Desert Wandering – Exodus 16

Have you ever felt like you were wandering around in a desert, without direction, surrounded by trouble and not sure which way to turn?  Many people, even the most devout followers of God, have days like that.

After the Israelites were miraculously freed from slavery by the Lord, He sought to have daily fellowship with them.  He wanted them to have faith in Him, leaning on Him for their daily needs, and no longer seeking the false gods of Egypt.  But when Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the people go and began to chase the Israelites down, they did not know which way to turn.  They were trapped by the Red Sea on one side and by Pharaoh’s advancing army of chariot-riders on the other.  They were in a profound position of powerlessness.

God used this moment to build up the peoples’ faith, proving His love for them, and demonstrating His unbeatable power. He moved from a position ahead of Israelites, where He was leading them forward, to one behind them for their defense.

13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”  Exodus 14:13-14 (ESV)

God fought for them by first parting the Red Sea before their eyes, then sending the Israelites across it. After this, He drowned Pharaoh’s pursuing chariot soldiers by releasing a deluge of water once all the Israelites were safely across.

Deliverance and freedom are wonderful gifts from the Lord.  We can still experience His miraculous freedom from our own particular form of shackles today, exhilarating us and filling us with an overpowering sense of gratitude and joy. But over time, as the extraordinary fades into the ordinary, we once again become aware of the ongoing challenges and needs of our daily lives.  As someone has said, our faith can quickly become, “What have you done for me lately?” 

We ultimately must come down from the spiritual splendor of a mountain top experience with God to re-enter the mundane demands of the “valley”.  Fortunately, God is a God of both the grandest joys and the smallest needs, requirements or trials in our day-to-day lives. This is the fellowship He seeks to have with us.

As the Israelite people advanced into the desert under the direction of the Lord through Moses, they began to refocus on their daily needs and noticed the dwindling supplies of food and water.  New crises presented themselves, and the people of God began to worry, grumble, and complain.

10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”  Exodus 16:10-11 (ESV)

The Lord has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that he will always provide for us if we seek Him in faith.  He has promised to lead us through all the challenges of life to bring us safely through to the other side.

Years ago, I accompanied our church youth group on a hot summer mission trip. While taking a rest after long days of driving, I noticed a giant thunderhead cloud moving before me.  As it boiled and rumbled deliberately across the sky, I had the sense that God Himself was present inside the cloud.  It seemed to me at that moment that the Lord was saying, “Fear not. I am with you”. 

Similarly, the Israelites view of the Lord’s glory in the cloud must have had a calming effect upon the them as they wandered in the desert those many years ago.  He unfailingly provided for them by sending food from heaven, a dew-like manna that formed on the ground each morning for them to gather and bake for bread.  He also led them to fresh drinking water, in one case turning bitter water sweet, and in another, bring forth pure water through a cleft in a rock.

God kept his people alive in the desert for forty years.  He did this for them, and He will surely do the same for us today.  In God’s love for us, we have our source of protection, shelter, and daily support.  As He promised in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”


Are you being stressed by heartache, dwindling provisions, or an overwhelming need?  God loves you and wants to bring you safely through all the valleys of trouble into a place of rest, peace, serenity and security in Him.

Let us pray:

Lord, we turn to You in our powerless wandering through the challenges of our sometimes-desert of life. Be our Rock and our Deliverer. We turn to You for forgiveness at the cross of Christ, leaning upon Jesus for our resurrection, and seeking to walk with You daily as You grant us the protection and provision that we need. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

10 fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

…cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)

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