From Grumbling to Gratitude

Text: Exodus 15:1-26

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing…” —Philippians 2:14

The man who led me to faith in Jesus and became a spiritual father to me once said,

“God has brought you through the ocean, He’s not going to let you drown in the bathtub.”

Those words have always stuck with me. Though God has brought me through so much and my heart is filled with gratitude more often than not, I still seem to find margin to fret and grumble sometimes. When I read the fifteenth chapter of Exodus, I realize I am not alone in this matter.

We can assume the spontaneous song of praise in this passage was as real as it gets. God had faithfully led His people to the other side of the Red Sea in miraculous fashion while clogging the chariot wheels of those pesky Egyptians that were in hot pursuit of them. The deliverance was so raw in that moment they even pulled out the tambourines and started dancing with all their might. “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously,” Miriam sang.

Then only three verses later, we find the same people grumbling about their circumstances. The water they were drinking was too bitter. With such a massive number of people and livestock coming out of Egypt (Exodus 12:37–38), finding drinkable water would be essential. Nonetheless, there is irony in the fact that Israel has just experienced their greatest miracle ever as God parted an entire sea in the presence of their enemy, and now they have the audacity to complain about… water.

Though the people of Israel had just seen a spectacular display of the hand of God, how quickly they forgot His power in the days ahead. They failed to trust Him as they moved forward (a deficiency that will affect them for the next forty years!). In contrast to their unbelief, Moses cried to the Lord to deliver the people from their distress. What an awesome illustration of what Jesus does for us! Moses was a human and flawed prefigure of a divine and perfect Christ. If God listened to the prayers of imperfect Moses concerning faithless Israel, how much more will He be moved by the intercession of His very own Son, as Jesus prays for us in our weak moments of distress (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25)?

See, beloved, Jesus will never abandon you in a crisis. Not only does your God have the might to get you through the next storm, He even prays for you when your faith falters and your heart grows weary in the trial (Luke 22:32). You absolutely cannot lose the battle! It’s not about the size of your faith, it’s about the size of your God. He can even work with faith as little as a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). If God is going to bring you through despite all your defects and shortcomings, you might as well praise Him and leave the grumbling behind.

Maybe you need to break out that tambourine as you seek to abide in Him this week! 


God, thank you for the promise of your infallible word. You will never abandon us. Holy Spirit, teach us to rest in your promises and practice a heart of gratitude and praise so that we will grumble less. Help us to focus on the power of your might over the scope of our present circumstances. May that lead us to the rawest form of praise, worship, and gratitude as we raise our own hallelujah. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for personal reflection, small group discussion, or dinner table conversations:

  1. How would you describe the personality of someone who complains a lot? How does a bad attitude spread to others?
  2. After the Red Sea, in what condition did the Israelites find themselves? (Exodus 15:22) What did the Israelites complain about? (vv.23-24)
  3. What happened when Moses threw the stick in the water? (v25) What did God say to test the Israelites? (v26) How were the complaints and grumblings of Israel displeasing to the Lord?
  4. How is complaining to God an act of disobedience?Why does God provide for us in His timing and not ours? How has God provided for you in the past?
  5. How can you say thank you to God today instead of complaining to Him? What can you do (or not do) this week to trust God to provide for you?

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