“God said to Abram, ‘Know this: your descendants will live as outsiders in a land not theirs; they’ll be enslaved and beaten down for 400 years. Then I’ll punish their slave masters; your offspring will march out of there loaded with plunder. But not you; you’ll have a long and full life and die a good and peaceful death. Not until the fourth generation will your descendants return here; sin is still a thriving business among the Amorites.’” Genesis 15:13-16 (The Message)
I was reading a book the other day and it got me thinking a little deeper about the Israelites. I’m not sure why I never thought about the Israelites and their 40-year journey quite this way, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. I always thought of the Israelites as that grumbling, complaining group of people who disobeyed God constantly and He got angry with them from time to time, despite how much He loved them. However, I never really thought about the Israelites and where exactly they came from.
The Israelites were slaves. By the time Moses rose up and freed them, the majority (if not all) of them had been born into slavery so they knew no other lifestyle. Therefore, they had a slave mentality, not a “freed” mentality. They were used to people telling them what to do 24/7 and knew there were dire consequences if they disobeyed.
Now, I would like to think that if I came from that background and then my Heavenly Father comes and frees me, I would be so grateful that I would choose to obey Him without complaining, being incredibly thankful for all the blessings that come with living a free life. However, I don’t think their life looked very “free” to them. They were wandering around in a hot desert, they didn’t have many choices for food, and they were now free but homeless. What exactly did their freedom look like? First, they were chased by the people who captured them and then they had a cloud to follow by day and a pillar of fire to follow by night. They were told when to leave, when to camp, when to stay and when to go. I’m not sure if this was what they were feeling, but it seems like as they were tasting their first sips of freedom, they weren’t going to let themselves be chained down again… no matter if it was God or the Egyptians trying to force them to obey.
All of the above is just my speculation. I don’t have history to back it up, I don’t have any facts. I just let my mind wander one day and tried to put myself in their shoes, wondering how it might feel to be a former slave, now free but wandering around in a desert after having been told about a “promised land” but not seeing any tangible results of that promise. They were given miracle after miracle but were they too broken to believe God would continue to provide? I heard speculation once that God used that 40 years of them wandering around in the desert to help them change their spirit from an orphan spirit (slavery) to a sonship spirit (believing that God was their Father), choosing to obey not out of fear but out of love.
How many of us wander around in our deserts for 40+ years because we can’t grasp the fact God loves us? A love because He is our Father, not for what we do for Him but because we are His children? I’ve always known I’m too much like the Israelites, grumbling and complaining about my self-imposed deserts. God is asking me to replace the orphan thinking I’ve done most of my life with the inheritance He wants me to have as His child. It took the Israelites 40 years. I hope I learn a faster than that.
© Cheri Swalwell 2016