I am somewhere between Numbers and Deuteronomy in my read through of the Bible. Over and over and over and over again the Israelites see the Hand and Glory of God and they still disobey. After 430 years of slavery and bondage in Egypt, they witnessed the plagues and saw the waters of the Red Sea close upon the Egyptians after they had safely crossed to the other side. They saw the presence and guidance of God by cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. Even before they crossed the Red Sea when the Egyptians were coming for them, the cloud of smoke moved positions. Previously, the cloud and pillar of fire was between the Israelites and the Red Sea. When the Egyptians were coming for them, the presence of God represented by this cloud and pillar moved to a buffer position between them and the coming Egyptians. Amazing! He was positioning Himself to protect His people! God's presence and glory were witnessed by the people of Israel everyday!
BUT, history tells us that they decided to disobey, challenge, and grumble against God and Moses who was His servant. What were they thinking! God was seen everyday and He displayed His glory to them in very real and tangible ways yet they chose to disobey. They even considered a mutiny against Moses. They considered giving up the Promised Land and going back to bondage and slavery in Egypt!
Philip Yancey's book entitled Disappointment with God touches on this bit of Israelite history. Philip links this history to the New Testament where the people asked Jesus for a "sign." I know that I have asked God for a sign. I have caught myself saying that if God would only do something miraculous -- like parting a sea or supplying manna from heaven -- then the world would believe. Know this...A miraculous sign from God does not guarantee belief! Just look at the lives of the Israelites! They had a very real and tangible expression of God and they still chose to disobey God. They grumbled against Him and even wanted to go back to Egypt where they lived in bondage.
You see, signs and miraculous wonders of God do not necessarily constitute belief.
Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”