Nehemiah 9:21, NIV
“For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.”
Recently I was preparing a teaching series on Moses and I found myself completely amazed at the remarkable way in which God provided for His people during their time in the desert! It is estimated that the two million Israelites (and their cattle!) trudging through the wilderness would have needed two million gallons of water and six hundred tonnes of food per day, to sustain them in the dry and hostile environment they were living in. What an unbelievable feat for God to provide such huge amounts of food and water, day after day for forty long years.
How amazing that the manna and quail were delivered, day after day for forty years! How amazing that the people had sufficient water to drink, day after day for forty years! How amazing that even their shoes did not wear out! What do you think was the greater miracle – miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, or the day by day provision of God in the desert? When we are praying for our daily needs and really looking to God for a miracle, how often do we overlook the miracle of God’s provision for the Israelites in the desert?
God sustained the needs of His people, on an ongoing basis, even as they dwelt in the most hostile of environments. Day by day He fed them, maintained their clothing and gave them water to drink. Let’s remember this astounding miracle of continued provision each time we come before our Father in heaven, asking for our daily bread as Jesus has taught us to do (Matthew 6:11).
We can read in Exodus a detailed account of the many miracles that preceded and accomplished the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. However, out in the wilderness, the people of God fell quickly into rebellion and mistrust. They did not follow the Lord wholeheartedly and as a result all those who were over the age of twenty years (at the time of the Exodus) were barred from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 32:11–12). Instead, they spent the remainder of their lives in the desert and it was reserved for the younger generation to enter into the Promised Land in their place.
How sad for Moses (in particular) that after all He had done in obedience to the Lord he was disallowed from entering the Promised Land. Disobeying the instruction of God, Moses struck the rock with his staff in order to provide water for the people, when God had instructed him only to speak to the rock. He then took the credit for this provision himself, rather than glorifying God who was the true provider. As a consequence of this sin, He was barred from entering the Promised Land. Yet, wonderfully, when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain on the day of transfiguration, Moses was finally able to enter Promised Land himself (Matthew 17:1–13)!
The distance from Egypt to Canaan was only about a two week direct journey. Yet because of their disobedience to God the generation of Israelites who were delivered from Egypt wandered in the desert for 40 years. Do you realise that if you walked seven and a half hours per day for forty years you could walk around the entire world eight times in forty years? None of us want to walk around Sinai for forty years because of disobedience.
I imagine it was quite difficult for the Israelites to keep on moving – they moved around forty times in forty years and never traversed the same place twice. The average person in the west today moves just eight times in their life. I think we would find it quite difficult if the pillar of cloud kept moving and we had to pack up all our stuff and start again somewhere new every year. Yet, today God calls us to be willing to go wherever He leads. However difficult that is, the best thing we can do is to immediately follow.
There is an old chorus that says: ‘My Lord knows the way through the wilderness and all I have to do is follow. Strength for today is mine all the way and all I need for tomorrow’. Let’s be encouraged today to follow the Lord, wherever He leads us, and to trust in Him to provide for us and sustain us daily, in every place that He leads us through.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the daily miracles of provision and protection that You give to me. Help me never to take these for granted and to know that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Help me to follow You whenever You call me to move on in Your journey for me, and to trust in You for my daily needs, wherever I go with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.