Free, But Stiff-Necked

Message: When God led Israel out of the captivity of Egypt they had been enslaved for so long that they didn’t know how to live as an independent nation and they weren’t trained to defend themselves yet. In Exodus chapter 13 verse 17 tells us that there was a quicker route to the promised land toward the Philistines, but God did not lead them that way because he knew that if they had to face war, they would change their minds and return to Egypt. Back to their miserable bondage. God was teaching them who he was and teaching them to follow him for literally every step by using a cloud to lead them during the day, and a pillar of fire at night. The pillars were always in front of them so when they stopped, the people stopped and when they moved, the people moved. He showed them huge miraculous things that came from nothing to increase their trust and dependence in him and he was equipping them and preparing them on the journey. They weren’t ready for war when they started, but later on they fought so many battles that the cities they approached heard rumors and dreaded them because of God’s favor on them. Scholars have mapped out the distance from Egypt to the promised land, and what was actually an 11 day walk physically, took them 40 years. This is because the journey was much more mental than it was physical. In the beginning they were very just vulnerable and inexperienced at life, but as time went on they were described as “rebellious, stubborn and stiff-necked”. Because of their persistent rebellion and disobedience God didn’t allow that first generation to see the promised land. He waited for the entire generation to die off (except a few obedient ones) and he led their children there instead.

Command: Trust God in the direction he is leading me because he knows what is best for me, and he knows how I will respond. He knows what I am ready for and he knows what I am not ready for. He even knows my stubborn ways.

Promise: God is faithful to get us to the destination, but he is also kind enough to lead us on a path that will benefit me most.

Warning: The journey doesn’t have to be so long and hard if I am willing to trust God and cooperate, but when I fight the process and rebel, I will find myself wandering in circles in the wilderness of my life blaming God for the hardships.

Application: Israel is a picture of each of us in our journey with God. Some of us have been wandering in the wilderness a long time because we aren’t battle ready. We’re vulnerable because of this but like Israel, we’re also too stubborn to listen because we want the freedom without the pain and the fight. This is such a huge reminder to me that the things I fight hardest against are probably the road to my freedom. I shouldn’t spend so much of my time trying to get out of hard things and trying to pray away the painful circumstances. This only prolongs the suffering because ultimately, our breakthrough comes when we battle through it. I need to allow God to shape me so I am battle ready to fight through the hard things.

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