There are two types of sand – the first squishes playfully between your toes, while foam-tipped ocean waves caress your perfect pedicure. The second? Agonizing. Endless. Heartbreaking. Nothing but desert as far as the eye can see, in every direction. Maybe your business was booming, or your career was flourishing, and now it’s come to a complete standstill. Is this a closed door, and a sign that your time in this area is over? Crumpled in a heap smack-dab in the middle of our sand dune, we lift our heads enough to glance around and ask “How did we get here, and worse yet, how on earth do we get out?”
Maybe you’ve been walking through this desert so long you don’t even remember what it’s like to walk on the green grass. Questions swirl through your mind with each new sandstorm – why hasn’t God answered my prayer for purpose? Doesn’t God want me to provide for my family? If God wanted me here, wouldn’t this be easier? Wouldn’t I know for sure? And yet you hear nothing, so you wander another day, through the desert, half-hearted in your attempt, beat down and broken.
Stop wandering. Stop wondering. Let’s talk.
How did you get to your desert? I know how the Israelites came to theirs. It’s a long story, but each piece is important. God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a land of their very own.
He promised to Jacob, “I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 48:4)
Joseph (Jacob’s son), his brothers, and their families were living in Egypt – a foreign land to them – where Joseph was governor. A famine had overtaken their homeland, and by no coincidence, they were welcomed to the land that their brother governed. In this foreign, yet peaceful land, the Israelites prospered, and had babies, jobs, and homes.
A Jealous New King
Exodus 1:9 (NIV) says, “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
But still, God showed His favor on His people.
A New Decree….
Pharaoh hatched a fabulous plan. Pacing the palace walls, overlooking his kingdom, he’d undoubtedly found a way to end their growth. Calling the Hebrew midwives together, he ordered that every baby boy be killed at birth. Murdered. Not just murder that he committed, but murder that he demanded of the midwives. With no baby boys, surely the population would cease growth and, while not as immediate as he’d like, eventually they would die off.
Exodus 1 tells us: 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” 19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
Pharaoh, in desperation, again paced the palace floor. If subtle murder wouldn’t do to trick, he’d bring it right out in the open for everyone to see. “Fine! If the midwives can’t make it happen, I’ll find someone who can!” He made a law that every person in Egypt had full authority to kill the baby boys. “Throw them in the Nile! But let the girls live.” The Egyptian people were filled with hate for the Hebrews. First slavery, now a guilt-free, consequence-free demand to kill the people they loved to hate. What more could an Egyptian ask for? Pharaoh’s plan was two-fold. First, create fear in the hearts of the Hebrew people to procreate at all! Second, with fewer means to procreate, eventually, the baby girls would take the place of their men in the slave pits, and an entire people group would be wiped out, just as satan planned.
Mercy At The Palace
Trust in her God.
Pretend you were able to keep him hidden, but now it was time to leave your 3-month old in the middle of nowhere, hoping someone would come and rescue him. Could you? Jochebed did just that – she made a basket that would float in the river, to keep Moses safe. She watched helplessly as he floated down the Nile – that same river that had swallowed up countless Hebrew baby boys in a death that had been commanded of the Egyptian population. That basket would travel down the river right into the hands of the daughter of the Pharaoh – the one who had made the decree in the first place! But mercy doesn’t always look the way we think it does, nor does God’s plan follow ours. The very person that was called to nurse the young baby until he was weaned? Jochebed. After which, Moses would live in the palace, adopted into royalty. Jochebed was simply trying to preserve the life of one child. Little did she know this baby boy would, with God’s help, deliver all of Israel.
Death and Desperation
Meanwhile, Egypt continued to oppress the Hebrew slaves – even in the middle of the street! One day, Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, and stepped in. Anger overcame him – anger for his people, his family, and the circumstances, and he killed the Egyptian. Thinking no one saw, he went out about his business until the next day, when he came to two Hebrew men fighting.
(Exodus 3:13) He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”14 The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Fear gripped Moses. Here he’d done something FOR his fellow Hebrews, but they never saw it as a favor, and even his own people wouldn’t keep him safe from judgment. Pharaoh set out to kill him, and Moses fled Egypt to Midian to escape certain death for the second time. With no place for him even in the foreign land of his parents, Moses had good reason to doubt his future. He shouldn’t have – God had a plan for him that involved going back to Pharaoh and pleading for the freedom of his people. Moses would have a visit from God himself in the form of a burning bush, and would guide Moses to go back and save his people. Unqualified and lacking confidence in his ability to sway the Pharaoh, none of that would matter, because God promised to be right by Moses’ side.
Imagine you were born and shouldn’t have been. Imagine you weren’t killed and should have been. Imagine fleeing a nation that despised you, and living the life of an exile. Now imagine GOD asks you to go back to the very nation that despised you, the very king who wanted to kill you, the very king who demanded your death by infanticide, and demand that he give you your way. Would you go? That’s what God asked Moses to do. His request to leave came with warnings and curses, each one worse than the last if Pharaoh didn’t set God’s people free. Ten in all. The Nile turning into blood, plagues of frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the final straw, death of the firstborn would drive Pharoah to relent, and be rid of whatever it was that brought these plagues on his people. Pharaoh was used to gods – the people of that time worshipped many of them!
Exodus 5 says: “2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.””
But this God would be different. Plague after plague rained down upon the Egyptians until finally the people themselves begged the Israelites to go! Realizing that the God of Israel could wipe out their very existence, Pharaoh relented and set them free. Now, God is by no means clueless. He knew it would have been easy for them to turn back.
In Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
I know sometimes I feel like I’m taking the long road to get somewhere, but in this case it was not only true, it was deliberate! God took them the long way so they wouldn’t chicken out in following His plan for them.
Changed Their Minds
You’d think the story would end there, but it’s only just begun. Pharoah’s anger again boiled within him. As soon as Moses and the Israelites left, the plagues stopped. Pharaoh never intended to set the people free forever – he’d only agreed to a 3-day sabbatical! He looked down at his plundered, slave-less kingdom, and realized they weren’t coming back!
He said (Exodus 14) “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
He chased the Hebrews until they reached the Red Sea, wall of water in front of them, angry army sent to kill them behind. And what did God say? “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Tell them to walk right through the adversity. Tell them to keep going and I’ll make a way – and he did! God miraculously made a path unseen through the middle of the river. His people crossed on dry land, while the Egyptian army hot on their heels perished. Crossing over, the tired, cranky bunch saw that God had provided for them.
Exodus 14:31 tells us: “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
You see, they didn’t go to the desert because they wanted to, and fully trusted God to take care of them. They put their trust in God and Moses’ leadership after they were IN the desert. They saw a barrier behind them and miles upon miles of desert in front of them, one that would take them 40 years to cross.
Now How About Our Desert
I think it’s safe to assume that we don’t want to stay in our “desert” for 40 years. Like the Israelites, you probably didn’t ask God to bring you to the desert! But aren’t we just like them? Maybe we aren’t beaten or enslaved physically. Maybe our beatings are the daily wearing down of our spirit and soul as we care for differently-baked children, or ailing parents. Maybe it’s a business that once flourished and is now floundering. Maybe our enslavement is a monster of our own creation in the form of unmanageable debt that prevents us from living the simple life we dream of.
No matter what you call it, the land we once entered with the same pomp and circumstances that Joseph’s clan did is now the foreign territory threatening to crush us under Pharaoh’s thumb, or worse, this dreadful desert with no end in sight.
Stop searching for a way back to Egypt.
Take a breath, and hear His heart for you. This is not, despite what you’ve been told, time to fake it ‘til you make it. You are in the desert, plain and simple. It’s time to look around and see your desert for what it is. A resting place. A refuge. The way to freedom.
The Egyptians had to go through a lot just to get to the desert and find their resting place. A new king. An oppressive rule. A leader sent to rescue his people, adopted into the family that had intended to kill him. Murder. Plagues. All of it led to this passageway to freedom, but it’s hard to see hope when you’re used to heartbreak. But there is hope in the desert. Knowing that you’re here for a reason. You may not know that why yet, but realize your omnipotent, omnipresent God knows you’re here. “How we got here” is because it’s the next step in God’s plan for something greater, something deeper, and something stronger, on the other side of the desert. Even though we can’t see the way out yet, if we take His hand, He will lead us through.
What you see as a desolate wasteland, bordered by a drowning sea on one side and endless desert ahead, with no answers in sight is exactly what it’s meant to be: the only path to get you to the place God has for you. Take heart though – when He brought the Israelites to the desert, He didn’t just drop them off, He stayed with them! He traveled with them by day, and by night. Now if God brought them to their desert, and stayed with them, don’t you think He’ll do the same for you?
This desert of ours – it’s a good place. It may not seem like it, but it’s the place God has brought you to be more. To answer prayers and longings you may not even realize you have. To bring you to Him, and to the place He envisions for you – a place greater than we can ever imagine. Don’t turn back to your Egypt. Rather, come willingly to the place where God will bring you closer to Him, and closer to the “you” he’s planned all along.
~ She is Free… To Rest
Note: This Bible Study was originally shared on another Esther Girl Ministries website, and is shared here for you today. I hope it blesses you!