August 9/10, 2014
Main Text: Exodus 13:17-18
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.
God has been speaking to our hearts during this series as we learn of His character by watching how He dealt with His chosen people, the Israelites. We have looked at how God is a deliverer as well as a lawgiver. Today, God invites us once again to grow in wisdom as we learn from those who have gone before us.
- Their pitfalls can be avoided
- Their victories can be repeated
We can grow as we walk through the wilderness experiences of our lives. God kept His people in the wilderness because there were certain lessons they needed to learn. In the wilderness:
- there are not a lot of distractions.
- people are a lot more likely to pay attention to God.
- it is like a furnace where God can refine, melt, purify, and shape His people.
- is where many of God’s most important people have spent time.
God still invites those He loves to His wilderness school! Here some lessons we can learn:
A lesson about God
The trip from Egypt to the Promised Canaan Land was a quite simple one. The route (a real road) was called “The Way of the Sea” (Isaiah 9:1) or “The Way of the Philistines”, it was only about 200 miles, it was an international trade route, and they all knew about it. It was a scenic route along the Mediterranean Sea. With a group this large this direct route would take a matter of weeks, however our text tells us that God decided on a different route because the road was heavily fortified with Egyptian military. God knew that they would be fearful and go back to Egypt. It ended up taking them 40 years.
Here is the lesson: God is not in a hurry. God’s primary concern is not speed. It was not as important to God where they were going, as it was who they were becoming. His deepest concern was that they would be the right kind of people when they arrived. God created time and is not subject to its limitations (2 Peter 3:8). We can trust him to lead us in His timing.
A lesson about remembering (Exodus 15:22-24)
You might think that because God delivered them from slavery, performed the ten plagues, and drowned Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, that the faith of the Israelites might be unshakable. However, in just three days they were discouraged, grumbling, and angry. They had forgotten. Their short-term memory is evidence of the fact that they had missed the profound reality that God was with them. Here is the lesson: We need to always remember what God has done (Joshua 4:4-7; Psalm 136:10-17).
A lesson about attitude
We are all prone to grumble, but we must fight this temptation. When God’s people find that the water is bitter they forget about God’s mighty acts and focus only on their thirst. Even though their attitudes are poor, God miraculously provided by telling Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water and making it pure. With all of this, you would expect to see them faithful to God and content with His provision. But when reading Exodus 16:6-12, one word comes through over and over again: grumble.
Here is the lesson: grumbling is a sin. Although we don’t see it as a big deal, God does. Grumbling causes division and conflict in homes, workplaces, and churches. This is a sin that God wants to be purged from our lives. Paul addresses the Israelite’s failures in this and applies it to us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. We must make sure that we do not fall into patterns of grumbling and complaining.
A lesson about provision
God provided the Israelites with meat in the form of Quail and bread in the form of manna. His provision is wonderful. It was exactly what they needed when they needed it. There was enough for everyone each day, one day at a time. Whenever the people collected more than they needed and stockpiled it for the next day, it would go rotten and be filled with maggots. Unless it was the day before the Sabbath when they were to take two days worth, then it would stay fresh. God even gave them clothes that did not wear out (Deuteronomy 8:3-4).
Here is the lesson: God will provide for you one day at a time. God was teaching His people to depend upon Him, one day at a time. They could not rely on their own strength, their own wisdom, or their own resources. In the desert they learned that all they needed could be found in the hands of the God who had formed them. Jesus lived with this understanding of His Father’s daily provision and called His followers to do the same when He told them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
A lesson about presence
We can choose to walk in the real and life-changing presence of God or we can cling to lifeless idols. The people of Israel ask a fundamental question that goes through all of our minds at one point or another in our lives: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7) When we hear the Israelites ask this question it seems unbelievable after all God had done for them. However, we must look at our own lives. God is so powerful, He is so present, and yet we dare to wonder if He will be with us. Sometimes we are too blind and too hard-hearted to feel His presence.
Here is the lesson: God is with us and promises that He will never leave us. Moses makes a beautiful request of God in Exodus 33:15. He does not want to go anywhere unless God goes with them. Even though they had a promise of a land of milk and honey, the Ten Commandments, and His miraculous provision; Moses wanted God’s presence. Moses is really saying that he would rather live in a desert with God than live in the Promised Land with abundance, affluence, security, and protection, but without God’s presence.
God’s Wilderness School is a Hard,
but Great Place to Learn His Character!!
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
Read: Exodus 13:17-18
Why does God allow us to go through difficulty and have wilderness experiences in our lives?
Think of a time that was particularly trying and share what you learned of God’s character through that experience.
What experiences in your life have grown your faith the most?
Why do we think that life should be easy? What causes us to have the mindset of our lives, that says we should be free of pain and suffering?
How does this mindset point to the eternity that is written on our hearts?
What do we learn about Christ’s redemption for us through pain and suffering?