The past few months I have been praying a lot.
There are days that I have been sitting at work, feeling as if I life could be so much better, feeling as if my gifts and talents are not being utilized and feeling persecuted. I have to dig deep just to maintain my Christian face during the day. It feels as if I am an Israelite in Egypt.
Then there have been days that I have felt so incredibly low, especially since my mom died. I do everything I can to put on the bravest face I can for my family, but there are times that it just isn’t enough. I’ll get in my car to go someplace and just sit in driver’s seat and give it all up to God. It feels as if I am the Israelites walking in the desert.
Then there are other days that I am sitting on a date with my beautiful wife, enjoying a meal and the love of a wonderful woman. I feel a sense of amazement that God would bless me with such a person as her. It is as if I had crossed into the Promised Land and am enjoying the cities that I’ve been given.
It is crazy how life can change from one day to the next.
Every day I ask God what he wants me to learn.
Each of the three areas (Egypt, the desert, and the Promised Land) were used to teach Israel something they needed to know. And that can be a timeless truth that the Bible teaches us as well. During several stages of our lives, we might feel “stuck” somewhere, but God is preparing us for the next area of our life, an area that takes us to a better place, even if it isn’t the best place.
Exodus 1:11 – So the Egyptians put slave drivers over the people of Israel. The slave drivers treated them badly and made them work hard. The Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses so Pharaoh could store things there.
The Israelites needed to learn the importance of being in Egypt. God chose this to be a major place to show His glory to those who were not Israelites while at the same time, preserving the Israelites from dangers such as famine.
So what do we know?
First, we see Joseph preserving the Israelites through a severe famine. This could not have been done if it weren’t for Joseph’s placement in Egypt’s leadership. We all know the story of Joseph and the “technicolor dreamcoat.” Joseph’s brothers didn’t like him, they tried to kill him but ended up selling him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt where he was jailed at one point and eventually read the dreams of several people, including Egypt’s leadership. Because of this, he is given a high position in Potipher’s house. Later, the same brothers who sold him into slavery came at their dad’s command to ask for help. If it weren’t for Joseph being in such a high position, the Israelites may never have been able to survive.
To go along with that, Moses was able to rise into leadership as well.
God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
If the Israelites had not had that time in Egypt, they may never have seen a leader rise up that could lead them to the Promised Land.
Hebrews 3:8 – don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.
Next, the Israelites needed to learn the importance of being in the desert. Not only is God using this time to show His glory even more, but He is taking this time to refine the Israelites.
So what do we know?
The desert took them at least 40 years. Sometime between 1444 and 1288 BC, the Israelites left Egypt. They left the place they were being hurt, the place they were enslaved. But once on the road, they missed the comforts they had to their enslavement. It started with the spies. When the spies returned from scouting out the Promised Land, the majority of them gave negative reports. Because of their fear, the Israelites spent the next 40 years walking the desert.
When Moses took the Israelites to the desert, they were looking for instant gratification.
They want what we expect today as well.
If we leave a job or relationship or situation we expect the new job, relationship or situation to be immediately better than the one we just left. Most often, that is not the case. We need to learn to persevere when we follow God’s call.
This piece of information has been hitting me like a ton of bricks lately.
I know God has called me to vocational ministry. I am following the call. As I look to why I am not in vocational ministry right now, I can almost perfectly line up what the Israelites went through and what I have been going through.
It is the refining process.
It started with fear. I scouted out what vocational ministry would look like for my family and I. I did not receive a good report. It would be tough. I wouldn’t make enough money. The time that I work would be double what I was working at the time.
Fear set in.
“There is no way I can cross over into the Promised Land (vocational ministry), the people are giants and they have significant weapons!”
That was fear.
Along the way, like the Israelites, I would tell God I needed something else to help me. I need food or water or meat. I would try to take the lead in the relationship between God and I. Each time, my refining process would take a step back.
Then, along the way, I would question the leadership God has placed in my life. Just like in Numbers 16, a portion of me had to be destroyed to move forward. In the case of the Israelites, they had to lose the insurgent leaders by God showing them His power. The ground opened up and swallowed them.
The same is true with myself.
I left my position of power for a lower position. It is a position that reminds me of Egypt.
The Israelites felt that the desert was worse than what they had left in Egypt. Yes, the work was hard and they were persecuted, but they had stability. They would wake up each day and know exactly what they were going to do. In the desert, that stability was gone.
This meant they had to fully rely on God.
And they weren’t ready for the Promised Land until they did.
It took them 40 years to get ready.
Many times we can feel like we are in the desert for 40 years.
Are you fighting addiction? You were enslaved to your drug or alcohol. When you left, you had many days of feeling like your past life was better. You didn’t know how you would make it through. You didn’t know if the Promised Land was truly real.
But you persevere.
When you persevere you show up in the Promised Land.
The Promised Land
Exodus 6:8 – I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”
Eventually, the Israelites were allowed access to the Promised Land. That access, however, came with a requirement: the Israelites had to rely solely on God and obey Him. Not only that, but while the Promised Land was given to Israel upon entrance, it took them 7 years to conquer and 7 years to settle the land.
And even when they have received the Promised Land, God gave them a mandate to totally destroy the Canaanite people or else they would be corrupted by the remnant.
Think of it this way.
You have lived a life of partying, doing drugs, and alcohol. You’ve grown addictions to at least one, or possibly several, poor life choices. You are a slave to the addictions. You are in Egypt.
But then you begin to take back your life from the addiction. You start the long journey to completely separate the addiction from yourself. During this journey you are on there are many times you want to go back to the addiction. You are going through life, learning how to live without the comfort of the addiction. It is a long journey, but eventually you overcome it. This is the desert. You finally made it. The Promised Land. A land free of the slavery of addiction. You know you need to separate yourself completely from the past, but you don’t want to. This remnant stays and keeps us constantly needing God.