Read His Words Before Ours!
When we journey to a new place, we don’t plan on traveling for 40 years, encountering hardship after hardship.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened to the people of Israel.
God delivered them from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 13:17-22), and they began their journey to the land He’d promised.
Then they spent 40 years in the wilderness.
Their wilderness wanderings were marked with struggle and pain and sin . . . and by miracle after miracle, if only the people could recognize them.
Their first wilderness encounter with the God Who Saves is at the edge of the Red Sea. (Exodus 14:5-14) Barely out of Egypt, camped between equally insurmountable obstacles of desert and sea, Israel hears the sound of distant thunder. Turning their eyes from the pillar of cloud embodying God’s presence to the horizon, they see Pharaoh’s army swarming toward them. Panic and horror sweep through the camp, and the people swiftly turn against Moses, the man appointed by God to lead Israel.
Miracle #1- God parts the sea and holds back the waves so Israel could walk to the other side. (Exodus 14:15-22)
Miracle #1.5- As the Egyptian army attempts to cross, the sea crashes back to its original position and their pursuers drown. (Exodus 14:23-28)
Exhilarated by God’s rescue, Israel turns her face to the Promised Land. According to today’s maps, their journey should have only taken 7-10 days.
Even on this relatively short journey, resources and rations were finite and began to dwindle. When we walk in the wilderness, it’s easy to focus on what is lacking (can you relate?), and so the people turned to grumbling.
Miracle #2 – Even in the wilderness, there are oases, places of rest and refreshment. God led Israel to Marah, a place of water. Though the water was bitter, God miraculously caused it to become sweet. (Exodus 15:22-25)
Miracle #3 – After a brief stop in Marah, Israel set up camp in Elim, which held 12 springs, with the implication that one had been prepared for each of Israel’s tribes. (Exodus 15:27)
How would you have reacted to this bounty of clean, cool, fresh water after being in the wilderness for about six weeks? Sadly, the Israelites don’t see God’s leading. Instead, they focus on what they lack, even in the midst of God’s miraculous provision. They think their former life of bondage would have been better. (Exodus 16:2-3)
Before we judge too harshly, let’s realize we often do the same. When struggling through a wilderness season, it’s easy to imagine the past season as immensely better than the present . . . even if it was a season of bondage.
Miracle #4 – Though Israel quickly forgot His faithfulness, rescue, and provision, God still saw them and heard their complaints. Daily, He fed them, giving quail in the evening and manna (a wafer-like bread) in the day. (Exodus 16:4-23) Some people wanted more, deciding they didn’t trust God to provide again tomorrow, so they tried to stock up. However, manna was meant for just one day, and the extra spoiled. How often have we missed God’s perfectly timed provisions because we focus on future worry?
For God does indeed still show up, Sisters, even in our barren and desolate seasons.
Israel continues to grumble and complain, leaning on their own understanding and erecting idols (Exodus 32), yet God holds them.
God faithfully led His ungrateful, rebellious children right up to the Promised Land (Canaan), but, overwhelmed with fear of its inhabitants, they refused to enter. (Numbers 14) They chose disobedience over God’s ideas, and it cost them an entire generation.
Thus began the 40-year road trip.
And the story repeats, over and over.
God miraculously provides, protects, and empowers Israel as He leads them through the wilderness, from victory in battle to shoes and clothes that don’t wear out. (Deuteronomy 29:5) Yet, time and again, His faithfulness and provision are quickly forgotten as His people choose sin and self.
Sometimes, we may realize our own wilderness is due, at least in part, to our sin and our choice to follow our way instead of God’s. This realization is always painful. Yet God, in His faithful love, remains with us just as He was with Israel.
While we may not wander in an actual desert, wilderness seasons remain part of our lives. My prayer is to not miss God in the midst of them. And not be so stubborn (yes, even when I am feeling desolate and empty) that my attitude causes me to stay in the wilderness for what seems like a generation.
How should we respond when finding ourselves in the wilderness?
Look for God-moments in the midst of what feels like aimless wandering. He’s active, don’t miss Him!
Focus on intentionally looking for His hand, for He will keep us from falling into despair.
Lean into Scripture, for even Jesus, God Himself made manifest, relied on Scripture in His wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 26:36-44)
Cling to the certain knowledge that Emmanuel, our God-with-us, is present every step of our wilderness, providing for us, rescuing us, and leading us home.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!