The Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt. God had removed them from the oppression of Pharaoh’s heavy handed leadership. After four hundred years, they were on their way home. But during their flight from Egypt to Canaan, they began complaining about missing the good things they had learned to count on in Egypt. Never mind that they had been slaves working for a tyrant. How quickly the feel of the whip on their backs and the unrealistic work conditions escaped their minds. They began doubting God, even though he had promised to lead them to their new homeland. Years earlier, he had made a covenant with their ancestors, letting them know they were his chosen people. Out of all the people on the earth, they were his most cherished possession. But still they complained. They doubted that God would do what he promised he would do.
And one day God had had enough of the complaints and disobedience. His people had shown they didn’t trust him. They wanted to do things their own way instead of following his leading, so he punished them. He needed their unwavering trust and obedience. The punishment was severe. He told them that anyone in their group who was over the age of twenty would not live to see their new homeland. And they were so close to the finish line. Their new homeland was just around the bend. But because of their disobedience, they would not cross the river into Canaan. They would never eat fresh food again, because they were still living on manna. They would not taste the abundant foods awaiting them. They would die before the promise was realized. It took forty years for all of those over age twenty to breathe their last. Moses was the final one to go. And like the others, he too had angered God. Their faithful leader did not get to cross from the wilderness into the Promised Land with the Israelite nation. He was among those who had disobeyed God. Oh. God took him up the mountain and showed him the promised land, but he died on the east side of the river. He was so close, but yet so far.
Those over the age of twenty had heard the promise that God had given to Moses. They lived with the hope of entering the Promised Land. They made the journey with the plans to cross the river. But they took their eyes off of God and looked only at themselves. Their momentary fears and concerns seemed so much more important than trusting God’s plan and timing. So they didn’t get to see the fulfillment of God’s promise. They listened to their fears instead of their faith in God.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
I recently took a solo trip to a state two states away from my home. The drive was five hours long. Not too bad. I started the trip mid-morning while the sun was out. The weather was nice. I had packed snacks and water for the trip. I turned on a podcast and began the journey.
All went well until three hours in. I arrived at the edge of a city between my home and my destination. Oh. I’ve travelled those miles many times before. Even solo a few times. So the trip was nothing new. But driving alone on the freeways and the outerbelt of a strange city makes me a bit uncomfortable. Sure. I had printed out the directions for the trip. I’m old school like that. And I also had my destination mapped in my car’s GPS. So how could I fail? That’s what I thought. Until the main exit I needed to take no longer existed. Oh. It existed on my printed directions and in my car’s GPS, but in reality the exit ramp was gone. Major construction was underway, and I had to take an alternate route. But I didn’t know what the alternate route was. There was no sign telling me where to go. So I took the first exit I saw.
Well. I ended up driving in an area of the city that would leave me very nervous if the moon was out. I drove through the underbelly of this fine city listening to the voice in my car telling me how far to go until my next turn. And the voice in my car kept trying to turn me around to get back to that nonexistent exit. After awhile, it corrected itself. So I decided I would remain calm and clearheaded and listen to this voice. I would turn when I was told, and I would continue down the path as if I was certain it would get me to my destination. I had to trust the voice in my car. I had no Plan B.
As I continued on in the city, I drove by the Children’s Museum. I smiled as I recalled the memory of visiting it many years earlier. I drove past sites that were very beautiful, and I noticed others that were boarded up. No longer in use. The city was full of many different architectural structures, some modern and others from bygone eras. And as I drove through the city, the road I was on led me to the exact route on the map I needed to be. Oh. The route was a bit longer than I had planned, but it got me to the main highway I needed in order to make it out of the city.
Sure. I could have gotten really nervous and anxious. I could have screamed and cried. I could have yelled. But I was alone on this journey, and there was no one in my car to take over for me. I was on my own. Me and the voice in my car.
Then as I neared my destination, I made a wrong turn. I ended up on a road I shouldn’t have been on, which caused another delay. I had to drive a few miles out of my way before I could take an exit to go back in the opposite direction. Instead of getting back on that freeway and going back in the opposite direction, I decided to once again listen to the programmed voice in my car giving me different instructions. I drove past houses and schools and farms and buildings I had never seen before. And the more I drove, the more I realized I was heading straight to my final destination. When I pulled into the driveway, the trip was over. I had arrived unscathed.
I felt as though I had just taken a forty year trip through the wilderness. Along the route, I wasn’t always sure if the instructions I was hearing would actually get me to my destination. I decided to trust that voice, because I wasn’t sure that the printed instructions were still accurate. Sure. I made a couple of wrong turns along the way, but I knew that those mistakes could be righted without mishap. So I kept on moving forward. Trusting the voice to lead me to safety. And it did.