Things are beginning to open as the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 slows just a little for now. My church met last week at 20% capacity and attempted to create plenty of space for people to social distance. As some remnants of normalcy, like gathered church services begin to appear, I wonder how many people will leave the wilderness we’ve all been experiencing changed. I have heard many of God’s people say that they didn’t realize that they were “too busy” until everything shut down. I know that I have a personal problem with overcommitment. I can easily get too busy doing good things and neglect the best things. Because our culture moves at a fast pace it’s hard to take time to evaluate carefully what we are spending our time doing unless there is a pandemic. Well…….. Here we are, closer to plunging back into the normal lives we all had…… Or not.
Failing the test
When God called the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egyptian slavery, he sent Moses to say to Pharaoh, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness.”1 The wilderness of course was not the final destination for Israel. The wilderness was a transitional time of sifting the people of God, revealing God’s laws and of preparation for the land of Canaan. It was a time of transition, not meant to last, a lot like a pandemic. We find out in the story that 400 years of being attached to an idolatrous culture had taken its toll on Israel. After the miraculous escape from Egypt we soon see the people complaining that they want the pots of meat and bread from Egypt.2 Not long after, they build a golden calf to worship (Ex. 32). This is on the heels of receiving the law of God that starts with, “you shall have no other gods before me.” Numbers 11:5 records the people saying, “In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, onions, and garlic. But we’re starving out here, and the only food we have is this manna.” This generation of ungrateful Israelites did not pass the wilderness test. They proved that they were unwilling to change. They loved the past more than they loved a future of walking with God. They loved Egypt more than they loved Yahweh and thus perished in the wilderness after 40 years of wandering.
Not everyone failed the test
Joshua and Caleb were ready for the new life that God had promised their forefathers. The wilderness for them was a transition. A place where they were able to connect with the true God of the universe and seize the future that he had planned for them. They were the only ones from the old generation that left Egypt and inherited the land of promise.3
As we begin to emerge from the pandemic that slowed our lives, will we run with haste back to the idolatry and business of Egypt? Will we have learned in this wilderness the mistakes of our past and repent? The time of transition may be almost over. Will your future look like your past, or are there some improvements you have implemented? Have you connected with the Lord during this time, or worshiped idols? What is your plan for the future when things are back to normal?
God is in the wilderness
Israel is called into the wilderness to meet God! Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness and obeyed God! John the Baptist message was being preached in the wilderness! God is in the wilderness! If you haven’t connected with the Lord during this time, take the time now to meet him in the wilderness. Ask Him to help you to emerge changed, focused and different than you were before. Ask him to prepare you for a future of change. Don’t go back to Egypt..
- Exodus 7:16 (NASB)
- Exodus 16:3 (NASB)
- Numbers 14:30