When you are misunderstood!

Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas


We all have positions of responsibility or authority that causes us to make decisions on a regular basis. We share responsibilities in the workplace, house, church, society and sometimes the decisions that we make does not go well with others. How much ever we try, sometimes people do not buy our say. What do you do when others misjudge your motives? What do you do when people do not understand your innocence?

Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7

Moses was in a similar situation in Exodus 17. Remember, Moses took the initiative in the Lord to release the people out of their bondage from Egypt. They crossed over the red sea and six months into the journey they are camped at Rephidim. There they had a problem; there was no water for the people to drink. Let us see what happens:

Exodus 17:1-4 1 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. 2 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?” 3 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?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The people are questioning Moses’ leadership. They are finding fault with Moses, moreover they are plotting to kill him. The Israelites have totally misunderstood Moses.

Joke: A man telephoned the airline office and asked, “How long does it take to fly from Bangalore to Delhi?” The clerk said, “Just a minute…” “Thank you,” the man said and hung up.


In order to understand why people misunderstand us, firstly we need to know why and how we misunderstand others. Usually when we become offended or hurt by someone, we immediately begin to look for evidence for why the other person hurt or offended us. Eventually we come up with some story about the other person which he would never have imagined. Very often this happens in friendships, church fellowships, relationships, marriages etc. This term in English called assumicide. Assumicide is a new English word.

Assumicide – Meaning

  An assumption which goes wrong.
  An assumption which leads to dire consequences.

Assumicide leads to the death of relationships because we end up believing the worst about others. Assumicide leads to misunderstanding. When we try to assume many facts about others we misunderstand others.

Illustration: The photographer for a national magazine was assigned to get photos of a great forest fire. Smoke at the scene hampered him and he asked his home office to hire a plane. Arrangements were made and he was told to go at once to a nearby airport, where the plane would be waiting. When he arrived at the airport, a plane was warming up near the runway. He jumped in with his equipment and yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” The pilot swung the plane into the wind and they soon were in the air. “Fly over the north side of the fire,” yelled the photographer, “and make three or four low level passes.” “Why?” asked the pilot. “Because I’m going to take pictures,” cried the photographer. “I’m a photographer and photographers take pictures!” After a pause the pilot said, “You mean you’re not the instructor?”

Assumption is very dangerous. When others assume facts about us very often we become the victim of being misunderstood.

As we look at the Bible people misunderstood a lot of biblical heroes too. Joseph’s brothers misunderstood Joseph. The Israelites misunderstood Moses. Saul misunderstood David. Jesus was misunderstood by the Jewish leaders. Paul was misunderstood by the Corinthian church. Therefore I understood that even if I am a child of God I am bound to be misunderstood by people as I pursue the righteousness of God.

In our text today Moses was misunderstood by the Israelites and they are planning to stone him and kill him.

What is the general response when we are misunderstood?

Many times we take initiatives in workplaces, churches, families, neighborhood, etc.. We spend a lot of time, effort, and sometimes our money. If things go well and fine as expected everyone is happy but if things are not that fine then the blame game begins. Everyone starts to blame us for the leadership, wasted time, money, effort and usually the one who takes the initiative is attacked from all fronts.

This usually causes frustration in people and they get into a shell. They stop leading, stop taking responsibility. They do not want to say anything and they just play safe next time and go with the crowd. If you have taken leadership in something and have failed in the past understand that is the area of your gift. God has given you an opportunity to lead you to his calling. But because you failed and did not have the right attitude towards your failure satan has used it to keep you from God’s best. If you are fearful to lead further understand your God given gifts are hidden and the devil does not want you to use it. Today there are many here who have stopped taking initiatives because somewhere in your life you have been misunderstood by someone.

Apostle Paul found himself in trouble when the Corinthian church misunderstood him. Paul spent 18 months in Corinth winning people to Christ and establishing the church. After he left to the Ephesus, a group of people arose in the Corinthian congregation that questioned his leadership. They challenged his authority, insinuated that he wasn’t a “real” apostle, attacked his character, and accused him of using the Corinthian church for his own gain. This group succeeded in turning most of the church against Paul.

One of their main accusations was that Paul couldn’t be trusted because he had changed his travel plans – not once but twice. He hadn’t come back to visit the Corinthians as he said he would. That proved he was a fickle minded person whose character and message could not be trusted.

See how the misunderstanding started. It started over something very small. This is how people usually misunderstand one another. Someone didn’t greet us in the hallway, they didn’t answer our email, they didn’t invite us to their party, they didn’t show up for an appointment, they never smile at me, they avoid me etc.

Little things, small stuff, petty complaints give way to the seed of assumption. From a tiny spark of discontent a mighty flame of unhappiness grows. That flame soon becomes a wildfire that threatens to destroy a relationship. Congregations have split and friendships have ended over things that started very small but grew all out of proportion.

If we are misunderstood, firstly we try to talk the problem with the ones who have misunderstood us. If they do not listen to our explanation then we usually confront them. We tell them our part and say, “If you still do not understand me it is not my problem anyway.” Further we try to talk about the problem and clear our part behind their back. Go and talk it to the entire town. It is sad that some that some Christians behave this way.

In Exodus 17 Moses is misunderstood just for a small reason and people are ready to kill him. Maybe you have been misunderstood by someone. There maybe someone who is questioning your motives. But understand if you want to be successful you should not be bothered about what people say about you but continue to do what you are good at doing.


Let us get back to the life of Moses. Moses was the greatest leader of the OT. Moses had a great attitude. In spite of being misunderstood by 2 million people Moses could stand still in the Lord. Let us see how Moses handled being misunderstood.

1. Know whom to talk about your problem.

Whom did the Israelites talk to? They talked to Moses. First they talked to him, reasoned with him thinking Moses could do something to get them water. Soon when they found dialogue would not work they talked at him angrily. They questioned his leadership. Finally the people talked behind his back and targeted to execute him.

Do you see any where in this text where the Israelites talked to God about their complaints? No. But who did Moses talks his complaints to? God. Exodus 17:4-5 4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front 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.

Moses prayed to God about his problem. If you are misunderstood spend time in prayer to God. We usually talk it out or reason to people. Some get so worried about misunderstanding they do not even get sleep at night thinking what others are thinking about you. The key is to spend time with God. It is God who brought you to that situation, you cannot change people, you cannot change the situation. But if you pray to God, God can change the people’s heart and the situation for you.

Illustration: A number of years ago I found myself in a difficult situation of trying to explain myself to a group of people who was convinced I had wronged them. I thought that going and explaining my cause to everyone would clear up the matter because I intentionally did not do any wrong. But the more I explained, the less people seemed to believe me. I was literally shaken: Here I am, I did not do anything wrong but people misunderstood me. Sometimes we need to accept misunderstanding and just let it be.

2. Be the same with the people who misunderstood you

You can’t just wish your problems away, but you can approach them with the right mind set. Notice, Moses doesn’t get angry at the people. He doesn’t put these people down. He doesn’t start a grumbling campaign of his own and team up people against the grumblers. He doesn’t question their morality or their right to talk about him. He doesn’t respond in any of the ways are common for people under fire. Moses behaved very normal to the people. He did not react at all to the people.

Our basic nature is to have a grudge against the ones who have misunderstood us. We stop talking to those people, talk about them at their back, and eventually give way for the devil. Forgive the ones who misunderstand you. Behave with them normally without keeping hatred in your heart.

Several days later when Moses was with God the Israelites made gods of gold in his absence. God saw this and wanted to kill them at once. See what Moses says to God. Exodus 32:31-32 31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

Moses offers his life in exchange for theirs. Our usual response to people who misunderstand is anger and hatred. Our attitude should be the same as Moses.

3. Continue with your calling

Many of us stop taking initiatives when we are misunderstood. We say we will not take any more initiatives or leadership roles; I just want to go to church and come back. If the devil can stop you from doing what God wants you to do, then he has won over you. But in spite of the misunderstanding and problems if you continue to serve Lord and love the people who misunderstood you, God will anoint you to face your situation, moreover God will bless you and use you like never before. Never run away from your circumstances.

God want you to continue with the calling that God has called you with. See what Moses did.

Exodus 17:5-7 5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front 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. 6 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. 7 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?”

See what God tells Moses: Exodus 17:5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front 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.

God said I want you to go in front of the people. God said I want the elders to see what I called you to do. When people are criticizing you and accusing you if you can stick to your calling God will honour you in front of the very same people.

Exodus 17:6 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.

God said that He will stand before Moses by the rock. Look at this God is going to literally stand by you and fight for your cause. If no one stands by you when you are misunderstood, God is telling he is going to stand by you. In the very same area where the people misunderstood you God is going to lift you up.


Let us have a look at this rock. The rock that they drank from was indeed Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

In Exodus God said God will stand before Moses by the rock. In 1 Corinthians Paul says that the rock they drank from was indeed Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the rock of our salvation and he is with us in our wilderness journey. When people accuse us, misunderstand us let us learn to go to the rock.

But as a caution, as we walk with Christ it is very important for us not to take God and his presence for granted. Forty years later at the end of their wilderness experience they came back to the same place and they are again in need of water, they complain and grumble to Moses. See what Moses did this time around.

Numbers 20
1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.
7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

This is the second time Moses is facing the same problem at the same place. This time God asked Moses to speak to the rock but Moses again struck the rock with his staff. Even when Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock water gushed out and the people and the livestock drank, but God was angry with Moses.

Numbers 20:12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

God takes His types and symbols seriously. We cannot take God’s presence and our calling for granted. God said you will not enter the Promised Land. All that Moses was looking for from his birth, to go to the Promised Land missed just because of a single mistake.

Why did God ask to say to the rock not strike the rock for the second time?
We understand from 1 Corinthians that it was Jesus Christ who was traveling with them and the rock they drank from was Jesus Christ himself. Moses by striking the rock for the second time ruined the beautiful type and symbol of Christ, the Savior and Rock.

Jesus was once and for all crucified on the cross. Jesus has already been smitten and died for our sins. Now, anyone can call on the name of the Lord and be saved. The first time when Moses hit the rock it symbolized the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus was crucified only once for the sins of man. The second time Moses had to speak to the rock which symbolized salvation by faith. Now that Jesus has been crucified for our sins, we need not put him to the cross again. We just need to ask or say to God to cleanse us and we will be cleansed and saved. That is why God asked Moses to speak to the rock. Moses missed it and could not go to the Promised Land.


Jesus Christ is the rock of our salvation. In our life’s journey people who are with us may sometimes misunderstand us; they may accuse us or talk behind our back. Understand Jesus is with you and if you can share your problems with him and continue on your spiritual journey Christ will honour us in the midst of the very same people who accuse us. Amen! God Bless You!