Earlier today I posted a great video from the folks at The Bible Project. The video is part of an on-going series on the nature of God as described in Exodus 34:6-7. Today’s video was on Trusting. Trusting God – or not trusting in God – is a recurring theme in the history of Israel. Like us, it is easy to trust God when things are going well, and when they are not… that’s another story.
The books Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy describe the travels of Israel from the time they escaped Egypt until their arrival at the River Jordan for the crossing into the Promised Land. What many do not realize is that by the end of Exodus, there are perhaps 3 months that had passed since leaving Egypt. Deuteronomy describes the final arrival at the River Jordan before the crossing. All the time in between – the 40 years – that is covered in Numbers.
The Book of Numbers derives its name from the account of the two censuses taken of the Hebrew people, one near the beginning and the other toward the end of the journey in the wilderness. But the first words of the book translate “Into the wilderness….” It is in the wilderness that Israel is sorely tested and fails – see Numbers 13.
Since posting the video this morning, I have been thinking about that basic question: do I trust God? My instinctive response is “yes”… and then comes the caveats: “I trust God, but not always the people God has placed in charge.” It is bit of a quip, but there is often truth in quips. Mostly that is a situational response and hopefully I am able to look at the long arc of my interactions with those in charge and see the core goodness, even If I don’t agree with every decision or direction. Perhaps that is when “trusting” needs a companion on the journey: humility.
But I also wonder about the wilderness. The Israelite were several months traveling in the wilderness from Egypt to the east bank of the Jordan River. When they arrived there, Moses sent 12 spies to see what to expect. The reports came back: the land is amazing, overflowing with milk and honey. But the cities are fortified and protected by giants! Ten of the 12 spies concluded there was no way they could enter the land promised to Abraham and survive. Two of the spies, reported that all that was true, but let’s trust God – for God is stronger than the giants.
We know the story. As a whole, the people could not be persuaded to cross the River – they chose not to trust God and His word. They would not see the river again in the next 40 years. The generation that chose not to live in a trusting relationship with God wandered in the desert and died there. The children and their children’s children were the ones to enter the land.
The Trans Jordan, the Sinai – that is a pretty tough wilderness. I wonder if I have faced such a wilderness, one that might buckle my trust in God. I’ll have to think about that. Maybe we should all reflect on that – that we might be able to pray with St. Paul for the grace that we might trust without limits.