The children of Israel witnessed some of the most notable acts of God in history. Their journey to the Promised Land started with Moses’ return from exile to Egypt and from that moment, they saw miracle after miracle proving God’s commitment to them as a people without any shadow of doubt. They saw the plagues of Egypt, the red sea give way, the drowning of Pharaoh and his army, bitter waters made sweet, water from the rock, daily supply of manna from heaven, quail to eat, victory in battle among others. They heard the voice of God from Mt Sinai and saw the pomp of His presence. They witnessed the ground open up and swallow some of their colleagues after their rebellion. They had seen so much of God’s miracles on their short journey made long; enough miracles for many generations, YET the Bible says they did not enter the land because of their unbelief.
Now this bugs me to no end. How does one see so much and still lack faith? I find it extremely bothering that a people could enjoy such blessings and faithfulness from God and still find it difficult to trust Him or believe Him. Seriously, I couldn’t understand this and few scriptures have given me a harder time.
“So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.” – Hebrews 3:19 (NLT)
“The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.” – Psalm 106:24 (NLT)
How could you disbelieve a God who has done so much for you? With such a track record, I hoped God would have garnered some credibility with them. Not one day did the manna cease and there was no obstacle to that point which God hadn’t helped them surmount. Yet, for some strange reason, they struggled to believe Him.
Faith then is not a function of the miracles we experience or witness. Sometimes, those who have enjoyed the best blessings struggle the most with faith. It goes further to buttress my argument that faith is a function of the knowledge of God in us. We can only have faith to the level to which we know God; not what we know about God or of Him.
The children of Israel knew about God and His many works but they did not know God for themselves. There is a distinct difference between the acts of God and the ways of God. You know God when you know His ways. Another way to put that is His principles, personality and precepts. You know about God when you have experienced His acts. The acts don’t necessarily lead to faith. The ways of God however lead to faith and the faith often produces the acts. The ways can trigger the acts but the acts standing alone cannot teach us His ways. You see, acts are witnessed but ways are taught; they require communication, communion and effort.
He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. – Hebrews 107:3 (KJV)
He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. – Hebrews 107:3 (NLT)
Moses knew the ways of God. He knew God intimately and knew His character. You only know the character of a person when you know them intimately. You can vouch for them, can tell what they will and will not do. You know someone’s deeds by reading about them or hearing from others. At a time when God wanted to reveal Himself to the children of Israel, they refused His revelation and requested that Moses remain an intermediary between God and them. They chose to forego fellowship and relationship which would have led to them knowing His ways for a distant mediated relationship full of His deeds.
Similarly, the apostles walked closely with Jesus and witnessed so much but still struggled with their faith. On a particular occasion, this conversation ensued between them:
5 Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 8 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread?9 Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? 10 Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? 11 Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”12 Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. – Matthew 16:5-12 (NLT)
They had seen Jesus on two separate occasions multiply an insufficient meal to feed the crowd, yet they struggled with faith about bread for their feeding. Jesus says something worth noting by chucking up their lack of faith to a lack of understanding. Not forgetfulness but a lack of understanding. They had no insight and revelation which manifested in a lack of faith.
It is not enough to see or read about the acts of God. Faith is bred based on a desire to know God more. Sometimes the acts are a medium to increased knowledge of God but only when deliberateness is applied. Deep thought on His acts and a revelation of His person can produce faith but more so the revelation of His person.
Moses could only start walking in faith after he got to know God. At the burning bush, God introduced Himself to Moses and they had a detailed conversation. He introduced Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He also introduced Himself as the ‘I AM THAT I AM’. Nobody before Moses knew God by these names. Further in the journey and even after being used by God to work so many miracles, He again asked God to reveal more of Himself to him. The more revelation knowledge (not information knowledge) we have of God, the more faith we have. New levels of faith are needed for different issues of life therefore we must grow in faith. Grow in knowledge, grow in revelation, grow in relationship and grow in faith. Shalom.