Friday, March 16, 2007

You Can Get There

Number 9:15-23
“At the LORD’S command they encamped, and at the LORD’S command they set out.”

The people of Israel knew Egypt; where it was, when the Nile flooded, that Pharaoh was a god, how life as a slave passed there. The culture, language, the customs and food of Egypt were all familiar to Israel. These were, in fact, all the people knew.
Israel knew nothing of the promised land. Having never set foot outside the boundaries of Egypt. The promised land was only a dream, a hope, and more often, an impossibility. The old stories, of ages past, about the forefathers living in The Land; the tales of tents in green pastures, of herd and flocks and wealth were like myths. So far in the past, so impossible in the present. How could a slave ever know the freedom to travel to another place, even if it was promised; how could a slave ever hope to acquire a piece of the land. Surely, this Promised Land, somewhere beyond all that the people knew, was beyond reach, and beyond hope, beyond promise.
And yet there was Israel, tent upon tent, clan by clan, tribe after tribe, camping in the wasteland beyond the borders of Egypt. The journey out of Egypt was, with doubt, orchestrated by the One Moses called God Almighty. That it would take a miracle for Egypt to let Israel go was true, that a miracle actually got them kicked out of Egypt was apparent. Now, evidence of this God Almighty, His presence, was just as evident, in a cloud, a pillar like cloud during daylight and a fiery pillar at night. Always there, just above them, always, always.
The problem was that not one of the people, except Moses, had walked this desert and he even asked his father-in-law to be a guide. A wasteland is barren, inhospitable; the sands shift, landmarks are few and changing, the climate is unforgiving. Amazing to think of leaving the green lands of Egypt, on the Nile River, to walk into a brown, barren desert, carrying all you own, with children and animals in tow. People get lost in deserts, they die from lack of food and water, from heat, from snake bites; a great number of ways to die in a desert. But walk Israel did, right into the wasteland, following the cloud pillar. Through the sand and scrub, over the rocks and around the crags, to the land promised ages ago. This land somewhere to then north and east, but really, no one knew where the Promised Land was exactly. No one, except this God Almighty, this One who promised it, this every present God in the pillar of cloud and fire.
So, He must lead Israel. He alone knew the way, so He must direct their steps. He would have to lead them to water and lead them to grass for their animals. He would have to give them food and protect them from danger. And He would have to show them how to live with Him, right there, in the midst of the tents. So, God lives with these people and shows them the way to the Land of Promise. He leads the way, His Presence guides along the way and in the end, He is the Way.


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