Exodus 6:6-8: “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord’” (NIV).
I have always jokingly said that I “play with fire” when I pray for a characteristic like patience, faith, compassion, or self control. I used to “blame God” when it seemed that almost immediately following a prayer asking for growth in a certain area, I would get hit from all sides; as though my prayer for something positive brought on negative results.
I’m learning that conclusion couldn’t be further from the truth. In all honesty, if I look at the circumstances in my life correctly, God doesn’t cause the negative outcome (He might allow it for my growth), but instead He is right there, waiting for me to call on Him for help during the tough times, to keep my eyes focused where they should be, and uses the trial as an opportunity to stretch my faith muscle a little bit more.
Today I want to talk about the story of God using Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and their subsequent forty-year journey in the desert, on their way to the Promised Land. Some of you know this story, starting in Exodus and concluding in Deuteronomy, while for others this may be the first time you are introduced to it. (Exodus is the second book of the Bible, found directly after Genesis). I’m talking about God’s provisions for the Israelites today because this story has been so relevant in my life in the very recent past. I hope that the encouragement I received from a friend will encourage you also if you’re struggling with any area of your life that feels like “wandering through the desert.”
God begins the journey of the Israelites’ rescue all the way back in Egypt, when they were slaves of Pharaoh and held in terrible conditions. God uses Moses to perform many miracles (think about the plagues), in part to show Pharaoh who he was messing with but also, I think, to remind the Israelites that He is God and He has enough strength and power to take care of them, no matter what.
After they are rescued in a dramatic way (Remember how God parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross over and then all the Egyptians drowned? That wasn’t a coincidence, by the way.), God continued to provide for them in the desert with manna (bread), raven (meat), and good health. By the way, manna (their daily bread) was a process of getting them to trust Him every day. They were instructed not to gather more than they needed for one day. If they did, it spoiled (and it soon became obvious to everyone who wasn’t trusting God because the spoiled food stunk up the whole camp).
However, the Israelites soon forgot about the miracles that God performed when they were in Egypt (as well as how bad it was for them in Egypt), and they started complaining and whining and basically pitching a fit. God has a lot of patience, but eventually He got angry with them for complaining all the time. Their complaints stemmed from a fear that God wouldn’t provide for their needs, which led to them choosing fear instead of faith (trying to take control instead of relying on God’s provisions). As a result of their repeated sin, (their fear led them to make decisions that were against God’s plan as they tried to do it their own way), they weren’t allowed to reach the Promised Land and instead wandered in the desert for forty long years. That wasn’t God’s original plan for them. His plan was to take them to the Promised Land, in a much shorter timeframe than forty years, but they made their own choice (God gives free will to His people) and therefore suffered the consequence of not being allowed to enter. (There is a lot more to this wonderful story of redemption and God’s unconditional love, so I encourage you to read it for yourself beginning in Exodus or you also have the choice to just read the synopsis in Deuteronomy.)
When we get together again next time, I want to relate a personal story of my own that makes this true story from the Bible very relevant in my own life.