Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
There the LORD issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test… Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.’
Exodus 15:25 and 16:4
Given that ‘God tested Abraham’ (Genesis 22:1), it’s perhaps no surprise that Israel follows in the footsteps of their great ancestor in the faith.
In the exodus story, between the crossing of the sea and the arrival at Sinai is a period of about two months during which God provides for the needs of his people in the desert and protects them from threats. Importantly, this is not yet the forty years of wandering in the wilderness that would later come about because of their unwillingness to enter the promised land. In this case, the trek from the sea to Sinai is not a punishment but an opportunity for the people to learn that their ongoing welfare will depend on obedience to and trust in the Lord.
It’s in this sense that the Lord tests his people – not to catch them out or for them to prove they are somehow worthy of his love, but to teach them to ‘pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees’ (15:26). The wilderness becomes a place where God trains them in his ways, shaping them according to his expectations of those who are to be his ‘holy nation’ (19:6), who will represent him to a watching world.
On several occasions, the New Testament describes Israel’s experience in the desert as in some way analogous to the Christian life (1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 3:7-4:11). We too find ourselves in a time and place between deliverance from our slavery and arrival at our final destination.
Some circumstances in life provide us with greater opportunities to trust God and his presence with us, his provision for us. Perhaps you’ve been through one or more of those situations already. Perhaps you’re in the middle of one right now. The exodus stories remind us not to judge God’s faithfulness by our circumstances. It’s all too easy for us, as for the exodus generation, to evaluate our situation by what we think is lacking, to forget all that God has already done for us and his promise to keep us.
But more than that: to train us through those moments, to move us to a yet deeper appreciation of his ways. And to do this for us not merely as individuals but as communities of faith, that we may be the people he has called us to be for the sake of the world in which we live.
Our brand new Bible study resource, Exodus: Freedom to Serve God is written by Antony Billington and available to pre-order now.