17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."
18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.
19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you."
20 So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness.
21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.
22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.
It’s interesting that our parasha begins with what G-d did NOT do. The land of Canaan was only 11 days away from Egypt, but God did not lead them directly on that route because He knew that when they faced a trial or a difficulty, they would want to return to Egypt. And, of course, this turned out to be so true. Each and every time they were faced with a lack of water or food, they complained and wanted to go back to Egypt. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t know! So, HaShem determined to lead them away from Egypt, after the final defeat of the pursuing Egyptian army so that returning to Egypt would no longer be an option.
The process of ‘justification’ was virtually instantaneous. They slaughtered the lamb at 3 pm in the afternoon, applied the blood and came out that night on the 14th Nissan i.e. after sunset. But, before they could enter the Promised Land, they first had to navigate 40 years in the wilderness, symbolic of the process of sanctification.
Sanctification takes a lifetime and cannot be rushed. If the desire of our hearts is to serve HaShem, then time doesn’t enter into the equation. Sanctification is no quick fix; it requires a lifetime of dedicated service, commitment and submission to the work of the Holy Spirit in us! Remember that the call to faith is the call to become a bondservant and a worshipper.
Rav Chananel offers a further insight to the desert wanderings. HaShem wanted to teach them a necessary lesson:
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
This of course was the scripture that Messiah quoted to the adversary when he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness:
1 Then Yeshua was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
4 Yeshua answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
G-d wanted to teach Israel that his provision was perfect by showing signs and wonders to them. He gave them water out of a rock and provided them with manna from heaven. What is quite remarkable is the Jewish legend that says that this rock followed them throughout their desert wanderings. The great Jewish Rabbi – Sha’ul – gave a midrash on this in 1 Corinthians chapter 10:
1 Cor 10:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,
2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 all ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
Then, we read that G-d fed them quails in abundance when they complained about a lack of meat. He encountered them at the Mountain of Revelation and revealed Himself to them with powerful demonstrations of his unsurpassable power! Survival in the wilderness would require miracles from above and they were to learn the hard way that HaShem alone was their Provider and their all-sufficiency!
2 Cor 3:5
5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
2 Cor 9:8
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
Exo 13:20 – “So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the
edge of the wilderness’.
Facing trials and hardships is part and parcel of living in a fractured, fallen world. I
have frequently taught that when we face the curve balls that life so often throws in
our path, there is usually one of three possibilities:
1) the struggles we encounter are a consequence of poor choices and decisions
we have made.
There are always consequences to our actions but baruch HaShem, we serve a God
Who is able to redeem us even from our at times foolish mistakes.
2) stuff happens in a fallen world
Life is not fair and sometimes terrible things happen to good people, including
3) HaShem is vying for our attention.
He wants to transform us from glory to glory and this inevitably, involves facing
testing circumstances. We seldom grow to maturity when experiencing mountain-
top encounters with the LORD. Generally, internal transformation is brought about
in the valleys, as we wrestle with the mundane daily experiences and navigate the oft
turbulent waters of relationships in this world.
As someone once remarked “the problem with being a living sacrifice is that when
the fires get too hot, we tend to want to climb off the altar. We resist submitting to