This week we will be studying the Israelites and a portion of their time wandering in the wilderness. We will read Exodus 14-16 over the course of the next few days, but for a visual and audible overview of the Biblical account of the Israelites in Exodus 1-18, click here.
The Israelites are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In Genesis 12:1-3, God made a covenant with Abraham that he would be made into a great nation. Late in age, Abraham and Sarah saw God’s faithfulness when He gave them a son, Isaac. Isaac and his wife Rebecca had two sons, Jacob and Esau.
Jacob had 12 sons. After Jacob wrestled with God and relented to Him, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. The Israelites are often called the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Jesus comes from the tribe of Judah.
During the famine in Canaan, the Israelites moved to Egypt where God provided for them through Joseph. The Israelites remained in Egypt long after Joseph’s death and grew in number (Ex. 1:5 says that 70 Israelites went to Egypt. Ex. 12:37 states that 600,000 Israelite men left Egypt during the Exodus.). Pharaoh feared the size and strength of the Israelites, so he enslaved them to keep them from overtaking the Egyptians.
After 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites were freed from captivity when God called Moses to demand their freedom from Pharaoh. God demonstrated His power and established Himself as the one true God through 10 plagues. After the 10th plague, Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites go.
Exodus, chapters 14-17 tell the story of the beginning of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land (Canaan). Note that the Israelite nation began in Canaan, then moved to Egypt during the famine, and is now on its way back to the homeland of Canaan.
They would wander through the wilderness for 40 years before reaching Canaan.
The wilderness wandering was tiring and trying. It was a time of testing for God’s people. Through the 10 plagues God established His power over nature and over the gods of Egypt (every plague related to an Egyptian god). During the time in the wilderness, God establishes His power and His position as the Israelites’ one true God. The wandering was essential in the faith journey of the Israelites.
Reflection Question: What does your current phase of wandering look like? Perhaps your wandering right now is a time of questioning your faith and asking if God really is who He says He is. Perhaps your wandering is a time of uncertainty and wondering where God is in the midst of your present circumstances while at the same knowing that He is good. Perhaps your wandering is simply the space between your life before Christ and your longing for eternity - you feel like you don’t belong anywhere. Or, perhaps your wandering feels just right - you see God at work around you and you are in awe of His constant provision and faithfulness. Spend some time journaling your response or responding in prayer to the above question.
Wherever you are in your unique season of wandering, take heart! The wilderness is a necessary part of our faith journey.