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God’s presence in the wilderness

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. Exodus 13:17-18

The word “Exodus” means the “road out.” When the Israelites left the life of bondage out of Egypt, it was all under divine guidance. This was very evident when God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He used Moses through several miracles to prove that God was more powerful than Pharaoh and that the Israelites should trust Him. From the text, the Israelites were now on their way to the Promised Land. But God commanded them not to take the shortest route for they will encounter the Philistines. And as God told Moses what could happen when they are faced with formidable foe; “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Instead God took them to a route that will bring them to the Red Sea. This was God’s way of deepening their faith and to strengthen their resolve to obey God. This was also to prepare them as they encounter difficult challenges that could shake their faith. They would face difficult challenges, hostile foes and experiences of war. The wilderness years would be years of formation, of development, of maturing and of learning. They listened to God through the instructions given to them by Moses. God assured them of His presence. “The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night” (Exodus 13:21). But not long after despite God’s presence with them that they doubted Him and told Moses that they would be better off staying in Egypt when they reached the Red Sea and realized that Pharaoh and his soldiers were after them. “As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:10-12) Then Moses reminded them that they can place their hopes in God for they already have proven that God is faithful. Just like us, when God calls us to obey we have to abide. This is the only way we can grow in our faith and prove that He is true to His word. Do not allow your memories of God’s faithfulness be driven out by the difficulties you are facing.


Noel De Guzman

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