Every parent knows the frustration that follows a complaining child. Kids are notorious for voicing their feelings about the current condition of their lives. “I’m hungry!” “I’m thirsty.” “I want my own room.” “When are we going home?” The pitter-patter of little feet is adorable; the constant grumbling of a child is aggravating.

Exodus 17:1-7 relates Moses’ frustration with the sour state of his people. Of course, this is episode four of the Hebrew “whine-fest”(see Exodus 14:11-12; Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:2) as the people have found fault once again with God’s lack of immediate provision. Did they really believe the Lord had led them through a wall of Red Sea waves only to watch them die of dehydration! It seems comical to us today, but Moses failed to find the humor in it.

On any given Sunday, people are tempted to grumble at church, and the Bible warns us of the contagious nature of this faultfinding. Because nitpicking comes in various forms and flavors, notice the three different kinds of complaints Moses received. Let us chalk these lessons up as “what not do.”

Insisting on God’s Provision (v. 2)
The people demanded of Moses, “Give us water to drink!” They thought they simply were putting their leader on the spot when they were putting their Lord to the test because Moses was God’s chosen leader. In demanding water, the people essentially were threatening God: “Give us a drink, or else!”

As sinful people, we all share in this awful attitude from time to time. Not one of us is immune from selfish longings, and we identify with Burger King’s motto, “Have it your way.” Those are the magic words we all love to hear. God doesn’t always do things our way, though. In fact, the Lord often makes us wait so we will be forced to develop patience, faith and trust. To demand God’s provision is to defy His sovereign plan.

Are you making demands of God? Step back and consider the path of patience.

Questioning God’s Motives (v. 3)
“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Can you hear the implications of this question? The people assumed God was up to no good—that He had set them up for failure and sought to do them harm.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus calls attention the charitable spirit of God. The Lord reminds us the heavenly Father delights in giving good gifts to His children. Like any human father, His face lights up when His kids unwrap one of His well-selected presents.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

Just as any dad enjoys the sight of his child ripping off the wrapping paper, the Lord loves to see His children smiling in His provision. Moses knew God had plans to prosper them; the people struggled to believe.

Are you trusting God’s heart?

Doubting God’s Presence (v. 7)
“Is the Lord among us or not?” Again, the framing of the question reveals the intent. Consider the mother who crossly asks her teenage daughter, “Are you going to clean your room, or not?” The expected response is: NOT. These misguided people in Exodus 17 were assuming the worst—that God had abandoned them.
Today, this text is perplexing to us because God had come through countless times before and during the exodus. Truly, the nation had witnessed God’s power over Pharaoh, and they had no good reason to doubt His ability to bring a little water.

How often do we reflect the same pessimism as we sit back and watch others receive good gifts from the Lord? We so easily become bitter. “Is God with me or not?” we ask. Let us trust that His promise to Moses holds true for us today: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is present, and He will provide.

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