As I continue my study of Exodus, I am, once again, shaking my head at the faithlessness of the Israelites and wondering what can we learn from them? I always try to avoid the “us” versus “them” mentality that one can so easily slip into when reading about distant events and distant peoples. Especially since I believe the heart of people does not really change over the ages. However, I was hard-pressed today to find something relatable between the mindset of these early Israelites fleeing from Egypt and us today.

Fortunately, there is only one verse that stirred me up a bit. There are a lot of other nuggets of encouragement I found elsewhere in my study of Exodus today that I would like to share with you. 

Grumblers and Complainers

When the Israelites first left Egypt, the Lord was with them in a very obvious way.

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Exodus 13:21 (NIV)

This is not a metaphor or any other literary construct. Each day there was a pillar of cloud to guide them with a pillar of fire to guide them at night. Stretching from the earth into the heavens. This should have been a constant reminder that the Lord was always with them. Yet, when they get to Massah and Meribah, what happens?

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Exodus 17:7 (NIV)

Really? There is a pillar by day and a pillar of fire at night to remind them God is with them yet, when it appears they have no water, instead of asking the Lord for help, they grumble and complain to Moses and consider stoning him (cf. Exodus 17:3-4). The insanity does not end there. They also question whether or not the Lord is among them. 

If I woke every day and saw a pillar of clouds outside my window and went to bed seeing a pillar of fire, I cannot fathom how I would forget the Lord was with me. As it is, I have to encourage myself every day to remember the Lord is with me without a pillar of clouds or fire as a reminder. I can understand how the Israelites might have gotten used to this incredible sight. We should never underestimate our capacity to adapt to anything. I can testify to how easy it is to become accustomed to the amazing. I have been privileged to live in some incredible places in this world with amazing sights. However, waking up each day seeing all of Santa Barbara displayed before me is hardly the same as seeing a pillar of clouds or fire.

A Thankful Heart

Rather than focusing on the Israelites and their behavior here, what can we learn from them? They moved when the pillars moved. They stopped when the pillars stopped. How could they forget God was with them when they followed the pillars? How can we who do not have pillars in our lives remember that God is always with us? 

We can be thankful. If the Israelites woke up each day and thanked God for guiding them, that is, His presence in their lives, they would never have forgotten that He was with them. The same goes for when they went to bed. This is why we need to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. A heart of thanksgiving is not just a heart that gives thanks to God whenever all is well in our lives. Such a heart does not recognize the divine will of God in our lives. This heart is fickle, and when the blessings seem scant and short, grows cold. 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Maintaining a thankful heart reminds us of where our blessings come from. Armed with such an attitude, we know to whom we can turn when in need. This is how we maintain the pillars in our lives that remind us God is always amongst us. 

Helping Hands

Another way we can keep ourselves mindful of God’s presence in our lives is through intercessory prayer. Whenever you are praying to God for someone else, you are interceding for them to God. When we pray this way, our focus changes from ourselves to other people. You cannot help but remember God is with you when you pray for other people. As I was reading Exodus today, I found this striking example of intercessory prayer in action when the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. 

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Exodus 17:10-13 (NIV)

There are many postures of prayer and worship. One such posture is the raising of hands. This is what Moses was doing while the Israelites fought the Amalekites. Moses was lifting his hands up to God on behalf of his people. This illustration is powerful. It demonstrates to us how the favor of the battle turned from the Israelites to the Amalekites depending on whether or not Moses was praying. Also, note that Aaron and Hur helped Moses keep his hands up when he became too tired.

Aaron and Hur helping Moses keep his hands up is a dramatic example of how we can help our leaders. They stand in the gap for us daily, and sometimes they get tired. However, lending a helping hand is also a great means for intercessory group prayer amongst the likes of you and me. When one Believer prays, mountains can be moved, when we come together in prayer, we can change the world.

I’ve been blessed in this season to be a part of my church’s weekly prayer meetings. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour, and we pray. It’s difficult in these prayer sessions to not feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet another way of being reminded of God’s presence in your life! 

We may not have pillars of clouds and fire to daily remind us of God’s presence in our lives, we do have many other tools to help us to be ever mindful that God is with us. However, if we neglect to use them, then we too might find ourselves asking the question, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away. 

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.