Exodus Teaching - 20 - Stuck in the Wilderness

Title: Exodus Teaching - 20 - Stuck in the Wilderness
Category: Bible Studies
Subject: Exodus Study

Exodus Teaching Series # 20
TITLE: Stuck in the Wilderness
TEXT: Numbers 10 - 14


Earlier in this series I quoted Major Ian Thomas as stressing two things about the Exodus: “Out of” and “Into” - that is, out of Egypt and into Canaan. In this message we are going to take a look at what happened when the Israelites refused to follow the Lord’s command and go into Canaan to possess their possessions. The amazing thing about all this is that the victory was theirs, promised to them by Yahweh, the great I AM who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and told him that He had heard the cries of the Israelites who were begging to be delivered from one of the most cruel forms of slavery ever known to mankind. A new pharaoh had come to power who “did not know Joseph”, meaning that he did not recognize the covenant the earlier pharaoh had made with Joseph to settle the Children of Israel in the fertile Land of Goshen where they flourished for generations. This new Pharaoh took a look at the number of Israelites living in his land and realized that, if were invaded by an army from Mesopotamia, and should the Israelites decide to join forces with them, they could help the enemy defeat Egypt. We must remember that when Moses was told to number the Israelite men who were able to bear arms he discovered that there were 600,000 men capable of bearing arms against an enemy. This pharaoh enslaved the people to get work from them and to greatly reduce the number of men who could bear arms against Egypt. The pushed the slaves brutally to get all the work possible from them and to reduce the population. The main way they would reduce the male population was to have male babies killed when they were born. Moses has been saved from this kind of death when he was an infant. The Lord was protecting him from the beginning that He might use him to deliver His chosen people from slavery and death in Egypt.


A. They Were Chosen to Be a Unique Nation.

The Lord chose Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees and travel to a distant land, a land of promise. According to my friend Dr. Bill Cooper in his remarkable book, The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis, Abraham’s neighbors in and around Ur had something to say about their wealthy and influential neighbor who packed up and moved away from his home. There is historical evidence outside the Bible which supports the fact that a wealthy and highly respected man from Ur of the Chaldees moved his whole family from Ur to a distant land. In sermon # 19 in this series I noted the Abrahamic Covenant with a few notes I added:

“The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (2) I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (4) So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.” (Gen 12:1-4, HCSB)

Note the promises the Lord made to Abraham in this covenant: [1] “I will make you into a great nation” (Gen. 12:2a). The Lord made this promise some 4,000 years ago and in spite of their centuries of problems, Israel exists as a nation, and even though it is a small nation, it has, with the support of the United States, held back the biggest Muslim nations on earth for decades. Israel has gone trough countless trials and tribulations down through the centuries because they refused to honor their part of this covenant.

[2] “I will bless you” (Gen. 12:2b). Israel, in ancient times never realized this blessing long after the reign of Kind David, the king whom the Lord blessed with victories over all his enemies. We normally date David around 1,000 B. C. Jeremiah wrote, some five hundred years later:

“The word of the Lord came to me: (2) “Go and announce directly to Jerusalem that this is what the Lord says: I remember the loyalty of your youth, your love as a bride—how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. (3) Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of His harvest. All who ate of it found themselves guilty; disaster came on them.” ⌊This is⌋ the Lord’s declaration. (4) Hear the word of the Lord, house of Jacob and all families of the house of Israel. (5) This is what the Lord says: ‘What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves?

(6) They stopped asking, “Where is the Lord who brought us from the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, through a land of drought and darkness, a land no one traveled through and where no one lived?” (7) I brought you to a fertile land to eat its fruit and bounty, but after you entered, you defiled My land; you made My inheritance detestable. (8) The priests quit asking, “Where is the Lord?” The experts in the law no longer knew Me, and the rulers rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal and followed useless idols.” (Jer 2:1-8, HCSB)

That sounds bad, doesn’t it? It gets worse: “ For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13, HCSB) The chosen people, the people of the covenant had (1) abandoned the Lord, “the fountain of living water” and (2)“dug for themselves cracked cisterns that could hold no water. Yahweh was not finished with them: “I planted you, a choice vine from the very best seed. How then could you turn into a degenerate, foreign vine?” (Jer 2:21) Still, the Lord was not through with Judah:

“In the days of King Josiah the Lord asked me, “Have you seen what unfaithful Israel has done? She has ascended every high hill and gone under every green tree to prostitute herself there... Nevertheless, her treacherous sister Judah was not afraid but also went and prostituted herself. (10) Yet in spite of all this, her treacherous sister Judah didn’t return to Me with all her heart —only in pretense.” (Jer 3:6-10, HCSB)

The Lord wanted to make the name of Israel great, but Israel has repeatedly brought the wrath of God down on herself by rebelling against Him. That reminds many Christians what has been happening in America over the past century. Francis Schaeffer said America entered the post-Christian era in 1925. Do you remember what happened in 1925? Ever hear of the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee when the ACLU launched its attack on Creation, the Creator, and on Christianity? Within a generation evolution was being taught in public schools across America. In the Bible Belt and certain other place it may have taken a little longer.

But back to Israel. The history of Israel is filled with horror stories, and many of them are related to what the Lord commanded Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, to write. We have only read a small amount of that message, but I think we get the point. The Lord desired to bless them, but they continually rebelled against Him and turned to pagan gods.

[3] “I will make your name great” (12:2c). He would make Abraham’s name great. Two thousand years later, Jesus would be quoting Abraham. Paul would be explaining to the church at Rome that Abraham was saved by faith, not works. The rabbis were keeping his name alive among the Jews. The Bible mentions his name 272 times. Moses is mentioned 881 times, but that is much later, and he delivered some two million people, whereas Abraham led a caravan. Can you think of anyone whose name is mentioned more than that? What about David? Would you believe 1145 times? In the Bible!

[4] I will curse those who treat you with contempt (12:2d). It would be interesting to be able to document proof of this. We can look back into her history and see that those who hated and tried to destroy Israel often ended up in decline or even destroyed themselves. How many Assyrians do you know? How many Edomites are there in your neighborhood? How many Amalakites live in your hometown? How many Philistines do you know? How many Nazis do you have in your address book?

[5] All the people on earth will be blessed through you (12:2e). Now, we come to the good part. All the nations of the world will be blessed through the covenant the Lord made with Abraham. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached first to the descendants of Abraham, and part of the Gospel was the command to go into all the world with the message of salvation, by grace, through faith in Him. The nation of Israel should have obeyed Jesus here, but did not. How then was the Gospel spread throughout the world? The apostles and many others went in every direction with the message of salvation. Paul’s three great missionary journeys into Gentile lands spread the Gospel among the nations and to the very heart of the Roman Empire.

Paul wrote to the church at Colossae: “the gospel that has come to you. It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day you heard it and recognized God’s grace in the truth.” (Col 1:6) In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus commissioned believers to take the Gospel throughout the world. In Acts 1:8, He predicted that His followers would do just that: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

B. No Nation Had Been So Blessed With Greater Leaders.

1. The Lord had called Abraham to go to the Land of Canaan. He promised him and his descendants the Land of Canaan. The Lord “cut a covenant” with Abraham and his descendants that required a miraculous birth. Isaac was the miracle child of the world 2000 years before the coming of Christ. Sarah was beyond child bearing years and she was barren. It took a miracle from the Lord to bless Abraham and Sarah with a child in their old age.

2. Isaac was a man committed to the Lord. He seems to have been a much quieter man than his father and his sons, but one may glean from the account in Genesis that he was a man of faith and commitment. He was not perfect and one of his greatest failures was in his home. The partiality shown by Isaac and his wife Rebecca toward their two sons would eventually turn the two brothers against each other and set them on a different course for life, and the different courses would lead to hatred and wars from generation to generation. Isaac favored Esau and Rebecca favored Jacob and helped him steal the birth right from Esau. Hundreds of years later, the descendants of Esau would do everything within their power to keep the Lord from accomplishing His purpose with the Israelites.

3. Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob was a spoiled brat, a mamma’s boy who deceived his father in order to steal both the blessing of his father and the right of the first born son, thus creating a murderous hatred in Esau’s heart for his brother. Jacob fled to the home of Laban, his mother’s brother, for whom he worked for many years. The Holman Bible Dictionary carries the following note about Laban:

“LABAN (lay’ buhn) Personal name meaning “white.” 1. Rebekah’s brother (Gen. 24:29) and father of Leah and Rachel (Gen. 29:16). Laban lived in the city of Nahor which was probably close to the metropolis of Haran (also called Paddan-aram in Gen. 25:20; 28:2), Abrahams ancestral home (Gen. 12:4). Laban is known primarily from the two stories in Genesis 24,29-31.

“In Genesis 24, Laban is directly responsible for the betrothal of Rebekah to Isaac. After Abraham’s steward relates that he has come to find a wife for Isaac, Laban and his father give their permission for the marriage (Gen. 24:50-51). In Genesis 29-31, Jacob flees to his uncle Laban’s house after stealing the birthright from Esau. Laban agrees to give his daughter, Rachel, as payment for Jacob’s seven years of labor. However, Laban deceives Jacob making him marry the older daughter, Leah. After Jacob works an additional seven years, Laban allows him to marry Rachel (Gen. 29:15-30). [Holman Bible Dictionary]

One very interesting thing we read in Genesis is that the Lord changed Jacob’s name from Jacob (one who follows another to trip him up) to Israel (Prince with God). Another point of interest is that when Jacob was returning with his family to the land of his birth he was concerned about what would happen when he met Esau, but when that time came Esau welcomed him back.

4. Then there was Joseph. Jacob had twelve sons but Joseph, the son of his beloved Rachel, was by far his favorite, a fact he apparently never bothered to hide from the rest of his family. He had learned favoritism well from his mother. When children read, hear read, or see video’s about Bible characters, who always ranks among their favorites? Abraham the man of faith. Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Moses and the burning bush. Joseph who interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. Joshua who “fit the battle of Jericho.” David and Goliath. Joseph and his coat of many colors. King Solomon who was blessed with great wisdom, Solomon who built the Temple of the Lord. Joseph who secured a place for his family to live in the fertile Land of Goshen where the grew from 70 in number to some 2 million in 430 years.

5. Then there was Moses, the man whom the Lord called to deliver the Children of Israel from a cruel form of bondage in Egypt. In all the Bible who was used to manifest the power, presence, and glory of Yahweh more brilliantly, powerfully, and forcefully than Moses? He was a man of power, wisdom, faith, and loyalty, yet he was not perfect. He remains until this very day, one of the greatest examples of one who often engaged in intercessory prayer. He was also a man of great humility. And don’t forget his courage.

He was a man to whom Yahweh spoke, a man to whom He revealed Himself as He has never revealed Himself to another human being. It is this Moses about whom we have read so much in this series on the Exodus.


A. They Had Seen The Good in Egypt.

The Lord promised Abraham that He would give his descendants the land to which He had led him when He told him to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees and go to a distant land, a place we know as Canaan. At the same time He told His faithful servant that his descendants would first live in another country for four hundred years. We know the story and we have alluded to it often enough in this series that we really do not need to spend much time on that subject again. We just need to remind ourselves that Yahweh delivered Israel (Jacob) and his sons and their families from starvation in Canaan, and through Joseph provided them with a home in the fertile land of Goshen where they prospered and multiplied to the point that a new Pharaoh became concerned that they might join some invading country and overrun Egypt. That is when things turned ugly, but for some time, Israel prospered, growing into a prosperous nation.

B. They Had Seen the Bad and the Ugly in Egypt.

1. At first, the Israelites had prospered and multiplied in Egypt. The Lord used Joseph to secure a place for His Chosen People in Goshen where they flourished for generations. They grew from seventy in number when they entered Egypt, to some two million people at the time of the Exodus. A new Pharaoh came to power who did not know Joseph, or knew nothing of the arrangement that early Pharaoh had made with Joseph to provide for his family.

The question we might consider is whether or not they would ever have chosen to leave a place of peace and prosperity to go to Canaan and invade that land and fight country after country to take the land promised them by the Lord. They had not spent four hundred years in Egypt longing for that fair and happy land of Canaan. They would not be motivated to call on the Lord to deliver them until they faced the reality of a very cruel form of slavery in Egypt. A brutal form of slavery, death, torture, and misery led them to call on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to deliver them. He heard them (Ex. 3) and sent Moses to deliver them.

2. Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites. Slavery was very common in a day when nations invaded other nations, killed those who resisted their invasion, abused women and children, and sold many into slavery. The slavery to which the Israelites were subjected was especially cruel for the simple reason that one purpose was to radically reduce the population of these people. As we have seen, Israel had some 600,000 men who might bear the sword against an enemy, which mean that, should they ally themselves with an invading nation, they might defeat the Egyptian army.

As we move on with these people into the wilderness there are a few key things we should keep in mind. First, these Israelites had experienced more suffering, abuse, fear, and torture than anyone reading this can imagine. Slavery was never anything to be taken lightly, but all slavery has not been the same slavery. In fact, one mature Christian man once said to me, “If you think slavery was bad you should have been a share cropper.” It took a moment to realize why he would say that because we had a few share croppers on our Mississippi Delta farm and my family treated them as neighbors, not like slaves. Each family, and there were but a few of them, who lived on our place left with more than they had when they moved there. My father never charged one cent for the use of a tractor, for fuel, or for our personal labor when we plowed out their crops. We did what a neighbor should do, and as I look back on it, we did a little more than many do for a neighbor.

My parents invited them to worship with us at our church, eat with us at our table, and enjoy hobbies with us. My brothers and sister played with their children, and my father, on more than one occasion, risked his life to protect a family from a drunk father, who on more than once had a shotgun out and was threatening to kill family members, as well as my father. There were two telephone offices in the area and each insisted that the other should run lines through the Green River community. It was twenty five miles to the sheriff‘s office in Tunica and someone would have had to drive over into Quitman County to the east of us in order to find a phone to call the sheriff’s office in Tunica County. The man who owned the place had to handle lesser problems and my father risked his life on a number of occasions in order to protect a family - and in every situation the key was alcohol. Not one time did he have to rescue a family because the father smoked a cigarette, went fishing on Sunday, or lost a bet on a ball game. The husband would get drunk and my father would hae to go into the home, or out in a field to take a gun away from someone who was threatening to kill him and his family members.

Let me say something about the alcohol situation in Mississippi, which was a “dry” state at the time.
When I moved to Louisiana well meaning people often said to me, “Mississippi is a dry state, but anyone can buy whiskey in there.” I agreed, but said, “Yes, but they do not find it in the super market, or in the pharmacy. Their children do not see them pull up to a window at a liquor store, hand a man some money and drive off with a bottle of whiskey. Their children do not grow up assuming there is nothing wrong with beverage alcohol because their parents buy it freely, keep a supply in their home, and serve it to guest. When we saw men slipping around to buy it from a bootlegger we know there must be some kind of problem associated with it.”

I asked the most notorious criminal ever to set foot on the grounds of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman if he agreed with a recent newspaper report that claimed that alcohol was a factor in 94.6% of all cases in which a person was sent to prison. That man was Kenny Wagner and he said, “It’s more than that. It is involved in all of them.” I know there were exceptions, but who knew prisoners better than the man who trained blood hounds and ran down escapees. Even in the dry state of Mississippi in my youth I saw men abuse their families, steal gas and sell it to get money to buy whiskey, become addicted to alcohol, and in a dry state we had no Alcoholics Anonymous. As I have already mentioned, I saw my father risk his life to save family members from a drunk who was abusing them or threatening them. Those men could not have been nicer as long as they did not drink moonshine or beer and whiskey someone had bought in Arkansas or Tennessee and smuggled it into Mississippi. There is an old Hebrew proverb that says those who drink remind one of three animals: (1) when they begin drinking they are like a monkey - they want to entertain everyone. (2) Then they become like a lion - they think they can whip everyone. (3) Then they become like a hog - all they can do is lie down and wallow.

When I was a teenager someone came to our house to tell my father about a man who was drunk and behaving in a particularly bad manner at a nearby store. The family was asking my father to help them. They had lived on our place and moved to another farm, but the desperate family looked to my father for help. I went with him, but I mostly observed the way he handled the man to get him out of the store and take him home. I went inside to tell the family that my father was with the man in the front yard and he would have him in soon. When I stepped back outside the man started toward me and my father caught him and jerked him back in front of him. I was surprised, but my father told me later that the man had an open pocket knife in his pocket. We finally got the man settled down and got him into the house and his little six years old girl looked at my father and said, “My daddy said he is going to kill you.” My father said, “Honey, you have a bad daddy.” We learned that the man was not too drunk to hear that when he ducked his head down almost to his knees.

We saw a number of people who lived on our place come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We hunted and fished with some of them. We played baseball and cork ball with them. So, why would this man tell me that being a share cropper, for him, was worse than being a slave? There were land owners who verbally abused tenants, bullied them, and cheated those who lived on their farms. One Christian business man who owned a farm in the area once told me that he knew a man in our area who went to the bank and got a sack of silver dollars one Fall and went back to his office and make stacks of ten silver dollars and as each share cropper came in for his profit from his work that year the farm owner went over the bales of cotton the man had made, and then he went over a long list of “expenses” and debts he owned the farmer, debts like medical bills, medical trips, utilities, gas for the tractors, rent for the tractors, personal loans for clothes, tools, and medicine. When the farm owner finished he would slide a stack of ten silver dollars across the desk to the “share” cropper and tell him that was his “share” of the profit from the cotton he had sold. Those ten dollars had to feed his family from the first of December to March when he received his “furnish” (money furnished him to make a new crop).

All over our part of the delta there were humorous stories told about a very wealthy farmer who was also a skinflint. The stories were amusing and I have repeated some of them, as well as my own personal experience with that farmer. I worked my way through college and part of my way through seminary working every summer for the Quitman County, Mississippi, ASCS office, measuring fields and plotting them on ariel photographs so the ladies in the office could run a planimeter around the fields to determine the acreage to be sure the farmer stayed within his allotted acreage for cotton. One day a tall, slender man who went by the name, “Slim,” came walking up to our home to see my father. It seems that he was a share cropper on the place of the man I have just mentioned, but there was nothing humorous about his story. That farmer who had a list of banks printed on his checks, was known to go to an area where there was a farm equipment auction, and ask a bank where he was unknown to cash a check for one hundred thousand dollars. One time he carried that amount into a bank that was unable to cash his check the year before, placed it on the counter and say, “Now, Podna’, you can cash my check!”

Slim told my father that he received his check for working at the man’s cotton gin one week and showed the owner that he was short fifty cents. The man demanded, “What chew’ want me to do about it?!” Slim said, “Well, I want my money.” The wealthy farmer said, “Son, I ‘spect you better move.” This was not the time of the year when farmers normally had empty farm houses. My father went to work preparing a old school building he had bought for the desperate family. The planter during slavery times in America had a lot of money “invested” in his slaves. There were many freed slaves at the end of the Civil War who were Christians because local churches worked with the wives of some of the planters to established Sunday School and worship services for local slaves. While there was nothing pleasant about slavery for most slaves, no one said to them, “Son, I ‘spect you better move.

This is not a defense of slavery - far from it! The thing that was so horrible about the way slavery ended in America was that some radicals forced issues before the Lord provided us with a Wilberforce who might have led a crusade to end slavery peacefully here as they did in England. One problem in America was that the on those big plantations in the south cotton was the main crop. Cotton was king - King Cotton. Many people were required to cultivate and harvest cotton and in those days before mechanical cotton pickers many people were needed to pick the cotton, and harvest time was often cut short by the weather. There were very few small farms where the owner could have afforded slaves. Those slaves were owned by a tiny percentage of men who called themselves planters. Given time, slavery in America may well have ended peacefully. Few may realize that Christian planters like Robert E. Lee reportedly freed his slaves before either Abraham Lincoln or U. S. Grant.

There were something like sixty million slaves at the peak of the Roman Empire and many were given great responsibility in some of the homes. The term was used metaphorically by Paul and others in his day. Under the circumstances what better metaphor could the have used for death, depravity, and suffering? Some slaves ran businesses, kept the books, and took responsibility for the children. That was obviously not the case in Egypt. Any way we look at it, slavery in Egypt was especially cruel because the pharaoh was determined to reduce the population of Israelite men who might bear arms against Pharaoh should they join with an invading army against the Egyptians. He set out to lower the population of the Israelites by having male babies killed, which meant that the women would be life long slaves, never marrying and having children, and by a particularly brutal form of slavery in which Egyptian overlords would beat the slaves.

B. It Was Good When God Delivered Them from Egypt.

1. They cried to the Lord and He sent Moses to deliver them. I can remember wondering why the Lord would let His Chosen People suffer as they did under the extreme oppression imposed upon them by the Egyptians. Had He not promised through the Abrahamic Covenant to bless them, and to bless the nations of the world through them? How, then, could He have subjected them to such abuse and defeat at the hands of pagans? Well, let me ask a question: as long as they were prospering in Egypt would they have ever, on their own, decided to leave the land of Goshen, march out with their children and their possessions to a distant land, knowing that they would be attacked by various nations along the way, and that the people living in Canaan would not move away and give them that land? No way!

They were prospering in Egypt, and had been for generations as they grew from seventy to a nations of perhaps two million people. It was only after intense persecution and orders to kill all the male babies born to Hebrew mothers that the Israelites began to call out to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At that time, Yahweh spoke to an eighty year old man named Moses from a burning bush that was not being consumed and identified Himself at the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was there, in the shadow of Mt. Sinai, that He identified Himself to Moses as YAHWEH, the great I AM. Literally, He identified Himself as the One Who Was, the One Who Is, and the One Who Will Be. He is the One to whom the Israelites were begging to deliver them from oppression and death in Egypt. We find Moses’ encounter with the Lord in the third chapter of Exodus. I will print the first part of that chapter here, with bold added for emphasis:

“Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (2) Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. (3) So Moses thought: I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?

(4) When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am,” he answered.

(5) “Do not come closer,” He said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (6) Then He continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

(7) Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. (8) I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey —the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. (9) The Israelites’ cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. (10) Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Ex 3:1-10, HCSB)

Horeb is Mt. Sinai “in Arabia” (Gal. 4:25). Before I began this series I spent some time with a book and a video featuring the exploration by Larry Williams and Bob Cornuke of what they are convinced is the real Mt. Sinai for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the statement made by Paul in his Letter to the Galatians that Mt. Sinai was in Arabia (Gal. 4:25). The traditional Mt. Sinai was so designated by the mother of Constantine, who had little evidence to go on when she named it. However, if we follow the maps provided in some commentaries and atlases, you will see that some of those maps show the Israelites marching all the way down to the foot of the Sinai Peninsula without crossing any sea anywhere. Other maps show the crossing at the northern tip of the left arm of the Red Sea. As a matter of fact, if the Israelites had crossed the western arm of the Red Sea they would have been escaping from Egypt, to Egypt!

There are more problems. Looking at one of the maps in an electronic library dealing with the Exodus, we find a list of places the map maker, or the commentary writer, believed portrays the route of the Exodus. They begin with Marah, which is designated with a dot and a name near the northern most point of the left arm of the Red Sea, on the east side. Continuing south along the eastern side of the right arm of the Red Sea the designations for stops are marked along the path between the sea and the Sinai Peninsula, as if portraying the journey as described in Exodus, by Elim, the Desert of Sin, Dophlim, Rephidim, and the desert of Sinai at the tip of the Peninsula of Sinai. Next, we find their designation for Mt. Sinai, following the designation by the mother of Constantine, with Mt. Horeb north of Mt. Sinai. In reality, Horeb is Mt. Sinai and both are in Arabia.

Bob Conuke and Larry Williams, guided by information from the former astronaut Jim Irwin, went to the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula and were convinced that this is where the Lord parted the waters of the Red Sea and permitted the Israelites to cross on dry land. After which, He caused the giant walls of water to collapse upon the Egyptians who pursued them.

Larry Williams, a wealthy business man, financed the trip and made arrangements to get inside Saudi Arabia. Bob Cornuke is a serious student of the Bible and reading from the Book of Exodus, he was able to spot most of the places mentioned on the way to Mt. Sinai. He said that where they crossed there were springs that afforded the Israelites all the water they needed while they were there and water for their journey. They checked the distance and found what he is sure were the bitter springs of Marah, and several hours after tasting the bitter water they had a bitter taste in their mouth. From there the moved on to the 12 Springs of Elim, with its seventy palm trees.

Cornuke, a former police investigator and member of a SWAT team, followed the biblical account in Exodus and it kept leading them to places mentioned in Bible. When they arrived at Sinai they discovered a series of things that confirmed to them the fact that this was the true Mt. Sinai. First, there was what appeared to be the altar at the foot of the mountain, and there were huge piles of stones which may well have been the markers that formed a barrier to keep the people from touching the mountain while Yahweh was on the mountain. Then there was the mountain peak which was as black as coal. Is this where Yahweh came down in a fire? When Cornuke and Williams climbed the mountain and found that when they broke those black rocks open the were a reddish sand color inside.

Another family, the Caldwells, lived in Saudi Arabia where the father worked in the oil business. They were forced by law to leave the country twenty two days a year so they began exploring Mt. Sinai from the eastern side. One of their first discoveries was what they are convinced is the rock from which Yahweh caused water to gush forth and fill a basin large enough to provide water for two million people for over a year.

2. The Israelites had seen the ten plagues. The Lord used those ten plagues to demonstrate His sovereign power both to the Israelites, and to the Egyptians. Neither the sending of those plagues, nor the ones against whom the plagues were directed could have happened by any force on earth. The Israelites could not have ordered those plagues and the Egyptians could not have prevented them or diverted them to another target. There were ten plagues, but the battle was not One against ten, it was the One against none because the gods of Egypt never existed except in the minds and hearts of those pagan people. Actually, it was One against the devil, and Satan had never been more soundly defeated. His major defeat, however, was still ahead of him. He was soundly defeated by Jesus during His earthly ministry, and even though he thought he had won a victory at the cross, When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he knew he had lost. However, his biggest defeat will be a permanent defeat when Satan will be case into the lake of fire where he will spend eternity without any hope of escape. “The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev 20:10, HCSB)

3. They had crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Even afer ten plagues, they were in a state of panic when they saw the chariots and the calvary of the Egyptians pursuing them. Then, Yahweh
parted the water of the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land. When pharaoh ordered his chariots and calvary to pursue them the Lord caused the great walls of water to collapse upon them. These same people who were rebelling against the Lord in the wilderness of Paran had seen the bodies of the Egyptians as they were washed ashore. How could those same people have doubted that the Lord would give them the Promised Land? But they did.

4. They had seen the power, mercy, and grace of God on the way to Sinai. These Israelites had witnessed the mighty power of God in ten plagues, in the crossing of the Red Sea, in the miracle of the water at Marah, in the giving of Manna, and in the miracles of Sinai. They had seen the manifestation of the glory of God as no nation had eve seen it. How could they have doubted Him?
But they did.

5. They had seen the glory of God at Mt. Sinai. No people had ever seen the manifestation of His glory as they had seen it in Egypt. During their stay at Sinai they had again seen the manifestation of the glory of Yahweh as no other people had ever seen it. They were frightened as they saw the glory of the Lord shining on the face of Moses. After seeing the glory of the Lord so many times, how could they have rebelled against Him in the wilderness of Paran? But they did.

6. They had promised to obey Yahweh in all things. They, no doubt, were convinced that they would always obey Him when they pledged their obedience to Him. Within a few days of their promise to obey the Lord they were begging Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship as they had in Egypt. Surely, they could never do that. But they did.

7. They had entered a covenant with the Lord at Sinai. This covenant promised God’s blessings and their obedience. To keep them focused on their covenant relationship with the Lord He had given them the Ten Commandments, and detailed applications of those commandments. He had given them a sacrificial system, including an atonement for their sins. He had given them water where there was no water, and food where there was no food. They lacked nothing. He has delivered them from Egypt and sustained them. How could they doubt Him in Paran? But they did.


A. Stop Here and Remember Some Things.

(1) Remember the despair, depravity, and death in Egypt. (2) Remember how the Lord had delivered them from the place of suffering, humiliation, and death. They prayed for Him to deliver them and He sent Moses, and he sent the ten plagues through which He made a dramatic distinction between Israel and the Egyptians. (3) Remember how He had provided water and manna for these same people on the way to Sinai. (4) Remember the victory over the Amalekites (Ex. 1:8-15). (5) Remember Sinai, with all the Lord’s provisions. (6) Remember the glory of the Lord that so amazed the people at Sinai. (7) Remember that these people had promised to obey the Lord. They had followed Him in an orderly manner from Sinai.

They Marched to the Wilderness of Paran.

(11) “During the second year, in the second month on the twentieth ⌊day⌋ of the month, the cloud was lifted up above the tabernacle of the testimony. (12) The Israelites traveled on from the Wilderness of Sinai, moving from one place to the next until the cloud stopped in the Wilderness of Paran. (13) They set out for the first time according to the Lord’s command through Moses.” (Num 10:11-13)

Their obedience was crucial: “If you will carefully obey the Lord your God, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His commands, and keep all His statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am Yahweh who heals you.” (Ex 15:26) Later, the Lord said, “But if you will carefully obey him and do everything I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.” (Ex 23:22) “He then took the covenant scroll and read ⌊it⌋ aloud to the people. They responded, “We will do and obey everything that the Lord has commanded.”
(Ex 24:7) The entire nation promised to “obey everything that the Lord has commanded.”

Detailed records were kept during their time in the wilderness. Down through the centuries the Jewish children would be taught about what happened back there in the wilderness. This is neither myth nor fiction, it is history. When I think of Bible history I am reminded of the statement I either heard or read many years ago: “History is His story.” Certainly, in this case, that is true. In Numbers 21:14, we read of “the Book of the Lord’s Wars.” God told Moses to write certain things in the book and Joshua said, “Whatever Moses wrote in the book that is what we did.”

In Deut. 29:2, we read of “the curses of the covenant written in this book of the law.” In Deut. 30:9-10 we read, “Indeed, the Lord will again delight in your prosperity, as He delighted in that of your fathers, (10) when you obey the Lord your God by keeping His commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul.” We should not be surprised that the Israelites kept such records when we know the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Roman kept such careful records. At the same time, it is sad to read in the Lord’s Book just how quickly the Lord’s Chosen People rebelled against Him, broke their promises, and turned their back on the One who delivered them. We read over and over how they refused to obey Him.

B. Israel Rebelled in Wilderness of Paran.

1. Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses (Num. 12:1-15). Surely, there is a mistake here. Not Miriam and Aaron! How could they do such a thing!? Yet, they did. According to the Lord’s record, “ The Israelites traveled on from the Wilderness of Sinai, moving from one place to the next until the cloud stopped in the Wilderness of Paran.” (Num. 10:12) And the first to rebel against Moses and against the Lord were none other than his siblings, Aaron and Sarah, whose action focused on the Cushite woman Moses had married. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary offers this commentary on the Cushite woman:

“a Cushite woman" -- Arabia was usually called in Scripture the land of Cush, its inhabitants being descendants of that son of Ham (see on Ex 2:15) and being accounted generally a vile and contemptible race (see on Am 9:7). The occasion of this seditious outbreak on the part of Miriam and Aaron against Moses was the great change made in the government by the adoption of the seventy rulers [Nu 11:16]. Their irritating disparagement of his wife (who, in all probability, was Zipporah [Ex 2:21], and not a second wife he had recently married) arose from jealousy of the relatives, through whose influence the innovation had been first made (Ex 18:13-26), while they were overlooked or neglected. Miriam is mentioned before Aaron as being the chief instigator and leader of the sedition. [—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, bold added]

For her part in the attack on her brother, Miriam was stricken with leprosy for a period of seven days. The thing we must remember is the very thing Aaron and Miriam should have remembered, and I am sure they would never forget it again: Yahweh affirmed Moses as His leader:

“Listen to what I say: If there is a prophet among you from the Lord, I make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. (7) Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My household. (8) I speak with him directly, openly, and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.” (Num 12:6-8)

2. The people rebelled after hearing the report from the twelve spies. The Lord directed Moses to send out 12 spies to scout out the land of Canaan (Num. 13:1-25) and they spent 40 days on this mission and obviously did a thorough job of it. They could tell all about the fertility of the land, they reported on the productivity and fruitfulness of the area Yahweh had promised was a land flowing with milk and honey. The reports were obviously affirmed in the eyes of the spies.

The spies, however, were horrified at the thought of going to war against the mighty soldiers of the land: “To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.” (Num 13:33) Only Joshua and Caleb, of all the twelve spies were convinced that the Lord would give them the victory. The people chose to listen to the negative reports of the ten spies who were afraid of the inhabitants of the land rather than Joshua and Caleb who knew that Yahweh would give them a victory as He had given them a victory over the Amalekites.

Joshua and Caleb pleaded with the people to trust the Lord to give them the victory. The people, however, cried out against Caleb and Joshua, and against Moses. They wanted to choose new leaders who would return them to Egypt. Can you believe that? They had called on the Lord to deliver them and he had dramatically, and miraculously done so. Now they wanted to return to Egypt, a land of slavery, death, and despair. Caleb and Joshua pleaded with the people:

“The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. (8) If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. (9) Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” (Num 14:7-9)

They refused. Had they not learned to trust the Lord? Had they not promised to obey Him? Had they not learned the folly and danger in rebelling against Him? They would get another lesson in the danger of rebelling against Him, and the price they were about to pay was enormous.

3. Yahweh announced His judgment against those who rebelled against Him. The judgment was severe and irrevokable for those who refused to obey Him. How many times had He proclaimed, “I am the Lord your God”? How many times had He demonstrated the fact that He alone is sovereign, supreme, and serious when it came to His commandments and His demand that they obey Him? They are about to learn another lesson about rebelling against Yahweh. How did He respond to their rebellion?

(11) The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people despise Me? How long will they not trust in Me despite all the signs I have performed among them? (12) I will strike them with a plague and destroy them. Then I will make you into a greater and mightier nation than they are.” (Num. 14:11-12, bold added)

These people whom the Lord had chosen for a purpose far greater than any of them could have imagined had openly and radically rebelled against Yahweh, the great I Am, the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Joseph, the holy One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. There was nothing faithless, weak, or fickle about Yahweh, unlike all the gods of Egypt who were nothing but man’s creation. Those gods could not do anything to them, but they are about to discover how serious it is to disobey the God if Israel. He announces here that He will strike them all with a plague and start over with Moses and make of his descendants a greater and mightier nation than the descendants of Jacob, whose name He had changed to Israel.

Think of it! Think of the glory Moses might have enjoyed, had the Lord done what He proposed here. Think of the honor, dignity and prestige that would have been his. How did Moses respond? This is the man of whom the Lord said, “ Moses was a very humble man, more so than any man on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3, bold added)

Moses was not only the most humble of men, he is remembered as one of the greatest intercessors in Old Testament history. When the Lord announced through Jeremiah His judgment against another generation of Israelites, Jeremiah wrote, “Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel should stand before Me, My compassions would not ⌊reach out⌋ to these people.” (Jer 15:1) When still another generation of Israelites rejected the Lord as their king and demanded a king like the Philistines, they asked Samuel to pray for them. They pleaded with Samuel: “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants, so we won’t die! For we have added to all our sins the evil of requesting a king for ourselves.” (1 Sam 12:19) Do you remember Samuel’s response? He promised to teach them the Lord’s ways and then he said one of the most remarkable things I have ever read on the subject of prayer: ““As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” (1 Sam 12:23) Moses prays for the Chosen People even when they have rebelled against the Lord. He intercession is unforgettable:

(13 But Moses replied to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from them. (14) They will tell ⌊it to⌋ the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people, how You, Lord, are seen face to face, how Your cloud stands over them, and how You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. (15) If You kill this people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of Your fame will declare, (16) ‘Since the Lord wasn’t able to bring this people into the land He swore to ⌊give⌋ them, He has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

(17) “So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: (18) The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation. (19) Please pardon the wrongdoing of this people, in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now.”

(20) The Lord responded, “I have pardoned ⌊them⌋ as you requested.

The Lord promised Moses that He would pardon the people as he requested, but let us never assume that we can sin and repent, sin and repent, and sin and repent at will and expect the Lord to forgive us and act as if we had never sinned. The people had not begged for forgiveness, Moses had interceded for them. Now, hear what the sovereign Lord had to say concerning these people:

(21) Yet as surely as I live and as the whole earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, (22) none of the men who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested Me these 10 times and did not obey Me, (23) will ever see the land I swore to ⌊give⌋ their fathers. None of those who have despised Me will see it.” (Num. 14:21-23)

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron told them to say to those who refused to obey Him:

“As surely as I live,” ⌊this is⌋ the Lord’s declaration, “I will do to you exactly as I heard you say. (29) Your corpses will fall in this wilderness—all of you who were registered ⌊in the census⌋, the entire number of you 20 years old or more —because you have complained about Me. (30) I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (31) I will bring your children whom you said would become plunder into the land you rejected, and they will enjoy it.

(32) But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. (33) Your children will be shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years and bear the penalty for your acts of unfaithfulness until all your corpses lie ⌊scattered⌋ in the wilderness. (34) You will bear the consequences of your sins 40 years based on the number of the 40 days that you scouted the land, a year for each day. You will know My displeasure. (35) I, the Lord, have spoken. I swear that I will do this to the entire evil community that has conspired against Me. They will come to an end in the wilderness, and there they will die.” (Num. 14:28-35)

4. The people then decided to attack the enemy on their own. Now, this is incredible. Let’s see just how ridiculous they were. (1) First, the Lord had prepared them to enter the land of Canaan and take the land and possess it, promising them a victory. (2) He sent 12 spies who spent 40 days scouting the land. (3) They returned and gave a report. Ten of the spies told the people they could not take the land, that they would be as grasshoppers before the soldiers of the nations in the Promised Land. (4) The people refused to enter the land and begin the conquest. (5) The Lord then said that all those who were 20 years of age and older would die in the wilderness over the next 40 years before another generation would enter the land to possess their possessions. (6) The rejected people said, “so, we were wrong. Let’s go forward and begin the conquest.” So they moved out, without the Ark of the Covenant which symbolized the presence of the Lord with His people. (7) They were soundly routed.

Of course, when we stop to think about it we may recognize some parallels in the modern church. The church is full of people who are doing “churchy things” while living a compromised life. One man who had been active in a church for years told me he had joined a “mega” church. He added, “If you are not there no one misses you.” There are church members who want to assume a leadership role, sing in the choir, lead children or young people, sing solos, chair committees, go on church trips, serve on the building committee, and greet visitors. That is, they do these things when it is convenient. But if there is a movie on they want to see, they do not hesitate to skip Sunday School and worship services. Large numbers fill pews on Sunday morning and then head to the restaurant and on to the mall, movie theater, or to the lake, but never make it back on Sunday night. The numbers present for the Sunday evening services are shrinking across the country. Some churches, we are told, close their doors after Memorial Day and do not open them again until after Labor Day.

Church members who do not hesitate to announce that they are Christians compromise in countless ways. One committed Christian lady told me that she can look around her church and see young adult couples sitting in the morning worship service who are living together without the benefit of a marriage license. One Christian has told me that their pastor will not take a stand on social drinking.

At least, those people in the wilderness, at one point, said, “we are wrong.” It may be a good time for some modern day church members to confess that, “I am wrong. I must confess my sins and repent.” John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

C. Rebellion Became the Pattern in the Wilderness.

We do not have to go very far to find examples of their rebellion. We should bear in mind certain facts behind the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness. (1) They had been delivered from Egypt and were never forced to go back. The Christian today who persists in living in the wilderness (that is, in the flesh) is not sent back to Egypt (to death and bondage to Satan and the world) Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, and no one can take them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28).

(2) They could never free themselves from the wilderness. They had been brought out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God and they were never sent back, but neither did they go on to Canaan. If they could have gone on into Canaan and conquered the land they would have. In fact, they had tried to do just that (Num. 14: 39-45). They were routed and forced back into the wilderness.

(3) They could never enjoy the fruit Canaan. They knew they had been delivered from Egypt, not to flounder in the wilderness for the rest of their lives, but to enjoy a life in a land flowing with milk and honey. They knew it was there but they would never see it. God had brought them “out of” (Egypt) to bring them “into” (Canaan). But they would never see the Promised Land.

In Numbers 16, we read of Korah’s wicked rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The chapter begins like this: “Now Korah son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took 250 prominent Israelite men who were leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly, and they rebelled against Moses.” (Num 16:1-2) I am going to quote a note here from the Bible Knowledge Commentary:

“At some unidentified place and time in the desert wanderings, Korah, a Levite, and Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, began to lead an uprising against Moses. They recruited 250 of the top leaders of Israel as collaborators. The tribal affiliations of the two main conspirators (Levi and Reuben) show that this was a rebellion against both the religious and political leadership of Moses. Thus Aaron the high priest also became an object of their attack.”

“Their discontent centered on the allegation that Moses and Aaron were unjustified in setting themselves over all the people since, by virtue of Israel’s being the Lord’s covenant community, all of them were equally holy and capable of being leaders. What they had neglected to point out was that the Lord Himself had appointed Moses and Aaron to their offices.” [BKC]

Rebellion really had become a pattern of life for those wilderness believers about whom we read in the Book of Numbers. Did I say believers? Yes, I did say believers. They believed they were entitled to the blessings of the Holy Land, even though they did not obey the Lord. They believed they should live in a land flowing with milk and honey, but they spent their time complaining about the manna. Have you heard someone pray, “Lord, send us manna from heaven?” I have and I think, “Lord, please don’t make me live on manna, that is the food of the wilderness, not the food of Canaan.” Those wilderness believers spent a lot of time criticizing their leaders, especially Moses and Aaron. In response to those who attacked Aaron, Yahweh told Moses to take a rod from a representative of each of the twelve tribes of Israel, write that representative’s name on it and place it inside the tent of the testimony. The staff the Lord would choose would sprout. “The next day Moses entered the tent of the testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, representing the house of Levi, had sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds!” (Num. 17:8)

Had rebellion become a pattern in your life? It was the pattern of those who lived in the wilderness for forty years because they rebelled against the Lord. They were bored, frustrated, angry, unhappy, and in general, miserable. I am convinced that the word “wondering” is not the best choice for those people. They moved from place to place during those 40 years, but they only moved when the Lord told them to move and they only moved in the way set down by Him at Mt. Sinai. I ask again, has rebellion become a way of life for you? If so, you are living in the wilderness - the flesh - and not in Canaan - the spirit.

There are professing Christians who refuse to live in the heart of the Kingdom of God. In fact, they
have lived on the border line so long that they act like the people on the other side of the border. They look like the people on the other side - some even smell like them. There are people who profess to be Christians but their profession is all you have to go on in trying to determine whether or not they really are Christians. Are you living in the heart of the Kingdom of God, or are you living on the border line?

Years ago, we welcomed a new family into the church I served as pastor. A few days later I stopped at a service station and when I got out of my car I heard a man’s voice on the other side of a truck cursing loudly and using God’s name in vain. I stepped around the truck to see who was so blatantly taking God’s name in vain. I was surprised and disappointed to see our new church member standing there blatantly violating one of the Ten Commandments.

A deacon in Texas told me that his church was considering some men to recommend to the church for ordination as deacons. The second time the deacons met to discuss the men whose names had been submitted, a very sincere deacon and a committed leader in his church stopped the discussion when they came to one name. He said, “I am going to say something and ask that no one repeat what I am going to say because it concerns a friend of mine. He had gone to church with this man for years and the man had given every impression that he was a committed Christian. However, Bill said, “The other day I walked by some men at the oil refinery where I work and heard someone rolling profanity off his tongue like someone who had been doing it a long time. He said, “If I thought the man had once used profanity, but given it up years ago, but a sudden injury caused him to slip and use some words he had thought he had forgotten, I would not say anything about it. But the impression I got was that of a man who was completely at home with this kind of language. I cannot support anyone, regardless of how long I have known him if he used such language.

Many years ago, I preached in a church out of state and the pastor asked a long time member, who functioned as the church boss, to give his testimony. After the service, I commented on the man’s impressive testimony to a member of the church. That man said, “Yeah, but if you had been standing in front of the church after the service you probably would have heard him tell a dirty joke before he got off the steps. We could go on and on.


The church is full of people who sing, “Victory in Jesus” but cannot point to a victory in Jesus. As the late Vance Havner once said, “They sing Standing on the Promises when they are just sitting on the premises.” Those in the wilderness knew where Canaan was and they were convinced that what God promised and what the twelve spies had seen was real. They simply could not believe the Lord, Who had delivered them from Egypt, would keep them out of Canaan, forcing them to flounder in the wilderness for forty years. In the same way, a church member who lives out his life in the flesh may attend services most every Sunday, faithfully brings his tithes and offerings, sing in the choir, serve on a committee, and volunteer to help the poor and needy. Some of those people are sincere believers, but others may only give the appearance of being faithful to the Lord. They may be able to tell you about the land flowing with milk and honey, but they have only seen it from a distance. Paul would see them as carnal Christians.

When the lost sinner is delivered from death it is not for him to wander for forty years in the wilderness called the flesh, but to go directly to Canaan where he may possess his possessions. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt in order to take them into Canaan - out of Egypt, into Canaan! He had an appointment set for Israel at Sinai and this was crucial. From there they were supposed to march on to Canaan, conquer the land and really possess their possessions, meaning the land which was divided among the Twelve Tribes. Failure to obey the Lord caused the Israelites to flounder for 40 years in the wilderness, a land without water, a land without food, a land without beauty, a land without joy. They had to depend upon the Lord for everything for 40 years, and then only those who been under 20 years of age were permitted to enter the Promised Land.

Sadly, countless Christians are delivered from death and slavery, but by their own choice they flounder in the wilderness of the flesh for years. They are powerless and fruitless, but they have convinced themselves that they are doing the best they can do. Those in the wilderness had never seen a land flowing with milk and honey, but they had filtered memories of Egypt that left out the slavery, death, humiliation, and deprivation. They only thought of fish, melons, garlic, and onions.
They wanted to return to the land of death, slavery, and misery. That is what life in the flesh will do for people today. The carnal believer may well crave the sins of the flesh and glory in the memory of them.

Many who profess to be born again Christians act more like lost people than believers. The Christian who wastes his life in the wilderness of the flesh is likely to spend more time thinking about the life lived in sin (Egypt) than that which is available to him as a Spirit filled Christian (Canaan). Tragically, many professing Christians know a lot more about Egypt than they do Canaan. They may sing of the Sweet Bye and Bye, but they have a more intimate knowledge of the life of sin than they do a life of holiness. In fact, the person in the wilderness (the flesh) may actually be embarrassed when people talk of Canaan, where one walks with the Lord in faith. Sadly, some people who have been delivered from Egypt have resigned themselves to a life in the wilderness and never catch sight of Canaan where their possessions await them. The late Dr. W. O. Vaught called this the “old sin nature” and Major Ian Thomas referred to it as the flesh.

Let me draw some parallels. The Israelites only had to be delivered from Egypt onetime, just as the person who is dead in sin must only be delivered from death one time (John 10:28; 2 Peter 1:3-5).
Even when the Israelites griped and complained against Moses and Aaron the Lord did not send them back to Egypt. At the same time, these delivered people were a fruitless people. God brought them out of Egypt to take them into Canaan, not to wander in the wilderness. They were as fruitless in the wilderness as a Christian is who persists in walking in the flesh. Those in the wilderness produced no fruit and they could not enter the Canaan. It took the mighty hand of God to get the Israelites out of the wilderness and into Canaan. The Lord brought them out of Egypt to take them into Canaan. Only He could do it. He wants to take the Christian who is wandering in the flesh and move him into Canaan, meaning the spiritual life He intends for all believers.

Every believer has spent some time in the wilderness. He or she may have been in Sunday School every Sunday, seldom missed a worship service, read his daily Bible reading, and contributed to special mission offerings and certain “love offerings” to help the needy. He or she may applaud good new about souls that are being saved, churches that are being planted, and mission work at home and abroad. Yet, there is something missing in their daily walk with the Lord. If you find yourself in that situation I want to assure you that you cannot deliver yourself from the wilderness any more than you could deliver yourself from Egypt. That takes the mighty hand of God. The good news is that He is ready, willing, and able to restore you them moment you confess your sin and asked forgiveness. He will place you in the Land of Canaan where you may possess your possessions. He will do it now if you really want to walk with Him in the Spirit. Confess your failures or your sins, ask Him to restore you and trust Him to do it. Who know what blessing awaits you? You don’t want to miss it!

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)