Have you ever had to stay in a place longer than you expected? While in that place, did you feel as if you would never leave? Were you frustrated? Did you find yourself complaining? Did you feel stuck? Did you wonder how you got in that situation in the first place? The children of Israel had an overextended stay in the wilderness and it came as no surprise to God. The question is, why did they end up spending so much time in the wilderness? They were trying to reach a certain destination—the land flowing with milk and honey, but their hearts weren’t conditioned to receive what God had promised. Therefore, they had to spend some time in the wilderness to prepare their hearts for true devotion to God and the land He had promised to give them.
The journey started with a promise from God:
Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Sounds great, huh? Most definitely, but there is more! So how do they get to the promise?
In order to possess the land that was promised by God, God needed people who were willing and obedient to follow His every command. He needed those who had hearts that were devoted to obeying and serving Him. Since God made the covenant with Abraham, Abraham was required to stand in faith and do as God told him to. He had to pack up everything and move to a land that God was sure to show him. But Abraham had a heart conditioned to obey God at any cost.
In Scripture we see that several things happened from the time of Abraham to Moses. With each generation, the children of Israel had something to look forward to, even during their time of harsh labor and bondage in Egypt. As the children of Israel toiled in the scorching sun, I can imagine them wondering where was the God who promised to show them a land far greater than where they currently were. The cries of the people reached God and He raised up Moses to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites” (Exodus 3:7-8).
Even though the children of Israel were in bondage, God’s promise was still relevant. God declared to Moses that he would be the one to lead the people out of Egypt. God also spoke about the promise that had been previously made. So Moses made his way back to Egypt on assignment to deliver the children of Israel. He had to come face to face with Pharaoh, whose heart God hardened. God sent ten plagues against the Egyptians, with the last plague resulting in the death of the firstborn sons. After that plague, Pharaoh finally relented and let the people go. The children of Israel were now ready to take the exodus out of the land of Egypt. After their departure from Egypt, one would think that their hearts would be overflowing with love and gratitude for God. NO! We see otherwise.
God delivered them from Egypt but now Pharaoh and his army are behind them and the Red Sea is before them. The people whined and complained saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is it not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness’” (Exodus 14:11-12). Their hearts did not trust God. They were rebellious. They had been in bondage so long that they didn’t know what freedom was nor did they want to grab on to the changes that were presented with a life of freedom. They complained more and more and didn’t trust in the God who delivered them. As a result, they had an overextended stay in the wilderness. Scripture tells us that it was an eleven days’ journey which ultimately turned into forty years. Wow!
God is preparing us for something far greater than what our minds can comprehend, but if our hearts aren’t right, I don’t believe He would let us grab ahold of something that we aren’t truly ready for. It seemed as if the children of Israel were fine one moment and the next they are back complaining as if they didn’t have a grand promise that would one day be theirs. The very God that was concerned for their welfare was the same God that wanted them to possess Canaan.
God calls us out of something but our heart’s condition keeps us wanting to stay in that place. It seems as if we may have loved where we previously were. We end up wandering around in ungratefulness, doubt, and rebellion. We blame God when it is our own fault that we are in the place that we are in. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter what type of situation we are in, we are to be thankful. Instead of complaining, we should give thanks. Praises should continue to flow from our lips. But we have those moments when we complain more than we give thanks, not realizing that our breakthrough is on the other side of our praise. The children of Israel could’ve praised their way through the wilderness but they chose to do differently. They lacked trust in God.
God delivered us from a world of sin through His Son Jesus. When we come to the times when we have to go through, we tend to complain and want to turn back to our old ways. Our hearts are rebellious and we doubt God and what He has promised us. In our complaining, the very place that God is trying to help our faith in Him grow, results in us staying in that place longer than we should. We now look at it as a place of bondage instead of a place of stretching. That’s also how it is when trying to access promises. We don’t trust God and we miss out on things because our hearts do not trust Him. Instead they trust our situations.
Whatever God has spoken in regards to your life, hold on to it. Speak it! Declare it. Make sure you are reminding yourself that where you currently are isn’t where you will always be. Have a heart of thanksgiving as you go through. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to stay there longer than need be. Make sure your heart truly trusts in the God who delivered you out of your Egypt. You have a destination to lay hold of but you have to stay devoted to God. You have to desire to please Him in all that you do no matter how crazy it may seem. God wants you to continue moving in sync with Him and when you have those time in the wilderness, you will trust Him and not your situation. Not only that, you will learn to stay close to Him and continue to allow your faith to grow as He takes you through. Just because they forgot about God didn’t mean He’d forgotten about them. He was with them every step of the way. Allow your heart to be open to God and the path that He has you on. Remember, He desires to see you through any and every situation just as a loving father does. You just have to make sure your heart is set on staying devoted to Him
Let us get back to the place where our heart is grounded and rooted in God. Let us take heed to every single thing that He has promised us and go through every season with a heart of true devotion and gratitude! Let us trust Him with our whole heart so that we can move to the next point at the specified time and not overextend our stay due to rebellion and a lack of trust. Trust Him.