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In the Wilderness

In the Wilderness

The Israelites traveled on from the Wilderness of Sinai, moving from one place to the next until the cloud stopped….” (Numbers 10:12)

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Israel is her miraculous escape from Egyptian slavery and her subsequent wandering in the wilderness.

The Hebrew word midbar is the word for desert or wilderness. It originally meant a place for herding – not for people. The Bible describes it as a bad place, a place of hunger, thirst, deprivation, a windswept place, unsettled, haunted, and filled with frightful noises. Sounds fun!

After their enslavement, God promised His people another land: Canaan, a land said to be flowing with milk and honey. But first there were to be 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Forty years! It wasn’t that Moses was lost, but that the people were disobedient. God got the people out of Egypt; now He had to get the Egypt out of the people.

His tool for this? Wilderness. Desert. Windswept. Unsettled and unsettling.

Everything painful. Everything trying. Poisonous snakes. Thirst, hunger. And that was just the physical part of the journey. Though water might have been in short supply, sin certainly wasn’t. Every type of human sin manifests itself in those 40 years. “Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these forty years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

As challenging as the wilderness might be, it is still a place of God’s grace. The inhospitable nature of the wilderness symbolizes a direct comparison to the human heart. Both remind us of the need for God’s grace. For forty years, God gave His people food, water, and protection. Their sandals lasted for forty years! Israel was forced to put her trust in God for her physical protection.

And in a similar way, Israel was forced to put her spiritual trust in God…that He would lead by cloud in the day and by fire at night…that God would speak to her and lead her through Moses, that the sacrifices in the tabernacle would cover her sins. Israel had to trust God for their spiritual protection. God is a God of grace.

God uses the wilderness…but we don’t like being there. We feel lost, or like we’re not getting anywhere. We wonder where God is…why our prayers haven’t been answered…why it’s such a struggle to read the Bible. We’re frustrated with the waiting pattern we’re in, and it seems like there’s nothing we can do.

But we’ll discover, like the Israelites did, that wandering in the wilderness breaks down our pride and self-confidence. In the wilderness, we recognize the depth of our need. God will meet us in the wilderness because he is a God of grace.

Join us Sunday as we explore God as Creator and learn more about Him from His creation.


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