I’ve been reading The One-Year Chronological Bible and spending time with those rebellious Hebrew children out in the wilderness. After being led out of Egyptian slavery by a miraculous deliverance, their constant complaining drove God and Moses to wrestle more than once with the urge to wipe them out.
Probably most annoying of all their whining was their question, “Why didn’t you just leave us in Egypt? We had water, food, comfy beds”—whatever the complaint du jour, the answer was found back in the place of captivity.
Reading the story, you learn that no one who was an adult at the start of the journey was allowed into the Promised Land and so they spent 40 years wondering around the desert waiting for those folks to die. Very near the end of their sojourn, you still hear talk of the folly of leaving Egypt. Almost none of this hoard had even lived in Egypt! That means that the stories and fantasies of the glories of the land of their tormentors turned heroes had been passed down through generations! Rather than gratitude and honor to God, they fostered resentment. Rather than anticipation and excitement for what lie ahead, they kept their hearts tied to a fantasy world.
I asked God, “What was wrong with those people?” How could they be so dumb? They begged to be delivered from captivity and slavery. They saw God’s miraculous works. For forty years, they were fed supernaturally, drank water spilled spontaneously from rocks, and somehow clothed and provided for additional millions born in the desert, and they still doubted God’s goodness. They were convinced that nothing He had for them could ever be as good as what they left behind. They wondered how they could have been so stupid. There were problems in Egypt, of course, but so many pleasures! Surely, they could have worked it out.
The Bible tells us that the story of the Exodus is instructive for us. We are to apply its lessons to our own lives; and, since I asked, God graciously used it to point out my own folly. I love that! I hate that!
I have a similar story of deliverance. I was in a situation that gave me all the things we think we want– financial security, travel, a nice home. But those things came with emotional abuse, distain, and control. I was miserable, constantly asking God for a way out. And He delivered me, but I must trust Him when I am in a dry place to see that He didn’t bring me out to let me die. He is bringing me through the desert to a place that is better than I could hope or imagine.
The problem is that I, like those crazy children of Israel, keep looking back. I dwell on the good things, forgetting the misery and desperation. I imagine that I could have fixed it somehow instead of following God’s way to a new and better thing.
When God saved Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angel warned them not to look back. But Lot’s wife did gaze over her shoulder, thinking of all she had left behind for an unknown future. She was immediately turned into a pillar of salt—unable to go back, prevented from experiencing the wonders that lay ahead.
Do you ever do that? Get stuck where you are in the desert? God has made many promises for your future, but are you too busy looking back with regret at perceived losses to believe and follow Him wholeheartedly to a land flowing with milk and honey?
I hope not. Since God has shown me my own foolishness, I won’t be trapped in the past anymore. He has done too many wonderful things and shown me too much of Himself not to believe that He’s got an exciting new chapter for me! You, too!