Mt. Sinai from the Base

I HAVE BEEN READING through Exodus lately, specifically the journey of Israel from Egypt to Mt. Sinai. Here are some reflections.

The first thing we notice is that the Holy Spirit is leading the Jews to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey. However, he does not take them the easy way, nor does he lead them directly to “milk and honey.” Instead, he leads them away from the Promised Land. He leads them south into the howling wilderness.

Curios to visualize the scene, I looked up Mt. Sinai on Google Images. The pictures at right say it all. Not a blade of grass, not a bush, not a tree. Nothing but boulders, gravel, sand, and granite. It is a waste land where nothing lives. Why would  the Spirit lead them to a place like this? It is definitely not the land of “Milk and Honey.”

The Holy Spirit led Israel into this wilderness to strip them of their reliance on everything but God. In Egypt  they relied upon the work of their own hands. They ate leeks, garlic, fish, chicken, etc. But now the Spirit leads them to a place without water or food. Naturally, the Jews complain. “Why are you leading us here?” God answers by graciously giving them Manna from heaven and a water-gushing-rock that follows them on their wanderings. In this desolate place they are utterly dependent upon God for everything, even the most basic bodily needs. Through this stripping they learn that God is faithful.

Mt Sinai from the Air

God wants Israel to learn dependence upon him and nothing or no-one else. In the words of Jesus, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Is it possible that God leads us the same way today? Is God leading when we lose that special  job, a child gets sick, a loved one dies, or we pass through a period of clinical depression?  God is teaching us to lean on him and nothing else. Even Jesus had to learn dependence. The Holy Spirit  also led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Matt. 4:1), and he learned obedience through his sufferings (Heb. 2:10)

If Jesus needed temptation to produce this kind of dependence, how much more you and I? No wonder James exulted, “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Trials, temptations, and tests give us the gift of utter dependence upon One greater than ourselves. In the end, the benefit gained is always worth the cost. We become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”