“When will this be over?” That's the question I hear from my kids on a regular basis as they are eager to get back to normal life. Honestly, I have asked that same question with the impact of COVID-19 on our world today.
Though COVID-19 is new to our world, this question “When will this be over?” isn't. It’s the question many of us have asked as we have experienced seasons of sickness, family strife, grief, job loss, anxiety, and uncertainty about what the future holds. I don’t write that to minimize what we were feeling in facing today, but simply to point out the reality that we all find ourselves from time to time asking the question “When will this be over?”
It's a question certainly the Israelites asked as they wandered in the desert for 40 years.
In the book of Exodus we read about how God freed His people out of Egypt, a place where they had been enslaved for nearly 400 years. After sending the tenth and final plague, Pharaoh finally let God’s people go.
It’s important to note that God did not lead His people, a group of nearly 2 million people, on the short path to the Promised Land, rather He took them on a much longer path. This path included finding themselves stuck between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's approaching army. And multiple occasions where the people wondered about where they would find water or food as they wandered trough the desert. Surely many of them asked the same question that we are “when will this be over?” On multiple occasions the Israelites complained and expressed how they wanted to turn back to being slaves, the only life they knew.
Exodus 13:17 explains why God took them on the longer route. The shorter route, which may appear more convenient and direct, would lead them through enemy territory. God knew they would be challenged with war and may choose to return to Egypt. They would then miss the blessings of the Promised Land. But in leading them on the longer path the Israelites experienced God’s power and presence as He protected them from invading armies, parted the Red Sea, brought water out rocks, provided food every morning and was able to instruct them on how best to love Him and others. It was uncomfortable and incredibly long, painful and sorrowful, but full of God’s instruction and completely necessary.
Let me leave you with the words that Moses shared with the Israelites just prior to God parting the Red Sea and delivering His people. As the Israelites began the long path, they found themselves pinned between the Red Sea and an Egyptian army that was quickly approaching. While everything looked hopeless, Moses said this in Exodus 14:13-14, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
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