Have you ever thought about those 40 years of the Jewish people wandering in the wilderness? I had this picture in my mind that families just woke up each day and followed the large group ahead of them, traveling first north and then south, now east, and then west. I thought they may have even found themselves back at a previous camping spot before the fire embers had died out in front of their relentless pulling up of stakes.
Yet, looking at a suggested map drawn from Moses’ written account (Numbers 33:1-49) of the starting points of their travels, I am impressed with a belief that in every step and every encampment, God was leading His chosen people to the Promised Land. And during this journey, the families were having babies, their children were growing, the warriors were fighting inhabitants of these foreign lands, the priests were serving God, and Moses was judging and instructing the people. Aaron and Miriam were buried along the way, and God raised up new leaders to take the place of Moses who died at the journey’s end. The Israelites may not have been able to see around the next huge rock formation, but they continued the journey, nevertheless.
Sometimes it is hard to see where God is leading me. I can look back at my own wanderings and wonder at the numerous places I’ve lived, the trials and tragedies, the miracles, and the remarkable blessings of God. Has my journey, thus far, just been meandering in the wilderness of sin (yes, I recognize the similarity to the Exodus), and so a purging and punishing walk? That is one perspective, and one that leaves me deflated with little joy in the Lord.
The bigger picture here, however, may be encapsulated in a short phrase found in Numbers 34:53. “…for I have given you the land to possess.” This is what God emphasized to Moses and how Moses was able to encourage the Israelites to keep moving. God gave them the Promised Land, and all the journeying and conquering along the way prepared His people to possess that land. Their faith refined; their obedience demonstrated; they learned reliance on Him.
What is the Promised Land to us today? Is it a place, a position, or an accumulation of material gain? Or is our journey leading us closer to “the letting go” of all that interferes with knowing Him? – With a real desire for intimacy with God, and reliance on Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit? Each starting point (His compassions fail not and are new every morning) can begin again the next step to being closer to His heart’s desire – that “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NASB) I pray to continuously follow Him. What a picture – we, hand in hand, walking with our Lord!