This is another reflection on being 40.
Most Christians are familiar with the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. (Thanks, Charlton Heston and the Ten Commandments!) Most know about the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea and the crossing thereafter, but not much is shown about the trek afterwards through the wilderness….other than the part where Moses gets the commandments from Sinai and everyone else pretty much reverts back to living like a bunch of Egyptians with their golden calf idol.
It was because of this disobedience (and quite possibly other reasons as well) that the Israelites were taken on a 40 year journey through the wilderness on their way to the land promised to them by the Lord.
Some would probably argue that the path they took to get to the promised land doesn’t matter, as long as they got there. If we were to take a “life lesson” out of that, some would probably say that it doesn’t really matter how you get to your “promised land”, as long as you got there. It’s kinda like the people’s argument today about getting to heaven: it doesn’t matter which church you go to. All of them lead to heaven, right?
The journey to the promised land wasn’t about the promised land. That wasn’t the Lord’s ultimate objective for those people back then. It was more than that.
When the children of Israel went through that wilderness, they were led by Jehovah (Jesus Christ). This was the key point to the wilderness trek: it’s not so much the path that they took, but that God led them. He took them through that particular path. He led them. He protected them. He fed them. He provided for them. He taught them, trained them, and allowed them to grow and develop. And He did it with the prophet as His spokesman, His representative.
Their path was designed to help the people develop trust in Him, to soften their heard-headedness (or even hard-heartedness), to purge their life from the old ways and worldly traditions and behaviors, to help them understand who they were, raise up a new generation, and teach them of His ways. It was difficult enough to challenge them and give them reason to trust Him.
In life, there are paths we choose ourselves…and there are paths that we are led through. Sometimes, that path seems difficult, the circumstances are not of our choosing. We may be born into an abusive family. We’re born with defects–physical, emotional, mental limitations or weaknesses. We’ll experience accidents and pain. Trials that come our way. We’ll experience persecution from others, mockery, abuse, loneliness, abandonment, personal weaknesses and failings. There are problems with familiy, with jobs, with school, with self, with life in general. These are not pleasant paths. Some are absolutely difficult and painful. Some paths are short, but most seem like they just won’t end.
It is in this kind of wilderness that we are encouraged to find God as he tries to lead us. And little by little, we come to know who we are, who God is, and our ultimate relationship with him. Whether that takes us 40 days, 40 months, 40 years, or our entire lifetime, when we allow God to lead us through our personal “wilderness”, we can rest assured He’ll take us to the place He’s promised for us–a place where we can be free to grow and learn, a place of peace, a place of happiness, a place we can ultimately call “our own”. Right now, “home” and “family” ought to reflect that goal of happiness, peace, and growth. This is our place of refuge in our journey, our place to discover God.
Whether that eventual “promised land” is a better place in this life…or in the next…our job, and our journey, is to Trust Him.