Title: A Frustrating Walk
Text: Exodus 19:3-6; Various
Series: The Walk Series; #6
Introduction: Just one week ago we talked of the incredible walk that the children of Israel began with God. They were God’s chosen people and He had proved His love for them by completely overcoming their Egyptian captors. They were nothing but a bunch of slaves yet God had chosen them. As the walk on the other side of the Red Sea begins, God gives these words to the children of Israel. They’re found in Exodus 19:3-6.
Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4’You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.
Just what is a treasured possession? It’s something that you cherish. God was promising to cherish the children of Israel as long as they kept Him first. As long as they obeyed and followed, they would have a walk full of rejoicing. This is what God had in mind for Israel. The truth of the matter was far different. Israel didn’t do the things they were required to do and their walk was a walk that was far from rejoicing. As in any good walk though, there are lessons for us to consider. Taking our lessons directly from the children of Israel, we’re going to look at five ways in which we can have a frustrating walk with God.
I. Grumble about the provisions.
Exodus 16:1-3 read as following.
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."
Add to that Israel’s attitude Exodus 17:1-3.
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" 3 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?"
Human beings have an incredible ability to trust God one moment and then completely turn on Him when things get bad. Believers through the generations have had the challenge of trusting God for our daily needs even when it seems impossible. The prosperity of our nation has sometimes blinded us to the truth of simply walking and trusting God. When we open our fridge, we expect food to be there. When we turn on the faucet, we expect water to come out. We see all the bounty and rejoice in God’s provision. What if the fridge and cupboards were empty when we walked to them? What if there was no water? Would we continue rejoicing and trusting or would we begin worrying and complaining? How easy it would be to become the children of Israel and gripe and grumble against God. We do not need to do so. God is our provider and He will watch out for us.
II. Trust someone else to hear from God.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." 20 Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." 21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
One of the great simple truths of the Bible is that God wants to have fellowship with us. He wants to talk with us and reveal himself to us. We have the ability to do this through reading His Word and spending time in His presence. For a great number of people, this is simply too much work. They would much rather have others do it for them just like the children of Israel wanted God to speak to Moses only. They were all going to be allowed into God’s presence but they chose not to come.
We see this pattern repeated again and again. Pastors and priests have often been considered the ones that go into God’s presence and then return with a word from God. Sometimes this was even institutionalized and Bibles weren’t even allowed to be written in the common language of the people. I see it clear in our day and age. People will buy all kinds of religious books and read them, but they never take the words to heart and practice them. It’s ironic that people will spend time and money on a book telling them how to pray, yet never start praying. They’re allowing someone else to go into God’s presence for them without desiring to go there themselves. It does only one thing, it makes the walk frustrating. God wants and intends for us to come into His presence. Our lives should be focused on living in the very presence of the living God.
III. Make your own God.
If you want to guarantee a frustrating walk with God, simply follow the children of Israel’s example in Exodus 32:1.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him."
Nothing will cramp a walk with God like deciding to serve another god. Israel went from worshipping the true God that brought them out of Egypt to proclaiming a golden cow as their savior in a period of forty days. Let’s not forget that they are still in sight of the smoking mountain with the presence of God descended upon it. I ponder that. How could they turn away so easily when there was such an incredible visible manifestation of God’s presence nearby? It happens though. One of my friends from my church youth group was really on fire when we were in High School. There would be Sunday nights during the altar time where he would literally get lost in God’s presence. He would stand with is hands raised and shake for the longest time. Some of us would be waiting to go out to eat and he would still be up front worshipping. Within a years time, he went from that to sleeping around with a variety of different girls. We never saw him in church anymore. Very quickly he made pleasure is God and he followed it with reckless abandon.
We should always be alert to the ease at which another god can come to reign in our hearts. Sometimes we give something just a slightly lower position than the top spot in our hearts. It’s only one step then for it to become our god. God will not share the thrown of our heart with anything else. If we place something or someone else there, God will vacate the seat. It’s frustrating going for a walk with someone if they chose not to walk with you. Trying to walk with God while serving another master will always lead to frustration.
IV. Forget the Miracles you’ve witnessed.
In Numbers 13:31-33, we read a portion of the report that ten of the twelve spies made concerning the Promised Land.
But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
For the ten spies, it must have been frustrating to see all the insurmountable obstacles that would prevent Israel from taking the over the land. It shouldn’t have been frustrating because they had already seen God do great and mighty works. Consider the miracles that Israel had witnessed. They had seen plague after plague fall on the Egyptians while never touching them. They had watched the Red Sea part in half and walked though the Sea on dry ground. They had watched the mightiest army of the day be utterly destroyed in that same Sea. They had seen and eaten God’s daily provision of food. They had seen a visible presence of God descend upon a mountain. They had seen all these miracles yet they didn’t have the faith to believe God for this one. If God could do all that, surely he could handle everything to come.
When we doubt God’s might, we to can fall into despair. People sometimes get so down that they say things like “even God can’t rescue me now.” I tell you today that it’s a lie. God was and is able to rescue his people. God has the power and the might to stop all nature if need be. The Christian walk is a victorious walk of power because we serve the God of all power. It only becomes frustrating when we forget this. Two of the spies knew this and they were the only two that were allowed to live and enter into the promise a generation later.
V. Just plain disobey.
The final way to have a completely frustrating walk with God is to disobey him. It’s a common malady for many people. When God says don’t we do and when God says do we don’t. We see this pictured in Israel. They have already disobeyed once by not attacking the land, now they make it worse. God had decreed that none of the generation of Israelites that had refused would ever enter the land. Numbers 14:40-45 adds this then.
Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. "We have sinned," they said. "We will go up to the place the LORD promised." 41 But Moses said, "Why are you disobeying the LORD’s command? This will not succeed! 42 Do not go up, because the LORD is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, 43 for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword." 44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.
Nothing makes a walk with God more difficult than just plain disobeying. People often have the mindset that God should reward them for the few times they do obey and just forget about the multitude of times they don’t. God has made it clear to us as a people concerning things we should and shouldn’t do. So often we do focus on the “nots.” We don’t so this and that so we must be good Christians. We must also ask ourselves if we are doing the things God has told us to do. Is our light shining like we have been told or is it hidden under a bushel? Are we showing love like we have been told or are we not? Often we disobey by not doing the good things God has called us to do and this will always lead to frustration because God cannot bless that kind of life.
Conclusion: We looked at five things that lead to a bad walk with God. They are simply grumbling about provisions, letting others speak to God for you without ever speaking to Him yourself, making another God, forgetting the works of God you’ve seen, and disobeying. If you want to have a frustrating walk, simply follow these five steps. If you want to a have a great walk, strive to do the opposite. Thank God every chance you get for his bountiful provision for your needs. Never allow another to seek God for you but press into His presence yourself. Worship Him and Him alone in all you do. Remember and give thanksgiving for all the mighty works and miracles God has done on your behalf. Finally, just obey. No matter what it is and how hard it may seem, simply obey God. This will always make for an incredible walk with God.