Deuteronomy 1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all the people of Israel while they were in the wilderness east of the Jordan River… Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the LORD had commanded him to say… “When we were at Mount Sinai, the LORD our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on. Go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all the neighbouring regions—the Jordan Valley, the hill country, the western foothills, the Negev, and the coastal plain. Go to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, and all the way to the great Euphrates River. Look, I am giving all this land to you! Go in and occupy it, for it is the land the LORD swore to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all their descendants.’”… “Then, just as the LORD our God commanded us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness, as you yourselves remember, and headed toward the hill country of the Amorites… Go and occupy it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ “But you all came to me and said, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and which towns we should enter.’…
Forty years spent in the desert and now to lecture the tired populace was not going to reinvigorate the Israelites, was it? How is God speaking to us through this reflection of the painful Israelite journey?
When I first read through this chapter a few days ago, I wondered what this whole rambling might be about. Like the Israelites I wanted new spiritual manna and did not want to be lectured on the whole story again. I figured I was done with their painful journey and wanted to see God carry out great and mighty feats and this first chapter of Deuteronomy did not seem to cut it. Was I missing something?
On re-reflection today, it hit me hard that just like the Israelites pictured in this story, we are an impatient and mystery seeking lot. We want everything NOW and nothing ordinary will suffice because we are dealing with God who is supernatural and therefore the ordinary will never be enough. We want miracles, justice, blessing, joy, peace and prosperity but in exchange do not want to be corrected, lectured, challenged, directed or inspired.
Is that not hard-hearted and short-sighted of us? Are we not so lost in ourselves that we really don’t have time for God? Is our walk in this world only about ourselves and our glory and if so how are we doing so far? Hard questions to ask ourselves and the answers are painful and depressing.
Like the stiff-necked Israelites, we will continue to walk circles around our heavenly Canaan when we are about our own mission. However, if we want to live in the centre of God’s plan for us, we need to be willing to admit our shortcomings, submit our hardened hearts to Jesus, ask His forgiveness, renew our acceptance of God’s salvation and surrender ourselves once again to His service.
As a husband and father, I was recently reminded by my wife of this same problem in my marriage because I co-existed with my family in the same space but did not really share myself or my love towards them. It took a really hard re-examining my past, thanking God for my wife and kids, submitting my brokenness and selfish spirit to Him for correction before I started to see the change in me. I can now with Paul say with conviction that:
‘I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength’ Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)
In His Loving Service,