Time has passed. If you read the previous passage in chapter 15 with a careful eye, you observe that it took them only three days to find the water they now enjoyed. But now it’s been a month and a half—more than forty days! I call that the test of time. There they are in the midst of the wilderness with their unrealistic expectations. “We thought we were through with those parched days in the wilderness. We were already there three days. Why do we have to go back?”
And guess what? Out rushed the complaints: “The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” (16:2). Why were they grumbling? Again, they were looking back. Listen to their words in verse 3: “Would that we had died by the LORD‘s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (v. 3).
Sound like your response? If so, it’s time to learn a timeless lesson. If you focus on the past, it won’t be long before complaints start oozing from your lips. You will remember a long-ago time, bathed in the hazy, rosy glow of memory, when something was easier and more comfortable than it is today. And as you compare then to now, I guarantee it, you will grumble.
It hurts to endure life’s trials, and it hurts worse to repeat such episodes. Yet, without those deep hurts, we have very little capacity to receive godly counsel or make forward progress toward maturity. The test of time is perhaps the most rugged of all.
Over the long haul, God is honing us through such tests. Stretching us. Breaking us. Crushing us. Reducing us to an absolute, open-armed trust, where we say, “Lord, I have come to the end of my own flesh. If You wish me to die in this wilderness, here is my life. Take it. I refuse to look back and complain about where I find myself at this moment.” Moses had learned to wait. His congregation needed to learn as well. How about you?