A message given by Pastor Darrin Ronde on May 17, 2020 at Pikes Peak Christian Church, Colorado Springs, CO

It’s so good to see everyone again! I know this isn’t ideal nor the way God intended us to gather as a church, but I’m so grateful that we have this online medium because otherwise it would be ridiculously challenging to stay in touch with each other. If 9:15am on Sundays doesn’t work for you, you can watch the service at a time that fits your schedule.

One of the things I’ve appreciated about watching services online is that I have an unhindered view of the worship leaders and whoever is preaching! When I was in college I found that when I sat with my friends in back, we were easily distracted by the other students and often whispered jokes to one another. But when I moved to sitting in the front row, my interest level and grades both shot up. I’m hoping we will be able to start meeting again at the church sometime in June, but I hope that attending services at home has been a blessing for you.

Speaking of home, I bet you’re getting tired of spending so much time there. It’s interesting that our pets are experiencing this season differently. If you have dogs, they’ve loved having you around. Everytime you go to the front door they’re ready to join you for a walk. Cats are another story. They used to rule the house for 8-9 hours a day. Not anymore. Most cats are thinking, When is this going to end?

I know the longer this pandemic draws out, the more our emotions will rise. Some of you wonder what’s the big deal and others believe this is a very big deal. As Pastor Matt shared last week, there are a lot of polarizing opinions on how things have been handled and how we should behave. I find it hard to believe everything that politicians, the media or even our medical community say because they don’t all agree. When I listen to them, I get confused about what I should do. Should I stay in or go out? Should I reopen or stay closed? Should I wear a mask or not?

While I am unsure about many things, there are two things I am very certain that know I should do. God wants me to trust him and love others. It’s as simple as that. If you can trust God in the midst of the pandemic and find practical ways to love someone each day, then I think you’re well on your way in the right thing. [By the way, last Fall we did a series called Endgame which was based on a verse in the book of Galatians that says: The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

God wants you to trust him. That’s one of the biggest lessons he is trying to teach his people during a period known as the Wilderness Wandering. To catch you up on where we are, the Israelites were a group of people that were made to serve as slaves in ancient Egypt. God rescued his people after they cried out to him by raising up a man named Moses. He led them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea into a vast desert which served as a bootcamp for the nation of Israel. The people had seen how the Egyptians worshiped their many gods, and they needed to learn how they were to worship and walk with a God who had shown himself to be so merciful and powerful.

I shared with you a couple weeks ago how God revealed himself to them in a very visible way: a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He wanted them to know that he was going to be with them throughout the journey. That would be very comforting to know that anytime day or night, you could look up and be reminded that God was with you. At the same time, it might be a little unnerving knowing that everything you said or did was being heard and seen by God. This is a great visual picture of a New Testament reality. God has chosen to be present with every believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are to live every moment in the presence of the Lord. Can I ask you: How’s that working for you? Are you starting your morning recognizing his presence? Are you talking to him throughout your day? Are you hearing him give direction to your steps?

God wants to lead and wants us to follow. For the Israelites, they were being escorted to a place called the Promised Land. Before they could appreciate living in a land of plenty, they needed to learn a vital lesson about faith. Whenever I think about the inconveniences of this period we are living in, I can’t help but think of what the Israelites went through for the 40 years they wandered in the Wilderness. Every day looked a lot like the day before. They were stuck 24 hours a day with their families. They didn’t know when it would end. Their patterns of life were altered. The things they were accustomed to doing they couldn’t do anymore.

They food they liked to eat wasn’t available. There were no stores, no restaurants, no Door Dash or Grub Hub, and no stimulus checks. They didn’t hoard meat or stock up on toilet paper because there wasn’t any! Let that sink in for a minute. To make matters worse, they didn’t have cell phones, internet, television or books. Their lives were disrupted in a huge way. And they let Moses know about it.

We’re going to take a quick look at three stories that are told back-to-back-to-back. Whenever you find stories in the Bible repeated, you need to pay close attention because there is something very important being taught. As we look at each of these stories, we’ll see some patterns developing. The first story is at the end of Exodus 15.

22 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. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 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 15:22-25a

It’s the third day and by now the Israelites are complaining about being thirsty. I can’t really blame them because they’re walking through the desert where it’s hot and dry. It reminds me of setting out on a road trip with your kids and hearing voices from the back crying out, Can I get something to drink? Moses finally leads them to a pool of water but it’s toxic, or at least undrinkable. God never blames them for being thirsty. It’s a biological need. No problem there. There problem comes in what they do with their desire.

It says they grumbled against Moses. It’s one thing to take a complaint TO someone; it’s another to grumble AGAINST them. We don’t know the details of what all they said, but it probably wasn’t nice. Moses takes their complaint to God and what does God do? He shows Moses a certain log and prompts him to throw it in the water and the water instantly becomes sweet like a fine bottled Perrier. What do we learn from that? Moses did what God said and God healed the water. He made that which was sick well. The story concludes with this:

There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

Exodus 15:22-26

Notice the word TEST. God was testing them. He wants his people to listen to his voice and do the right thing. If we do that, bad things will become good things. Why? Because the LORD is a healer.

1 They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 16:1-3

Now the issue is food. They’re hungry and they let it be known. Notice that the people grumble against Moses and Aaron. This time they add some pouting. Oh, that we could have stayed in Egypt and died there! At least we had plenty of food to eat there. But no, you brought us out into the wilderness to die! The complaining has gone up a notch. And they aren’t really complaining about Moses or Aaron. They just happen to be the ones they can look in the eye and vent to. They are really complaining about God because he was the one who brought them out of Egypt. Had they already forgotten how bad it was in Egypt, and that’s why they pleaded with the LORD to save them? They’re basically telling God he saved them for nothing.

If I were the LORD, I would have swatted them like Miller moths! But God is so much more gracious than me. Here is what the LORD said to Moses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

Exodus 16:4

So God gives them bread from heaven. We won’t take time to read the whole story this morning, but you can read it there in Exodus 14. God promised to provide for them a miraculous type of food called manna. Every morning they would wake up and find this flaky stuff on the ground, kind of like Honey Bunches of Oats, and they would gather enough to feed their family for the day. They were not to store up any for the next day because it would spoil. God would provide it fresh every day, except for one day. On the 6th day of the week they were to gather twice as much as they needed because they were not to gather any on the 7th day because that was to be a Sabbath day or day of rest from their labor.

God says to Moses that these rules for gathering manna would test them to see if they trusted the Lord. Some were amazed that they could gather extra on the 6th day and it would still taste fresh the next morning, because when some tried to stash some away on the other days, they would find it full of worms the next morning. It was all a test to see if they would obey the LORD.

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-7

Once again the people complained about the water. And once again the people grumbled against Moses. They told Moses that his real motive was to bring them out into the desert to die! Moses has had enough. He starts to complain to the LORD: What shall I do with this people? God tells him to take the same staff he had raised when God turned the Nile River to blood, and he was to strike the rock at Mt. Horeb. Then water came gushing out of the rock. He didn’t hit a lucky spring that was dormant in the rock. God did another miracle of nature by causing water to flow where there was no water.

Once again the word test shows up, but this time the tables are turned. God is still testing the Israelites to see if they’ll trust him but this time they are testing him! The audacity of it! After God has heard their cries and miraculously saved them from Pharaoh, after he turned bitter water into sweet water and caused the sky to rain bread on the land every morning, they want to test God to see if he’s worthy of their trust! Can you imagine being seated before your college professor for your final exam and you announce to him that you are now going to test him!

You may think in hearing these three stories that the moral is: if you want to get something from God, complain against his messengers. Your parents, your pastors, your politicians. They will plead your case and God will eventually give in and meet your demands. But it doesn’t work like that. God was being extra-gracious in teaching them that he is able to provide. They don’t learn. This pattern of grumbling continues and becomes the reason why they never got to inherit the Promised Land. Listen to how that event is remembered in the Psalms.

7 Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”

Psalm 95:7-11

The longer this pandemic season drags out, the more I sense that we will face similar issues as the Israelites as we learn to trust God in the season of transition. I want to draw out one major lesson.

God provides the right SUPPLY at the right TIME.

God promises to meet our needs. He was teaching the Israelites that walking by faith means you know your Heavenly Father well enough to trust him to meet your needs. This is what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. He told us to take a tip from nature—see how God provides for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. HOW MUCH MORE, Jesus says, does your heavenly Father know what you need.

God provides the right supply. That means he provides what we need, not what we want. We say all the time that we need things that to be honest, we could live without. I need a new car. I need a new cell phone. I need a new jacket. I’m not saying you should never want anything new. Often God gives us the ability to get some new things and some very nice things. But the issue is whether or not we can be content either way.

I can’t imagine eating any food—even manna—day in and day out. Many of you won’t even eat leftovers! I dare you to live like an Israelite for a month. Eat the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some of you won’t even eat leftovers after a big meal. You may think that that would be the end of the world, but I have to tell you that there are many people in poorer countries that eat just about the same thing every day. When I stayed in a Maasai village for a few days on a trip there to work with the Price family, we got to eat like they ate. And what we ate was not their normal food but their special meals. We had cold goat, and hard boiled eggs and nuts. We at this stuff called ugali. It’s called fufu in some places. It has a texture like plumber’s putty. One description I came across online says it’s a very stiff, heavy pudding, but more starchy and elastic – a giant gnocchi, perhaps. What I remember most is how bland it was. Yet I never heard anyone complain. The kids even were pretty excited any time they got to eat.

I think about that each morning and evening when I pour a large cup of dog food into a couple bowls for our dogs Packer and Snickerdoodle. Do you know how they respond to the same food every meal?  They do a happy dance! They jump, twirl and their tails are wagging. They are so excited to have something to eat. We ought to show our LORD some gratitude for his faithfulness in providing for us.

God provides what we need. It may be food. It may be finances. We have a niece who’s about 30 years old and she was a complaining a few weeks ago about how their car had a major issue that needed to get repaired and it was going to cost about a thousand dollars. Her father said to her, Didn’t you just get your stimulus check? Isn’t it great how God provides?

God provides the right supply at just the right time. The Israelites didn’t have refrigerators in the desert and they couldn’t carry a lot of food with them. God provided water when they needed it, and bread each day. I didn’t even get into the way that God provided quail for meat to eat. Everything was fresh. We don’t read of any large masses of people dying of thirst or hunger on the wilderness journey. God didn’t allow them the benefit of storing up supplies for the future because he wanted them to trust him daily.

This is the image Jesus used in the Lord’s Prayer when he prayed, Give us this day our daily bread. It was new every day. Do you know what that’s like? I wonder if we still trust God when so many of us store up like preppers. We saw that in the rush to the stores right after things began to shut down. People stored up like Armegeddon was coming! We filled our fridges and freezers. Our pantry shelves in the house and garage are packed with more food than many families in Third World countries will see in several years.

Psalm 95 said, Your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. Have you been paying attention to what God has been doing for you? I challenge you to make a note of all the ways God has provided for you over the past two months. We’ve gotten free meals at Chick-Fil-A. A friend smoked us a rack of ribs. Another person has bought us dinner a few times. I got a refund from our auto insurance company. God has provided what I need and beyond. What more does he have to do to prove he’s worthy of my trust?

Here’s what I believe: God has much more in store for you and for me, but he knows that the abundance he has will destroy us unless we learn to trust him daily. If we aren’t grateful in the times of scarcity, we’ll become greedy in the times of plenty.

So let’s stop the grumbling, and replace it with gratitude. Make your list of the ways God has provided. Thank him for the leftovers, for the things that may seem bland in the moment.

What God is doing in you right now is preparation  for what God wants to do for you in the future.