Today, I’m thinking about those wandering years in the wilderness the Children of Isreal experienced. God declared the Israelites would wander around in the wilderness for 40 years because they had treated His words with contempt. (Numbers 14:23(b) NIV) Those were very strong words from God and a whole generation never arrived at the best in life that God had originally planned for them. It’s a very sad portion of Scripture.
In Numbers 33, it says that God commanded Moses to record the “stages in their journey.” And so, he did. He wrote about 41 stages of their journey; places they started out in and then when they moved on to the next stage. It never says how long they stayed in one area but 41 stages in 40 years could suggest about one move a year more or less. I don’t think Moses felt particularly motivated to journal much those years; it was just pretty much same old, same old year after year so he just kept track of the actual moves.
There are several ways of looking at this passage, but as convention season is here in the U.S. and Canada, I can almost hear the testimonies from well-meaning hearts spoken with desperation and yearning that this next year they will try harder to be a good example, to draw closer to God, to read more, to pray more. And how thankful they are to be at convention because the previous year wasn’t all it was supposed to be; they had failed miserably at reaching the goal.
They spent the year moving from one place to another in one sense, but then arriving back every year in pretty much the same place because they have been going in circles just like the Children of Isreal did all those years ago. They don’t know what else to do.
My friends, that is not a judgment call: that is written from my own experience and the experiences of so many I know and love. The wanderer is not just some lost soul; it can be anyone who is not sure where the Lord wants them to be.
We weren’t meant to go in circles spiritually, or to just go through the motions year after year. We were created for so much more. Going in circles or going through the motions is not experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised us. May we take a long and honest look at where we are and ask ourselves if this is what Jesus truly wants for us. Is He leading the way or are we or the group?
Legalism keeps you going in circles because no matter how much you do, it will never be enough. Pharisee’s have a “superficial understanding of God and no enjoyment of His presence. They try to squeeze all the enjoyment out…by replacing relationships with regulations. We cannot please God or find freedom in mere rule-keeping. Never have. Never will.” (Beth Moore, Breaking Free) The grace of God will set you free if you seek it and pursue it.
How can the next stage in your life be different than all the rest? Step out in faith not by sight. Trust God. Have faith like you never have before. Believe Him. Follow Him. Get out of your spiritual comfort zone. Ask God the difficult questions because He can handle them all.
The Promised Land was not heaven for the Israelites; but it was heaven on earth until they got there. It was the best in this life. What does God want to lead you into? Where does He want to take you? Are you willing to trust Him and find out?