One of the greatest privileges in my life right now is teaching Foundation’s Bible Study twice a month. Presently, we are going through a chronological study through the Old Testament. The main purpose is twofold. One is to give us a sense of how one event leads to another. These are not a series of flannel-graph stories, but a line of God’s grace that weaves through lives and events. That leads to our second purpose: to see God’s continuing faithfulness and love. These stories are given to us so that we can learn of God’s goodness and His fierce standard of holiness.
It seems that every time I read through the Old Testament, I see new themes, new threads woven throughout the narrative. One thing that I have noticed this time around is the process that God takes His people through before leading them into Promised Land. Certainly, God could have marched them straight out of the Red Sea and around Jericho. But this was a people that went from the hundreds when the sons of Jacob were driven by drought to the storehouses of God’s provision in Egypt, to a population over 1 million, roughly equivalent to the population of New Hampshire.
When God brought His people out of slavery, He had to make them into a new people. He needed to teach them who He was and how He wanted to be worshiped. When they would enter the land of Canaan, the people of the land would be in awe of a nation that had a God that communicated to them. Those nations were left to guess as to what they had done wrong to not have it rain, leaving their crops dry. When it did rain, they were left to analyze what they had done that had brought such good fortune from their gods.
God would also show His people that they must depend upon Him for everything. Things that we take for granted today, food and water, were hard to find in quantities enough to feed a nation wandering through the arid wilderness. God took those hardships as exercises to increase their muscle of faith. When they needed food, God would send enough for what they needed that day. When they needed water, He made it come out of a rock. God gave them enough for that day because He knew the temptation of the human heart is to grab for security and provision outside of God.
The path through the wilderness was certainly not the easiest road. God’s endless power shows us it could have been ‘easier’. But it would not have been better. They would not have learned to depend on Him for their daily bread. They would not have had a functional knowledge of God’s provision and goodness.
We want to learn things the easy way, but that is often not the best way. My wife and I have a saying, “Hard is not bad.” Hard times and trials are not chapters in our lives that we would choose to write for ourselves, but they are integral to our growth. In those chapters, we learn of God’s provision, goodness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, and unwavering faithfulness. That is exactly what God was teaching His people as He brought them through the wilderness.