Finding miniature figures, the kind that we fondly recall from growing up in the sixties has not been easy. If you are old enough, you may remember the tiny soldiers that were advertised in comic books from that era and sold for little more than a dollar ninety-eight for two hundred green plastic army figures which measured no higher than a push pin. Nowadays, tracking down these vintage toy soldiers is still possible, what is problematic is finding nomadic figures. The reason for locating ancient O.T. figures has to do with Bible knowledge. I wish to replicate what it must have been like for the Hebrew people just after their exodus from Egypt, which happened about the middle of the 14 century BC, were close to a 2,400,000 Hebrews formed in the Sinai desert. Liberal thinkers guesstimate the numbers to be much smaller. But since no less than 600,000 men left Egypt, and taking into account wives and children, it easily raises the number into the millions (Ex. 12:37). It seems staggering to consider how so many could be expected to survive the harsh desert climate. Yet, is anything too hard for the Lord. While it stands to reason that ill health would be present among some amidst such a large company at the exodus, we are told that not one of them left Egypt in a feeble or sickly condition. (Psalm 105:37).
In place of nomadic looking figures, I substituted dry kidney beans and monopoly houses for tents. Not long into our Sunday School lesson, the reason for the harsh conditions that the Hebrews had to go through came up for discussion. God chose a desert to train His people to trust Him. For 430 years, the Hebrews had been under constant stain from the Egyptians to learn their ways. They had eaten their food, worked under their rules, learned their culture, and raised their children under the shadow of the Egyptian gods. The Hebrews were in danger of losing their identity. Long before this, Abraham was called out from the Ur of the Chaldees, and was told that his descendants would become a great nation and that God would be their God. Now that time had come for Jewish nationhood. The desert would be their classroom, the law their moral compass, and the tabernacle a constant reminder of God’s presence. They would be taught about their spiritual heritage and cultural uniqueness among the nations. They had been chosen to represent the gospel to all the nations. Israel would learn dependence at every step along the way in their wilderness journey. Every time that the cloud or fire changed locations above the tabernacle, a sea of bodies followed. In the arid desert, you cannot be more than two or three days from any water source if you wish to stay alive. They had to rely on God’s ability to lead and provide for them. In the desert, it is said that any that live in it for very long and experience its extremes and dangers are conscious of God from all that is around and especially those things you consider essential for life, such as food, water, and shelter since these are not easily obtained in the sparse conditions of desert life. When Hurricane Katrina levelled much of the city of New Orleans, some of its citizens learned a vital lesson not before realized. Previous conveniences and comforts were wiped out by the flood-waters and winds: now they were exposed to the harder elements of life and the only available help came mostly from the outside. Many became conscience of their need of God through this ordeal. Often when the props are kicked out from underneath us, we scramble for support. God comes to us through these difficulties if we are willing to look for Him. What is referred to as “wilderness experiences” may serve to reawaken in us our need to lean on God. This explains why God delivered His covenant community from the Egyptians only to impose upon them the harsh realities of desert life. They needed to return to the place where faith in God occupied their lives once more. The Christian should be thankful to God for difficulties. God gives Believers wilderness experiences for our good. Too often the world and its ways has taken up residence in our lives and we remain shackled until by divine appointment, trials and hardships are sent our way to help us break free and drive us back to God where we belong.