If you follow the story of Israel in the book of Exodus, you see a pattern. When God performed a miracle for Israel, the people responded with worship and thankfulness. However, between the miracles was a time filled with complaining and idolatry. For example, in Exodus 12 God performed the miracle of Passover. He killed the first-born of everyone in Egypt, but "passed over" the Hebrew homes who followed God's instruction to sacrifice a substitute lamb. Israel's response to this miracle was general awe for God, but two chapters later they were back to complaining.
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Exodus 14:10-12
In Exodus 15, Israel watched God part an ocean so they could cross on dry land and defeat Egypt with a remarkable display of power. Israel's immediate response was to break out in song and worship God. However, in the very next chapter, they started complaining again.
They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." Exodus 16:1-3
This pattern continued for the next 50 days. Israel complained, God performed a miracle, Israel worshiped, and Israel complained. The pinnacle of this pattern was in Exodus 20. Israel reached Mt.Sinai, and God covered the mountain in fire, lightning, and a thick cloud. He spoke the ten commandments to the people, and everyone heard His voice. Young and old, everyone heard God speak the ten commandments! Moses then went up the mountain to talk to God, and he was gone for 40 days. During that time, Israel lost faith that Moses would return, so they created a golden calf from their jewelry and worshiped it as God.
As I read through these stories, one thing stands out to me. Israel's response to miracles didn't reveal what was in their heart. The miracles opened their eyes to God's power, but the time between the miracles revealed their heart. It's hard to doubt God's power when He splits the ocean right in front of you or speaks from a mountaintop. But, can you trust His power to guide you through the wilderness when there is no mountain or ocean? Do you want Him above all else when all you see for miles is wilderness, or do you find yourself complaining about where He has you?
The story of Exodus, in a way, is a long parable about the process of trusting God between miracles. Jesus reinforced this theme in Matthew 12.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:38-40
When the leaders of Israel asked Jesus for a miracle, He responded by saying, "I'm going to raise myself from the dead, and that is all the miracle you will need." That is an important point for us to consider. If the resurrection was the greatest miracle of all time, and Jesus promises to return in the clouds and resurrect the dead (another powerful miracle) what is God exposing right now in our life between these miracles?
We are no different than Israel. Our hearts are full of complaints and idolatry. But, in God's wisdom, He is leading us through a wilderness on earth to purge us of things that don't belong in our hearts. Take this time to pursue Jesus with all your heart, as you live your life between the miracles.
- Marshall Ochs