Exodus is one of the narrative, historical books of the Bible. It’s actually one of my favorites because the history is interesting and God is at work. We can see that He is at work, but the Israelites do not have that full picture. Throughout Exodus, they have different reactions to their situation and seem to forget about God’s presence in everything. Let’s walk through some of them.
They groaned about their slavery.
And rightfully so! They were in slavery and they cried for help, but God heard them, according to Exodus 2:23-25. This reaction serves as the baseline for their future reactions when they leave Egypt. Spoiler alert: they tend to complain a lot.
They bowed and worshipped to prepare for Passover.
Before they leave Egypt, they endured the last plague. When Moses told the elders about the final plague, and informed them about eating unleavened bread and marking their doorways with blood to be spared of the Angel of Death, they do not question him. The text does not say so. Instead, they bowed and obeyed in order to spare their children and the people of Israel.
They were terrified of Pharaoh…
As they crossed the Red Sea, they were afraid of Pharaoh and his army coming after them. They finally were leaving Egypt.
…but then they feared God and trusted Moses.
After God destroys Pharaoh and his army, Exodus 14:31. Even though they saw God’s power earlier and his leadership through Moses to get them out of Egypt to begin with, the Israelites continue to be scared and then are only confident again after they have been saved. It’s a cycle that continues throughout the rest of the book of Exodus.
They grumbled with hunger…
They were hungry after their first weeks in the desert. It makes sense, but their perspective is a little skewed since they just ended their 430 years of slavery in Egypt.
…but when God provided food, they hoarded it and disobeyed.
Again, God took care of them. He heard their cries, but even in the face of this blessing of food, the Israelites disobey the command of taking only enough bread for the day. They keep extra food, but it is full of worms the next day.
They complained about leaving Egypt.
The Israelites were in slavery for over 400 years. They cried out to God to leave Egypt, but when they’re thirsty, they complain about leaving Egypt. They even ask “is the Lord among us or not?” in Exodus 17:7.
They become restless and forgetful of who saved them.
Building off of the quarreling and grumbling for water, they continue to doubt God being there. They forget that God and Moses led them out of slavery. Instead of waiting for Moses to return, they take matters into their own hands and build the golden calf.
They trust in God – again.
Much later in Exodus, Moses builds the tabernacle. Once it is built, the people of Israel looked to it for guidance. The last verses of Exodus say:
“Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” (Exodus 40:36-38, English Standard Version)
After all of the contradicting emotions and reactions, the Israelites learn to trust in God and follow His lead. At least from my own experiences, I think we are much like the Israelites. We only see where we are in the moment and celebrate or groan accordingly. Sometimes we struggle to see how things will end. Or, when things change, we react negatively because they are not exactly the changes we wanted, or on the same line. We are fickle and contradictory, but praise God that He is always the same and loves us steadfastly. He hears our cries and continues to lead us through whichever season we’re in.