Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went for three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” He cried out to the LORD; and the LORD showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
It is easy to imagine that once Pharaoh finally let the Children of Israel go they would have thought the Promised Land was just around the corner. Instead, they leave behind the lush, beautiful, verdant land of Egypt, the Valley of the Nile, to enter into a desert waste, furiously hot, treeless, and with bitter water. They would have been struck by the stark contrast between the rich, fertile land they left behind and the scorching wilderness where God’s pillar of cloud and fire was leading. God promised them a land of “milk and honey” and gives them the Wilderness!
But the Israelites are not just wandering in the Wilderness. The Exodus is more than a journey in time and space, but a journey towards transformation. It is one thing to get the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt, and another thing to get the bondage of Egypt out of them. The Wilderness is a school of the soul, a crucible for their growth and maturation. It will at times seem as though God has abandoned them. But the Wilderness is necessary to cultivate reliance on God, and an honest relationship with Him.
Our growth will also require Wilderness time. Often when we leave our “Egypt” behind, whether a hurtful relationship, demeaning job, enslaving addiction, or any kind of loss, we expect God to immediately lead us to something new. Instead, we find ourselves in a kind of “no-man’s land” betwixt the old and the new. The Wilderness can leave us worrying about our finances, our future, our families, and our faith. But the Holy Spirit leads us into the Wilderness, no less than He leads the Israelites to be schooled by God. The way of the Lord is through the Wilderness.
- Most everyone experiences Wilderness times. Would you say that you are in the Wilderness right now, coming out of the Wilderness, or, can see a Wilderness coming up ahead?
- What does Wilderness feel like to you?
- What do you sense that God might be saying to you in the Wilderness times?
- What do you want to say to God about the Wilderness times?