No sooner do God’s people sing their great song of prayer, victory, and celebration to Him than they are led into the wilderness. These people are on quite a journey – a grand adventure wherein they must learn how to follow the commands of a righteous, heavenly master as opposed to the unjust earthly master they had just been delivered from. Let’s just call it an adjustment period.
They arrive in the desert and they are, not surprisingly, thirsty. They only water they do find is bitter and undrinkable…so…because they just saw all these miracles, watched God destroy their fierce enemies, and sang for joy, they decide to pray for good water and they live happily ever after…
Fail. Unfortunately that is not what God’s people did. Even after all they had just seen God do for them, they allow their physical thirst to shift their focus from joy and praise to unbelief and complaining. Even after all they had seen God do, these followers went right back to complaining.
And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” ~Exodus 15:24
I call them “followers” because that is what they were. Some people are leaders. Others are followers. One is not better than the other. The problem was not that they were followers, it was who they were following. When they should have been following God and his prophet, they chose to follow each other and their physical and emotional desires dwelling upon all they could find unfortunate about their situation. It proved a real lack of character and maturity on their part.
Fortunately, God’s people had a prophet. Oh, wait, that was the guy they were complaining about. Drat. The very man whom God gave to help, to deliver, to lead, and to prophesy to them, they exasperate and burden by their abusive speech against him. Here, they have a man who was trusting God as he led them. Yet, they grumble against him.
Moses prayed. Moses cried out to God on behalf of his very fearful, unbelieving, abusive followers formerly known as the joyful praisers of the Lord who sang the great victory song right along with him just three days before.
God answers Moses’ prayer miraculously. The text says: “And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Exodus 15:25)
Wait. God “showed” the prophet a log? A log. What? How does that work? Does God just point out random objects to people and enlighten them about what he wants done with them?
I am here to tell you…Yes. He. Does. God speaks to people who pray in earnest to him for the sake of others. God is in no way limited in the means or the methods he may choose to use for the sake of his people. God can and does use whatever he will when we are willing to listen and obey.
God can use a log. He can use a murderer like Moses. He can use a donkey, a tax collector, a doctor, a colt, a hate-filled Pharisee like Saul (Paul), or even, *gasp*, a GIRL if he wants to. May he, complaining unbeliever? May he, grumbling follower? Just wondering.
Here, God gave his prophet practical insight and wisdom on what to do and how to do it. The prophet obeyed and God provided. Therefore, what was bitter and unusable became life-giving to all God’s people. So God used an obedient, praying murderer turned prophet coupled with an inanimate object in order to work a miracle and set an extremely important precedent for his people.
It seems that change is always difficult for people. It is one thing to follow an earthly master who threatens punishment and sure death in the instance of disobedience. It is another to be given freedom and liberty to choose right or wrong for the sake of a life-giving, heavenly Master who has just shown you great love, grace, mercy, and favor. Here, God clears up any misconceptions these chosen ones may have had about their responsibility to him as well as the consequences of their obedience and disobedience, respectively. God made himself quite clear. His message was this:
Hey, kids. I have control over all things. I have been extremely gracious to you. I destroyed your enemies because of their sin. I know it is hard to believe, but I am not going to just overlook your sin. Listen and obey me and you will be healed and protected. Ignore and disobey me and you will be destroyed just like your enemies. You are no better, no different, and in no way above them. All men are the same to me. This is life or death. You choose.
Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Let not the Israelites think, because God had thus highly honored them in the great things he had done for them, and had proclaimed the to all the world his favorites, that therefore he would connive at their sins and let them do as they would. No, God is no respecter of persons; a rebellious Israelites shall fare no better than a rebellious Egyptian; and so they found, to their cost, before they got to Canaan.”
Like I said, change is always difficult for people – especially those who have lived in harsh bondage their entire lives; especially those who have lived in positions of preference, position, and pride over their own personal heritage their entire lives. When transitioning from a slave-driving, hard task-master like Pharaoh and sin, as well as from a self-serving attitude of self-importance wherein our task-master is our own sin, to a life-giving, love-bestowing, righteous Father-master like God, we are, like they were, bound to have some misconceptions and make some mistakes. God knew. That is why he made himself so clear upon their entry to this wilderness.
The prophet has spoken. The miracle has proven his prayers as effective as his words were true. Now, God’s great mercy gives even more grace.
Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. ~Exodus 15:27
God gave a place of rest and refreshment. He will do the same for us if we would but trust him.