Forty Years in the Wilderness

The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people (Amos 3:2), and God gave them abundant evidence of his love and special favor. He brought them out of Egypt, delivered them from the pursuing Egyptian army at the Red sea and gave them his Law at Sinai.
God had promised them the land of Cannan. “The LORD spoke to Moses, ‘Depart, go up … to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite.” (Exod. 33:1,2, New American Standard Bible) All Israel had to do was to trust and obey.

When they reached the land, they sent out spies. Upon their return, Caleb, who had a strong faith, said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it.” (Num. 13:30, English Standard Version) The report of the other ten spies was discouraging. Upon hearing the evil report, the Israelites’ faith in God wavered and they wanted to return to Egypt. “So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed.”—Num. 32:13, NASB

While Israel journeyed in the wilderness, God provided for all their needs. He fed them with manna, caused refreshing waters to come from barren rock, and led them through the desert with the pillar of cloud and of fire. During their sojourn, neither their shoes nor their clothes wore out. Still, Israel murmured against God, but God faithfully brought them to the promised land. God keeps his promises: the promises he made to Abraham, along with his promises to bless and punish Israel.

Paul writes that these events are recorded for our instruction, that we may endure and escape temptation. (1 Cor. 10:11–13) Israel’s experiences have important lessons for Christians. We have been invited on a journey to a new, heavenly Canaan. There are trials and difficulties along the way. But our God has promised us, just as he promised Moses, that his presence shall go with us. He will test our loyalty and our faith in him. Shall we forget all the way he has led us and the great deliverances in our past? Surely not! Have faith in God.

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