Our own complaints are not caused by our outward circumstances; rather, they reveal the inward condition of our hearts. Really, the Israelites had nothing to complain about. They were not running out of food, but were confusing what they wanted with what they needed. This is often the source of our discontent: thinking that our “greeds” are really our needs.
In Exodus 15, the Israelites camped by the springs of Elim for several weeks, lingering under the palm trees and taking long drinks of cool water. Then it was time to move on. They were on a spiritual journey—a pilgrimage that reveals the pattern of the Christian life.
The spiritual geography of Israel’s exodus from Egypt can be mapped onto the experience of our own souls. Although there are times of refreshing, usually they do not last for long. Soon it is time to head back into the desert, which is a place of testing and spiritual growth.
The Israelites headed deeper into the wilderness. Soon they were tired and hungry, and once again they started to complain. Whining was Israel’s besetting sin. It started when Moses first went to Pharaoh and people complained that he was making their job harder instead of easier (Ex. 5:21). They grumbled at the Red Sea, where they accused Moses of bringing them out into the desert to die. The grumbling continued more or less for 40 years, as they became a nation of malcontents.