This morning I was reading my daily Scriptures (with my new electronics lap-pad, courtesy of my thoughtful husband), and a story in the book of Numbers gave me pause. It’s in chapter 14, where the Israelites have just seen what they are up against, and are reacting to it. They see these people who are much larger than they are, and they “seemed like grasshoppers” to them. So, seeing this enormous challenge ahead of them, they cried all night, and then “grumbled” to Moses and Aaron, telling them they wished they had died in Egypt or the wilderness.
Stop right here. This sounds so familiar. I have been here. I have felt small and helpless. In the past year I have faced enormous challenges and have felt like I wanted to go back to the way things were. But the way things were… busting my butt working full time and going to school and neglecting time with family and friends in the process… that was my Egypt. That was a spiritual and emotional wilderness. Why on earth would I want to go back?
Why indeed? The Israelites are asking why, but it’s a different “why”. They are asking why God is bringing them into a new land, only to let them be killed. They are asking if it wouldn’t be better for them to go back. (Meanwhile I ask, why would God allow me to lose my hearing and vision? Wouldn’t it be better if I was healed and went back to work?) Some of the men tried to reassure the Israelites that the land was “flowing with milk and honey” and that the men occupying the land had been stripped of their strength, because God wants to protect them and give them the abundant land. God WANTS to bless them, and therefore he has removed all obstacles, whether the Israelites can see it or not.
When I look back now at the challenges I’ve faced, I see clearly that God went ahead of me and removed the obstacles that would have otherwise stood in my way, and that I am now in a land flowing with milk and honey. When I read these Old Testament stories, it always amazes me how forgetful the Israelites were, that they would complain and doubt God after all He delivered them from, but then I realize I do that. In fact, we ALL do that. All these generations later, we are still the same pathetic whiners. And yet God is also still the same: slow to anger, and full of mercy and love. Patient, merciful, loving. Let’s chew on that for awhile, shall we?