Show me Your glory, I pray.
The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim;
and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between
Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after
they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation
of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in
the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we
had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when
we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought
us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Wow! The Israelites are only 45 days from their miraculous deliverance through the Red Sea, and already they are complaining and wanting to go back to Egypt! One might wonder what happened to their triumphant singing on the shores of the Red Sea: “The LORD is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2a). Just 45 days into the Wilderness and they have fallen victim to False Memory Syndrome and remembering a life they never had as slaves in Egypt. Slaves never sat by fleshpots of meat eating their fill of bread. But that is what the Wilderness can do to people. We remember a life that never was. Do you ever do that?
The apostle Paul would remind us that the things which happened to the Israelites “happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The Israelites are not held up to us as a model, but as a mirror. We look at them and see ourselves!
Like the Israelites, we might react to the challenges of the Wilderness by giving into False Memory Syndrome. We might romanticize the past and the ways things used to be. We might falsely remember a dysfunctional relationship as better than it really was, and want to go back. We might remember a job, a city, or a house, as more wonderful than it was, and balk at moving forward. But like Lot’s wife, a longing look backward can turn us into immovable pillars (Genesis 19:24-26). This is a danger of the Wilderness; we want to regress, to go backward, to run back to the misery of our ‘Egypt’, rather than move forward with God.
I was a chaplain at a juvenile detention facility where I saw a young man, on the day of his release, attack the guard leading him to freedom at the outside gate. Why? Why would a young man so sabotage his future? He was afraid of freedom, afraid of life on the outside. I looked at him and thought of how I, at times, have been afraid of freedom, afraid of moving ahead with God into His promises.
Scripture again reminds us that the things that happened to the Israelites also happen to us. Even after experiencing God’s wondrous works and provision, we too can be quickly tempted to turn backwards. But, in spite of ourselves, God will faithfully lead us onward into the riches of His promise.
- Can you think of a time when fear led you backward rather than forward? If so, when was it?
- Today, how do you sense God might be urging you forward?