5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Israelites’ Wandering Years
By Debbie McDaniel
“Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord…” Exodus 17:15-16
In the book of Exodus, we read the story of how God’s people had endured years of bondage under the Egyptians. They were oppressed, abused, mistreated people. They needed rescue, they needed a way of escape. God saw their need, he didn’t miss a thing, and in his perfect timing, he acted on their behalf.
The people of Israel spent 40 years in the desert. 40 years of wandering. 40 years of journeying towards the Promised Land that God had given them. That’s a very long time. The days must have been intense, hot, dry, I'm sure they got weary. But God met them where they were, he made sure they had what they needed. They learned through every hard and grueling step, how much they had to rely on Him.
Here are 5 Things We Can Learn from the Israelites’ Wandering Years in the Desert:
1. The way to our promised land is not always easy, in fact, it rarely is. But it’s worth it.
God had promised his people a land that would be full of blessing. But the way there would stretch their faith and lead them through journeys where they’d have to depend on God like nothing before.
Maybe you feel like the blessing is too long in coming, maybe you feel like giving up. Be assured again today that God is faithful and he will use all things to strengthen our faith and bring goodness to his people. Stay strong, keep pressing through.
2. God will make a way where there doesn’t seem to be a way.
As the Israelites got closer that sea must have looked bigger and deeper. Their eyes focused on the problem. They forgot about the bigness of their God. But God didn’t forget about them.
Even if the way He’s leading doesn’t seem to make much sense and His timing seems off, or the wait feels long, and wandering in desert places is the last thing we want to do, we can trust Him. Always. He knows our way. He sees the big picture. He has good in store.
3. God will lead us day and night.
“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 given them light…” Exodus 13:21
God never left his people alone in their journey. His presence was always there, a reminder to them that they hadn’t been left on their own in the wilderness.
God will not leave us to fend for ourselves, struggling to find our way. He will lead us. He promises to be faithful. We may not see him in a pillar of cloud or fire these days, but we have his Word, and the Holy Spirit to give guidance to our days.
4. God fights on behalf of his people
“Then the angel of God…withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them…” Exodus 14:19
He gives us victory and power even when it doesn’t make sense. After a battle against the fierce Amalekites, when God gave his people a great victory, the Bible says, “Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord…” Exodus 17:15-16
We’re never left to wrestle through on our own in hard places. He doesn’t send us out to fight the enemy in our own strength. He just tells us to be still, to stand strong, and to know he’s fighting on our behalf.
5. God provides in miraculous ways
They were hungry. God sent manna. They were thirsty. God sent water gushing from a rock. Every day a miracle was right before their eyes. They just had to pick up the manna, drink the water, accept the blessing.
And just like the people of Israel had to look to God to meet their needs, so it is with us. They couldn't store it up, they had to look for it daily. And God always provided.
Sometimes we miss the miracles of his provision, out of busyness or stress. We try to get things going too fast all on our own, spinning around, trying to get it all done. Or other times we might start to forget what matters most.
But even for those days, there's His grace. He waits for us. His provision and blessing, they never run dry. Every day, his miracles lie right before our eyes. We just have to choose to look for them and stay close in his presence.
This devotional was taken in part from Debbie McDaniel’s article, Desert Lessons: 7 Things We Can Learn from the Israelites’ Wandering Years. You can read that piece in full here.