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During their forty years in the desert, Israel was transformed. The Israelites came out of Egypt as emancipated slaves with a vague remembrance of their God and little awareness of their identity. Through a journey of struggle and hardship made possible by the daily experience of God’s ever-present love and provision, they came out of the desert as a people with a faith, a book, and a culture. No wonder the desert became a central theme in the faith life of God’s people. It was not just a place through with they passed; it was how they gained a way of life, an identity; it was part of their very soul.
Here are some of the deserts that have been so formative in the lives of God’s people. Locate
- the Sinai Desert (including the Desert of Sin and Desert of Paran)
- the Negev Desert (including the Desert of Zin)
- the Judea Wilderness
Discovery and Discussion Questions
- When the exodus was coming to an end, what did Moses say was God’s purpose for leading his people into the desert after he had delivered them from Egypt? (See Deuteronomy 8:1-5)What difficulties did God bring upon his people, and how did he care for his people at the same time?
- What kind of relationship did God want to have with his people, and what was required of his people for this kind of relationship to develop? (Exodus 19:3-6)
- Read Psalm 78:10-54 (long passage but fairly dramatic!); Ezekiel 20:6-20; and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. In light of these passages, discuss the following questions:
a. In what ways were the Israelites dissatisfied with God’s provision and unimpressed by his miracles?
b. In what sense might we respond the same way when we are going through desert experiences?
c. What impact did God want his miraculous provision to have on his people, and what finally got their attention?
d. What do you think is the key to noticing what God may be trying to teach us when we go through desert experiences?
- Despite the sins of his chosen people, how did God prove himself faithful in the desert, and what did he at last accomplish? (see Psalm 77:11-20; Jeremiah 2:1-3)
How does this relate to what God might want to accomplish through our desert experiences?