The Good Lost Generation of Exodus - Part 2
Almost all of the generation of Israelites who took part in the exodus from Egypt failed to enter into the Promised Land. The Hebrew author points especially to their lack of faith and obedience (Heb. 3:18-19). Given their ultimate failure, we are warned, “let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it” (Heb. 2:1). Don’t be like them.
It’s surprising, then, that the very generation that we are striving not to be like has also been set up as our positive example. The nation, riddled with unbelief, somehow makes it into the chapter we call the Faith Hall of Fame. “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned” (Heb. 11:29).
The lost generation was always unbelieving. They had a moment where they overcame their fear and trusted in God. They were terrified of the Egyptian army. No doubt, they were also terrified by the walls of unnaturally restrained water. But God had promised they would receive deliverance and not have to fight. God had opened up a way of escape for them. But in the end, it was up to the people to trust God and walk into the path through the Red Sea. And, you know what? Those people did it.
Despite their ultimate unbelief, that nation had a moment of saving faith. What are we to make of something like that?
For one, we see a clear illustration of the point made in the previous article: Moments of goodness are not guarantees of eternal reward. They had saving faith for a moment, but they ultimately failed to receive the promise.
Secondly, we see the amazing power of faith. No, it wasn’t faith that held the water back, but it was faith that made the difference between those who were saved and those who were lost. And about those who were saved, do you suppose they were more righteous than the Egyptians? The Israelites were a nation without Law. They had lived among the Egyptians, dressed like the Egyptians, and behaved like the Egyptians. They were not being delivered because of their purity. But for this moment, they gained approval from God because of their faith.
Third, we see that faith sometimes overcomes unbelief. The people of Israel didn’t feel like believing. They weren’t overwhelmed with an inner sense of trust. In fact, just before crossing the Red Sea, they called out to God in a very doubtful way, saying, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” Their doubt is made extra clear in their concluding statement: “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Ex. 14:11-12). Can you believe a people that would say something like that would be lifted up as an example of faith? Then again, in the end, these doubters would step down onto the dry sea bed and follow Moses to the other side. Don’t you think that is more impressive in light of their doubt? There isn’t any great courage in taking the action that you know will succeed. But to take action when fear is consuming you and doubt is swelling… that makes any action of faith that much more impressive.
I think that we are all a little like the lost generation of Israel. We aren’t all good. We aren’t all bad either. We are more complex than that.
Don’t let your good moments fill you with pride, because life is a journey rather than a moment. Don’t forget that faith in God can save sinful people. Finally, even those who are filled with fear and doubt can prove to have amazing faith.