Finally - in the end, after considerable delay, at last. We probably all have those "finally" moments in life, when we have been dinking around with something for so long in our lives and then as if we either could not stand it any longer, or the urge was too great, we proceed in the course we have been avoiding. Avoidance is a tremendous deterrent to actually getting a matter accomplished! We all have those deterrents, don't we? The matter was too daunting for the energies we had left, so we rest a while. The matter was too hard for the intelligence we possessed, so we "research" it for a while. The matter made us just a little too uncomfortable, so we wait until we can have a change of heart toward it. When we reach the point of "finally", there is usually something good which will come from taking the first steps toward obedient action and if we are careful, maybe even a learning or two from the "delay".
Finally we did as the Eternal had commanded me, and we headed back...
...the Eternal your God, has blessed you in every way. He’s watched over you as you’ve journeyed through this vast wilderness. Throughout these 40 years, the Eternal your God has been with you, and you haven’t lacked a thing. (Deuteronomy 2:1,7 VOICE)
Israel had spent 40 years on a journey which would have taken about 11 days if there hadn't been a whole lot of "delayed progress" on their part! An 11 day journey lasting 40 days is one thing, but 40 years? Yep! I will be the first to admit, there have been simple decisions I should have made much earlier, but because of my stubbornness or lack of commitment to whatever it was which I needed to take action on, the "journey" took a whole lot longer than it needed to! I may not have taken 40 years, but I am but one heart and mind. Imagine what it was like for Moses trying to wrangle about 600,000 adult males, not to mention their wives and children! That is a whole lot of minds and hearts to get moving in the same direction!
There is something about the point between the Red Sea and the time Israel is beginning to move into the Promised Land of Canaan which I think we can all benefit from seeing today. In the midst of the 40 year journey, God was at work! Even in our most stubborn and resistive times in life, God is at work - not deterred by our stubbornness, nor offset by our predetermined will to do our own thing. Let's examine a couple of things from the excerpts of our passage in Deuteronomy this morning:
- The "finally" moment involves them coming to a place of decision. All our lives need on occasion is for us to come to a place of decision - to actually have our mindset fixed on one course of action. Sometimes the lack of progress we make is not because we don't have options - we just don't pursue any of them! We are in the middle of the options, digging ourselves a rut because we just keep circling all the options like horses pacing in the corral. A rut is simply a path leading to nowhere! It forms because of frequent travel - not because of inactivity. We see that Israel wasn't "doing nothing" while they took this 40 year journey, they were just stuck in the middle of doing this or that, but not really settled on one course of action! So, the rut got bigger and the distance between Egypt and Canaan got a little further away because they now had to also climb out of the rut!
- The "finally" moment didn't mean they had not seen anything accomplished in their wanderings. In fact, when we read a little further, we see they came to a place of one mind and heart. Imagine that! When they "finally" came to an end of determining their own course, they aligned with God's course, and they began to make progress. I imagine it should come as no surprise to any of us that this would actually be the result of repentance. When we finally realize our course of inactivity, or misled activity, is just not getting us to the destination we so desperately desire, we often realize just how close we were to our final destination! The "finally" moments in life are not without struggle - but within the struggle, a whole lot of "heart alignment" must occur. We have to decide who it is we will listen to, serve with all our heart, and align our thoughts with. In those moments between Egypt and Canaan, Israel had a whole lot of alignment moments.
- In between the time they began their journey and the "finally" moment, God was there all the time. He didn't abandon them to their own devices, although it might have seemed that way to an outsider looking in. Here was this huge "herd" of people on the move from bondage in Egypt to establishing themselves as a people under the new "rule" of God himself. Yet, somewhere between here and there, they got a little waylaid. When one is waylaid, they are actually subject to an attack they may not have prepared for. Imagine that - - - to get one's freedom and then be almost instantly "waylaid" by that freedom! Has that ever happened to anyone else besides me? I get so caught up in the enjoyment of my new found freedom that I miss the fact I am still on a course toward something else! Israel forgot their mission because when it finally dawned on them what might be involved in seeing the fruition of that mission, they staggered in their belief. They got all excited about their freedom, but then petered out when it came to pushing back a few obstacles in their path on the way to the blessing God had for them!
God is with us even when we are busy digging a few ruts! We may get a little distracted by the things which shouldn't really distract us, but God doesn't abandon us to our distractions! He keeps us, works with us, continues to provide for us, and when we are ready, he is there to help us take the first steps out of our ruts. Just sayin!