I sat down on my bed one night really discouraged. Looking back at my day, all I could see was sin. I had prayed so hard that morning that I would glorify God like I was supposed to. Then the day had gotten going. I snapped at my little brother. I had a bad attitude with my history test. I was lazy and didn’t want to switch the laundry. The list went on.
We’ve all had these moments. It’s those times when we look back and painfully realize that despite our best efforts, we somehow managed to fall into that same sin we’ve been trying to beat. We’re sinners. We sin. A lot.
You see, we may be Christians, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Though Christ has atoned our sin through his death on the cross, we are still in the process of being perfected from the inside out. This process, moreover, won’t be completed till we reach heaven’s gates. And while we’re waiting, it is easy to get discouraged and frustrated. We want to do better, and though we do have victories, they are surrounded by many, many failures. “I keep sinning!” we may say.
Well, Christian, you are not the first one to fall into the same sin over and over again.
Meet the Israelites.
Through God’s covenant with their ancestor Abraham, these people were chosen by God to be His children and the race through which He would bless the world with the promised Messiah. Even so, the Isrealites still had their fair share of hard times. In the book of Exodus, we see Israel slaving under the heavy hand of the Egyptian empire. But God had not forgotten them. Through a series of unbelievable plagues sent by God on Egypt, Israel was liberated. They walked out of Egypt with their former masters’ jewelry hanging on their necks. Just a few days later, they experienced another incredible display of God’s power when He parted the Red Sea so they could cross over onto dry land and escape the pursuing Egyptians. In the end, Pharoah’s men were left to drown in the Red Sea while Israel sang praises to the Lord.
It is right at this point that we would expect the book of Exodus to end with a cheery, “and they lived happily ever after,” with the Isrealites walking off into the sunset toward the promised land. Of course, most of you know that is not what happened. Just three days after their miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea, here’s what we find:
When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”Exodus 15:23-24
Are you shocked? God had literally shoved an ocean aside for the Israelites to pass through and just three days later these same people are grumbling because they don’t believe God is going to provide them with the water they need! But here’s the amazing thing. Do you know how God responded? He gave them water. (v.25) He was patient. Israel should have trusted Him to provide for their needs, but despite their sin, God stayed with them and provided for them just like He had promised He would.
Okay, so God gives them water and Israel finally trusts God perfectly from here on out, right? Wrong. This is far from the last time Israel disobeys God and chooses to doubt His promises of protection and care. In fact, the books of Exodus and Numbers are full of Israel’s repeated sin of disbelief in their God. Let me give you a snapshot.
Just a chapter after the incident in Marah, we read this:
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 16:2-3
What’s their problem now? Well, before they were thirsty, but now they are hungry. Here’s how God responds:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.”Exodus 16:4
Even after the amazing miracle of bread from heaven, though, Israel deals with some more trust issues and disobedience throughout chapter 16 before finally continuing their journey through the wilderness. But guess what?
They get thirsty again.
…but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”Ex. 17:1b-2
Hmmm, are you noticing a pattern? Let’s keep going.
In chapter 32, Israel gets tired of waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai and decides to make a golden calf and worship it instead. After Sinai, Israel gets tired of traveling through the wilderness and complains about their misfortunes (Numbers 11:1). In verse 4 of Numbers 11 we find them complaining again because they are sick of manna and would prefer meat instead. In chapter 14 Israel doesn’t trust God’s promise to give them the promised land and rebels against Moses and Aaron. In chapter 16, the people rebel against Moses and Aaron again because they are dissatisfied with God’s choice in letting them lead the people. The very next day, after the previous rebellion has been squashed and the ring leaders punished by death, Israel complains once again against Moses and Aaron. In chapter 20 Israel is thirsty and quarrels with Moses. In chapter 21 they are dissatisfied with God’s provision through manna and grumble and complain.
If anyone had a problem with repeating sin, it was the Israelites. It didn’t matter what miracles God performed or how He continued to provide for them. Their sin of unbelief sent them tripping head over heels again and again and again and again and again.
Yet, every time they sinned, God never abandoned them. When they began to worry over their needs, He was patient and provided for them. When they rose up in rebellion, He punished them justly and mercifully. When Moses interceded on behalf of the people, never once did God refuse to relent in His anger. He had patience. He loved them. He responded in righteousness and was faithful when Israel was faithless. They were His chosen people.
If you are a Christian, you are now part of His chosen people. Under the innocent shed blood of God’s Son, God opened the doors of His love and mercy to all people, not just Israel. 1 Peter 2:9 says:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
If God was faithful to Israel under the old covenant, how much more will He be faithful to you under the new covenant? If God showered grace upon Israel when all they had was an imperfect human mediator in the form of Moses, then how much more, with the perfect mediator, God’s son, will God shower grace upon you? Not only that, but unlike Old Testament Israel, God has sent His Spirit to live inside each and every one of His children. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us this assurance:
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:13-14
As much as it is easy to shake our heads at the Israelites repeated sin and disobedience, in reality, we are exactly like them. We make the same mistakes over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Yes, we need to take our sin seriously. Yes, our sin does come with consequences. But the story of the Israelites has shown us that no matter what we do, God is faithful to us. He will never leave you or forsake you it says in Hebrews.
As you face discouragement in your own life with sin, remember that God is right here with you. He has given you His Spirit. He is making you more like Him. Not only that, but killing sin is a process. Processes take time. You can’t flip a switch and expect the entire house to become brilliantly clean as soon as the light comes on. Neither can you expect sin to vanish overnight. Be patient.
Remember, if you are a believer, God’s love is unconditional. He will never get fed up with your sin and walk out. God is with you for all eternity. So get up. Face the new day. Fight sin with the strength God offers.
God doesn’t need you to be perfect to use you, all He needs is for you to trust Him.