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#6: God, What Have You Done for Me – Lately?

Two old friends met passing on the street one day. But one looked very sad, almost on the verge of tears.  His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”  The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, a distant relative I barely knew died and left me $40,000.”  “That’s not bad!”  “But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I’ve never even net kicked the bucket, and left me $85,000 free and clear.”  “Sounds like you should be grateful … ”  “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week I won the lottery.  I won a million dollars.”  Now his friend was really confused. “Then, how come you look so glum?”  “This week … nothing!”

We laugh, but aren’t we like that?  We are constantly receiving blessings from God, far more than we deserve or could hope for.  We are so blessed, that we begin to take our blessings for granted.  And when a dry spell comes – when we are confronted with a setback or a challenge in life, what do we do?  We begin complaining.  We say, “Yes, God, you have blessed me in the past – but what have you done for me – lately?” 

Our text this morning tells the story of the fickle gratitude of the Hebrew people as God brought them deliverance from bondage in Egypt.  Over and over again, God blessed them:  He came to their rescue; He provided for their needs; He even parted the sea so they could cross to freedom on dry ground.  And yet, they still were fickle in their gratitude.  They still hadn’t learned to trust God.  They didn’t have a heart of thanksgiving because they didn’t have enough faith to trust God.

Our text today says a lot about the fickleness of our gratitude, and challenges us to learn to thank God in all circumstances and trust him to provide.  What lessons from the life of Moses can we learn?  What can this part of the Exodus story teach us about what it means to “give thanks in all circumstances?” – in the words of the Apostle Paul

The text picks up the Exodus story in the last few verses of chapter 14.  God had just demonstrated his glory once again by dramatically dividing the Red Sea so his people could flee through the waters to freedom.  To top it all off, God had completely destroyed the Egyptian army by drowning them in the Sea when they tried to pursue the Israelites as they crossed.  An amazing display of God’s power and protection! You would think that would have convinced the Hebrews once and for all to trust that God is faithful. 

And they do rejoice and give God the glory for their deliverance.  Most of the 15th chapter of Exodus (which we didn’t read this morning) is a jubilant song they sing, recounting all that God had done for them!  Moses’ sister, Miriam, and the women pick up the refrain and dance before the Lord with tambourines: “Sing to the LORD, because he has won a glorious victory; he has thrown the horses and their riders into the sea.”  It is one of the most jubilant passages in all the scriptures. 

Finally, they understand that God is faithful and can be trusted.  Or, do they?  True to form, within days the Hebrews reverted to their pattern of complaining.  How quickly they forget God’s goodness!  At the very next moment of hardship they face, they return to their default attitude of accusation and desperation. 

After their miraculous deliverance from the sea – now completely free of the Egyptians, they set out into the desert wilderness, making their trek toward “the mountain of the Lord,” Mt. Sinai, where God would deliver to them The Ten Commandments.  But only three days out, they are running out of water and desperate to find an oasis where they can set up camp.  To their great relief, they stumble upon a watering hole, but the water is too bitter to drink.  So what do they do?  They complain, of course!  (By the way – Do you think it’s by accident that the name they gave to this spot was “Marah” which means “bitter?”  Was it because the water was bitter – or because they were so bitter?)  Anyway … as usual, they whine.

And what does God do?  True to form, God (through Moses) performs yet another miracle – God tells  Moses: “Throw a stick into the water and it will become fresh.”  And so, it does – and the people drink.  God to the rescue – once again!  But this time, not a peep of gratitude.

Of course, we would never act that way!  We would show our gratitude!  We would recall God’s goodness and trust him to provide – wouldn’t we?  When life throws us a curve ball, we would never complain and be bitter!  Of course not!

The story continues.  Next, God leads the people to a place called “Elim” – a lush oasis.  The text tells us that, unlike the little oasis called “Marah/Bitter,” this oasis was bountiful – it had 12 freshwater springs and 70 date palms – a paradise in the middle of the desert.  But, do they thank God for this bounty?  Apparently not.  No mention of gratitude at all.

True, no obvious miracle here – but it was no less a blessing.  God had provided again.  But It seems they took this blessing for granted, as well.   

It reminds me of a story I came across:  A man had a bad habit of grumbling at the food his wife placed before him at family meals. Then he would ask the blessing.  One evening, after his usual pattern of complaining followed by prayer, his little girl asked, “Daddy, does God hear us when we pray?”

“Why, of course,” he replied. “He hears us every time we pray.”  She paused, and thought for a moment, then asked, “Does He hear everything we say the rest of the time?”  “Oh, yes dear, every word,” he replied, encouraged that he had inspired his daughter to be curious about spiritual matters. However, his pride was quickly turned to humility at his daughter’s next question.  “Then, which words does God believe?” 

Could that little girl ask the same about us?  Do we show gratitude to God one minute and complain against him the next?  Apparently, we can be just as fickle as those Israelites.

Is it possible that we take God’s blessings for granted?  Sure, we may thank God when we recognize that he has performed a miracle in our lives, but do we credit God for leading us safely in the day by day routine of our lives?  As the 23rd Psalm says it, ”He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul…”  Do we thank God for his providence in our lives that brings us blessings?

Next, they continue their journey toward Mt. Sinai which takes them into the desert of Sin (isn’t that an ironic name…).  And again, they quickly experience hunger and thirst.  And it’s like they completely forget the provision of the Lord they had just experienced – they complain again: They say, “We wish that the Lord had killed us in Egypt.  There we could at least sit down and eat meat and as much other food as we wanted.  But you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death!”  It seems they never will learn…  Paul, in his letter to the Romans (1:21) says this about human ungratefulness:  “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  That describes the attitude of those ungrateful Israelites.  Sadly, it also describes many people today – “they know him, but do not honor him as God, nor thank him.” 

And God’s response to the complaining of his people?  Manna and Quail falling from the skies!

You know, if I were God, I think that, by this time, I would have “had-it” with these people!  God has gone WAY over and beyond in catering to this crowd!  And all they do is whine and grumble and complain.  Why does God put up with such a stiff-necked people?  I think I would have just let them starve in the wilderness and then start over by selecting some other people to be God’s “Chosen People!” 

But while we are unfaithful, God is always faithful.  God is good – all the time!  As it is written in Psalm 145:8 – “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  And it’s a good thing, he is!

So why does God feed them?  God gives the reason himself:  “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites.  Tell them that at twilight they will have meat to eat, and in the morning they will have all the bread they want. (And here is the reason for God’s blessings.) “Then they will know that I, the Lord, am their God.” 

Did you get that?  The reason God is willing to take so much abuse from us – the whole purpose of all of God’s blessings in our lives – even when we don’t deserve them – is so that we will claim God as our God!  God puts up with our complaining…  our ungratefulness.  God takes our abuse and blesses us even though we don’t deserve it, because he wants us to acknowledge that He is our God.

It’s the same reason he came to us in the person of Jesus, and was willing to take all the abuse we could dish out – even going to the cross. 

You see, God wants a relationship with us, and so he showers our lives with blessings.  But even more amazing than that, he gives us the ultimate blessing in offering us salvation by the cross of Christ –  hoping that we will finally recognize what God has done for us – and seek a relationship with Him.

In our story from Exodus, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them that at twilight they will have meat to eat, and in the morning they will have all the bread they want. Then they will know that I, the Lord, am their God.’”

Friends, do you “know” the Lord as your God?  Do you have a relationship with Him? 

If you do, then you know where your blessings come from, because you know the One who is the source of those blessings.  Then you will never again have reason to ask God, “But, what have you done for me lately.”

 

© 2022 John B. Gill, III