In this wilderness account, Israel is shown fearing many things, but most of the time it was other people, hunger, and thirst. This is not unusual but natural, as it is natural to you and me to fear what is going on around us—to fear those who have the power to hurt us or to take our lives. It is natural for people to fear. Nonetheless, it has to be dealt with and overcome.
Fear has been called the most self-centered of all emotions because it is generated by a perceived high degree of threat to what we believe is our well-being. What we believe is what we have been instructed in, accepted, and practiced. The solution to fear is to eliminate what we perceive to be threatening us. It is right here that the crux of the problem exists, because the perceived threat to our well-being forces choices about what to do. Our choice in these circumstances may indeed involve sin, and with that choice we run the risk of exposing the depth of our divided loyalty. Fear is a powerful producer of conduct, for good or bad, depending upon who or what is feared and the direction of our response.
Psalm 111:10; 112:1 show the right One being feared, and this fear is directed positively toward the Kingdom of God and the glorifying of God. On the other hand, the fear of the wrong things will produce bad results for the Christian—perhaps not immediately, but eventually and always. We must realize this. The fear of the wrong thing can never produce good things for the Christian, except temporarily. In the long run, it will always produce bad things.
The fear of the wrong things, and then submission to the wrong things may reduce the pressure. It gets us off the hook but only for a while. The chances are great that the choice that led to us submitting to the wrong thing will, in the long run, actually make the pressure and the pain more intense.
A specific, powerful, and motivating negative fear inhabits every one of us. It must be confronted and overcome in this time of preparation because it destroys trust and inhibits our preparation for the Kingdom of God. It specifically inhibits growth of trusting God. It is the fear of sacrifice—the fear of denying the self.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Does Doctrine Really Matter? (Part Four)
The Israelites accuse Moses of not dealing with them fairly, murmuring that he should not have led them out of Egypt. This occurs just days after they went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians, joyful that they were free. How quickly their faith evaporated when fear began closing in on them!
The Egyptians, their horses, their chariots, all the shining army and might of Egypt were represented there. The Israelites' backs were up against the sea, and they could see the death sentence approaching them as fast as a horse could pull a chariot. They thought their lives were hanging in a balance when they saw the army. The end of their lives was quickly coming within view.
Had not God given them enough evidence through all His plagues against Egypt? Had He not given them enough evidence to impact their thinking, clearly dividing the Israelites from the Egyptians, beginning with the fourth plague? All of the plagues fell on Egypt, but none of them after that fell on the Israelites. Had He not impressed their minds enough on Passover when the blood of the Lamb enabled their firstborn to live while the Egyptians' died?
We can learn and grow from this lesson. In principle, we all come to our own personal Red Sea. Every one of us fails repeatedly, just as Israel did when they lost their faith for a while. What we go through when we come up against our personal Red Sea is very similar to what Israel went through.
God rescued and chastened them, but He did not dump them. He shows that He will continue to work patiently with us just as a teacher continues to work with students, even though some fail and rarely do anything well. A teacher is faced with the same principle that we are involved in with God. The teacher does not want to fail students, so he uses all of his time, energy, and efforts to encourage and instruct so that those who are failing will turn around, catch the vision, and begin to apply the right teaching.
God thinks of time in the same way a teacher does: “There is still time to catch this person's interest and turn them around.” Therefore, God gave the Israelites forty years in the wilderness.
Hebrews 11:29 shows that these people did recover their faith in time to go through the Red Sea. The major reason that they turned themselves around may have largely been because of faithful leadership, primarily by Moses and possibly by others as well. They exhibited some measure of faith, and God faithfully and duly records it.
This ought to encourage those of us who fail from time to time. Many times our faith has failed, but God patiently continues to work with us. We cannot become discouraged, but must keep going on, because God will not stop. He will keep working with us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part One)