In my Bible readings (following the Ken Boa 365) the Israelites have left Egypt and have arrived at the gateway to the Promised Land. I know its a familiar story, but it led me to the land of conviction today.
As I’m sure you remember, the twelve scouts, one from each tribe were sent to check out the land and when they returned they verified that it was a land “flowing with milk and honey,” as God had promised. They also reported that the cities were well-fortified and the people who lived there were powerful. Only Joshua and Caleb, two of the scouts, encouraged the Israelites to take the land, telling them, “We can do it!” but the general consensus was that these people were giants, probably descended from angels who had fallen to earth and there’s no way the Israelites could win this battle.
Numbers 13 tells us:
All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?
Hadn’t they recently seen the Ten Plagues–hail, blood, darkness, locusts and more? Hadn’t God appeared to them as a pillar of fire and a cloud as they left Egypt? They had just walked between walls of water, to cross the Red Sea and seen the Egyptian Army drown behind them and heard the voice of Yaweh as He spoke from the mountain. They had seen the 10 Commandments inscribed on stone and received manna as they wandered in the wilderness. And still they didn’t trust the Lord God and they were ready to return to slavery and worse in Egypt.
Then God spoke to my heart. I’m in a bit of a wilderness here in Tampa. We are beginning a new work in a new place and we left old things behind. We left traditional jobs, some by our choice, some by the hand of God. We left our kids and created an empty nest. We left our small group and an amazing church. We also left snow and sub-freezing temps behind! 😀
And now we’re standing at the gateway to our “promised land.” We are working on Ministry Partner Development, formerly known as raising support in Christian circles. It is, for me a land of giants and fortified cities and fearful circumstances we must go through before we enter the conquered promised land of ministry. I don’t know that I have been guaranteed a land of milk and honey, but with Military Ministry, I have the opportunity to work for the Kingdom of God with Rick, serving people we value highly, our military members and their families.
And there are times I think, even dwell, on the idea of going back. I’m not thinking of returning to Virginia or Delaware or Pennsylvania, but to a more traditional path. I consider teaching and normal salaries. I question Rick and wonder if he was sure this was the only way God was pointing. Yet I know God led us this way.
Like the Israelites, God gave us “signs” of His presence with us, protecting and guiding us. He didn’t create frogs or gnats, but He has shown us through the past few years that even when circumstances appear bleak, He is still in control. He is still going before us and providing everything we need. In our lives this meant that He provided housing before we knew we needed it, both in Virginia and here in Tampa. He provided a job for me about 10 days before Rick’s job was cut in the Suicide Prevention office. He paid bills for us through the generosity of friends and unclaimed inheritances. He fed our our hearts with hope when we were as low as we could imagine and He has kept our children close to Him as we are further from them. Our lives are a virtual neon sign to pointing to His provision, care, and leading. And I still think about going back to “normal.”
However, I feel fairly certain that the Israelites expected a different report from those spies. Maybe they thought that since the Lord God had already done so much, that He was going to do the rest too. They probably expected that He would have emptied, the cities of their inhabitants in preparation for the arrive of His people. A presumptuous entitlement may have created this expectation–afterall, they were CHOSEN!
But when they arrived they found out that God wanted them to go and take the land — do their part, as it were. God would still be with them, He promised them victory, but they had to begin the walk of faith–“the confidence of what we hope for, the assurance of what we do not see.”
Me too! I probably expected or hoped that as God has been so gracious to us, that this grace would continue as we entered the Promised Land. I expected that the work of fund-raising would be as easy for us as it was for the Israelites leaving Egypt. Or maybe like the manna they collected from the ground, partners would come to us begging to be share in this ministry! Instead, while I acknowledge that He is still doing miracles, He also asks me to begin the work of faith.
Trust me, we still are constantly made aware of His presence and provision. God has gone before us and met our needs. People we haven’t met are on our Ministry Partner Team and God is opening doors on all sides. But the goal is still in the distance and when I lose my focus on Jesus, I want to go back. Just like the stupid Israelites.
So, today I am setting my eyes on Christ and I want to be a Caleb or a Joshua. I want to see that my God is bigger than my fears and bigger than my enemies. I am trusting that He is able and He is right beside us each step of the way. We may have trials, but I will trust that what God allows is for my good and His glory. I will follow ~
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12: 1, 2