Promise. Blessing. Abundance. These words describe what the Promised Land represents. They are opposite, however, of what the wilderness represents.
In Exodus 3, we see that God has seen the affliction of his people Israel. They were slaves in Egypt, and they had been crying out for him to deliver them. In verses 7 and 8 of chapter 3 is says “Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
“A good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”. The Promised Land. A place that is good, full of promise and blessing and even abundance.
However, before Israel was able to get into this land that God told them of, they had to make their way through the wilderness. A place that would not be described as good and full of promise and blessing and abundance. Words that describe what the wilderness represents would include difficulty and scarcity.
One thing that makes the wilderness a difficult place is the scarcity of proper food and water. In chapters 15-17 of Exodus, we see this played out in the lives of the Israelites…they needed water and there was no good source for them, and they needed food and there wasn’t anything adequate for them.
We also see something else played out in these chapters. God took care of them, performing miracles to provide and bless them with the water and food they needed. When water was bitter, he made it sweet and drinkable (Exodus 15:22-25). When there was no water at all, he provided it miraculously (Exodus 17:1-7). And when there was no food, God delivered again.
In Chapter 16 of Exodus, it tells us that God sent Quail into the camp of Israel for meat, and provided a flake-like substance they called “manna” that could be used for bread. “In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. ” (Exodus 16:13-15)
The Israelites were commanded to only take what they needed for that day, and each day more would be there for them to collect. If they collected too much, the excess went bad. They had to trust God each day for what they needed, and each day God delivered. Even though they were in the wilderness, where food and water were scarce, the Israelites had what they needed for the day to survive.
The Promised Land was where the journey was leading. That is the land that is good, the land that provided promise and had abundance. However, to get to that place, they first had to travel through the wilderness.
If you read the story of Israel in the wilderness, you see a few different consistent themes happening. One of them is that Israel consistently complained. To be honest, I get that. I’m pretty sure I would have complained too! We all would have. No one likes to be in a place that is best described by words such as scarcity and difficulty. Like Israel, we too would want to get to that place that is described as good and full of abundance.
The second thing you see happening consistently is that God continually provided for them, often in miraculous ways. He knew they needed water, and he provided when there was no water. He knew they needed to eat, so he provided food for them when there was no food around.
We all go through seasons in life that are best described as a wilderness. It seems as though everything is surrounded by difficulty, and often the things we need to get through life are in scarce supply. Bills are hard to cover. Often debt begins to mount up. Purchasing things such as food and gas, basic necessities of life, are way more stressful than we would like them to be. We never have enough time to take care of all the things in our life that we need to. We have minimal energy, little time for fun, good friends seem to be in short supply, and so on. During the wilderness season of life, it’s honestly a daily struggle just to survive.
During that season of life, it is very easy and tempting for us to long for the time when we will reach the Promised Land…the season of life that is full of promise and blessing and even abundance. We see others around us being able to pay for things, go on trips and afford fun, have times of rest, and truly thriving in life rather than just surviving. We see that, and we long for it. If only we could get to a place where we have everything we want, and life seems to be under control, then everything would be so much better and life wouldn’t be such a struggle.
While we are in the wilderness, if we only spend our time longing for the Promised Land, we will miss out on seeing something amazing. We will miss seeing and recognizing that even in the wilderness, God still provides us with blessings.
God provided water and food for Israel while they were in the wilderness. And God will provide for us too.
How do I know this to be true? Because I’ve been in the wilderness the past 2 years, and while I do look forward to someday reaching whatever the Promised Land may be in my life, I can’t deny the fact that God has continually provided me with what I’ve needed to survive. I’ve had to learn what true needs are and what really aren’t needs during this time as well, which hasn’t been easy. However, my true needs, God has provided for…sometimes seemingly out of thin air.
God still blesses us, even while we are in the wilderness. His blessings don’t stop just because we are in a difficult place. And, our journey through the wilderness also helps us learn to trust God for everything we need that he blesses us with, as well as to be thankful for every blessing he gives us.
May we not miss out on seeing God’s blessings while in the wilderness. May our eyes be open so we can recognize all that God is doing in our lives, even while in the wilderness of life. May we see, recognize, and be thankful for his blessings.