God With Us - Part 2
Even though there are many instances where God interacts with humans in Genesis, we have covered most of those on our previous series of posts on Genesis. Therefore, I will skip ahead to the book of Exodus where we find another strong indication of God’s desire to be with us.
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.
(Exodus 13:21 NKJV)
When Israel left Egypt God was visibly with them. He delivered them from Egypt with a mighty hand and great wonders. The people of Israel can just look up and see the cloud, representing the presence of God with them.
We tend to look back at this story and wonder.
"How amazing it must have been to have experienced God working such wonders and miracles!"
"How incredible it must have been to look up and see a cloud during the day reminding you of God’s presence and care."
"How wonderful to have a pillar of fire at night. Scaring away predators, providing you with a night light, and not to mention a heater during the chilly desert nights."
We wish we could have been there, because if we had that experience our faith would be greater. We believe if we had experienced what the Israelites experienced during the Exodus our faith would be significantly stronger.
If only we could be aware of the presence of God as the children of Israel were during the Exodus, then everything would be different. Or so we tell ourselves.
And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this 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 14:10-12 NKJV)
We want to believe that given the mighty signs and wonders the people of Israel witnessed recently, plus the cloud they could see, would be enough to strengthen their faith and drive away all worry and fear. But they cry out to God and complain to Moses. They claim they would rather have been left in Egypt serving the Egyptians.
Do we ever behave like this? One day we are praising God for delivering us from a great trial, the next day we are complaining about how He has led our life, wishing He had just left us alone in our previous lifestyle?
We may wish we had witnessed the miracles Israel witnessed when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. But perhaps the Israelites at that time, even though they had evidence of God's power and presence, lacked evidence of God's character. Character is revealed over time. Perhaps they thought, if only we could be believers in the 21st century, able to look back on thousands of years of records and stories of God's goodness and love, if they had that kind of evidence then they would believe and not doubt. (We have a tendency to claim it is easier for someone else to believe, while in our circumstance it is much more difficult.)
The truth is that learning to trust is not easy.
Is it coincidence that God called Israel out of Egypt and then brought them through the wilderness? Israel complained but God was avoiding war, (Exodus 13:17-18) God was taking them the best way possible, and they were still complaining.
Thinking about this I began to see a pattern.
God called Abraham out of a city to travel and to live in tents. (Genesis 12)
Jacob spent some time in the wilderness as well. Running away from his brother, then running away from his uncle, he even, literally, wrestled with God in the wilderness. (Genesis 27:41-28:5,10-33:20)
Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness tending sheep. (Acts 7:29-30)
David spent time in the wilderness tending sheep, then again later while king Saul wanted to kill him. (1 Samuel 16:11; 22:1; 23:14ff)
Elijah spent time in the wilderness depending on birds to bring him food twice a day. (1 Kings17:2-7)
Jesus spent some time in the wilderness right after His baptism and before beginning to preach. (Matthew 4) When Satan came to tempt Jesus, Jesus told Satan what we all learn when we go through our wilderness experience.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
(Matthew 4:4 NKJV emphasis mine)
The wilderness experience is not comfortable, away from the comforts of home and the protection of a city. You have to depend on God in the wilderness.
In Exodus we have God wanting to reveal to His children the kind of God that He is. He wants them to know that He will provide for them. But they complain, they don’t want to rely on God daily. Couldn’t God just provide for them in such a way that they would never have to wonder, just always giving them plenty and taking care of all their problems even before they had to ask for help?
The people of Israel would learn about God as they spent time with God.
Do we want to experience God with us or God at a distance? To be called just in case of emergency?
The wilderness experience is always challenging, but it causes us to develop our relationship with God, it teaches us to trust Him and it allows us to face and overcome greater challenges in the future, challenges we would never dare face if it had not been for the lessons we learned during our wilderness experiences.
David had to face lions and bears while tending sheep, but that experience allowed him to face a giant no one else was willing to fight. (1 Samuel 17)
Moses learned to be patient in the wilderness.
Jacob learned to be honest and to refuse to let go of God.
Elijah was able to pray and fire came down from heaven.
Israel was facing their first wilderness experience.
and what does Moses say?
“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today." (Exodus 14:13)
Moses had already had his wilderness experience. Moses was not afraid, he had already learned what God was like, not only what God was capable of but how much God cared about His children.
"The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
- Moses (Exodus 14:14)
We ought to know by now that God will fight for us. But we insist in worrying in the meanwhile. We know He will provide, but we stress until He does.
It’s Christmas season, we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yet we wonder if God really cares?
We wonder if He really loves us?
We wonder if He is really powerful?
So this holiday season. As you see all the decoration people put up and as you hear all the talk about saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, or even the occasional debate about having a Christmas tree or even celebrating it at all, because the Bible is not clear about the date of His birth...
I hope that you can take time to ponder God’s desire to be with us. Not only in a general and impersonal sense, but God’s desire to be with you. To be your Lord and Savior.
Throughout the Bible God has revealed His desire to be with us.
Today, this coming week, will you make clear your desire to be with God? To develop an intimate relationship with Him to really invest into a relationship with Him as opposed to just going through the motions?
It’s up to you.
God has done His part.
It's clear that God wants to be with you. The only question left is do you want to be with Him?