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In high school I bought the devotional “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman from the bookstore where I worked. Its words have encouraged me most when I’ve been in seasons of need these past 22 years. An underlined section from June 27 gives courage to my soul this week: (referencing Ephesians 3:16) “The strength [God] gives is continuous, for He is a source of power I cannot exhaust.”
The Israelites were a needy people in and out of exile. They witnessed the plagues in Egypt, which revealed there is no one like Yahweh. Yet when the people saw Pharaoh closing in at the Red Sea they were once again terrified by him. They asked Moses if he had taken them to the wilderness to die and claimed it would have been better to stay in Egypt.
How quickly we forget the works of the Lord. If we’re used to seeing someone or something besides God as powerful, we don’t just stop thinking that overnight. Salvation and sanctification don’t get accomplished all at once. In God’s mercy, Moses answered their panic by pointing them to Yahweh saying, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today…The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14, ESV). And God provided a way forward.
Three days later the people arrived at Marah and complained about not having fresh water to drink. There were zero grounds for grumbling. Still once more, Moses trusted God for deliverance, and He showed Moses how to make the water sweet.
Time and again God delivered — the people were content — then another need arose — and they grumbled. Exodus 16:3 shows that their perception of reality was totally distorted. Hunger, fatigue, and being out of your element can all reveal what’s truly in the heart.
Within days of these mighty acts and liberation they were ready to go back to the way things were. Or to be precise, the romanticized memories of the way things were.
When the people were thirsty, Moses cried to the LORD for help and He gave them clean water to drink. When the people were hungry, Moses cried to the LORD and He gave them quail and bread from heaven. Moses believed Yahweh would provide because He already had. He had hope because he had seen Yahweh’s inexhaustible power. Moses trusted Yahweh would continue to deliver because He said He would.
And God did.
How can we be encouraged from this portion of Scripture? For starters, it shows us Yahweh’s extraordinary patience and endless love for His people. It also paints a picture of what Paul wrote about rejoicing when we are in seasons of need. Like Moses, “we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
To be clear, rejoicing in the midst of hardship does not mean enjoying it; it means trusting the Lord because we know who He is, and we know what He brings about on behalf of His children for His glory. We trust Him because we have experienced His deliverance, His forgiveness, His blessing. We have hope because we have tasted His goodness.
Friends, our need produces the circumstances for the Lord to accomplish good.
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” Philippians 2:13-15, HCSB