Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages: The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods… They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there…They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea. They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin…They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink….Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor…on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim…On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot,according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes….But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them. Number 33: 1-56 (selected verses)
I think God has a sense of humor. Day before yesterday I just finished my “circling back” and here God does his own version of “circling back”! These verses recount the various highlights of the Israelite’s journey from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. As we found out yesterday not all the Israelites chose to cross the Jordan to receive their inheritance.
This accounting of the journey consists of many descriptions of camping out here or there followed by God’s provision and care in the form of springs or water in the desert. This is an apt description of what the Christian journey has been like for me. There are large swaths of time where I feel like I am “camped” out where God needs me to be. But there have also been times when I felt like God called me to strike my tents and move.
About ten years ago I was finishing my PhD in geology at Oregon State University. My family and I were praying about where we should go and what was next in our lives. We had a large map of the United States on the wall with stickers for all the places where I was applying for jobs. We of course would have preferred to stay in the Pacific Northwest where my family and my wife’s family live, but we were willing to go where we were needed. After much prayer and discussion we accepted a job at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
We packed out stuff and loaded up the U-haul and headed out. We arrived in August and moved into a new house, with new schools, and a new place. For the first several years we felt somewhat like we were adrift on an ocean in a new place with few family and friends. My wife and I would have what we referred to as “tossed out of the boat experiences” when we felt like there were waves crashing over the bow and tossing us out of the boat. We wanted to pack up and move back home at times, but we have persevered and God has provided for us here in Michigan.
There are things that we have done that would not have happened if we had remained in the comfortable land on the “other side of the Jordan”. I suspect the Israelites, even after arriving in the Promised Land, had “out of the boat” experiences where they wanted to go back to the known commodity of Egypt. I am increasingly convinced that the key to riding out the waves and turbulence is keeping God at the Center.
Prayer: God comfort those who feel displaced from the place they call home. Help us to find our home in You.