In the book of Deuteronomy Moses recounts to God’s people all that had happened during the previous forty years of their wandering in the wilderness. That time of suffering began when the adult generation that came out of Egyptian slavery failed to enter the Promised Land as God commanded. The sight of the tall, powerful inhabitants of Canaan filled the Israelites with the fear the Canaanites would kill them and take their children captive. God’s people had no faith God would deliver on his promise and provide victory. So the entire nation wandered in the wilderness for forty years until the population of adults twenty years of age and older died. Of the group that made the exodus out of Egyptian bondage only Caleb, Joshua, and children nineteen years and younger were alive to enter Canaan after forty years in the desert.
Imagine you were there as an Israelite teenager of fifteen and your excitement when you saw Moses perform all those miracles that led Pharaoh to release your people. Only a short eleven day trip from Egypt to Canaan separated you from the great adventure of conquering a land flowing with milk and honey or so you thought. How disappointed you would have been to learn the adults feared to entered the land and that God would force you and your people to wander in the desert for who knows how long. In the wilderness the people faced deprivation, lack of food and water, deadly snakes, and scorpions. Would your disappointment have led you to hate God and resent your parents?
God intended to do much more than mete out punishment. He wanted to build humility, reliance on God, and faith in God. The people needed to be prepared to handle the tremendous prosperity God would deliver in the Promised Land. The wilderness wandering provided the mechanism to prepare God’s people to fulfill his purposes for their lives and to bless them.
15 “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. 16 “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. 17 “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 18 “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:15-18 NASU)
The Bible teaches that those young people who grew up in the wilderness with Moses turned out to be a very faithful generation for their entire lives. They conquered the Promised Land and proved God right. They showed the virtue of doing hard things when those things are ordained by God.
Do you face hard times in life with grace and the conviction that God’s purpose is to make you stronger and more faithful? Or do you complain and lose faith? Allow God to do his work in you so you will be prepared to handle both tough times and future blessings in a God-honoring manner.
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