We all want to begin the new year with a fresh start, a clean slate, a new planner with blank pages. We clean the house, get rid of all the unworn clothes in our closet, and make a list of habits that are going to be our new habits. And then by February 1 we’ve spilt coffee on the planner, and we’ve realized we don’t really need to get up at 5 am, so why bother?
We love the idea of taking charge of ourselves and our lives. We want to be autonomous in our days and make all the decisions ourselves.
I see a streak of this independence in the Israelites as they begin to wander the desert in Exodus. They’ve come from the oppressive rule of the Egyptians and into the freedom of the land. But now that they are on their own, not everything is as wonderful as they might have thought it would be. They did not step straight from Egypt into the Promised Land; they had some struggles to endure and work through first.
The Israelites leave just to find the Egyptians chasing them to bring them back (Exodus 14). They are quick to give up at the first sign of trouble. They tell Moses, “‘For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’” (v. 12). How often have I tried something hard or new just to throw up my hands and claim, “I can’t; it’s too hard”? I’m so glad our God is a patient and loving God for us just as He was for the Israelites.
Moses responds to the despondent Israelites, “‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today’” (v. 13) and God responds to us in the same way. No matter what our goals might be God is there for us. Whether it’s His plan for us to lose those 10 pounds or finally set boundaries with time in our ministries or something else, God will help us when we seek Him and trust in His plan. What was His plan for the Israelites when the Egyptians were pursuing them? It’s a story we all know; He parted the Red Sea and the Israelites walked through on dry land witnessing a grand miracle. God had a plan all along for them, and He does for us too.
The Israelites had some learning and some growing to do. Just take a look at the teen chapters of Exodus and you’ll see they spend a lot of time struggling with their new lives and adjusting to following the Lord. But God was there with them through all the struggles and failures, just as God is there for us as we struggle and reach for new and better things.
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