EXODUS 13:17-18, 21-22
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.[a] The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
The people of Israel were led into the wilderness. They did not get there on their own choice. God led them into the wilderness for 40 years.
Your wilderness (bad things that are happening to you) might not be caused by your mistakes or decision-making but by God himself.
Being in the wilderness is so scary. There is no sense of direction. You cannot tell where east is from the west, north from the south.
There is no shelter. There is no water. You have a sense of vulnerability because there is nothing around to shelter you when it’s raining or when it’s cold or hot.
Have you ever been in that place? When you feel confused, disoriented, discouraged, lonely, weak and vulnerable.
There is weather contrast in the desert: daytime it’s very hot, temperature rising to 55 Celsius. Nighttime temperature plummet below freezing. That’s how sometimes we feel. One day everything seems to go our way, we’ve got some good news, we’ve made some progress, we feel like that breakthrough is ever close. And suddenly, we’re back at square one. Everything goes cold and quiet. We feel confused. We feel like in the desert!
In the desert there’s also vulnerability to ferocious animal’s attacks. You feel exposed. You don’t know where to run and hide when the enemy attack. The enemy could be depression, anxiety, loneliness, sense of insecurity, discouragement, feeling betrayed and let down by the very people who were supposed to protect you.
But why God would lead people by the desert?
The Bible says in verse 17b “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
In other words, God wanted to deal with them. God knew that coming out of Egypt was not the end. Coming out of Egypt was in fact the beginning of the process in which God wanted to reconcile himself with His people. He wanted his people to know Him better and deeper. He also wanted to CHANGE them from inside. Without this change they could not become the people God wanted them to become if they remained just as they were in Egypt.
YOU GET THE CLUE: YOUR PROBLEMS ARE THE MEANS GOD USES TO CHANGE YOU FOR THE BETTER.
· Becoming a Christian (or coming to God) is not an end in itself, you have to take on a journey with God and allow God to deal with your character, your misconceptions, your human views, etc. (and usually we resist this. We think we know what is best for us, not even God can change our views)
· The verse above tells us that God obviously thought that this people were not ready for the next challenge. Sometimes we think we are ready for the next challenge in our lives but God knows us better than ourselves. Sometimes we think we deserve better than what we actually have, but God knows us better.
· The bible tells us that God wanted to test them. Where better to be tested than in the desert. When all is dry and nothing is growing, would you still keep trusting God?
· God was looking to establish a relationship with this people. But apparently, there were not interested in a relationship with God, they wanted his blessings, they wanted him to set them free and lead them into the promised land.
It takes time and space to build a profoundly quality relationship. God needed to spend time with his people and needed space to do that.
·He led them by the desert to expose their vulnerabilities.
When they know their vulnerabilities, there will only be one place to run to: THE GREAT I AM
We are all vulnerable. We do have weaknesses. Even though sometimes we pretend not to have any. Unless we face and admit our vulnerabilities, there will be no hope for us. God our Father, in his unconditional love for us, usually takes us in a place where our vulnerabilities are exposed: when we know deep down that we cannot handle the situation unless there is a miracle, or the intervention of someone greater, more powerful than us. Your trials and pains are not there to kill you, there are messages from God to say: YOU NEED ME, YOU CANNOT DO IT ON YOUR OWN.
· With nothing to hang onto, God becomes THE SOURCE OF EVERYTHING. HE BECOME THE ALPHA AND OMEGA (the beginning and the end), THE ALL IN ALL, THE FIRST AND LAST OPTION, THE ONLY OPTION. Nothing in this world is as good as Him; as powerful as him; as solid as him; as faithful as him.
He does not lead us into the wilderness and leave us to die: He did not do it with the people of Israel, He’s not going to start with you.
He gave them guidance and direction
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (Exodus 13:21)
Though in the wilderness, God was with them all the way not just for the sake of being there, he was there to guide them and lead them.
Are you trying to hear what God has to instruct you? Are you paying attention to his guidance? Or you are trying to lead God and guide him the way you want.
When going through tough times, seek God’s guidance and leadership.
Seek the call on him while he is near.”
(AMPLIFIED VERSION) Seek God while he’s here to be found,
pray to him while he’s close at hand.
If you’re going through a moment of confusion, loneliness, discouragement, pain or anything, be humble enough to admit your vulnerabilities to GOD, speak to him, He’s invisible but real, TRY GOD! It’s called PRAYER. Wherever you are you can do it, whoever you are He will hear and answer you.
This is the promise God has made to us:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 New International Version (NIV)
He promised that he will lead us, guide us and show us the way, which way to go every time we seek his counsel.
But then, if you cannot hear anything from Him, don’t move, stay there, stay where you are! Trust Him, His silence doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to answer. In fact, His silence is an answer at that specific moment.
In the wilderness, the Lord is in front of you.
Can you see Him?
“Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”. (Exodus 13:22)
When God is in front He sees events, things before you see. By the time you see, He already saw. If you’re seeing it, it’s because He knows it will not harm you. If He thought it will harm you, you would not have seen it.
But because He goes ahead, He prepares a way for us. He secures the way for us. He removed what we cannot handle. If that bad situation is happening to you is because He knows you can handle it. Not by power or strength, but by His Spirit that lives in you.