Have you ever been hard on someone else for what they’ve done, then seen that same fault in your own life? I’m afraid I have!
This can even happen in parenting. I might think, “Wow, my daughter sure is complaining a lot today!” Then not two minutes later, I’ll catch myself doing the same thing!
I think we may look at the Israelites in the Old Testament that way. We see how often they doubted God, hear their almost non-stop complaining, and shake our heads over how quickly they turned to idol worship. Yet I think if we look at our own lives, we’d see many of the same traits.
Psalm 106 gives us a great summary of all that happened as the Israelites left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness to the promised land of Canaan. In its verses, I found ten lessons – both from what they did and what they didn’t do – that I can apply in my life.
1. Remember God’s mercies. “Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red Sea.” (Verse 7) In spite of seeing ten plagues that crippled the land of Egypt, the Israelites doubted that God would step in to save them at the Red Sea. How easy it is for us to dwell on negative circumstances we may be facing! Instead, let’s remember all that God has done for us already.
2. God wants to get glory through my life. “ Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.” (Verse 8) God wanted to show not only the Israelites but also the Egyptians how powerful He was. When God works in my life, it’s not so that I can look good, but so that I can reflect His glory.
3. God is always leading, even when His way doesn’t make sense to me. “He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.” (Verse 9) The Israelites had never seen anything like the way God opened up the Red Sea and had them walk through it on dry ground. That’s not a plan they could have concocted in their minds, yet it was the way of deliverance. Just the same, I won’t always understand what God is doing in my life, but I can trust Him to be working for my good.
4. Believe His Word. “Then believed they His words; they sang His praise.” (Verse 12) What a precious gift the Bible is, full of promises, encouragement, and comfort. Our God is faithful and we can stand firm as we trust in His Word.
5. Sing His praises. “Then believed they His words; they sang His praise.” (Verse 12) We serve a wonderful God! Let’s praise Him with our words, in songs, and by our actions.
6. Wait for His counsel. “They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel:” (Verse 13) Aren’t we often tempted to run ahead of God and go our own way? Yet we often fail to receive His blessings when we do. Waiting is not easy, but is often necessary as we seek to know and obey His will.
7. Desire God’s will above my own. ” And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” (Verse 15) God gave the Israelites what they asked for – yet how much they lost by getting their own way! I wonder if we sometimes miss great blessings because we fail to pray with a willingness to accept what God sends. We don’t want to have well-fed bodies with starving souls! Material possessions and physical comforts can distract us so much that our spiritual lives start wasting away.
8. There’s nothing I can hide from God. “But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.” (Verse 25) I think it’s interesting that it says they “murmured in their tents.” While there were times the whole group seemed to complain in unison, there was also some “behind-closed-doors” murmuring going on. Do I sometimes forget that God hears my every word and knows my every thought?
9. Disobeying God can bring long-term consequences I don’t want. “They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them:” (Verse 34) Verses 35-42 go on to describe all the ways in which their disobedience brought negative consequences – including sacrificing their children to idols and being oppressed by their enemies. This reminds me of a saying I’m trying to teach my girls. “You can choose your sin, but you can’t choose the consequences of your sin.”
10. In spite of my failings, God hears my cry. “Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry:” (Verse 44) Aren’t we thankful for the “nevertheless!” In spite of it all – the murmuring, the disobedience, the idol worship – God didn’t leave the Israelites to fend for themselves. He heard their cry. What hope I find in this, knowing that God is always willing to listen when I call on Him.
Maybe now I won’t be quite so hard on the Israelites when I read about their struggles! I hope to put these lessons into practice as I seek to live in victory in my Christian life.