He Cared for Them

Most of us have been reading the Bible for a long time, years and years in fact. It’s comforting to read familiar verses, to wrap up in them as if they were a warm blanket. At the same time, our familiarity can cause us to miss things. Reading with fresh eyes and a new perspective from the Holy Spirit can help us see more or maybe just remember what we forgot.

As I read through the book of Acts again, I came across chapter 13, verse 18, which is a verse I’m sure many of us have read and perhaps glossed over: “for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness” (NIV). The New Living Translation says God “put up with them” and others say he endured or suffered.

This is how always I remembered reading it – and hearing about it – that God put up with the whining, complaining Israelites, as if they were a burden to him. But then I read the cross-referenced verse in Deuteronomy 1:31 (NIV): “There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” The New Living Translation says God cared for them.

A light bulb went on. Of course he cared for them – they had food, water and shoes that never wore out. Even though I knew God didn’t let them starve, it never dawned on me how closely and intimately he was involved in their lives. It was encouraging to read about God carrying his people as a father carries his son. Now that’s something I don’t remember reading!

Sometimes we can feel as though God only puts up with us or gets tired of us and our constant problems. Our prayers seem repetitive and our sins recurring. Even though we sometimes gripe and act like ungrateful Israelites, God always cares for us, no matter how much whining we do, although I’m sure he’d rather we say thank you than complain.

Christians, both in ministry and out (although all Christians are called to be in ministry of some sort) can get tired and burned out. We can begin to see our brothers and sisters as insufferable Israelites, giving rise to the temptation to put up with them or suffer through their “annoying” problems. To put up with something means to tolerate what you don’t like or accept something that is bad. But God doesn’t see us that way.

All of us are God’s children, deserving of respectful, compassionate and loving care. With God’s love flowing through us, we can love our neighbors rather than merely put up with them. If necessary, we will even be able to carry someone if he or she falters along the way. Remember God not only cared for his people in the desert but carried them in his loving arms. He continues to carry us, loving and caring for us even when we complain and forget to be thankful.

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