And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. Deut. 4:14 NIV
School’s in and routine is back in full swing. I’m happy about it, I really am. I enjoy knowing some semblance of what the day, week will bring. With the onset of routine however, a glaring flaw is exposed. You know that lost feeling that comes with change. Yeah that’s it. Sometimes it doesn’t ever leave. It just stays and nags at your mind. Do you get it too?
Maybe your little ones have gone off to school. You have days and years of busyness with kiddos at home but now they’re off to play and learn at school. You have the time you’ve been dreaming about since they were about a month old. Only you can’t figure out what it was you wanted to do.
Or your children have flown the nest, soaring free, and you are alone. No one to worry about anymore. Maybe your spouse is around and the two of you don’t know each other very well. The house echoes like a dark cave.
Maybe you just feel like you have no purpose. Yeah, you have lots to do, just nothing fulfilling. You are lost, wandering aimlessly around the house, guilt-ridden the house isn’t clean but you can’t even bring yourself to do it. Or your job is full of nothing. You can hardly make yourself get in the car and go everyday.
I feel that way too. I am starting to empathize with the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for forty years. As I’ve read their story again this summer, I found some new tidbits I never noticed before. First of all as little kids, we were taught the Israelites were lost. They weren’t. God knew exactly where they were. They did not know their destination at first. God did. Then they refused to go and take their inheritance. Then they changed their minds. God wasn’t too happy with them. They didn’t trust Him. Part of the reason they didn’t trust Him was they didn’t really know Him.
He wanted to teach them a few things. He wanted to school them in how to be His chosen people. They had, after all, been under the yoke of slavery in a foreign country for hundreds of years. Probably safe to say that much Egyptian influence had seeped into their lifestyles and beliefs. So they needed some time alone, away with God to learn trust and dependence, obedience and worship. A desert is a perfect place to learn, away from the distractions and busyness of life in a populated city.
Right off the bat, they had to put their trust in God to lead them out of Egypt. They had to trust Moses, the leader God selected. He parted the Red Sea for them to walk through and then drowned their enemies. Still they doubted. It was going to take a while for them to overcome the mindset of slavery and embrace their freedom. It was going to take time for them to learn to trust a loving God over the threat of a whip. Lies need to be replaced with truth. It was going to take some time.
With their trust, He also wanted their obedience. Not forced labour. He gave them free will. They had to learn how to exercise it.
He wanted their exclusive worship. They had to get rid of all idols, the gods they knew about to know the one true God. Why? Because He loved them. He wanted them to love Him back. To know Him intimately and as long as there were mistresses in the house as idols, they wouldn’t. Their hearts would be divided.
God knew what was best for them. It was important that they were separate, different from the other nations. When they got to the promised Land, they knew these things already. (Deut 4:14)
Deuteronomy 4:5-7 NIV tells us: See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
The choice to rebel was real and on several occasions the Israelites decided to take that road. It brought division and chaos. God means business when He gives us His Word and the people of Israel learned it the hard way. In learning to trust, obey and worship, they were laying down their wills and acknowledging who was the one true God.
The book of Deuteronomy is a book of remembrance. A reminder of God’s grace, His love and His majesty. So they didn’t forget who they belonged to.
If you are feeling lost, maybe it’s a matter of perspective. We don’t know the destination but God does. Maybe the final stop is not really that important. The journey of getting there, of learning trust, obedience and worship, is the most meaningful part of the journey. Maybe it’s about laying down our wills, our rebellion and acknowledging who is really the boss of our lives. So that when we get to our promised land, we are different from those around us. These lessons will be imprinted on our foreheads and palms and doorposts. People will say about us, “What other faith is so great as to have their God near them whenever they pray to Him?”