God’s Timing: Life in the Desert – Exodus 17

Freedom was not achieved easily for the Israelites after many years of slavery in Egypt under the hand of the Pharaoh. The Lord sheltered and protected them during the ten plagues He used against their captors, and the final plague, death of the first born during the Passover, finally convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.  Yet, once they were freed, it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for God’s people.   Yet the Lord permitted them to experience this series of challenges to build and develop their faith and experience Him, the one true God.

For their first challenge, Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the Israelites go, and pursued them with a large mobile army of chariots.  These forces caught up to the huge crowd of people and had them hopelessly trapped against the Red Sea.  But the Lord came through for them and delivered them out of Pharaoh’s hand, bringing them safely across the Red Sea and drowning Pharaoh’s army in the process. 

Later, the Israelites ran out of food and water in the desert.  The Lord delivered them once again, providing all of their needed sustenance then and throughout their entire forty year sojourn.  Finally, an army of Amalekites attacked the Israelites and was about to defeat them until the Lord intervened, bringing victory as long Moses faithfully held his staff high, requiring the aid of his assistants to keep his arms raised, as the Lord prescribed.  (These accounts can be found in Exodus 14-17).

Each one of these crises was an overwhelming challenge at the time. But despite the Lord’s repeated deliverances, rather than developing their faith in Him, the people grumbled and wondered if God was really there. They asked themselves and Moses:

“Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 (ESV)

Many times in my own life, I have been in difficult situations where I needed something to happen and prayed in my spirit for God’s help.  As each crisis was came down to the wire, with no solution in sight, it was easy for me to wonder, “Is the Lord among us or not?”  Then, suddenly, everything I needed to happen would come to pass and the crisis was totally resolved, sometimes just before the deadline.  (As someone has noted, the Lord is never too late to deliver us, but rarely early.)

As deliverance comes, stronger faith follows.  After the crisis is resolved, it is easy to say with all one’s heart, “Praise the Lord!”

I believe the reason God allows these difficult times to come is that He wants us to learn to trust Him, and to praise the Lord, even while still in the midst of the crisis.

Recall a time Jesus was asleep in the back of His disciples’ fishing boat when a life-threatening storm came up.  The boat pitched and rocked on the waves to almost the point of foundering, and the terrified disciples anxiously woke Jesus up to plead with Him for help because they thought they were about to die.  Jesus awoke, calmed the storm, and turned to them, saying:

40 “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  Mark 4:40 (ESV)

This is similar to what happened to the Israelites in the desert.  The necessities of life were vanishing and it looked like death was right at the door.  At least the disciples in the fishing boat turned to Jesus – the people in the desert chose instead to grumble and complain to Moses rather than to actually take their plea to God. And by grumbling to Moses, they were grumbling about God, who had allowed them to be immersed in the crisis in the first place.

In the end, the Lord always comes through to meet all of our needs, whether we deserve it or not.  The Israelites were provided for throughout their forty years in the desert, right up until the time their children were ready to enter the Promised Land of Israel.  Through each challenge that life brought them, God showed that He was there, that He cared for them, and that He was intimately involved in even the smallest detail of their lives.  There were, and are, no gaps in God’s provision for us.

35 The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land.  Exodus 16:35 (ESV)

This is our path of faith in God.  He teaches us to trust Him through every bump in the road along our life’s journey.  Over time, we learn to trust Him more. It is our road of spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.

Grumbling and complaining do not help. By faithfully turning to God and resting in Him and His loving presence, we can begin to experience something like true comfort and peace, even in the midst of our trials and troubles. He has promised to be with us and to safely deliver us safely through our crisis.


What situations are challenging you the most at this moment? 

We have a merciful God, who will comfort us in every way as we go through these trials and provide relief for us as we learn to lean on Him.  Like the Israelites in the desert, He will see us through our hardships and will bring us to a habitable land.

Lord, thank You for being present and merciful in all of my challenges, both large and small. I place each one of them in Your hand. Thank You for delivering me through them, and granting me Your peace. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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