Psalm 78 takes a peek at the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. Here is part of what it relates to us…
But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the desert against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?
When he struck the rock, water gushed out,
and streams flowed abundantly.
But can he also give us food?
Can he supply meat for his people?”
When the LORD heard them, he was very angry;
his fire broke out against Jacob,
and his wrath rose against Israel,
for they did not believe in God
or trust in his deliverance.
The Israelites were chasing the mirage, settling for the perceived oasis of lesser longings. While they wanted their stomachs full, God wanted to deliver them to the land of promise. This resulted in a nation that willfully challenged God.
We are hungry. We are thirsty. Yes, you gave us bread, but you didn’t give us meat. These stiff necked people complained the entire exodus like a couple of kids in the backseat on the family road trip to Florida.
Thirst is created in the desert. Desperation. Yet, rather than letting their thirst compel them toward God, they resist and sin – and this comes out in their complaints against the Most High. Most telling is what the last verse above says about the source of complaining – it is a lack of belief and the absence of trust.
The source of complaining is an unbelieving heart. It is short-sighted and it is described above as sin. Completely the opposite of trust.
God is seeking to uncover the true self of who the Israelites were intended to be, and they resisted. Like them, in Christ God is leading us to abandon all that is false about our selves, and we resist. When what we want and desire does not come to fruition, when our expectations are not met, when our idols are not sacrificed to, when our circumstances do not measure up to others’, the result is we complain. And we doubt. We stomp our feet and threaten and run away. We challenge God to provide the mirage.
Instead of viewing our circumstances through the lens of Christ, we view Christ through the lens of our circumstances.
The latter lens causes us to say things like “I deserve better”, “this isn’t fair” and “where is God?”. God owes me heaven right here, right now.
With the former lens, our desert is still dry, still painful, still a hard, painful road to navigate. But it is trusting that God has a destination in mind. Laying aside the short term to be perfected for the eternal term.
It is not an easy lens to put on, requiring an awareness of our brokenness and a daily denial of self. But these desert goggles give us an awesome view of the beautiful God we follow who does not leave us nor forsake us in the desert places.