There's something interesting about the Israelites in Exodus that is quite telling for man's relationship with God.
The Exodus is this grand story of God's calling His people out of slavery in Egypt. After a series of plagues inflicted on the evil Egyptians, the Hebrews are finally freed and sojourn into the wilderness with the wealth of Egypt on their shoulders, taking their first steps toward the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And as we know, it doesn't go so smoothly for them.
Just a short time into their journey, Egypt begins to reconsider its decision to set the entire labor force free. Israel can hear the chariots approaching from a distance. Backed up against the waters of the Sea of Reeds, they become fearful.
And this is the first place we see it.
Then it gets hot, and the days are long, and the food is scarce. There's so very little to eat. Their hunger rages, and they long for something to satisfy their cravings. Something with substance.
And we see it again.
The days drag on, and their water is running out. There's not a whole lot to drink here in the wilderness, and their tongues are starting to stick to the roofs of their mouths. Is there no oasis in this desert? There is certainly no rain. They drink their own sweat until they are so dehydrated that they stop sweating altogether.
And we see it, a third time.
Finally, finally they're standing on the edge of the Promised Land, ready to step into the good life that God has given them. Just across the border, just a few steps away, they see a powerful people. A fortress of a city. A nation they just can't conquer. They're discouraged. What's just a stone's throw away is beyond impossible.
And we see it yet again.
So what is it? What do we see? We see a crisis of story.
Think about it. What is the question Israel asks more often than any other while they are in the wilderness? What is it they wonder out loud, question out loud, complain about, refuse to believe?
It's not that God isn't capable. Backed up against the Sea of Reeds with a powerful army approaching, no one questions whether God is able to save them or not. No one wonders about His power. Starving in the desert, no one wonders whether God can provide them food or not, whether there might be a way to have something to eat out in the middle of nowhere. Parched and on the edge of severe dehydration, they're not asking about God's ability to bring rain or to quench their thirst. Standing just a few steps from the Promised Land, they aren't questioning whether God can deliver them into the land.
In all of these cases, they're questioning whether God will. The question Israel asks most often in the wilderness is not what God can or cannot do, but what He is or is not doing. "Has our God brought us out of Egypt to die in the desert?" "Has God brought us out here to die?"
Simply put, they haven't bought into His story. They haven't bought into what He is doing. They're still questioning, at every step, what exactly is going on here, and it has nothing to do with what God is capable of. It has everything to do with what God is up to.
And isn't that the story for so many of us? We know what God is capable of. In many cases, we've seen Him do it. But we haven't really bought into what He is doing. We haven't bought into our own stories. We haven't bought into the stories He's telling about us, with us, through us. We haven't bought into our story being part of His story.
The question we most often have for God is not, what can You do about this, Lord? Rather, our question is, what are You doing here, God? What exactly is going on? Have You brought me this far just to die? Have You called me from one place just to abandon me in the desert? It's not a crisis of faith, in that it's not that we don't believe in the incredible power of God. It's a crisis of story. We just aren't sure we buy the next chapter.
And that's a shame. If you don't buy the next chapter of your story, who will?