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Everybody loves the Promised Land but nobody likes the trip

February 15th, 2010 · 3 Comments

“The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud.” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

I’ve been to Israel a half dozen times in the last few years. You’d think it would get old after so many visits … it doesn’t. There’s something about Israel, the Promised Land, that’s different from any other place on earth. The weather is great, but it’s not the best weather on earth; the summers are too hot. The food is great, but lots of places have great food. The history, of course, is awesome; I love to wander around the archeological sites and imagine what it was like when Jesus walked this land. But it’s not the ruins or the history of past civilizations that makes Israel truly different. What makes Israel different than anywhere else on earth is that it is the place and the people God claims as His own personal property.

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8-9)

Israel belonged to God before the first man took his first breath and when this age is over and God comes to earth to live with man, the land of Israel will be His home address. That’s what makes Israel different.

I love being in Israel … I don’t love getting there. The trip each way involves a day and a half of waiting in airport terminals, TSA security lines, taking off my shoes, emptying my pockets, checking my bag, finding my bag, explaining why I’m going, explaining why I’m there, and lifting my arms for the guy with the magnetic wand.

Let’s not forget the highlight of the trip – at least two flights and 15+ hours of flying time. I try to put out of my mind that I’ll be locked in a metal tube with 341 other people (not including crew) and that the tube weighs 328 tons fully loaded. I know there are laws of physics involved, but in my mind nothing that heavy has any business being airborne. And that my seatmates and I will be spending the night and a good chunk of the next day locked inside this too heavy metal tube hurtling through the stratosphere in excess of 600 miles per hour defies my personal laws of common sense.

About my seatmates … I’m sure I would love spending personal time with each and every one of them … someplace else and one at a time. A metal tube six miles above the earth is certainly an intimate setting, but it’s not the best place to meet 341 new friends, and share two aisleways and six bathrooms for thirteen hours. After about eight hours together the air gets stale, our bodies start to rebel and we all get a little cranky.

Like I said: I love being in Israel … I don’t necessarily love getting there.

*****

“Without a prophetic vision, the people throw off all restraint;” (Proverbs 29:18, Complete Jewish Bible)

I’ve been reading the story about the Israelites being delivered from slavery in Egypt and given the Promised Land.

Great beginning – Moses meets with Pharaoh, says, “Let my people go.” Ten plagues, the Egyptians load the Israelites down with booty and their off!

Great ending – The waters of the Jordan part, the people walk over on dry land, Joshua blows a horn, the walls of Jericho fall down, the Israelites take over the Promised Land!

But the middle … man that was a bummer! They get chased by Egyptians, the people say to Moses, “Was it because there no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to die?” God parts the Red Sea and drowns the Egyptians

Then they came up on some bad water and “grumbled against Moses.” God turns the water sweet.

In the desert supplies got a little lean and they complained again; “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!” God sends manna (bread from heaven) and quail.

Water gets a little scarce and the people say, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die of thirst?” God makes water pour from a rock.

Are we starting to see a pattern here?

When Moses left the people alone for forty days they deserted God, built an idol and started an orgy. Moses comes back, has the ringleaders killed and God spares the people and leads them to the Promised Land. But on the way (you guessed it) the people complained. God was losing patience; He sent fire to burn up the suburbs.

But the Israelites, slow to get the message, just kept griping. For better than a year now they had been eating manna, bread from heaven, supplied daily by God. Manna wasn’t matzo; it was good … sweet with a taste of coriander and olive oil. But the people wanted some variety; they wanted fish and cucumbers, leeks and garlic and onion – all the wonderful produce they remembered from Egypt. Forget that they were slaves in Egypt and the menu they remembered probably wasn’t the menu they had. But now they were bored and they wanted more – bread from heaven wasn’t good enough.

They wanted meat … they got meat. God sent quail again, lots of quail – three hundred square miles of quail ([Numbers 11] figure a day’s journey in any direction equals ten miles; if ten miles is the radius and A[area] = πr2 the area of the circle is 314 square miles. *note to young readers: high school math really is handy for some things later in life). So, the people got their meat, about 1,200 quail per person (more math). So much meat they choked on it. While the meat was still in their mouths God struck them with a severe plague and many died. Bon appétit …

They finally reach the borders of the Promised Land. Moses sends out twelve spies to get the lay of the land; they come back forty days later, laden with big produce and bigger stories. The land is ‘flowing with milk and honey’; a cluster of grapes is so big two men are required to carry it. But, speaking of big, some of the bad guys the spies saw in the Promised Land were huge! And the cities were fortified. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, remembered that God had delivered them from the Egyptians, led them through the desert and provided food and water for two million people for nearly two years. If God could do all that, the big men and the big cities of Canaan shouldn’t pose much of a problem. But the people, of course, listened to the ten spineless spies … they didn’t want to go.

God, always providing an answer to whatever they complained about said, “Fine! If you don’t want to go into the Promised Land you won’t.” He caused them to wander in the wilderness until that complaining, rebellious, unbelieving generation died out. Only their children would inherit the land promised by God to their ancestor Abraham.

*****

The moral of my rant?

There’s a plan and purpose for each of our lives – there’s a destination. Getting there involves a trip. The trip can be long and, at times, unpleasant. Sometimes it’s easy to focus so much on the trip that we forget that it’s how we get to where we’re going. The story of Israelites taught us that if we spend too much time complaining about the trip we may never get to our destination … that would be a tragedy.

Another thing the story of the Israelites taught us it that no matter how hopeless and miserable we think the trip is, God always provides a way for us to keep moving. He planned the destination; He really wants us to get there.

If your trip is getting a little long and miserable, take a lesson from Joshua and Caleb – focus on the Promised Land.

Tags: faith · God's purpose · Israel · Site News · Trust

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sandy // Feb 15, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Dear Steve,
    What a wonderful synopsis on the journey to The Promised Land then and now!
    I am in utter awe over the The Promised Land!
    The last few years I’ve had a growing desire to visit Israel! I’ve wondered how long the journey is from USA with all the security systems in place…. bit longer than was in my mind….however, far less than 40 yrs…
    Steve, thanks for sharing this today! With tears wiped away now, I tell myself, “Praise the Lord!”
    Be blessed,
    Sandy

  • 2 Elaine // Feb 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Dear Steve, Do you take tours of the Holy Land or just go with your wife? Elaine

  • 3 Steve S. // Feb 16, 2010 at 8:54 am

    We haven’t taken any tour groups yet – just work. Elaine comes with me whenever circumstances permit.

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