God Sent Serpents After the Children of Israel as They Wandered Through the Wilderness
Just three days removed from the Red Sea, the people began to complain to Moses that there was no water. Immediately God had Moses lead them to two sources of water, first at Marah, where God sweetened waters that were originally too bitter to drink, and then to Elim, where the people found twelve wells from which to drink.1
Soon after, they began complaining that because there was no food to be found God might as well have left them to die in Egypt, where they at least didn’t have to contend with empty bellies. In response to their grumblings, God sent vast numbers of quail into their midst to feed them, not to mention filling their camps with that peculiar substance known as manna, a kind of bread that tasted like honey-filled wafers, which grew up out of the ground as a form of plant life, with which the people were able to satisfy their hunger.2
The ironic thing about this series of events is, in hindsight it’s obvious to us that the Lord was testing the faith of this fickle bunch of exiles. One minute the Israelites are about to be killed by Pharaoh’s pursuing army, the next minute the Red Sea collapses on them and they’re happy with God—for a while, that is.
Then, no sooner are they past the next series of trials, having been provided for with sweetened water, twelve wells, quail, and manna, the people find themselves without water yet again. But instead of giving God the benefit of the doubt, by having faith in Him and His ordained leader, what do they do?
Story Continues Below
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Story Continues From Above
The people began to chide with Moses, saying, “How about giving us more water to drink?”
And Moses replied, “Why are you giving me such a hard time? You’re only irritating God with your belligerence!”
But the people were so thirsty that they continued to press the matter, saying, “Is this why you brought us out of Egypt? So you could kill us and our cattle with thirst?”
So Moses begged God: “What should I do with this bunch? They all want to stone me!”
And the Lord told Moses: “Take the rod with which you parted the Red Sea and strike the rock in the sight of everyone.”
And water came forth from the rock in order to quench the thirst of the Israelites. That’s why Moses named that place Meribah, (which means provocation, or strife) because that was where the Israelites questioned whether or not the Lord was still with them.3
No wonder God got so fed up with them, as The Book of Hebrews records:
Today if you hear God’s voice, don’t harden your hearts, as it was in the day of provocation, in the wilderness when your forefathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works for forty years. And because of what they did to Me there, I was grieved with that generation, saying: “Their hearts are always in error regarding My ways, so I swore in My anger that they should not enter into My rest.”4
With whom was God grieved for forty years? Was it not with them that sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to those whom He swore that they would not enter into his rest, that is to say, those who would not believe? So we see that they could not enter in because of a lack of faith.”5
So: How could a God so determined to rescue His people turn against them so abruptly? In retrospect, we can see He didn’t act so abruptly, after all, did He?