“Now get yourselves ready. See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you and protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to Him. Listen to Him and obey His voice. Do not be rebellious or provoke Him for He won’t put up with your rebellions, nor will He pardon your transgressions, for My name is in Him and He is acting on my authority. But if you obey him and listen to Him and do everything I tell you…I’ll fight those who fight you.”
Today I participated in a 10km “fun run” in Melbourne called Run Melbourne. I don’t live in Melbourne and I don’t know the city all that well. In fact, even though I knew how to get myself to Federation Square on the train from Geelong this morning, I had no idea where the start or finish of the race actually was! When Tim asked me where the starting line was and where the course would take me, I just said “I have no idea, I’ll just follow the people in front of me!”
There were approximately 11,000 people “in front of me” this morning so I did just that – I followed the person in front of me who was following the person in front of them!
Waiting at the starting line there was the usual pre-race banter amongst the other competitors; discussions about the likelihood of rain and some good-natured grizzling about how cold it was, but basically there was an air of excitement and anticipation and fun. I didn’t know anyone but it didn’t matter – we were all there for the same thing and this somehow bonded us together and we chatted in the way that strangers often do. [After all, people who are crazy enough to wake up at 5.30am on a Sunday morning (in Winter) to catch a train for over an hour to then run a 10km race become more like friends than strangers!!]
The Israelites were a group of people in the Bible who wandered around the desert for 40 years on a journey to the “Promised Land”. It was a trip that we know now should have taken them just eleven days!!!
The fun run this morning reminded me this morning of the Israelites. I’m sure when they started their trip many of them had no idea where they were going or how long it was going to take. They were just following the person in front of them. They probably grumbled a bit and worried about the weather but there would have been an air of anticipation surrounding the group, just as there was this morning. There’s just something about getting ready for a journey.
Time and again over those 40 years the Israelites deviated off course on their journey to the Promised Land. And it occurred to me as I was running this morning that if I deviated from the course that had been clearly marked out with bright orange plastic poles, I would get lost. Because I don’t know my way around Melbourne very well, a journey that should take me around one hour to complete could have taken many hours longer than that. If I didn’t have faith that the race organizers had mapped out the course and measured out the distance, I could easily doubt them, stray off course (or deliberately ignore the bright orange poles and choose my own course) and find myself lost. Like the Israelites.
The other similarity between my race this morning and the Israelite’s journey are the designated pace setters. A runner is chosen to set a designated pace – for example, a pace of less than 45 minutes, less than 55 minutes, less than one hour, or over one hour. You choose the pace you think you can manage and you stay near that pace setter. You can ignore the pace setters or run with them. It’s your choice. The Israelites were given the same choice. They could choose to follow the pace setter – their leader, Moses – or ignore him and set their own pace.
Unfortunately the sad thing about the story of the Israelites is that very few people who began the journey looking for their Promised Land ever actually saw it.
They all could have.
They all should have.
They all would have.
But they questioned God. They doubted Him. They doubted that the course had been mapped out ahead of them. And they didn’t believe the pace setters knew where to go.
One thing doubt has taught me in recent times is this: It reveals my true heart.
- Doubt reveals my faith in God.
- Doubt reveals my fears.
- Doubt reveals my desire to always be in control.
- Doubt reveals my rebellious nature.
- Doubt reveals my pride.
- Doubt reveals my lack of trust in God.
In spite of everything the race organizers had done to get ready for the race, I could have doubted them and ignored them and I would not have made it to the finish line because I would have gotten lost.
In spite of everything God has done for me (all the times He has provided for me and cared for me and loved me) on occasions I still complain and doubt Him and even ignore Him.
And if I keep doing that, I’m at risk of becoming becoming lost and I don’t want that to happen – this is one journey I look forward to finishing well.