The Long Road of the New Year

A Lesson from the Wilderness Wanderings…

The road often seems long and hard, doesn’t it? And not understanding why, we start to grumble and complain. (Come on, please tell me I’m not the only one!) We forget that life in Christ is a journey in which God calls us to keep going further up and further in with him.

“Come further up, come further in.”

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

The only way to become more like Christ, is to keep going deeper in him. And that’s the real journey he has us on. Christ doesn’t save us just so we can escape eternal hell and judgement, or danger and troubles here on earth. He’s working to make us more like him.

So just as with the Israelites in the desert, God takes us down the longer, harder road.

There were two ways from Egypt to Israel. The ordinary caravan road and shorter route, which passed through the land of the Philistines. This Way of the Sea, going straight from northern Egypt to the southern portion of Canaan, took about 3 weeks. And the longer route going through the southern wilderness, by way of the Red Sea. [Click on the following maps to enlarge them.]

Now the Lord could have proceeded along the shorter coastal route, simply destroying the Isrealite’s enemies along the way, as he later destroyed the Egyptians in the Red Sea. But instead he turned away from the Promised Land to lead the Israelites along a nearly 40 year journey through the southern wildnerness. And he had specific reasons for doing so.

  • The Egyptians were to be drowned in the sea, to prevent them from chasing after the Israelites and dragging them back.
  • The Israelites had to be brought to the point where they would obey, depend on, and trust God.
  • He knew they would face many battles in the Promised Land, for which they were not yet ready.

They simply weren’t ready. Neither to face their enemies in Canaan, nor to fully trust and obey him.

God took them down that longer, harder road because he was preparing their hearts.

Both to trust him for victory in battle, and for victory over their own fearful, selfish, and rebellious natures.

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”

Exodus 13:17

But it seems they couldn’t even stop arguing over tent plots, let alone win battles against mighty foes!

Absurd as it seems, Moses had to hold legal sessions for them. What kind of cases could they have had? Coming out of slavery, they owned little more than their farm animals. And although the Lord enabled them to take the Egypt’s gold and treasures with them, such things are of little use in the wilderness.

They had no land of their own. Just a spot to pitch their tent. And they had to cart everything along, day after day. Just a few articles to pile on their donkey or oxen, or lug over their shoulder. (What a great aid to decluttering!)

Yet they had everything they needed. Food, water, and clothing. A cloud to shade the scorching sun, and a pillar of fire to warm the freezing desert nights. And all straight from God’s hand. No worries, and little to protect.

Yet they fought and argued!

“The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.”

Exodus 18:13

Can’t you just imagine the scene? “He pitched his tent too close to mine. I can even hear him snoring!” Or, “I’m supposed to march in line after Caleb, but he took my place!” Or perhaps, “His goat ate my tent rope!”

What a sad commentary on human nature. Though everything so clearly came from God, they bickered, scrapping over their rights. It’s no wonder God took them down the long, hard road!

He wanted them to become a people who would show what it meant to walk with God, and instead they argued.

And how about you? Have you been guilty of complaining about the hard journey? Or of fighting for your rights? Or with God’s help are you becoming the one who will share your pots or give the best place to another? Willing even, to march last in line and not at the head?

Everything we have comes from God’s hand. And when we’re willing to give it back to him, or share it willingly and wholeheartedly with others, then we begin to really show what walking with him means.

May this be our journey during this coming new year!

[Image of road by darkmoon1968 on Pixabay.com. | Maps by Chris & Jennifer Taylor of The Bible Journey on FreeBibleImages.org; CC-BY-NC license.]

Author: Sheila Scorziello

Missionary wife in Italy. Mom, grandma, reader, writer, and lover of coffee, simplicity, and nature.

10 thoughts

  1. Oh yes, I have been guilty of fighting (or at least voicing vehemently!) for my rights–just recently. As the new year begins, I pray God helps me to sow grace into the lives around me, with less concern for “self” and more concern for bringing honor to Jesus. Thank you, Sheila, for a worthy focus as 2019 gets underway!

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    1. Well, Nancy, I tend to think that it’s an area we all need help in. Our “self” is so quick to rear his selfish head, isn’t he? Sowing grace, that is a good way to defeat our selfish nature, for sure!! Here’s to a fruitful and, as you said, a worthy 2019!!

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  2. For some reason, the words of a secular song “take the long way home” come to mind. I have had to take the long way because I would not have learned lessons otherwise. These season feels like that. I’m not sure of much, but I am sure that God is who He’s always been and He will never change. That truth gives me hope.

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    1. I’ve never heard of that song Matthew, but I am glad that you are seeing God’s presence in the midst of a long-road time. These times can be hard. But it surely is good to know that he’s got the road map and knows right where he’s going. We’re actually in a bit of a long-road time ourselves as well. As I pray for us to have direction, I’ll pray the same for you and your family too… as we just keep taking the next step God puts in front of us!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post Sheila, it coincides with another trip through the OT that I’m doing so the timing is great. Your observations are so true, especially when you look at the time factor and our own journey through the wilderness. Grace and blessings as always. – Bruce

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    1. Well Shari, it’s good to know I’m not alone! May the Lord give us vision to see what he’s doing in the midst of all that’s going on. That would definitely help us remain more grateful!!

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  4. Wow. Great article, my friend. It’s so easy to whine and complain about the hard! But you’re right–the hard often prepares us for what’s harder. What’s more demanding. You painted wonderful pictures of what it had to have been like for the Israelites. And that’s my favorite book in all the Chronicles of Narnia–The Last Battle. Thanks for this.

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    1. Thanks so much Dayle! The Lord really spoke to me through this too. I really hope to make 2019 of less (no?) complaining – more thankfulness – and more of seeing God’s hand in everything!! And I do love me some Lewis too, my kindred friend!!

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