“And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.””
God set the people of Israel free from the shackles of the Egyptians, but rather than immediately transporting them to the land He promised, He led them through barren wilderness for 40 years.
Those 40 years contained lots of sin, unbelief, complaining, rebellion, stubbornness, and death. Like I’ve heard people say before, “God led them out of Egypt, but He needed to purge Egypt of them”. The trek through the wilderness was God’s plan, a plan rooted in dependence on Him and His leadership. They had no map, no compass. God Himself was their compass.
A lot of good things happened during this trek. God revealed His glory to them in numerous ways. But, as we see in Numbers 20, they failed to see the good–even going so far as to call their current location evil.
The journey through the wilderness was a temporary one. It was a transition from Egypt to the Promised Land. That future should have sustained them with hope and joy. Instead, it often led to impatience and other sins. Why is it taking so long? Where’s our food and water? Did you bring us out here to die, Moses? How is this better than Egypt?!
There is always a transitional season in life, a time when we find ourselves in a temporary location, or job, or any other number of things. We might find ourselves single, waiting to find our future spouse. We might be flipping burgers at a fast food joint until we find our dream job. We might be living in an apartment, or even a friend’s house, until we can get some more stable life plans ironed out.
And sooner or later, the thought comes: I hate this. I hate this season, I hate this job, I hate this (fill in the blank). Why is this taking so long to get to where I want to be?!
Like the Israelites, we’re very quick to call this transitional period “evil”, because our circumstances are telling us that nothing good can come from this situation. What we don’t understand is that the wilderness–that agonizing time of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises or calling on your life–is God’s plan for everyone. There is no Promised Land without the wilderness, no walking in your calling without the training.
Jesus’ ministry on earth only lasted 3 short years, but 30-ish years before that were spent learning and training. As a kid, he learned from his parents. As a young man, he learned from his father how to work and be a carpenter.
But, what a second…
…Jesus is God, right? Why would someone who’s all-knowing and all-powerful submit Himself to 3 decades of training and learning? There’s a number of reasons, but perhaps one of them was to set an example for us. As God in the flesh, He did what every other human does–spend a long time learning in the wilderness before entering into the Promised Land. Because that’s God’s way–the best possible way.
Are you in that transitional season right now? Don’t be so quick to write it off as “evil”, and don’t be so ready to get out of it. Embrace it. Trust God, and follow Him through the wilderness. Be open to what He wants to teach you during this time.
It never makes sense at the time, but when you finally get to the other side, you’ll find that it was all worth it.