Between Passover and Promised Land (part 2)
Numbers 33 reminds us that not only does God give our lives meaning and significance in the here-and-now, but that he is leading us along the way in the here-and-now. Even when Israel had sinned and were exiled to the wilderness for 40 years, God never abandoned his people. The pillar of fire and cloud did not suddenly disappear along the way. The manna did not stop appearing until the children of Israel made it over Jordan and were able to eat of the fruit of Canaan (Josh. 5:12). God led them from place to place: “Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD” (Num. 33:2). When they were at Sinai, it was because God had led them there, and when they were at places that are otherwise unknown, God led them there too.
Our Lord is not just waiting for his people at the end of the way. He is with them even now. Just as he said to Joshua (Josh. 1:5), even so he says to his people today, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).
It is easy to feel that God is leading us when we are at the Sinai’s of life, when God’s presence is palpable and plain. But there are other times when it doesn’t seem like God is there. Like some desolate place in the wilderness. However, if Christ is your Passover then you are on the way to heaven, and God has not abandoned you to make your way there by yourself. “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isa. 43:1-2). Our Lord himself said in the Great Commission, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28:20).
We need to remember that though we can make choices that can have negative effects upon our life and those around us, that does not take away the reality that at the end of the day, God is still sovereign over our lives. At one point, Israel tried to enter Canaan without God’s permission, but he did not let them get very far. You and I cannot get away from God; Jonah found this out the hard way! We need to remind ourselves “that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (Jam. 4:15). God does not forget about us or lose track of us. Thank God, we cannot escape his protective and loving arms.
Which means that if we are thinking that we have got ourselves into such a mess that God cannot do anything with us anymore, then we are wrong. God is able to redeem the years that the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25), provided that we turn to him with repentant and believing hearts.
God is with us: what more could we want? This doesn’t mean that we will not endure hardship. It doesn’t mean that we will not go through hard times. But it does mean that God will strengthen and help and abide with us through the hottest and dreariest parts of the desert. He is with us, not only beside still waters, but in the valley of the shadow of death and in the presence of our enemies.