Thank you is not just a polite phrase, it's a thought, a feeling, an attitude. It should be more than an automatic response to receiving a gift. It should be a sincere, inner feeling we express—especially to the One who gave us all things. Gratitude and contentment are words that describe the Thanksgiving holiday, but are rarely expressed. They vanish as soon as Christmas ushers in its allurements of shiny bows and new toys. And when Christmas ends, the complaining of life's woes (big and small) begins. But that isn't how it should be. Thanksgiving should be practiced every day of the year.
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High." (Psalm 92:1)
You are probably familiar with the account of Exodus. It is a truth-filled book that showcases God's power and man's ungratefulness. Thankfulness was foreign to the Israelites. What little gratitude they had melted faster than a snowflake in the Sahara. With the music of praise still ringing in their ears, they journeyed to a place called Marah. The water there was as bitter as the Israelites’ attitude. Instead of approaching the Lord in prayer and humbly asking for water, the people griped to Moses.
"So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?' " (Exodus 15:24)
God had parted the water only three days earlier. If I didn't know better, I would have thought some person had snuck into their camp and conked each Israelite in the head to have caused such a sever case of amnesia. The parting of the Red Sea should have washed all the ungratefulness from their bodies! Even though God sweetened the water, their hearts remained sour.
"The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.' " (16:2-3)
If God had given them their preference of dying in the land of plenty rather than dying of starvation, they would have complained about that too. They couldn't be satisfied. Nevertheless, God provided them with nourishment. It would have been wise if they had used this food to close their mouths. It had barely settled in their stomachs before they engaged in another round of bellyaching.
"Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water that we may drink.' And Moses said to them, 'Why do do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?' But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?' " (17:2-3)
It's easy to sympathize with them. Would we react any differently if we were put in a life-threatening situation? God knew they were but flesh and graciously endured their waverings, perpetually satisfying their needs. What more could they ask? But ungrateful people aren't content to be thankful anymore than a dog is content to stay clean. If they can't find a grievance, they concoct one.
"The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, 'Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.' " (Numbers 11:4-6)
The Israelites had crossed the line. Complaining about lack of food is one thing, complaining about the absence of their favorite dishes was entirely another. I must admit, if I had to eat plain oatmeal for a month, I'd probably gag on it on the tenth day. But even that plain oatmeal is a reason for a multitude of thanks. Complainers tread on shaky ground. They may receive more than they bargained for.
"Say to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, "Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt." Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" ' "(11:18-20)
Have you ever noticed that a display of God's power typically precedes their complaints? At Marah (Exodus 15:22-25), God had recently parted the Red Sea. In the wilderness of Sin, where they lamented the shortage of food (16:1-3), God had sweetened the bitter water not long ago (15:25). The chapter before the water in the rock incident (17:2-7) describes God's provision of bread and meat (16:4-16). Shortly after God's glory descended upon the tabernacle (Numbers 9:15-23), the Israelites hungered for Egyptian delicacies (11:1-6).
How could anyone be so ungrateful? But are we any different? What if the Exodus happened nowadays—our complaints would be so loud an astronaut could hear them in outer space. Not only would we complain about food, but we would bemoan the absence of our technological devices, TV, and internet. We'd be crying, "We are going to die out here of boredom, Moses!"
The Israelites are our mirror image but we can shatter that image with the mallet of thankfulness. They are our lesson; let us learn from it and not repeat their folly. The Israelites didn't realize that “A little sprig of the herb called content put into the poorest soup will make it taste as rich as the Lord Mayor's turtle.”
*C.H. Spurgeon, The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition of John Ploughman's Talk and John Ploughman's Pictures (Christian Focus Publications, 2007), 40.
Mariposa is a self-taught artist who captures the glories of God's creation on canvas. She has a Ph.D. in creativity and a masters degree in imagination.
Aberdeen is a book-eating, ink-drinking dinosaur from the createtus period. When he isn't falling into plot holes or taking cover from the volcano of ideas, he's hanging out with Dee-Dee the doodledactyl. Read full bio