(Apologies for this post being so late… )
So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. ~ Numbers 10:33
There was a note in my study Bible that is a good reminder moving forward. It reminded me that while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, they were not aimlessly wandering. God was still guiding them. This idea, combined with this verse teach us a very important lesson.
If you’re anything like me, these two things aren’t anything new to you. You’ve heard about the cloud that guided them, and you’ve heard people mention how God goes before you. To some of us these aren’t revolutionary ideas. But I hope that I can give you some of the fresh insight that this passage has given me. Here we go….
Think back, the Israelites are going through the wilderness because God promises them that He is going to give them land, and that He will help them conquer the current inhabitants in order to take over the land. So imagine being in this large group of people, walking in circles through the wilderness (sometimes it’s a desert, but sometimes it isn’t) all because of a promise from God that He is going to give you land. I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to the whole wandering in the wilderness feeling- not just in other seasons of life, but currently. My life a lot of time feels like aimless wandering, with little or no progress. I’m not whining, but it’s just the journey that the Lord has had Andy and I on since we’ve been married. I know God doesn’t have the same path for everyone, but let me give you a quick run down of ours, so you can understand a little about why I can relate to this.
In the four years Andy and I have been married: we have a 3-year-old son, a 20 month old daughter (with two pretty challenging pregnancies), we’re working for our second prayer ministry, we’ve been in 4 churches (3 at staff levels and one was a plant), I’ve had 3 totally different teaching jobs, and we’ve lived in 3 different places with a couple short stints crashing in my parent’s basement in between. Now if you know me, I’m a planner, I like to do things the most efficient way, and I follow the cultural expectations and ideas of responsible living as best I can…. unless God directs otherwise. Which you’ll see from my list above has been pretty much our entire married life.
So moving back to the Israelites, the irony in their situation is that they are walking through uninhabited land in faith that God is going to help them conquer already inhabited land. In the moment, this makes no sense. They are walking through empty land for decades looking for a place to settle! If I was in charge (both for them and my family), I would have put my foot down many, many times declaring, “This place looks perfectly fine!” Can you relate? If I was God and leading the Israelites to the Promised Land, I would have just settled the pillar of fire over the final destination and had them make a beeline for it. But God isn’t just about the final destination, He is also about the journey.
Point 1: God was guiding the wandering. God wasn’t just guiding them to the final destination, He guided them each step of the way. To them it looks like just another rock, desert, or to me another church- but to God even the redundant paths are perfectly picked in location and time.
Point 2: God was scouting out places for them to rest. Now, when people have mentioned to me that God “will go before you,” I must confess that I mostly picture it as trying to follow a sparsely supplied trail of bread crumbs. Like God left the Israelites after the Red Sea and dashed ahead of them to the Promised Land, leaving the Israelites the task of trying to track Him to the right final destination. But this verse in chapter 10 completely contradicts how I (negatively) assumed it worked. 10:33 says that God went ahead of them and found the place for them to rest. This was not the same as my earlier declaration, “This looks fine!” God scouted. He did the work and the planning to make sure that they were taken care of in the best way possible.
Now, if the extra insights on those individually weren’t enough, the biggest impact was the insight of how those two work when combined. When you combine those two points, then you realize that the God and faith led journey through life might feel like aimlessly wandering through the wilderness or desert, but in reality is a journey where the Creator of the universe is both Navigator and Scout. Who cares if I’m convinced we’ve made this loop before! Who wouldn’t want to follow that!?!?!
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 11-13