Sometimes in the wilderness, it is hard to discern when God is speaking. Wandering people often cannot decipher truth from error. When wandering with no clear direction, it is easy to lose hope. When Cain was sent to wander, he knew that losing his connection with God would result in death. He said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me (Gen. 4:13-14 NIV).”
Death is the ultimate result when people lose hope in the wilderness. Sometimes they let go of dreams, relationships, end marriages, quit careers, and flee to other parts of the country. Sometimes death is much more significant and permanent than that.
Here is a lesson from the Israelites: They refused to obey God. They insisted on having their own way. The Bible often refers to them as “stiff-necked people.” Not only were they prone to wander; they continued in sin and wandered aimlessly away from God. For that reason, God abandoned them from his presence. He sent them into the wilderness to die! For 40 years they circled the desert as bodies dropped to the ground around them. Can you imagine going to a funeral everyday for the rest of your life? That’s exactly what happened to the older Israelites.
Yet we read narratives like this in the Bible and wrongfully assume, “God doesn’t respond like that today. He is a God of grace, love, and mercy [which he is].” God stood for grace, love, and mercy even then. At the same time, God also stood for righteousness, holiness, and justice. The New Testament deaths of Ananias and Sapphira are clear indications of this truth (Acts 5:1-11). We should reverence God because he still says:
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (excerpt Exodus 20:5)
Do not ignore the Lord’s teachings. The Apostle Paul wrote about warnings from Israel’s history in 1 Cor. 10:1-13:
“Now these things [concerning Israel] occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did (verses 6 and 11).”
He continues by reminding those in the church of Corinth and us: Do not test the Lord. Do not complain.
He concludes his warning with a word of hope. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (verse 13).”
Here’s the hope: You are not alone. God is faithful. He provides ways for us to live right before him. Take the way out, stand with God, and live!
Do not let go. Do not willfully continue in sin, for the punishment for sin is death. Do not die in the wilderness. Do not lose hope.
Look for God. Humble yourself and pray.
Let us pray:
Dear God, I pray for my friends today. May they carefully follow every command you give so that they may increase in love and possess the vision, work, and life you have for them. May they remember the Israelites time in the wilderness and humble themselves before you. As you test them to know what’s in their hearts, may they remember that we cannot live on bread alone but on every word that comes from your mouth. May they feast on your Word daily. May they love your ways and meditate on your Word all day long (Psalm 119:97). May they continue in prayer and trust you without wavering. In Jesus Name, Amen.
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012