The history of the Israelite nation is, like ours, a series of ups and downs, of triumphs and failures, of trust and doubt. They could move swiftly between the two extremes and within one chapter, the exulting nation leaving Egypt was reduced to cowering terror of the pursuing Egyptian army. Forgetting the miracles they had just seen less than a week ago, they cried out in fear that Moses had led them away just to see them destroyed. God responded by ripping open the sea and sending His people right on through to the other side. And so the new nation found itself out of Egypt and headed into the wilderness. They stayed there for forty years wrestling out the tension of keeping faith in a promise not yet realized. Like the Israelites, our lives are lived in a similar state of limbo; in between a hard wilderness reality and the promise of paradise. Like them we struggle with holding onto God’s promises when our feelings and circumstances persuade us to distrust God’s plans for us. Israel’s time wandering in the desert is succinctly summarized in this psalm:
For he divided the sea and led them through,
making the water stand up like walls!
14In the daytime he led them by a cloud,
and all night by a pillar of fire.
15He split open the rocks in the wilderness
to give them water, as from a gushing spring.
16He made streams pour from the rock,
making the waters flow down like a river!
17Yet they kept on sinning against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18They stubbornly tested God in their hearts,
demanding the foods they craved.
19They even spoke against God himself, saying,
“God can’t give us food in the wilderness.
20Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out,
but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”
21When the Lord heard them, he was furious.
The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob.
Yes, his anger rose against Israel,
22for they did not believe God
or trust him to care for them.
23But he commanded the skies to open;
he opened the doors of heaven.
24 He rained down manna for them to eat;
he gave them bread from heaven.
25They ate the food of angels!
God gave them all they could hold.
I’ve read this chapter many times, but only in the last year has God revealed something very special hidden here. Notice here what caused the Israelites to doubt – they did not believe God would care for them. When I read that last summer as part of a Bible study I was floored and convicted. Sure the Israelites knew God was powerful, they saw Him work wonders, they witnessed Him executing judgement and salvation. Where their faith faltered was in believing that God actually loved them. How often this is me! I fully believe God is capable of acting on my behalf, of bestowing His grace to me, but I struggle with believing that God cares enough to do so. But to experience the journey of redemption and find complete joy in God, it’s imperative to believe that you are loved by Him. Without that assurance, faith will be relegated to religion and relationship will be reduced to rhetoric. Notice also how beautifully the character of God is revealed – in spite of His people struggling to trust His love, He still provides graciously for them. He meets every doubt with assurance, every need is met with His provision, every crisis is met with His miraculous intervention. And here we can find the strength to endure our own wilderness wanderings – every moment is filled with His presence.
Blessings to you,