“Those Foolish Israelites…”
As I was going through the Sunday School lesson for the teens on Sunday morning we were reading out of the book of Exodus in chapter 14 where the Israelites were on the run from the Egyptians and come face-to-face with the Red Sea. They begin complaining about being taken out of Egypt and into the wilderness to die. They were afraid that they fled safety and oppression to only be slaughtered by the hands of their previous captors, and they cried out to the Lord and Moses in Exodus 14:10-12,
“10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”
The lesson we were working through is found in Carl Leth’s, “A Holy Encounter,” and Leth writes the following commentary on the actions of the Israelite’s in the above passage,
“Those foolish Israelites! How quickly they forgot God’s faithfulness and care. They are barely out of Egypt, and they complain at the first sign of trouble. They have already forgotten God’s mighty acts of power performed to free them. Oh, those foolish Israelites—how like us they are.” (Leth, pg 31).
As I read those words aloud, I almost felt a physical slap across my face. As we read the Scripture verses my thoughts were, they are so stupid to be complaining after God just brought them out from the oppression of Egypt. These words from Dr. Leth (who was a professor of mine while I was at Olivet) were so profound and real to me this week, because I am just like the Israelites in this story. When things are going well; I am rejoicing and praising God, however, the moment things take a turn for the worse I go right back to complaining saying “Woe is me!” or “Why are you doing this to me God.”
As we read scripture it is very easy to fall into the trap of removing ourselves from the reading and casting judgement on “Those Foolish Israelites” forgetting that we often act just like them in our own lives, yet God loves us anyway. I was thankful for the proverbial slap in the face that I received that morning when reading the words of Dr. Leth, and I encourage you to allow God’s Word to shape your life by not casting judgement on the characters your reading about but allowing their stories shine on the areas of our lives that need improvement. We are reminded of the importance and usefulness of God’s Word in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”