Quarrelling with a leader is the same as testing God. As soon as the Israelites suffered a lack or a want, they immediately accused God of not being among them. God wants us to know that He is always with us. He wants us to trust Him and wait for Him to provide. Ask. State the need. Don’t complain or quarrel. Stand on the rock (Jesus). Inside is life-giving water and God will let the water out when we need it most. He is willing to share.
Exodus 21:13 “…but God let him fall into his hand…”
We only fall into someone’s hand if God allows it. Nothing can come to us unless God allows it. Nothing can happen to us unless God allows it. If God allows it, there must be a good reason. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone will benefit from it. Some good can come from every bad thing. Perhaps much good for many people.
Aaron sees God, beholds and gazes at God – yet he makes a golden calf? Nadab and Abihu see God, behold and gaze at God – yet they burn their own incense? Seventy elders see God, behold and gaze at God – yet they don’t speak up for Him when the spies return? They don’t side with Joshua and Caleb?
Then seeing isn’t always believing. Peer pressure, self- importance, and the desire for popularity and acceptance can become more important to us than God, and can overshadow and overtake what we know and have seen. Earthly frequently outweighs heavenly. Immediate overtakes eternal.
I wish I could say, “I would never…” but I know I can’t. So then, seeing God probably won’t make a difference. Having seen, there are no excuses. It’s better to have faith without sight (Hebrews 11:1). They saw, but didn’t really believe. If they believed, they certainly didn’t act on their belief. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). They didn’t stand up for God.
The people too saw and heard God. In Exodus 19, they witnessed thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, a loud trumpet, and they trembled. They saw Sinai covered in smoke and quaking. And yet a short time later, they were begging for a god they could see. Perhaps they wanted a god less intimidating (Exodus 20:19 “Don’t let God speak to us lest we die.”)
I find it interesting that God would say to Moses, “your people, you brought up”. Sounds like Adam with “the woman You gave me”. God tell Moses He will destroy the people and make a great nation of him. Moses reminds God that He brought His people out, that the Egyptians and all the other nations won’t think highly of Him if He destroys the people, that He promised Abraham, Isaac and Israel. So God “changed His mind”. Maybe He was testing Moses to see if he’d take the opportunity to be rid of his headache of unappreciated leadership, and become the next Abraham. I’d say Moses definitely passed the test. He thought of God and the people more than himself.
Perhaps “your people, you brought up” was to remind Moses to identify himself with the Israelites. Forty years an Egyptian prince, forty years a Midianite shepherd – time to be an Israelite.
Just as Moses interceded for the Israelites, so Jesus intercedes for us now.
God distances Himself from the people lest He destroy them – for their own protection. Perhaps that’s why God is not as actively present now as He was then – for our own protection lest He destroy us.