Remaining in the Desert

Numbers 14:2-3 “All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’”

Observation: This passage tells how the Israelites’ grumbling and rebellion sealed their fate. God had miraculously delivered them from Egypt. From the perspective of simple geography, He could have brought them safely into the Promised Land in a matter of weeks. 

Application: But complaints filled the camp. People looked back yearning for the past, fearful of the future. In response, God’s punishment was that the entire generation would die in the desert. He required forty years of wandering in the desert before the people would be delivered.

I have thought much about this example over the years of my wife’s declining health. She and I, together and individually, went through many different phases of response to the advance of multiple sclerosis. We struggled against God, sometimes turning away, sometimes embracing Him, always with a combination of hopefulness and sadness. 

Through it all, there remained a growing sense that despite her and my eventual readiness for the Lord to take her home, she tarried several years longer than God’s perfect plan required, just so God could bring our hearts into conformity with His. It was as though we were like the Israelites, having to remain in a desert place until rebellion died. 

God did a wonderful work in my heart through those desert years, as He gave me an eagerness to take care of her, a joy in knowing I was partnering with Him to accomplish something important in her life and in my heart. Cindy paid a high price for my slowness to learn. She had to linger in her corrupt body much longer than might otherwise have been necessary. But the price she paid has produced life in me, and what Scripture calls “an eternal weight of glory” for her, as well (see 2 Cor. 4:17).

Prayer: Lord, remind me constantly of the price You paid for my freedom. Thank You for illustrating it in Numbers 14, and again in my experiences with Cindy’s illness. Use all this for good for the rest of my days.

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