I understand the Israelites’ desire to go back to Egypt more than I would like. Yes, they were enslaved and had to work hard, but there was a set routine and they always knew what was coming. There was always a home to go to at the end of the day and food on the table, no matter how meager. But I imagine they did not spend a lot of time thinking about the positive side of the situation until they were out in the desert. In the midst of their enslavement, they were probably consumed with the difficulty of accomplishing the work they were required to do and enduring the harsh treatment of their captors. They longed to escape from their torment. But when they were finally free, they found the desert to be a new set of difficulties. Yes, they were no longer stuck doing back-breaking labor, but now they were in the midst of uncertainty about where they were going and how they would survive. And yet God was right there with them, leading them and feeding them.
For me, Egypt is the full-time, high paying job I left behind. Yes, I grumbled incessantly about the long, boring hours and the daily drive through heavy traffic. I longed to spend more time with my family and to be able to finish my schooling without having to feel over-scheduled and neglectful of my home and children. But there was comfort in the routine, and the regular paycheck and health insurance were just a few of the blessings I took for granted and miss so much now.
So now God has put me right where I asked to be. I am in school full-time and have no job demanding time I don’t want to give. I am home when my kids get home from school and although I am frequently studying, I see them much more than I did before. But now I long for Egypt’s benefits.
Is it that as humans we are inherently weak and short-sighted? Why are we so good at finding things to complain about and so bad at finding reasons to be thankful? Just as God was frustrated with the Israelites, I’m certain He must get tired of hearing us whine. The Israelites would never have survived without Moses to intercede on their behalf. He talked God out of wiping them out several times. Thankfully, we have Jesus to do the same for us. I wonder if he’s sitting there on the right hand of God saying, “Hold on there, Almighty. What will people think of you if you kill him/her now?” How much of the wrath of God can Jesus head off?
The Bible tells us that God longs to bless us (Isaiah), that He rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah) and that He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us (John). It is because of the need to remind myself of this that I am so religious about my daily quiet time. I know that I am in desperate need of the hope that the scriptures give. But I pray that the new covenant has sufficiently blocked out my sins so that God will not turn me away from the Promised Land. Some days it feels like He has left me to wander in the desert endlessly.
Third Day sings an encouraging refrain, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel…for you.” I know for certain that light is heaven. I hope that does not mean that the desert lasts until I get there. I know I’m not supposed to worry about that, and just be glad of the presence of God in the meantime. I don’t have a pillar of cloud or fire to show me that He’s here, but I do have His word and His people and a long list of things He’s done for me, my family and friends to remind me. I am forgetful, just like the Israelites, and I tend to look back sometimes instead of looking forward. I pray I can be less like them and more like Caleb, certain of God’s goodness and the blessings of His leading.* As the Life Application Bible commentary on Caleb says, “Caleb was not so much a man of great faith as a man of faith in a great God!
I guess that’s the key. My faith may not be so hot but my God is. God is great. Of that there is no question.
*See the book of Numbers for the story of Caleb.