(Sunday, April 26, 2020)
We all want good things to happen in our lives, but too often we want it now…not later. When it doesn’t happen that way, we are tempted to ask, “When, God, when?” And we start criticising that God is doing nothing for us. In the midst of hardships, we tend to feel our prayers and cry to God aren’t being heard because we may not see an immediate change in our situations. When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, we may be tempted to stop trusting the Lord and start chasing other ‘gods’. However, God has his own sense of timing: ‘With the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day’ (2 Peter 3:8). He has perfect timing: never early, never late. God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time. We want everything NOW, and sometimes God requires us to wait because we need to grow and mature to be prepared for the blessing that we are asking for. (Joyce Meyer, president of Joyce Meyer Ministries) And just because we do not see an immediate change doesn’t mean God never heard us, because He has!
The book of Genesis tells the story of Joseph, who waited many years for the fulfilment of the dream God had given him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” (Genesis 37: 5-7) Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Genesis 37:9) He was sold, falsely accused and imprisoned before the time came for him to do what God had shown him, he was to do.
2.0 ISRAELITES JOURNEY TO THE PROMISED LAND
The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua tell us that God led the Israelites the longer, harder way on their journey to the Promised Land because He knew they were not yet ready to go in. There had to be time for their training, and they had to go through some very trying situations. They wasted a lot of time wondering about God’s timing, but God never failed to take care of them and show them what He wanted them to do. Their goal was the land of Canaan, yet Moses did not take the shortest route – about 250 miles [400 km] along the sandy coast – which would have led straight through Philistia, enemy territory. Nor did he head across the vast center of the Sinai Peninsula, where intense heat baked the gravel and limestone plateau. No, Moses led the people south, down the narrow coastal plain. The first camp was at Marah, where God made bitter water turn sweet. After leaving Elim, the people murmured for food; God sent manna and then quail. At Rephidim, water was again an issue, attacking Amalekites were vanquished, and Moses’ father-in-law urged him to get help from capable men. (Exodus 15-18). Moses then led Israel toward the mountains farther south, camping at Mount Sinai. There God’s people received the Law, built the tabernacle, and offered sacrifices. In the second year, they went north through a “great and fear-inspiring wilderness,” the journey to the area of Kadesh (Kadesh-Barnea) apparently taking 11 days. (Deuteronomy 1:1, 2, 19; 8:15) Because of becoming fearful over a negative report from ten spies, the people had to wander for 38 years. (Number 13:1–14:34) Among their stops were Abronah and Ezion-geber, and then they went back to Kadesh. (Number 33:33-36). When it was finally time for Israel to approach the Promised Land, the Israelites did not move due north. Their route took them around Edom’s heartland and up “the king’s road,” the King’s Highway. (Number 21:22; Deuteronomy 2:1-8) It was not easy for a whole nation – with children, animals, and tents – to move over this trail. They had to wind down into and climb back out of formidable gorges – the Zered and the Arnon (nearly 1,700 feet i.e. 20 m deep). Deuteronomy 2:13, 14, 24. Finally, the Israelites reached Mount Nebo. Miriam had died at Kadesh, and Aaron, at Mount Hor. Moses now died in sight of the land he had desired to enter. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52; 34:1-5) It fell to Joshua to lead Israel into the land, ending a journey begun 40 years earlier. (Joshua 1:1-4). Two million people are supposed to have gone on the exodus. The bible says there were 603550 men from twenty years and above who came up from Egypt (Number 1:46). However, Joshua (at the age of 80-85 years) and Caleb (at the age of 40 years) were the only adult Israelites in that first generation who went “into the fullness” of God’s calling. No one from 20 years and above made it except for those two. People gave birth to more children on the 40-year journey who made it to Canaan (a total of 601730 men of 20 years and above reached the promised land), but only two of the original crowd made it (Number 26:51)
Let us consider some possible reasons why the shortest route may not be the best route for us, and why it was not the best route for the Israelites:
3.1 The shortest route would have taken the Israelites through hostile Philistine country
They were not prepared to encounter such hostility. “For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So, God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17–18) Moses left Egypt with an army of mostly broken souls who had spent the last eight to ten generations as slaves in Egypt. To reach Canaan, they would have to fight the Moabites, the Amalekites, and several other nations before actually having to confront the cities and tribes of Canaan itself. The Hebrew tribes were in no condition at that time to undertake such a challenge.
God sometimes brings us the long way because we are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unprepared to face what awaits us along the short route or at the end of our journey.
3.2 God wanted the Egyptians to know that He is the LORD
Though God had a covenant responsibility to bring the Jewish People out of Egypt, He was also concerned about the spiritual condition of the Egyptians. “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for Myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 14:4) Likewise, when God takes us the long way, He may have in mind the salvation of others.
3.3 God planned to show His People His might
God planned to show His People His might one more time through the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh and his army. This forever settled in their minds that they were rid of their Egyptian taskmasters – never again would they be capable of dragging the Israelites back into slavery. The Israelites were free to worship and serve their Deliverer. God sometimes brings us through Red Sea experiences so that we will have a deep and lasting revelation of just how free we are in Messiah. “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
3.4 God wanted His children to know that there is no turning back
With the Red Sea now sealing off the Israelites’ route back to Egypt, they understood that the food and delicacies that they were fond of as slaves were now a memory. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Numbers 11:5) In the dry place between bondage and the land of milk and honey, the Israelites would be tempted to grumble about their present circumstances and see their past through rose-colored glasses, misremembering and idealizing their enslavement. They desperately needed to have an encounter with God at Mount Sinai where they would receive instructions for a new way of life—on how to follow God through His written statutes and appointed leaders.
When Believers are brought into a place of new life in the Messiah but are not yet living as a new creation, we need to learn to depend on the LORD daily and resist the temptation to fondly reminisce about former lives lived in sin. God sometimes brings us through Red Sea experiences so that we will not turn back to our lives enslaved to the forces of the world.
3.5 God took the Israelites on the long way because He had great plans for them
He had plans to transform them into a holy nation by giving them His word in the form of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments, written by His own hand. He planned to create a civil and spiritual society by giving them the Torah or Five Books of Moses, which He would dictate to His prophet. In the wilderness, the People of Israel would have an opportunity to meditate, study, and encounter God’s Word in ways they could not on the short way fraught with continual battles.
He not only took them out of slavery into freedom, he recreated a people who were, in every sense, free. They were transformed from cowering fearfully before the Red Sea to courageously fighting to take possession of the Promised Land.
In our own wilderness, away from the distractions and noise of the short way, we often are more attentive to the voice of the Lord. It is in this place that we have an opportunity to prepare for a transformation—a new beginning.
3.6 God wanted to demonstrate to the Israelites that he could sustain them even in the wilderness
He miraculously supplied this massive nation with water from a rock, Manna from heaven and even meat in the form of flocks of birds.
God also wants us to radically rely on Him so that He will supernaturally demonstrate to us that He is our provider, even in the toughest of times.
3.7 God wanted a people who would trust in His leading
The Bible reveals, however, that the Hebrew People whom God had been supernaturally delivering and sustaining, balked at entering the Land that He promised them.
Of the twelve spies that entered Canaan, only Joshua and Caleb brought back a positive report. Joshua agreed with Caleb, who confidently proclaimed, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30) The others complained that the land was filled with the Nephilim, the fathers of the Anakim (a tribe of people living in the hills of Judah and Philistia), saying, “We saw the Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)
It is tempting for us to regard such things as waiting or even resting and recuperating from work or injury or sickness as the wasting of time. The truth is that our Lord accomplishes some of His most significant works of sanctification in us when we are doing what we regard as nothing. Every good and loving relationship requires a degree of patience. We hope that by allowing someone time to grow, and the grace to do so, we will eventually receive our reward for waiting. The difference in a relationship with God is that our patience is always rewarded. It may not have fit our time schedule, and it may not look the way we thought it would, but it will come exactly when it was supposed to. Give God a chance to do His work and allow Him to do it on His schedule. He will make everything work out just right, just as He sees fit, and He will do it right on time.
Our soul is our mind, our will and our emotions. When the Word gets rooted in there and begins to change our mind, it begins to heal our emotions and turn our will away from self-will and onto doing the will of God. Living out of one’s own soul is equivalent to staying in the wilderness. When our flesh is finally crucified, and we get out of our soul and into doing the will of God, that’s when we enter the promised land. The promised land is knowing who we are in Christ, knowing how to fellowship with Him, enjoying His presence, and having peace, contentment and joy. We can rejoice in knowing that everything that we have had to go through was exactly what was needed. Ours is not to understand but to submit and accept God’s plan. David had it right when he said in Psalm 31:15, “My times are in thy hand.” Our life is in God’s hands, only if we place it there. And He’s in charge. He’s in charge of us. We have bad things happening in our lives, but God is in charge. We’re in His hands. In His hands we are safe.