When the going gets tough, the tough get…..
We all go through tough times. We often find ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable, uncertain, and insecure, but God wants to teach us important lessons as He leads us through a shaping process. Process is key. Lessons of trust and faith are not learned instantly. We learn lessons of faith and trust over time and often through unsettling experiences. It is a long process. God takes His time, to bring us from the tough place into something better. This was the case for the Israelites and Moses.
The area of Goshen, a huge region of ancient Egypt, east of the Nile delta, had been granted to Joseph, Jacob and their descendants by the Pharaoh, and inhabited by the Israelites until the Exodus and their escape. It was a place of separation from Egyptian culture, and a place of comfort and plenty, a land suitable for crops and livestock, granted to them by the favour of Pharaoh. It was in Goshen, that the people had settled for over 400 years but had also endured years of slavery.
But when the children of Israel were dramatically delivered from Egypt, God was going to take them across the Sinai Peninsula, a desert area of vast size, into the wilderness and there His lessons in trust would begin. When Pharaoh saw that the escaping Israelites were heading into the wilderness he surely felt confident that he could stop them in their tracks. Pharaoh believed “they are entangled in the land – the wilderness has shut them in”. In his mind, the desert and the wilderness would be the end of the escaping Israelites and they would be recaptured and brought back to Egypt. But at the Red Sea, God delivered them in a dramatic way and continued to guide them by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
The Israelites were then taken to the wilderness, to Shur, a journey of three days and thirty-three miles. As they found no water there, at this point, the murmuring and complaining began. They continued to Marah where again their need for water was now urgent, but the water there was bitter and undrinkable. By this time, the people were complaining about Moses himself and pleading, “what shall we drink?” When Moses cried to the Lord, the Lord showed him how to turn the water sweet and it was here at Marah, that the Lord “proved them”.
Travelling on to Elim, the hungry people again complained and murmured. God again intervened and provided quail in the evening and manna in the morning-enough food for each day’s needs- no more and no less.
At Rephidim, the trouble and disquiet started again, as again, there was no water to be found.
Therefore, the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But, the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” Exodus 17
It was at Mount Horeb that Moses struck the rock and the waters flowed to satisfy the thirst of the people and their livestock. At each point in the journey to the Promised land, this new beginning, new challenges appeared for the Israelites, their hearts failed them, and they looked back to what they once had, but God always made new provision. God was faithful to his promises. God is always faithful.
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise. Isaiah 43 v 18-21
The desert is beautiful. What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.
Then, on the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If any man is thirsty, he can come to me and drink! The man who believes in me, as the scripture says, will have rivers of living water flowing from his inmost heart.” (Here he was speaking about the Spirit which those who believe in him would receive. John 7 v 37
Father God, I like my comfortable place, the familiar, the safe, the secure. I don’t like the unknown, the shifting sand, the stepping out into a strange and uncertain future. When things are hard, I complain and murmur and doubt and accuse and find fault. I want to go back to the safe space.
Help me to trust you and your plan for my life. The route that you have planned is a good one, a perfect one with precious lessons for me to learn. But I am impatient. I want to arrive quickly. Help me to stick with the journey and not look back.
I am parched and dry. Those around me in family, community, church and world are thirsty for something real, for living water. You have promised water in the dry and wilderness places. You are faithful.