The Modern Pilgrim #35- The Good Shepherd leads the pilgrims to the foot of what looks like an impassable mountain. Rocky outcroppings are everywhere with pathways nowhere to be seen. Only a little way up, the mountain is covered in deep snow drifts. The Good Shepherd assures the group that on the other side of the mountain lies a valley more beautiful than any they’ve experienced previously. Pilgrim believes him but she doesn’t know if she’s acquired enough skills and courage to keep up with the group.
What if all the trials of 2020 were but God’s pathway to something new in our lives? Something we wouldn’t consider or think of except for the upheaval of this last year. What if all the skills we developed to navigate this weird year prepared us for God’s next assignment? What if the sorrows we’ve endured fostered deeper intimacy with God that is critical for us to go forward into his destiny for us in 2021?
Truthfully, I’m suspicious of new things. My family loves to tell the tale of me and the butter bell as an example. This is a contraption that keeps butter soft, on your counter, without spoiling. Months after I received one at Christmas, it sat unused. I couldn’t cipher the science of it and didn’t believe in the possibilities. Finally, my husband filled it with butter and water for me and I discovered the wonders of a butter bell. Somewhat grudgingly.
I don’t think I missed any spiritual revelation concerning butter bells but moments like that remind me that I could miss important info from God on weightier matters. Because I’m suspicious of new things. And that’s troubling because God is always up to something new. Often, it’s numerous small things, but sometimes he wants to roll out some grand, mind-blowing changes.
If we are authentically honest, which team do you think you’d align with in the story of the Israelites and their promised land told in Numbers 13. Imagine yourself as an average Israelite trucking through the desert. Would you rally with the Joshua-Caleb “We can take this land,” team or the other ten spies, “The giants are too big,” team?
Before you choose, remember, the Israelites just left an oppressive slavery lifestyle a couple weeks before this. Mind-numbing, life-stealing daily labor. Masters who randomly murdered their children. A place with small room for independent thinking or believing. A place where you were told what to do for so many hours of the day that you were too tired to do much beyond sleeping and eating in your off hours.
The Israelites were not warriors like their masters, the Egyptians. They had been told for four hundred years that they were a subclass of humans. Suitable for building and hauling, not conquering, and ruling.
We come to this moment where God instructs Moses to send out twelve spies to see what it would take for the Israelites to inhabit the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants. Miraculously, Joshua and Caleb rise with warrior spirits.
“But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it,’” Numbers 13:30.
“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, , who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, ‘The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us in this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey,’” Numbers 14: 7-8.
Joshua and Caleb experienced the same stuff that the other spies did during the forty days they all did reconnaissance and previously in Egypt. The other ten spies told a completely different story from these two though, given the same set of circumstances and history.
“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. ….and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers,’” Numbers 13:32-33.
So, let me ask more questions. Did God decide on a whim to pull Israel out of slavery when he did? Did God understand what kind of character and skills they would need to become a free nation? Did God see how Egypt’s abuses? Is it possible, maybe even probable, that during that abuse and slavery, God was at work to develop the Israelites into people that could conquer and rule? Or do you think he expected them to develop that kind of courage and skill in two weeks?
It’s easy to see who aligned themselves with God during Israel’s slavery years. Joshua and Caleb stood ready to fight and conquer in God’s strength. I personally don’t believe they suddenly became courageous warriors. I believe these qualities developed over time in the slave pits. Meanwhile, the other ten spies continued to see themselves as defeated victims who just wanted to survive even at this incredible moment when God was offering them an entirely new life.
Whatever sorrows, disappointments, losses, and failures you experienced this year, they all had to go past God to get to you. God certainly didn’t send them, but he most definitely allowed them.
So he could train and skill you in new ways.
So he could draw you closer to himself.
So he could develop your patience and persistence.
So he could entrust you with new assignments in the next season which will soon be upon us.
I believe God is calling up the body of Christ to be conquerors and warriors in the new era he is about to unfold for the kingdom. Courage will be needed by every believer to step into the individual, new places and tasks God will put before us. Courage that doesn’t wait until we feel no fear to do something. Courage that does the right thing, the obedient thing, even when we are afraid. Doors will open for us, but we will need to walk through, even though we are uncertain as to what lies beyond.
Many will be promoted to new levels of authority and influence, if they will listen and then obey by courageously stepping up and out. God is probably coming at you with something new if he hasn’t already presented it to you. It might look fantastical, impossible. Beyond your abilities. Something no one has done before. Will you be ready to fight to take possession of it or will you shrink back into your previous comfort zone? What’s it going to be, grapes or grasshoppers?