10 Plagues and 10 Tests
Even if we couldn't name all of them, most of us are familiar enough with the story of Israel's exodus from Egypt to know that there were 10 plagues. The plagues of Blood, of Frogs, of Gnats, of Flies, on LIvestock, of Boils, of Hail, of Locusts, of Darkness, and on the Firstborn are recorded in Exodus 7-11. These were judgments from God when the Pharoh repeatedly refused to respond to God's request, delivered through Moses, to let the Israelites go. The Israelites ultimately went but at great cost to the Egyptians.
However, even when we closely observe the effects of someone else not listening to, or not trusting what God has said, we can often fall into similar patterns ourselves.
In direct correspondence to the 10 plagues, the books of Exodus and Numbers, record 10 instances where the Israelites put God to the test by not believing what God had said, by being disobedient, and by grumbling and complaining (they are listed below). This is despite them seeing what had happened to the Egyptians. And just like the Egyptians they incurred great costs.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (by coincidence another 10) teaches us that these events occured as examples and warnings for us.
So what should we do?
Recognize that we are just as likely to make similar mistakes and therefore adopt attitudes of humility and teachability.
Regularly read and reflect on the stories of the Exodus and the Israelites journey through the wilderness (including the times they tested God) to see what we can learn from their experiences. They are rich resources for our spiritual lives. (Our encounterbc.org bible reading schedule takes us through Exodus and Numbers every second year)
Remember that while there is a commonality in human experience, the temptations of our own lives will probably come in somewhat different form to those of the Israelites, just as their temptations were somewhat different to those of the Pharoh. So we need to avoid the trap of thinking that our different circumstances make these stories irrelevant.
Reflect on our own lives to see if there are patterns of not listening to God or not trusting God. Then we should ask for God's grace to break those patterns before we get to 10 repeats.
If we don't learn from history - we are destined to repeat it
The 10 Tests
1. Exodus 14:10-12
At the Red Sea where it seemed that Pharaoh’s army would destroy them
2. Exodus 15:22-24
At Marah where they found bitter water
3. Exodus 16:1-3
In the Desert of Sin as they hungered
4. Exodus 16:19-20
In the Desert of Sin as they paid no attention to Moses concerning the storing of the manna until the morning
5. Exodus 16:27-30
In the Desert of Sin as they disregarded Moses concerning the gathering of the manna on the seventh day
6. Exodus 17:1-4
At Rephidim as they complained for water
7. Exodus 32:1-35
At Mount Sinai as Aaron led the people in making the golden calf
8. Numbers 11:1-3
At Taberah where the people raged against the Lord
9. Numbers 11:4-34
At Kibroth Hattaavah in the grumbling provoked by the rabble for quail
10. Numbers 14:1-3
At Kadesh in the Desert of Paran when the people refused to receive the good report of Joshua and Caleb but rather wished themselves dead.
photo credit: Wadi Rum via photopin (license)