When God’s people were in the wilderness, one thing that stands out is how God was always with them. In his faithfulness and despite their sinful stumbling, God never left his people nor did he forsake them. I like how Timothy Laniak describes how Yahweh was with his people in the wilderness. I’ve summarized it below:
- Protection (Dt. 23:14). The first example of protection is how YHWH delivered and protected his people from the Egyptians. His fiery cloud was a barrier between Israel and Egypt’s army (Ex. 14:19-20). He threw the Egyptian army into confusion (Ex. 14:24). God rescued and protected Israel with his ‘strong arm’ (Ex. 3:19, 6:1, etc.). Joshua and Caleb, the two spies with faith, believed that Yahweh was with Israel to protect them against the enemies and give them victory (Num. 14:7-9). Balaam is unable to curse Israel because God was with Israel (Num. 23:21).
- Provision (Ps. 105:40-41). God is revealed as a gracious provider of water, bread, and meat during the wilderness years. Manna was a clear example of God’s provision for his people. “Spiritual sustenance is the ultimate reality to which the feeding miracles refer: ‘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 (Dt. 8:3, 32:2, etc.). YHWH also provided rest for them and ultimately provided them with the Land of Promise (Dt. 8:7-10).
- Guidance (Ex. 15:13). “God’s guidance in the wilderness begins with his redemption of the people from Egypt and continues throughout their journey to the pastures of the Promised Land.” Several verbs are used to describe this leading: guide (Ps. 23:2), herd (Ps. 78:52), direct (Ex. 13:21), and so forth. It is clear from the wilderness experience that Yahweh led his people like a good shepherd leads his sheep.
Lanaik gives more detail, to be sure. But his three biblical points that explain God’s presence with his people in the wilderness are very applicable to our Christian lives today. In Christ, by his Holy Spirit, our heavenly Father protects us, provides for us, and guides us on our journey to the heavenly Promised Land. With humble and grateful hearts “we follow not with fear!” He has faithfully protected, provided for, and guided his people in the past, and he will continue to do so. This is one promise we can rely on during those grueling trials in life: “I will be with you” (Dt. 31:23, Josh. 1:5, Is. 43:2, Mt. 28:20).
The three points above that I’ve edited and summarized can be found in their full and original form in Timothy S. Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart, p. 80-86.