Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter… And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Exodus 15:22-24
My children and I giggled a bit over this passage, although I admit, on my part at least it was a somewhat guilty giggle. As the last young person finished her turn in the reading, I noted aloud that the Israelites took a significant pendulum swing from a state of joyous praise to dissatisfied griping in three measly days.
To fully understand what I mean, you may want to read the previous portion of Exodus 14 and 15. Go ahead. I’ll wait….
Now, think about what you just read: Three days after watching the hand of God perform an impossible feat of deliverance involving a massive volume of water, the people seemed unable to grasp that the very same God might possibly be competent to make a little nasty water taste nice.
Three short days — it really is a little amusing. However, if I am honest, the joke’s on me. It is so easy for me to look at the infant nation and wonder how on earth they could have watched something as astonishing as the parting of the Red Sea and still not understood that God is infinitely capable of providing for their needs even when they cannot see how He will.
The sad truth is that I am no different. I desperately want to be a person possessing unwavering faith in my God, a person who never doubts Him for a moment. But the real me is much more like that group of refugees from Egypt.
On any given day, I may see a glimpse of the enormity of my God and of the goodness and rightness of His plans, yet I rarely need three whole days to slip into disbelief. I have been known to literally sing His praises, filled with unspeakable joy, during an early-morning walk with my dogs only to collapse in frustrated tears before lunchtime because my children are disrespectful or my home school day is not going well. Three days? It can happen to me in three hours!
Perhaps there is a lesson in this shameful undulation of faith, so like the tides of the sea. It is at such times when my rashness and fickleness are so evident that God’s steadfastness and patience are poignantly underscored. This, then, is why God desires so to develop patience and faithfulness in His children — because He is, Himself, patient and faithful.
Perhaps — just perhaps — He has yet one more miracle to perform involving water, considering our flesh is mostly composed of water; one more marvel concerning the tide-like ebb and flow of our faith. For in a display of really ridiculous patience, our long-suffering, holy God continues to allow us access to Himself when we draw near despite the tragic number of times we faithlessly retreat from His presence.
Just maybe as He works in us, He is gradually increasing the length of our advances toward Him and decreasing the distance we withdraw. Maybe He will do the impossible and change the shifting waves of our disbelief into fixed and changeless postures of trust. Maybe even someday in the process of our sanctification, we will find our faith is no longer capricious but has come to look something more like Him , our faithful and steadfast Rock.