere. You know” he continued, “Sometimes leaving makes sense than staying and I didn’t know that” he concluded. This morning, I invite you to explore that topic with me. I invite you to turn to your Bibles and follow along as we read the story of the Israelites’ wandering in the Desert as recorded in Ex. 16 : 1 – 16. I want to take as our key verse the opening in Chap. 16 :1
“Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 16 : 1).
Let me give you a summary of the passage. It had been two months since the Exodus from Egypt. The crowd had made their way to an oasis in the desert called Elim. Travelers in the desert were familiar with that little place of succor known as Elim. The Bible described the place as having 12 wells of water and seventy date palms (Ex. 15 : 27). Obviously, it was a place that the desert caravan looked forward to resting, getting a drink for themselves and their animals before continuing their journey. Though the name Elim has been a subject of speculation by theologians, some going as far as saying it meant “god’s” place, the name itself is suggestive of water, for other ancient tongues such as Annang who left Egypt and migrated south referred to rain and springs variously as Elim and Ilim. It was at Elim that the Israelites rested. They camped there besides the waters and had enough to drink and rested under the shadows of the palm. Yet they forgot something. Staying in Elim was not God’s plan. Yes it had water – an important resource and a highly prized commodity in the desert, but that was not God’s plan for them. God was sending them to a land of milk and honey. The Bible says that after sometime, “they set out from Elim”. Obviously, leaving the familiar and the comfortable place did not sit well with some people and so they started to complain. Look at verse 2 “And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbles against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” Look at what others say in V.3, they exaggerate the conditions of their lives in Egypt where they said they “sat by the pots of meat” and “ate bread to the full”. Given this nostalgia, they wondered why Moses and Aaron brought them to the wilderness to kill them. Now they have forgotten about God and now grumbling against their leaders. The people forgot about God’s promises and kindness but God did not forget about his promises. God responded as God often does with kindness and mercy.
We humans are very comfortable with the familiar. You see it takes the eyes of faith to trust and believe that we may not know tomorrow but we know who makes tomorrow. Faith is hard work and change takes faith. Without faith and with no trust in the promises of the savior, we become comfortable with the familiar and denounce anyone who suggests otherwise. Elim was an easy place it had twelve wells for the drawing of water. In the desert having one well was hard enough but having 12 was incredible and so after surrounding themselves with such convenience, moving on and relying on the promise of a land with milk and honey was hard indeed and so the Israelites did what we do best. They grumbled and blamed the messengers.