But the people were thirsty for water there,
and they grumbled against Moses.
They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt
to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” ~Ex.17.3
There’s no doubt thirst can be a powerful force. It doesn’t take very many days for the body to start shutting down from lack of water. From the perspective of potential death, it is easy to see why the Israelites were grumbling and so demanding. No one wants to think about death being in their immediate futures.
At this point in the Israelites’ journey, they had seen God work in miraculous ways on their behalf, including:
- Being protected from the angel of death who killed the first born of all their Egyptian neighbors, both human and livestock, during the final plague. (Ex. 12.29)
- Leaving Egypt with silver, gold jewelry, and clothing. (Ex 12.35-36)
- Miraculously escaping Pharaoh when he changed his mind about allowing the people to leave. (Ex. 14.15-31)
- Making bitter water sweet (Ex 15.23-25)
- Having their need for food met by quail and bread raining down from heaven. (Ex. 16.11-18)
The people grumbled and complained because they couldn’t see any further than their immediate need for water. Had they been able to broaden their perspective, they would have realized God had taken care of their needs each step of their journey.
In many ways the Israelites’ narrow focus on satisfying their thirst is not much different from the sudden narrow focus most of the world has on COVID-19. Phrases such as self-quarantine, social distancing, and community spread are invading our vocabulary. In the United States, almost all events have been cancelled, grocery store shelves have been virtually emptied and people are being asked to stay at home as much as possible.
In the midst of what is happening today, it is important for us to remember what the Israelites failed to remember. God is in the midst of what we are experiencing. For believers especially, we can look back at the ways God has been leading, guiding and providing for us.
Events such as COVID-19 are invitations to trust God, to trust that He will continue to do what He has been doing for us and millions of others over thousands of years. This is not a time to panic. It is a time to remember how God has worked in our lives, to resist panic, and rest in how God will work in our future.