Summary: God makes a promise to us and then watches for obedience. He waits to grant the eventual blessing so that we might grow.
Back in 1997, USA Today reported that the Department of Transportation had set aside $200 million for research and testing of an Automated Highway System. The idea is that engineers could relieve traffic congestion with a new “super cruise control” built into our highways. In cities facing heavy traffic congestion special magnets would be embedded in the road every four feet which would transfer signals between the cars and the D.O.T.’s computer system. Everything from steering, acceleration, and braking would be controlled by sensors, computer navigation systems, and cameras along the side of the road. Control would be returned to drivers as they left at specified exits. Researchers and government officials claim they have the capability to address any potential technological problem. But there is one problem they cannot overcome. Mike Doble, Buick technology manager says, “The only thing we can’t do yet is get people to comfortably trust the system. It’s not a technology issue.” People feel out of control while driving closely spaced, at high speeds, through major cities. The problem is not technology, the problem is trust — very few people would be willing to give up that kind of control.
This is the human dilemma, is it not? Giving up control. Trusting something that you are not in control of, even if that something is better at control than you are. That was the situation that the people of Israel were faced with. God was asking them to give him control and they weren’t sure they wanted to. Think about what had happened to them in less than six months. One day they were slaves in Egypt. They were beaten regularly and worked unmercifully from sunup to sunset. The Egyptians were killing every male child that was born, because they were afraid they would overtake them in the future. The Hebrews were huddled in their miserable little huts and lived in squalor. But suddenly a man named Moses appeared and said that God was going to deliver them and that, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (Exodus 2:24-25). And then, almost on a daily basis they began to see the miraculous power of God working for their deliverance. He fought for them and delivered them. The plagues which were devastating the Egyptians were not affecting them at all. Finally, the Lord led them to the Red Sea. But as they looked at the watery barrier before them they turned to see the Egyptian army in pursuit. They were filled with fear and began to cry out to God. Just then, then waters miraculously parted and they were again on their journey toward the promised land, while Pharaoh’s threatening army was destroyed in the retreating waters. When they arrived on the other side, God miraculously provided them with bread and meat, as well as all their other needs.
How great is that? It should have been enough to convince anyone that God was with them and was able to provide for them. After all, his presence was going before them in a pillar of cloud and fire. But they were only a few miles out of Egypt before they started complaining. They grumbled to Moses, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3). It is as though they had forgotten all that God had done for them and the amazing power he had displayed on their behalf. Moses cried out to God saying, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me” (Exodus 17:4).
The Lord answered Moses saying, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Then the Bible says, “So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:5-7). What an incredible accusation! How much evidence did they need to realize the Lord was with them? So the next time someone says to you, “If there really is a God, why doesn’t he show himself? If he exists, why doesn’t he do some miracle so that everyone will see it and have to believe in him?” You can tell them that he has already done that and it didn’t work. He demonstrated his love for them and showed them his power. He was visibly present with them and spoke to them out of heaven, and it didn’t matter. They still did not believe, and their hearts were still full of rebellion. (By the way, the same thing was true in the New Testament. God came in visible form, in the person of Jesus, told them he loved them, demonstrated that love with blessings and miracles, powerfully providing food and healings, and not only did they not believe in him, they killed him.)