(God’s Ultimate Goal for our Lives)
When Joseph was in Egypt, he brought his father and brothers to Egypt to escape famine. During this time the Lord blessed Israel and made of them a great nation, one feared by the Egyptians who had forgotten Joseph. They enslaved Israel, But the Lord heard their cries and sent 9 plagues upon the Egyptians. Pharaoh still refused to let Israel go. The Lord then sent the last and most devastating plague upon the land. The first born in every home in Egypt where blood of an unblemished lamb was not found on the doorpost of the home would die. Hence the institution of the Passover (Exodus 12). At the same time, no one would die in the home of those who followed the word of the Lord and believed His promise. The Passover was a prophetic picture of our Lord Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). They who reject Him shall die; they who believe in Him shall live.
With the death of the first-born in every Egyptian home, Pharaoh relented and let Israel go. But then he reneged and pursued them. But the Lord is true to His Word. He would lead Israel by the hand of Moses to the Promised Land. The Lord provided a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead and protect them. After 430 years of slavery in a foreign land they were free; the pursuing Egyptians died in the Red Sea through which the Lord miraculously had led His people. “So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians…” (Exodus 14:30).
Moses and the children of Israel sang a song of praise to the Lord for their deliverance. It began: “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!” It concluded: “The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (Exodus15).
But the nature of sinful humans is to ask, “What have you done for me lately?” God had led them and cared for them with tender and compassionate care, but after about 30 days out of Egypt they, not unlike ourselves, began to complain and murmur against Moses and against the Lord. They said, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of he Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full. For you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger”(Exodus 16:3). Here is the origin of the saying when people forget the goodness of God in delivering them from some circumstance, “They yearned for the fleshpots of Egypt.” Israel had pleaded to be delivered from Egypt. The Lord heard their cry. But soon thereafter they wanted to return. Does this perhaps sound a bit familiar to us? Are we often an echo of Israel?
Surely this was a people ripe for punishment. But the Lord had a plan. To the fulfillment of His plan He treated the people with tenderness and kindness, hardly what they deserved. Such is the grace of God, rich in mercy and kindness. He gave them water to drink, bread in the morning, and meat in the evening. Their diet consisted of manna and quail. “And you shall know that I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 16:12). For 40 years Israel ate manna, a wafer-like bread with the taste of honey that could be prepared by baking or boiling.
There was another expression of God’s care for them. When they left Egypt He did not lead them by the most direct route. Bearing the bones of Joseph they were led to avoid warlike nations, “lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt” (Exodus 13:17).
The Lord had and still has His reasons for leading His people as He does. All His ways are good and gracious, though we may not at the time understand them. By testing us He strengthens us. He never leads His children along a path but that He will show the way. He never lays a burden upon His children that He will not help them bear. His children confidently trust in Him and believe with the burdened apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). There is no one who in reality is weaker than that one who trusts in himself, who thinks that he is master of his own fate, and in that delusion thinks he has no need for God.
David wrote, “Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright. Save Lord! May the King answer us when we call” (Psalm 20:6-9). Occasionally the Lord will let us fall so we learn that our strength is not in ourselves. Paul learned through testing where his strength lay. It is confident faith that waits on the Lord in times of trial. Paul learned through trial and affliction to say, “When I am weak then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 9). “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:2).
God’s plan for Israel had one goal. It was to lead them safely and surely to the Promised Land. He has a plan for us. It is to lead us through the trials and tribulations of life to the Promised Land. Two things sustain us through the long, bumpy journey which we call life. It is the remembrance of the past, that is of the blessings which have been showered upon us from our conception to this very moment. It is the promise that He has made to bring us ultimately to the better country, the fullness of life with Him in glory. This is sealed to us through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
Israel frequently forgot both the past grace and the promised future. So do we. Yet our Father in Christ Jesus is true. “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed says the Lord, Who has mercy on you” (Isaiah 54:10). Given our forgetfulness and our frequent murmuring and complaining that is a magnificent expression of God’s love. We can trust it for “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).
God’s ancient people passed through many trials and afflictions, many brought on them by their own folly and unbelief. It is also true of us. But as we return to our Lord in penitence and faith we shall reap the blessing of His plan for us: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Lord, lead us on the path,
The path You’d have us walk.
And when the path is hard and long
Or we cannot comprehend,
Help us to trust that where You lead,
Is to our Home in heaven. *