Sometimes life doesn’t seem to turn out the way we want it to or expect it to. We might believe the promises of God – and we might anticipate good things in keeping with those promises – but life delivers the opposite, or so it seems. Perhaps that is how the Israelites felt as they camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19. God had promised to take them north to Canaan – a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 3:7-8). But in fact he first led them in almost the opposite direction, south into the wilderness and to the foot of the mountain.
What did they encounter there? Thunder, lightning, fire and thick smoke, loud trumpet blasts - and it terrified them. In fact, God told them not to come near the mountain or to touch it, lest he break out against them, and they perish. This is the very God who said of these people, “I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself,” and “you will be my treasured possession among all peoples” (19:4-5). This is the God who promised to take them to Canaan. What’s going on? Does he want them or not?
Here’s what was going on. He was teaching them – before they entered the land of Canaan – something that they desperately needed to know: that he is holy, and they must be holy too. People who are unholy cannot have access to him.
God does keep his word, and he ultimately does bring these people to the land of Canaan. Actually, he brings their children into the land of Canaan – because the parents failed to believe and obey him. And even though he may have led you into a wilderness for now, that is not your ultimate destination, if you are in Christ Jesus. He has opened the way to God, and when you put your faith in him his obedience – his righteousness – is credited to you, and he will take you all the way home.
Don’t let the trials of the present moment deceive you into doubting the promises of God. Wildernesses often lie along the path to our ultimate destination – and so does instruction in the holiness of God. This is for our good and for our sanctification. Keep on persevering in faith no matter what life brings.