I have found myself reading and hearing the story of the Israelites in the wilderness over and over again. It's where I am right now in my Bible reading plan. It's the place that one of the churches I podcast is right now. It's a story that seems to be coming up time and again in my life over the past few months. And often when this happens, it is God trying to show me something, it's God trying to say something to me. And as a hardheaded person, what He has to say often has to be repeated.
If you don't remember the story it goes more or less this way. The Israelites are slaves in Egypt. God saves them out of slavery. At the shore of the Red Sea the Egyptians come to enslave them once agin. God saves them and destroys the Egyptians. The Israelites get thirsty in the desert and claim that Egypt and slavery was better. God gives them water.
The Israelites get hungry and claim that Egypt and slavery was better. God gives them food. The Israelites want to eat meat instead of just bread and claim that Egypt and slavery was better.
God gives them quail to eat. The Israelites get thirsty again and claim that Egypt slavery was better.
God gives them water again. And this happens again and again for a few books of the Bible.
At each turn of the hand it seems that no matter what they have, no matter how many times God answers their prayers it is never enough. At each turn they look back on a life they never really lived and want to go back. I believe that it is easy to read the story and have the mentality of, "those damn Israelites, why can't they just trust God?" and believe that we would have been better. But we can read in moments what they lived for years. And in doing so it's easy to want to paint ourselves as the good guys, the type of people who would have acted differently. We try to see ourselves as Moses or Aaron or Joshua in the story. But if I am honest I know where I would fall. I would be one of those who at each turn looked back. I wish that I could say something else, but something else would not be honest.
I can say this, not because I am super proud of it, because I know my heart. I have a bad habit of doing the same thing that the Israelites did. They didn't just look back to the life that they had. They looked back through rose colored glasses and romanticized what happened. They longed for a life they never really had. They remembered that in Egypt they could eat onions with dinner, but forgot that dinner was offered by the very people they were enslaved to. They longed to sit next to the nile, when in reality they never spent much time having a picnic there. When God had them in a place that was hard they looked back on all that was good, and romanticized it. They looked back on all that caused them to cry out to God for deliverance and forgot that it even happened. Those Israelites and their damn hard hearts. And me, with my damn hard heart. Because, if I am honest, I am one of them. I do the same thing. It may not be wanting to go back to a geographical place for me, but it's wanting to be somewhere other than where God has me. And it's the same thing.
I currently find myself in a season that's hard. I pray for things that I want to fully believe God will give, things that I believe are good and godly to ask for, and I hear God answer me, "wait". And that's a word I don't much care for. I don't want to wait. I want it now. I want to be where I am going as soon as possible. I don't even mind a journey, as long as I can call it an adventure and get enough Instagram likes on the pictures I take along the way. But that's not where God has taken me. He has me in a place that seems like a wilderness. A place where I am so often tempted to look backwards, or ahead, through rose colored glasses and romanticize. To long for that which was never really true and blame God for the place He has brought me. I would love to say that when this temptation comes I see it for what it is and run to Jesus. But often I don't. I believe that I should be somewhere else, in another season, and complain to God. I so often forget from where He has brought me and how He has proved faithful each step of the way. Like the Israelites I don't like where I am. And like the Israelites I feel the fear of being stuck in this place and let that fear turn to anger. And that is sin. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller says that all of our idols can be traced down to a handful of what he calls 'root idols.' One of them that he identifies as a idol in our hearts which gives birth to so many others is the idol of control. And for me that is one which I so often find in my own heart. Many of the idols and sins which spring forth in my heart come from this place of wanting to be in control. I want to serve God, I want to love God, I want what God has for me. But I want to be in control of it. I want to come up with a plan and give it to God just long enough for Him to sign off on it. I want Him to know the plan so that He can be with me on it, but I want to be the one in control. I want to throw the bumpersticker on my life which reads 'Jesus is my co-pilot' instead of letting me lead me where He wills.
Like the Israelites I don't want to go where God leads, I want God to go with me where I want to be. But that's not the life that God calls us to. And, as I was reminded by a friend yesterday while smoking a pipe on the porch, it is because He loves us. We see time and again in Scripture that God is not only concerned about where we will end up, but who we will be when we get there. I believe that to be true. At least in my head. At times it will fall to my heart, but often times it will not stick. And when that happens, as it often does, I must be reminded of the gospel. The gospel that I desperately need. The truth that God is for me and not against me (Romans 8:31). The truth that Christ will never leave me nor forsake me (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5). The truth that God is sovereign over where I go and what I do (Acts 17:26-27, Ep. 2:10). The truth that as a child of God all will work for my ultimate good (Romans 8:28-30). The truth that in the presence of God I may find true joy and pleasure (Ps. 16:11). So if you are anything like me and so often forget that God will not fail in a wilderness, that He is as powerful in keeping us as He is in saving us, then join me. Join me in being reminded of the Gospel. And if you see me, remind me of it again. For I find myself in constant need of the reminder.