I suspect that most people know the story of Moses and Israel as they sought deliverance from Pharaoh. Many movies, books, plays, and songs have been written to chronicle the events of that miraculous journey to freedom. Even those who are not of the Christian or Jewish faith can see some the lessons taught as God led His people out of bondage to freedom.
Pondering the trials and victories of the Hebrews as they fled Egypt often brings up thoughts of how life evolves for most of us here in mortality. We all have varying forms of bondage that keep us from receiving all the good that is available from God. Most of us have myriad experiences working our way out of, in one form or another, that captivity. Some efforts are amazingly successful, but others fall flat and make us wonder why we even tried. I am ever grateful for the lessons learned from trying (and failing or succeeding) but wonder if the success ratio might be improved by following the example found in one story from the life of Moses.
When Israel had finally escaped, completely, from Egypt – remember that the Egyptians were drowned and destroyed so they could not follow – the Hebrews celebrated by writing a song in honor of Moses. Part of the song goes like this:
The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15:2)
At that moment of great joy the Children of Israel were sincere in their focus on praising their God. He had delivered them from slavery and death by eliminating their greatest enemy. They were headed to a land of plenty with hopes of a bright future. From there on, life would be easy and smooth. Or so they thought.
A mere three days later, Moses, the vaunted leader of the innumerable company, the Lord’s anointed prophet, seer, and revelator, is confronted by these same ‘children’ with another dilemma.
So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter:… And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what shall we drink? (Ex. 15:22-24)
It is a serious thing to be without water and it is not unreasonable for the people to wonder where they will find refreshment. The trouble comes for Israel as the congregation recognizes the situation that lies ahead and decides what to do about it.
Having just received deliverance from God in an outstanding way, it would seem appropriate to find Israel pondering about what miracle God would perform to help them through this trial. But their response is consistent with what seems to be their level of faith.
Why? Because murmuring is easier than doing what should be done. Murmurers seem to derive a sense of power from their actions. Murmuring invites a feeling of superiority because a problem has been recognized and brought to the attention of the world. Never mind that no solution is offered – that’s a duty for another – the situation has been identified and will now be reviewed incessantly.
It’s not always clear what brings on this malady of character, but it is often – much too often – the tool of response to difficult (or even simple) challenges. And it isn’t just the Israel of Moses’ time that follows this path. Every day there are examples of murmuring found in news, politics, religion, education, etc.
How did Moses deal with the attitude of his people?
And how can we avoid developing this habit that is so unproductive?
It’s really pretty simple.
Where Israel murmured,
Not in himself or any other mortal person.
He trusted in God.
In the story from Exodus, we learn that Moses went to God and asked what to do. He was inspired to find a tree, cut it down, and toss it into the waters of Marah which were so bitter. That particular tree had properties that, when submerged in the water, neutralized whatever substances were causing the bitterness that rendered the water undrinkable. Now it was sweet.
Moses acted on his trust in God and found an answer.
|Who knew a tree could fix water?|
But how did Moses know what to do. Why would God give him the idea to use the tree? After all, he was raised in the palace of Pharaoh and was considered by many to be an Egyptian.
Moses knew who he was and never let go of his heritage. And when he was forced to flee Egypt, he did not abandon that heritage because things got hard. He found others of like faith and continued to be a faithful follower of Jehovah.
In that heritage, valued by Moses so much, was a tradition that still survives today. We find the gist of Moses’ ability for finding answers in a message of modern revelation. Here’s what it says:
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. (D&C 8:2-3)
Instead of turning to the worldly method for confronting challenges (murmur), Moses chose to go to God and ask for revelation. And revelation he received! This communication from God is available to anyone who seeks it. Not just prophets or pastors or priests, but anyone who wants to know.
So when the waters of Marah were too bitter to drink, Moses did exactly the same thing he did when the waters of the Red Sea stood before the whole company of Israel. He asked God for help. We might even consider that the previous scripture could have ended like this:
Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold this is the spirit by which Moses healed the Waters of Marah for the children of Israel so they did not die of thirst.
Revelation is not magic.
Revelation is not a mystery.
Revelation is asking in faith and waiting on the Lord for the answer.
Revelation is available to every one of God’s children.
Too many good people revert to murmuring when difficult questions or experiences arise.
Murmuring eliminates or reduces any chance for revelation.
Without revelation, we cannot know what God would have us do. We are then left to our own devices, ideas, or prejudices for the answer.
As Israel continued to find fault with Moses and Aaron, the Lord inspired the Prophet to issue this challenge:
…the Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him; and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord. (Ex. 16:8)
It is one thing to issue condemnations against mortal men, but when we start to contend against the God of this earth, we are placing ourselves in a dangerous situation.
There is a God in heaven who communicates directly with His children if they will ask. He will tell the least of us what He wants if we will but ask. His prophets guide the Church and give us counsel on how we can find happiness.
When we choose to murmur instead of seek revelation, we place ourselves outside the protection of a loving Father. Our actions tell Him that we aren’t ready to understand His truth.
He wants us to know.
And He will tell us if we ask.
He did it for Moses.
He will do it for us.