“It is eleven days journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year…” (Deuteronomy 1:2-3)
Forty years to travel what should have taken 11 days. 14,589 days longer than it should have taken. A generation wasted on wandering in the desert. Why? For what reason?
For failure to believe in a God big enough to defeat any foe they were facing, no matter the size. For lack of faith in a Father Who had just displayed His mighty power in calling the Israelites out of Egypt. For a stubborn refusal to trust in their God, Who had promised them the very land they were refusing to enter.
So what does God do? Instead of going in and taking possession of the promise, God tells them “turn around and head back into the desert.” You won’t believe? Fine. Have it your way. Enjoy the scenery out in the wasteland! Suddenly, when faced with the unpopular idea of wandering around in the desert, the conquest of Canaan didn’t look so hard after all! So they tried to take it on their own strength, and suffered a major beat down. One by one, the people of that generation fell in the desert, exiles on the very edge of the Promised Land they would never enter.
But before you and I get too hard on Israel, let’s look at our own lives for a minute. Ever doubted God? Ever thought “Nope, that can’t be what You want for me, God! It’s just too much! Too big! Too hard!” Ever seen God move in a clear and mighty way in your life, only to doubt His care and provision a day or two later? Ever been “on the mountain”, amazed at the Presence of God in worship, crying out to Him and asking for His will to be done in your life, and then struggle with belief soon after?
We Christians claim to serve an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God. We tell everyone (or we should tell) that He’s worthy of our praise, our honor, our very lives. Yet, how do we respond when faced with adversity? How do we respond when He asks of us something larger than we think we can handle? When God asks us to “go in and possess” a land inhabited by “giants”, what do we do? When we ask God to use us, then get discouraged by the speed at which He’s doing so, what’s our response?
See, when I read the story of the Exodus and the ensuing rebellion and wandering, I see my own life. I see a man who was saved out of slavery to sin, only to repeatedly look back longingly at the Egypt I left behind. I see a man who has had all the promises of God laid out before him by Godly men and women who led him on the way, only to become ensnared by the allurements of the “people of the land.” I see a man who wandered for years in a wilderness of his own choosing, a wilderness that could’ve been crossed in 11 days, but it took 40 years instead.
Or, in my case, maybe 35?
But you know what else I see? I see the grace of a mighty Savior that never left me alone in that wilderness. I see the love of a Father that fed me and nurtured me in ways I couldn’t see then, but that I see clearly now looking back. I see the power of God making a way through the wilderness for me to find the water my soul craved so dearly.
I see a God that I can trust. Do you?
So I ask you, as I ask myself, “are we there yet?”