There were four books in the Bible that spoke of the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Exodus speaks of the Israelites’ deliverance into the wilderness, and Leviticus of the time they spent receiving God’s law at Mount Sinai. Numbers largely concerns the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land, and Deuteronomy concerns the Israelites entering the Promised Land under Joshua’s direction. Throughout their journey, we see the Israelites worship God, mess up, experience God’s discipline, mess up again, and experience God’s blessing and healing. Their journey can give us a few lessons to take with us as we learn how to step out in faith and trust that God knows the way.
In This Article:
- Do We Have the Faith of the Israelites?
- What Lessons Can We Learn From the Israelites’ Mistakes?
- What Will Our Desert Look Like?
Do We Have the Faith of the Israelites in the Desert?
The reason the Israelites spent so long in the wilderness is because their faith was not very strong. They struggled again and again, worshipping a golden calf instead of God, complaining about the food God provided, rebelling against Moses and Aaron, worshipping pagan gods and more.
Eventually, their unbelief and rebellion became so bad that God ordered them to wander in the wilderness for forty years, during which time the generation of people who rebelled against God and refused to believe in his promises would die.
We are not all that much different. How many times has God asked us to step out in faith so we can receive his blessings and we have refused? We often do this because we are afraid. We are afraid that God’s promises won’t look the way we want them to, afraid of the spiritual warfare that takes place when we begin to do what God wants us to do, and afraid of the long, hard road we must walk to get to the future God has for us. We fear the future because we don’t have all the answers, so we would rather go our own way, where we can at least see and anticipate our next step.
The Israelites fell into this trap. They couldn’t see the Promised Land — all they could see was either the wilderness in front of them or the powerful armies roaming the land. They were afraid that they would die, so again and again they rebelled against God and refused to accept their inheritance.
Here’s our choice: God values free will. If we choose to not believe and instead go our own way, God will allow us to. This choice will lead to destruction — just as it did for the Israelites — but God allows us to walk that path. If we choose to step out in faith, though, God will transform us. He will take our fear and turn it into peace. He will take our messy lives and clean them up for his glory, just as he did with the Israelites when he destroyed the rebellious generation of Israel and replaced it with a faithful one.
So, the question is: are we, like the Israelites, willing to step out in faith and all the risks that come with the uncertainty, and allow God to prune us into the people he wants us to be? Our future will lie in the decisions we make when God calls us to walk with him.
What Lessons Can We Learn From the Israelites’ Mistakes?
We may have the courage to step out in faith like the Israelites did, but just like them, we will make mistakes. The best way to learn how to act when God calls us to step into the wilderness of sin is by learning from the mistakes of those who already did.
Lessons From the Golden Calf
One of the first major sins of Israel was their response when Moses stayed at the top of Mount Sinai for a long time. Instead of waiting for Moses to return, Israel began to believe that Moses wasn’t coming back and asked priest Aaron to make a god for them. Aaron took their gold and used it to make a golden calf, which Israel worshipped and committed sins in the name of.
When God calls us to wait for him to fulfill a promise, we can use this story as a reminder to maintain our faith. Instead of finding idols to keep us company during our waiting periods, we can keep praying and keep seeking out God, because he hasn’t forgotten us.
When God’s Path for Us Looks Scary
In Numbers 13, the Israelites reached the Promised Land and God sent twelve scouts to explore it. The scouts saw the armies roaming the Promised Land, and their fear overwhelmed their faith and inspired them to rebel against Moses and Aaron. God punished them by dooming them to wander the wilderness for forty years, during which time the rebellious generation of Israel would die and be replaced by a new generation that was faithful to the Lord.
Though the Promised Land was full of powerful armies and men who looked like giants, God promised to deliver the land to Israel. When the future that God has prepared is frightening enough to turn us from God’s path, we need to trust in God’s power and his plan for our lives. He will take care of us, and he will prune and discipline us until he deems that we are ready for the life he has promised.
What About Our Friends?
At the end of the Israelites’ wandering, they camped at the edge of Canaan, where they were exposed to the sin of the surrounding people. In Numbers 25, a local group of people, the Moabites, convinced the men of Israel to have intercourse with their women and worship the Moabite gods. Their sin angered God, who ordered the execution of the Israelites who engaged in the sin.
This is a striking example of what we should not do during a waiting period. When God calls us to fulfill his purpose, we need to be careful about who we spend our time with and how we spend that time. If our social circles lead us to sin against the Lord, we should reconsider spending time with them. This requires prayer and time spent with God, who will show us who he wants us to spend our time with.
What Will Our Desert Look Like?
God has a plan to get you from the place you are right now to the place he has assigned for you. The road to get there may be your desert, and this can look different for everyone. For some people, their calling is to enter ministry or another career path that the Lord has assigned to them. For others, it’s to go to the school or country that not many people think they should. For some, it’s to marry and have children, and for others, it’s to remain single. Either way, taking the road that God has assigned requires faith. If you choose to follow God’s road for your life, he will lead you to your Promised Land.
The road won’t be easy. Many times, people who take a step out in faith can’t see what lies ahead, and so one must trust in the promise that God has made to them. For the Israelites, their road was long, arduous and required a faith that can move mountains.
Just like the Israelites, the enemy will stand against us. He’ll tempt us with our worst sins, sow rebellion and doubt into our minds, and refuse to allow us to continue. With God, though, we can continue forward. As Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Paul’s words are proof that God provides strength to those who trust him and follow his will.
God’s will for your life can be anything. If you feel that his journey for you starts with a theology and ministry degree at Grand Canyon University, fill out the form above to explore degree programs that are right for you.
Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Office of Spiritual Life on March 29, 2023
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.