In the midst of all these instructions, I almost missed it. Going back and reading it again, all of Exodus 23:20-33 is a pretty cool passage. God sends an angel ahead of the Israelites to guard them on their journey, but to also prepare the road ahead for them.
“I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.” – Exodus 23:28-32
Here is a group of people aimlessly wandering in the desert, with no home and frequently accusing God of leaving them for dead. And what does God do? He promises them that He is not only going to give them a permanent home, but a huge and fertile area. I can’t imagine in such a hard and desperate state being promised such generosity, such a different life than the current one. What an incredible gift!
But I can imagine the struggle, frustration even, when the Israelites heard God say that He would not bring them into this promise quickly. Did you catch that? “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” What wisdom God shows in giving the Israelites the Promised Land slowly, so they have a large enough population to occupy it. If He were to give it to them all at one time, they could only occupy a part of it and then the wilderness, animals and all would take it over.
Now for them, and their situation, I recognize the wisdom. But it is much harder when we are in this situation. When God promises us something, we want it now. And all of it. The process of slowly coming into a full promise is difficult. It requires a great deal of patience. But even when our own emotions are wrapped up in the situation, God still shows great wisdom in taking His time to bring us into His full promise. To us a quick and complete arrival could be endangered by immaturity, or pride. God needs to ensure that we have the maturity, humility, and even just the bandwidth to be able to occupy the full extent of what He has for us. For us, it can seem unfair, or worse- that God doesn’t keep His word. But it is the complete opposite. God moves patiently, so that we can fully take possession of His promise with stability. So His word isn’t endangered or broken by our inability to keep what He’s given us.
I’m not saying that it’s easy, but at least to me, I found this greatly encouraging. I hope you did too.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 25-27