“2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. 3 Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month …” (Deuteronomy 1:2-3a).
It should have taken the children of Israel less than two weeks to go from the hopelessness of Egypt to the unlimited potential of the Promised Land.
11 days. 264 hours. 15,840 minutes. That is all that stood between Israel and the new life God had been promising them for generations.
But 11 days turned into 40 years.
Their 264 hours turned into 1,753,164 hours.
Their 15,840 minutes turned into 21,037,968 minutes.
Their 11 days turned into missed opportunity and lost blessing.
Their 11 days turned into a lifetime of wandering and waiting.
Their 11 days turned into God hoping for the best and then dealing with the worst.
Because Israel would not soften their hearts and change their attitudes.
Despite seeing miracle after miracle and receiving daily provision and protection, they refused to trust God.
Instead, they decided trusting in their former slavery in Egypt was easier than trusting in God.
But how quickly they forgot the costs when they complained about the “comforts” and “benefits” of slavery they gave up to follow God.
Trusting in slavery meant the death of their newborn sons: “15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, ‘When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live’” (Exodus 1:15-16).
Trusting in slavery meant rigorous workloads to meet impossible quotas: “17 But he said, ‘You are idle! Idle! Therefore you say, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” 18 Therefore go now and work; for no straw shall be given you, yet you shall deliver the quota of bricks’” (Exodus 5:17-18).
Trusting in slavery meant a life of oppression and anguish: “I [God] have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows [pain]” (Exodus 3:7).
Egypt never did anything for Israel’s benefit. So, why would Israel choose to look back to their slavery in Egypt as the better choice? Especially when God showed them He was for them and with them.
God brought the immediate and profitable exodus they made from Egypt in one night: “35 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:35-26).
God brought their miraculous salvation at the Red Sea: “27 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. 29 But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:27-29).
God provided manna from heaven each day to sustain them: “4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5 And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily’” (Exodus 16:4-5).
Yet, despite all they saw and experienced, they chose to focus on what they thought they were missing. And missed out on getting what they really wanted.
They missed being settled.
They missed being stationary.
They missed being secure.
And as a result, they turned their 11 days and waiting blessing into 40 years of wandering around the same mountain, in the same desert, in the same clothes, eating the same food. They could have been settled instead of packing up their tents each morning. They could have established their homes on a designated piece of land, given to them by God to enjoy the good life He had planned for them.
But they missed it.
They never laid eyes on it.
They never experienced it.
They never enjoyed it.
But the sadder part of the story is that their choice also affected their children, who could have lived their lives in the promised land experiencing God’s goodness from a home. Instead, they were forced to wander with their parents for 40 years, waiting for someone to finally understand they needed to do something DIFFERENT.
And because their parents were too stubborn to change, the kids spent 40 years reaping the consequences of those selfish and self-absorbed choices.
It’s a sad story. But it can lead to a happy ending.
Do you want to be like Israel?
Do you want to miss out on the good things God has for you?
Do you want others to miss out on the good things God has for them?
Because you are stubborn?
Because you are scared?
Because you are selfish?
Ultimately, because you won’t trust Him?
Now is a good chance to ask yourself several questions and evaluate.
What mountain are you marching around – again?
** Think about that coworker who always bothers you into reacting, that traffic that always sets you off, that family member who always steals your peace.
What “year” are you on?
** How long ago did you given up hope because things got complicated? How long has your faith wavered because things aren’t going according to your expectations? How long did your confidence fade because of pain or pressure?
Are you tired yet of the monotony of the life-sucking scenery and routine?
** How much of God’s goodness have you forgotten about?
Then stop walking.
Evaluate what is keeping you in the desert.
Decide to change your choices.
Then believe in God … with everything you are!
Adopt a new posture, a new attitude, a new confidence, a new mindset, a new language, and a new hope.
Don’t let your 11 days become 40 years.
Don’t miss out on what God has waiting for you.
Marie Fremin. 12/30-31/19, 1/2/20.