For the week of January 30, 2010 / 15 Shevat 5770
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 13:17 - 17:16
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 4:4 - 5:31
And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness (Shemot / Exodus 16:2; ESV)
When we think of the exodus, I wonder if we think of it more as a fairy tale than the historical event it really was - as if after living under oppressive bondage for hundreds of years, God delivered the people of Israel, and then they lived happily ever after. I can think of at least one Hollywood rendition of the exodus story that gives this impression. Once the people got to the other side of the Red Sea, they were trouble free as they headed off to the Promised Land to enjoy their new life.
But that is not what really happened. Even though they truly were a free people, no longer under the bond of slavery, they had a whole new set of challenges to face. In fact between the Red Sea and their arrival at Mt. Sinai alone, they faced dehydration twice, starvation once, and war once. Far from being trouble free, the people went from one set of troubles to another. The difference was that previously they had been facing troubles as slaves to the Egyptians, and now they were facing troubles as servants of God.
Servants of God face ongoing trouble. The source of trouble can be quite varied. Sometimes troubles are of our own making, sometimes they come from the hand of others. At times we find ourselves in hostile natural environments, such as epidemics and disasters. The troubles we face can be of various degrees, from simple dilemmas to nuisances to life-threatening situations.
The trouble faced by the people of Israel during their time in the wilderness had a clear intended purpose. Later in the Torah we read these words:
The troubles encountered by Israel in the wilderness were designed to train them to rely on God in everything. While troubles can come from many sources and for many reasons, in the case of Israel at this time, the challenges they faced were clearly intended by God. I don't know if we can say that is how it works for every instance of trouble we face. But certainly every instance of trouble is an opportunity for us to learn to rely on God rather than upon ourselves.
I don't know about you, but I find myself offended by trouble. I really don't like it. I want my days to go smoothly, I want to get along with everyone, and I want to be successful in everything I do upon my first attempt at doing it. The problem is life is not like that. And at least for now, God doesn't seem to be interested in making it any other way. Far from it! He wants us to learn to face our troubles in him. That means trusting him to make things right in his time in his own way and, for the time being, living life according to his directives no matter what.
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