Thousands of years ago, God delivered the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt. At first this seemed wonderful to them. They were no longer subject to cruel slave drivers and taskmasters. Their time of forced labor making bricks out of almost nothing was now over. In fact, the Egyptians, after having to endure all kinds of plagues sent by God against them, practically paid the Israelites to leave. They were now finally able to go out and live in a territory of their own.
Initially their passage started off great. They were very likely singing, dancing and rejoicing over their release from captivity as they left. But there was one obstacle ahead they did not expect: the Red Sea. It was in their way, and, in their current state, uncrossable. The joyous commotion suddenly turned into murmuring, fear, and despair. Then Moses, the very one called by God to lead them out, became the target for the people’s angry accusations.
But God did not bring them this far to leave them barricaded and stranded. Not long after they encountered this impasse, He provided the means for a safe and dry crossing—by simply parting the waters from one shore to the other! All they had to do was walk across on dry land to the other side. It was possible that not even one sandal was soaked on the way.
Of course, having Pharaoh’s favor did not last. As soon as they stepped foot on the floor of the seabed, the Egyptian army appeared on the horizon in hot pursuit. Nevertheless, God had another plan already in place. As the last of the Israelites, along with all of their supplies, exited on the opposite shore, the Egyptian’s horses with chariots in tow began to rapidly close in on them. And at that very same moment, the parted waters of the Red Sea collapsed back together. There was the mighty enemy of the Israelites—defeated in a single blow!
Once again, the Israelites were free to go on their way. But there were some concerns in the minds of many of them—mainly, where were they going and how were they supposed to get there? They knew God had a place for them, but here they were, trapped, with the Red Sea on one side and a vast wilderness on the other. Nothing but sand, rocks, hot sun, and virtually no water or food lay ahead of them. There was obviously nothing promising about the prospect. This was the place where their real period of testing began. Would they trust God to supply all their needs and lead them to their inheritance?
Sadly though, this difficult journey did not set well with the people and over time grew even worse for them. Their unbelief reached so great a point with God that He forbade the whole first generation of the Israelites that left Egypt from going into the Promised Land. Only their children were permitted to do so. The whole trip should have taken less than two months, but they ended up trudging on for as much as forty years! Actually, almost all of that generation lived most of their lives during this period in a place of refinement and testing.
Now this may appear to be just a historical narrative with no bearing on our lives—yet we are very likely doing the same thing the Israelites did in our own walk with God. Spending most of our life in the wilderness is not what He intended for us. Too many of us are diligently enduring the trials God has placed before us, rather than learning how to overcome them. We have simply adapted to the difficulties and refused to move on. God told the Israelites,“Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward” (Deuteronomy 2:3). They had traveled around in a circle so much that they were actually living in the wilderness and were no longer just passing through.
It is God’s desire for us to learn from the experiences He brings our way, not accommodate them. We, as His children, must all have a time in the wilderness, a time of being purified and broken, in order to be able to live in the Kingdom of God. How long this period lasts will be determined by our willingness to let go and depend on God for our needs. But the more we hold onto the right to our self, the right to handle things our way, the longer we will stay in that barren region. Instead of circling the mountain and getting nowhere like the Israelites, we need to start heading north to our spiritual promised land, the place of ultimate rest. Let’s set ourselves to “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), not just trying to live out the rest of our life in the wilderness.