Have you ever had a plumber come to work at your house? If he has to shut off the water, it is amazing how it happens. Like clockwork, immediately everyone either needs to use the bathroom or wants a drink of water!

When I read the Bible, it is easy for me to be really hard on the people in the stories.

The Israelites whine and complain.

The apostles argue amongst themselves.

Everyone misses the point.

I like to pretend that I would have done so much better! (Yeah, right!)

In Exodus 15, after the Israelites cross the Red Sea, they head into the Desert of Shur. “For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.” (Exodus 15:22 NIV).

How many days would you travel by foot in the desert without water before you started to complain?

Maybe that was the wrong question. How many hours would you make it?

Not long at all!

If I read the text right, they only started to grumble when they got to Marah, where the water was bitter.

I’m not letting the Israelites off the hook. Grumbling is never a blessing, but the fact it took them at least three days to start doing it shows us greater faith and patience than we might have realized. Ten minutes after the plumber shuts off a faucet in my air-conditioned house, I’m thirsty. It took the Israelites three days!

Let’s make a lesson out of this: the next time I start to grumble, I’m going to ask myself, “Can I wait 3 days?” After all, in the Bible story, a lot can change in three days…

Don’t Make It Worse!

Government officials in Delhi, India, were concerned about the deadly Cobras in the area, so they came up with a simple solution: they put a bounty on them. Citizens could turn in dead snakes for money.

Initially, that’s exactly what happened, but before long, some people saw an opportunity. They began to breed cobras to turn in for the bounty! The government was frustrated by this turn of events, so they cancelled the program.

Now that the program was over, cobra breeders were out of business. What did they do? They released their inventory into the wild. By the time the program was over, there were more Cobras than ever!

What’s the moral of the story? There’s no problem that government can’t make worse? Maybe!

Many times when I try to solve a problem, I make it worse.

Do you remember Abram and Sarai? They had a problem. God had promised them children, but they didn’t have any. So they decided to solve the problem themselves. Abram had a child by Sarai’s servant, Hagar. Not only did this not solve the problem—God had told Abram and Sarai that they together would have a son—but it made it worse. Now there is a woman scorned, a boy raised in a broken home, and ultimately a new conflict that lasts throughout the duration of history.

David’s sin with Bathsheba was bad enough, but it got even worse when he tried to solve it at the expense of Uriah’s life.

Here’s some simple advice: when you mess up, do whatever you can not to make things worse!

Martin Luther King Day

This is the weekend set aside to honor the work of Dr. King. Let’s honor his legacy by reflecting on a few of his challenging words.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The time is always right to do what is right.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

When he would preach about the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Dr. King suggested that the priest and the Levite might have passed by the injured man because of fear. They were afraid of what they would miss out on if they stopped. They were afraid of what might happen to them if they stopped. Dr. King said the difference between them and the good Samaritan boiled down to a question. The religious leaders asked, “What will happen to me if I help?” The good Samaritan asked, “What will happen to him if I don’t?”

Life is Precious

Life is precious. Man is made in God’s image, after his likeness (Genesis 1:26). We are formed by God’s hand and inspired with God’s very breath (Genesis 2:6-7).

You can even see this in the holiness codes in Leviticus. Unclean animals, generally, are the ones that scavenge on the dead. People are made ceremonially unclean when they come into contact with death or even things that represent new life not beginning.

In this week’s daily Bible reading, a line in Genesis 9 stood out to me. God warned humanity that he would require an accounting whenever blood was shed. That didn’t surprise me; I remembered when Abel was murdered that his blood cried out from the ground (4:10). Of course humans are accountable when they take life!

What surprised me was that God said “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man” (9:5).

Evidently, human life is so sacred that God will even call into judgment the wild animals that take it.

There’s even a law in Exodus 21:28 that calls for the execution of an ox that gores a person to death. If its owner was grossly negligent, the owner might meet the same fate.

Life is incredibly special, a gift to be cherished. Let’s make sure that we treat every human life the way God intends for us to.