Scripture Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
What can we do when people seem to love us one minute and hate us the next―when we haven’t even done anything differently? We can learn a lesson from Moses and do what he did: take it to the Lord.
I remember a man who had heard about some of the things I was doing in my walk of faith with God. He was so impressed that he came over to my house one day said to me: “you’re the closest thing to a disciple I’ve ever seen.” Within a month, that same man started to deride and question everything I did. I wasn’t doing anything differently, but somehow his perception of me had changed during that month.
People can be fickle―and sometimes with good reason. But we still need to know how to respond to them. Moses had to deal with people’s fickle reactions all the time. When things were going great in the camp, the people put their faith in Moses, following him wherever he led. But when circumstances changed, their opinions of Moses changed, even to the point where they wanted to stone him to death.
In Exodus 17, when the people found themselves without water again, they turned on Moses again:
“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’
“Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?’ But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’ ” (Exodus 17:1-3).
What could Moses do? Instead of taking it personally, he took it to the Lord―and the Lord answered him.
“Then Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’
“The LORD answered Moses, ‘Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’ ” (Exodus 17:4-7).
This last question is the key question for all of us: “Is the Lord among us or not?” If we can answer that question, we can be dead to compliments and dead to criticism.
When God answered Moses, He clearly told Moses what to do: walk on ahead of the people, take some of the elders with him, along with his staff, with which God had already displayed his power. Then He told Moses: “I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb.”
God said, in effect: “Moses, I am with you. Strike the rock and you’ll have water for all the people.”
Jesus said similar words to His disciples, words which still apply to all of us who call ourselves His disciples today: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
When we know that God is with us, we can properly respond to people’s comments, whether they are compliments or criticism. The key is not in ignoring people’s compliments or criticism, but in fully recognizing that God is with us in what we’re doing. When we know that He is with us, we will clearly defer people’s compliments and criticism to Him, knowing that it is God who is calling the shots, not us.
Whether people compliment you or criticize you, don’t take it personally. Take it to the Lord, letting Him reassure you that He’s still with you!
Want to learn more? You can watch a podcast with more discussion about this topic below.