I remember reading through Exodus as a kid and getting frustrated with the Israelites. As God was using Moses to lead them out of Egypt, freeing them from slavery, it seemed like they were turning away from Him every other chapter. It didn’t make any sense to me. The Israelites owed their lives and freedom to God and so quickly dismissed it. Even as God promised to provide for the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16: 4), some of the Israelites trusted in themselves more than Him and chose not to listen to Moses’s instructions (Exodus 16:20).
It is an easy trap to fall into to think we don’t need to rely on God. We have our busy lives, demanding jobs, attention-grabbing cell phones and money. It’s easy to forget that just like the Israelites, we rely on God every day. The Israelites were quite literally relying on God for survival. He was providing manna from the sky and water from a rock, but the people of Israel still chose to trust in their own understanding and doubt God (Proverbs 3:5).
In Hebrews 3, the writer alludes to the Israelites being lead to the Promised Land:
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness…’” Hebrews 3:7-8
I don’t think the story of the Israelites comes up in Hebrews by accident. We might think it’s too old to learn from, but it’s a lesson we need to hear. Hebrews was written to encourage Christians at that time, about 70 years after Christ’s death. They were facing suffering and persecution from Jews and Romans and were growing weary.
God may not be dropping manna from the sky, but we still rely on him for everything. Through struggles we can sometimes start to doubt God. “Does he really have the best plan for me?” Hebrews is reminding Christians to stay strong in their faith, even in the bad times. The writer points back to the Israelites in Exodus struggling in the wilderness and warns to not repeat their mistakes.
It’s easy to feel separation from the Israelites, but the truth is we are facing the same things they did, just in a different way. I always thought I would trust God if I was in their place, but if I’m following my plan and not being obedient to what He has for me, am I not doing the same thing? The Old Testament can be dry and boring sometimes, but its lessons still ring true.
We are just as dependent on God today as the Israelites were. We have a lot more distractions today saying that we aren’t, but in reality he still holds the world in the palm of his hand. When we face tough choices or tough circumstances, we can still take it to God, ask for his plan, and take comfort in Him.