Yesterday, I was listening to a sermon about the wilderness journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land and I got new insight into the very familiar story. Maybe it was the way the preacher described the process or a special anointing on the word that day, I don’t know. But it made an impression on me and I gave it some further thought. By the way, it is amazing how each morning, I have to remind myself that this is a new day and God is with me today. I would have thought that by now, I would have gotten used to the COVID-19 drama. Unfortunately, I haven’t. Although I am not as panicked or fearful as I was at the beginning, I still have to find my peaceful place every morning!
Anyway, as I was saying, this preacher described how the Israelites must have felt following the cloud of glory through the wilderness. Numbers 9, from verse 17 to verse 23 captures the story. It’s a long read, but well worth it, in setting the context. Permit me to quote it here.
“17 Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. 18 In this way, they traveled and camped at the Lord’s command wherever he told them to go. Then they remained in their camp as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. 19 If the cloud remained over the Tabernacle for a long time, the Israelites stayed and performed their duty to the Lord. 20 Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the Lord commanded. Then at the Lord’s command, they would break camp and move on. 21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. 22 Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. 23 So they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them through Moses.”
Imagine what they must have experienced, not knowing when next they were going to travel, and for how long they were traveling. Can you identify with them in these COVID-19 times? I can. I feel their frustrations. I feel their disappointment and distress. They had many questions. Maybe they expected the promised land to be just around the corner from Egypt. And the journey was taking forever! Their eyes were clouded over by what they were going through. So much that they failed to realise that their clothes were growing on them and their shoes did not fall apart. Their tents held and their pieces of equipment did not wear out, as they were setting up camp and packing up quite frequently over the forty-year journey. Manna was there every day. Yet, they were restless.
Today, like me, I am sure many people have experienced disruptions in their plans. There have been heartbreaks and disappointments. Some are mild irritations, like missing prom and graduation that students have looked forward to. Some are just delays like a wedding postponed. But some are quite painful like deaths and job losses and lack of funds. And what about fear? Fear of the virus, fear of the unknown? What do we do with all of these feelings?
We pack them up and place them at the Master’s feet. He is God and still in charge. While we can’t see beyond our noses, He has everything already planned out. He is unfolding His plans for us to see on a daily basis. If we don’t clear those things with Him, they will stop us from seeing His handiwork in all of this crisis. And we need to see Him so that we can follow Him through it all. His intentions are not to just drop us in this wilderness and abandon us. No. There is a promised land in our future. We may not see it yet, but it’s there. It’s a function of our perspective. How we see.
That is why the Israelites complained and suggested going back to Egypt. Egypt was known. The promised land was not. In Egypt, they knew what to expect. Life was predictable, though difficult. In the wilderness, life was difficult, strange, and unpredictable. There was no comfort zone to hide in. So they fretted and grumbled. They could not see the future. Let’s not be like them. Let’s learn the lessons we need to, from their experience.
God, Who was faithful to bring them to the promised land will do the same for us. For those of us, who, like Joshua and Caleb, have a different spirit and are able to see beyond the ordinary. Let us say like Caleb, “Let’s go at once to take the land. We can certainly conquer it!” Numbers 13:30 NLT
Not by our ability or strength, but by the power of God. By the plans that He mapped out long before we were born. Hebrews 12:12-13 NLT says:
“12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
So, be encouraged and be strong. Every new day is a day for making progress. It takes us a day closer to our promised land. Don’t be cast down but rest in God’s faithfulness.
We will get through this!