“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, But rebelled by the sea–the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, That He might make His mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; So He led them through the depths, As through the wilderness . . . Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert.” (Psalms 106:7-9, 12-14)
Israel left Egypt triumphantly. There were no shamefaced pilgrims leaving the Nile Valley and entering the wilderness. The Exodus was victoriously jubilant; God had crushed Pharaoh and his kingdom. However, their tune changed abruptly when they were hemmed in by the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s able army on the other. It takes little faith to rejoice when God answers prayer. The question is can you rejoice in faith when the answer is not apparent?
The Hebrews’ lament was as loud as Pharaoh’s trumpets.
Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11-12)
Fear turned faith into fainting. Nevertheless, graciously, the Lord made a way for them when there was no way. He parted the sea. And when the pursuing army followed into the watery highway, the Lord made the walls of water tumble down; drowning the entire army.
What was Israel’s response? The psalmist tells us, “Then they believed His words: They sang His praise.” What interesting phrases! Faith was restored, and they returned to rejoicing.
What kind of faith starts and stops depending on circumstances? Did they really believe? Was faith exercised? The answer depends on your understanding of faith. There is a biblical kind of faith that endures in spite of environment, and there is a natural or human faith that only believes the empirical. Israel could trust God as long as the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch were satisfied with the evidence. But once the senses experienced something different, faith evaporated and fear entered. Fleshly faith works on the principle, “seeing is believing.” But that kind of faith is not blessed, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
The only kind faith that honors God is the faith that can believe God and does not require observable proofs of His power. It’s the kind that can see Red Seas and Egyptian armies and does not panic but rests confidently in God and His Word.
Why else would the psalmist follow up the report of faith and a worship service with the words, “They soon forgot His works”? Once again, after perhaps the second greatest miracle of all time (second to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus), Israel could not believe the Lord. Three days, not three weeks or three months, but only three days after the great miracle at the Red Sea, Israel again murmured in unbelief at the bitter waters of Marah. How could they forget what they saw three days earlier? Because natural faith can only believe what it momentarily perceives.
Supernatural or biblical faith, on the other hand, puts trust not in what it sees, but in a Person who is “eternal, immortal, invisible,”—the one the One who is Spirit and not material. The faith that saves, sanctifies, and supplies every need is not a faith founded on the tangible. All that is physical is ever-changing. Godly faith is focused on the never-changing God. It does not set its sight so much on what God does, but on who God is. Faith’s eye is on the Person of God, His character, and revealed will.
Therefore, if new challenges assault you, all you need is to look at Him who is faithful. There is no need to comb circumstances looking for a sign that God will intervene. You do not need empirical data to assure your heart. To remember the Lord’s works is to remember who God is. Israel’s fault lied in the fact they did understand what the works of God told them about the Almighty. They never saw the connection. Their faith was of the wrong kind.
What kind of faith do you have? Spiritual or natural? Can you rest in the One who is unchanging, having learned by His works that He is as His Word proclaims? Or with each trial must you once again go through all the same emotions of fear and doubt because all you can see is the obstacle? The “blessed” faith relies not on the senses but sees another opportunity for God to display His goodness.